Bernie Sanders’ Dilemma

Political commentator Bill Press has written a book titled Buyer’s Remorse: How Obama Let Progressives Down, that will officially be released tomorrow. Over the weekend it was noted that the book’s cover contains a quote from Bernie Sanders: “Bill Press makes the case…read the book.” Promotional materials about the book summarize it like this:

[It] is about “the many ways President Obama has failed to live up to either his promises or his progressive potential…

Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs tried to soften the message with this:

“What Senator Sanders said in that book blurb is absolutely true,” Briggs said. “The next president must do everything possible to reinvigorate American democracy and get working people to stand up for their interests. This country, under the outstanding leadership of President Obama and Vice President Biden, has come a very long way since President Bush left office.”

Briggs added, “The next president can try to achieve bold proposals because of the foundation they put in place. Obviously, telling someone to read a book doesn’t mean you agree with everything that’s in the book.”

This is a dilemma for the Sanders campaign. On the one hand, his position has been that on things like health care and Wall Street reform, President Obama’s positions have been weak tea with an implication that they were influenced by big money interests. And with campaign surrogates like Cornel West – who have viciously attacked the President – that idea is reinforced. On the other hand, that message alienates a lot of Democrats – especially African Americans, who are extremely supportive of President Obama.

Kim Phillips-Fein suggests that Bernie Sanders should just embrace the difference.

Clinton really is the one carrying on Obama’s legacy – and it’s a legacy of which Sanders should want no part.

How can Sanders frame himself as Obama’s heir? And why would he want to? After all, his campaign is premised on responding to the crisis of the middle class in an era of skyrocketing inequality – a problem that has only deepened over the past eight years.

In terms of policy, his campaign proposals reflect a genuine departure. His promise to make health insurance truly universal and his commitment to a system of free public higher education represent attempts to remove these building blocks of economic security from the vagaries of the marketplace. True, Obama vetoed the Keystone pipeline, but Sanders envisions a major public investment in green infrastructure going well beyond anything seriously advanced by the president…

For the first-time voters who flocked to the polls that year, inspired by a candidate who spoke of lasting changes, the past eight years have been ones of political disappointment.

Interestingly enough, here is someone who agrees with that advice:

Hearing the same advice from Obama’s former campaign manager and someone who is disappointed in the President pretty much captures why this is a dilemma for the Sanders campaign.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .