What ‘Revolution’ Senator Sanders? A Republican Revolution?

Lanny Davis Former Special Counsel to President Bill Clinton
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I write this column February 9 on the morning of the New Hampshire primary. I expect Senator Bernie Sanders to win the primary – probably by a substantial double digit margin.  Anything less would upset predictions made by virtually every single poll and pundit.

As I have said repeatedly during my TV interviews, I like Bernie Sanders – I like his progressive views, I like and respect him personally. But I must ask, respectfully:

What revolution will occur if Senator Sanders, a self-declared socialist who calls for socialized medicine, higher taxes, and a government takeover of…well…virtually everything, were actually the Democratic nominee? To answer that question, let’s look at history first.

In 1968, I and other progressives worked for the anti-Vietnam War candidate Gene McCarthy in New Hampshire and refused to work for the Democratic nominee progressive Democrat Hubert Humphrey. The result: Richard Nixon’s election.

In 1972, we worked for left-base candidate George McGovern. The result: Nixon carried 49 states plus DC.

In 1980, we worked for Ted Kennedy against an incumbent Democratic president who we did not consider liberal enough. The result: Ronald Reagan carried 45 states.

In 1984, we supported the great progressive Walter Mondale, former vice president, who promised to raise taxes. Reagan won 59 out of 50 states.

In 1988, we supported Michael Dukakis, a progressive Democrat from Massachusetts. Republican President George H.W. Bush won 40 out of 48 states.

Only in 1992, when a liberal Democrat who governed Arkansas as a decade from the center with bipartisan coalitions, Bill Clinton, supported liberal social programs but also insisted on individual responsibility, welfare reform and balanced budgets. He was elected twice and left office after creating 23 million jobs, turned an inherited deficit in to a major surplus, and left his second term with a 65 percent job approval rating – the highest rating in the history of second term presidents since modern polling was invented.

And in 2008 and 2012, we elected and re-elected a president who was not only a progressive and the first African American president, he also tried to govern like Bill Clinton from the center – attempting to reduce the deficit while enacting the Affordable Care Act, a global anti-global warming pact, and the a real chance to control or eliminate Iran’s runaway race to create a nuclear bomb.

Yet in 2011, Bernie Sanders talked of challenging Barack Obama, incumbent Democratic President, for reelection, because he was not progressive enough – just as he criticizes Clinton.  Is it possible that today’s pro-Obama Democrats would support Sanders over Clinton, who loyally served as Barack Obama’s Secretary of State.


What is Sanders’ message? Repeated over and over again – reminiscent of Marco Rubio: Tax billionaires, anti-Wall Street rhetoric, abolish PACS.

But these are all positions supported by Hillary Clinton. And Vox’s progressive editor, Ezra Klein, has criticized Sanders’ proposal for socialized medicine as requiring higher taxes and likely to lead to reduced medical services. And Nobel Prize-winning liberal economist, Paul Krugman, in his regular New York Times column, has analyzed Sanders’ and Clinton’s anti-Wall Street/big bangs proposals and called Clinton’s as “tougher.” Why do progressives ignore these facts?

Many say their preference for Sanders emotional – I understand and respect that. But do they seriously consider the consequences of a “Republican revolution” resulting in taking over the White House and the Congress if Sanders is the nominee – taking over the Supreme Court and overturning Roe v. Wade, repealing Obamacare and all other progressive social programs?

Can they really trust current general election polls showing some Sanders strength, while Republican Super PACS are spending tens of millions attacking Clinton and ignoring Sanders? Is there a reason why they are doing that? You bet.

To progressive Democrats I respectfully ask:

Do you want to take the risk that you are wrong – that in fact a Sanders nomination will more likely result in a Republican, not a Democratic, revolution?

At least before you vote today in New Hampshire in in future primaries, ask yourself these questions, look at the facts about Hillary’s lifelong commitment to progressive fights and values, then consider the risk: If you vote for Sanders and he ends up as the nominee and the country ends up with a Republican Revolution, you will regret it for a long time.

Lanny Davis, a long-time friend and supporter of Hillary Clinton, served as Special Counsel to President Clinton from 1996-98 and is a Washington lawyer, crisis management specialist, and Executive Vice President of Levick Communications.