THE BLOG

Never Underestimate Bernie

06/11/2015 05:23 pm ET | Updated Jun 11, 2016

Will voters choose a president based on gender? Or on the issues?

I agree it would be great fun to see First "Lady" Bill Clinton in a red checkered apron holding an apple pie for the cameras, as John Waters quipped on Real Time with Bill Maher. But is it worth the photo op if we have to endure the reign of Hillary?

I've made a few comments on social media about Hillary not being our best choice for the primaries, and each time I get slammed by the "let's finally have a woman for president" and "money is the only thing that matters in a campaign" crowd. This is the first in a three-part series detailing the reasons why Bernie Sanders should not be ruled out so quickly for those who assume Hillary has him beat already.

Name Recognition

If Hillary has one thing, it's name recognition. But does the name 'Clinton' help or hinder her? For some, the name Clinton is synonymous with failed policies of the Democratic party, such as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 and Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, both enthusiastically supported by Democrats and Republicans, both largely responsible for the 2008 housing debacle.

'Sanders' may be less recognizable, but he's been in politics for 37 years, building a reputation as a populist candidate who doesn't listen to corporate backers because he doesn't have any. His name inspires trust where it counts -- with educated, active, politically aware voters. Sanders' career as a long-standing Independent works in his favor for moderates who have decided that their party doesn't represent their values anymore. Only those who've bought into the meme of "Sanders = socialism = bad" would rule out Sanders on a knee-jerk reaction.

Gender

I would love to see a woman for President. Though I didn't always agree with their policies, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, and Angela Merkel have each proven that a woman is every bit as strong and capable as a man in a leadership position. That doesn't mean I'll choose a woman over a man when it comes time to vote. However, if all things were equal, I would choose a woman over a man just to elect the first woman President.

My first choice for Democratic candidate would have been Consumer Financial Protection Bureau founder Elizabeth Warren. Watching a large contingent of supporters for the Massachusetts Senator cheer for her speeches brought me many happy moments of "go get 'em girl" feelings. Her inspiring message for the middle class resonates with her audience. When Hillary tries to speak like Warren, she sounds disingenuous. I see Clinton as authentic in one specific area - ambition. I think she wants to be President more than she wants a better life for Americans. I will back up this argument when I point out how the desires of those who fund her campaign conflict with the needs of our citizens in the next two installments of this series.

Even after Warren's announcement that she would not run for POTUS, MoveOn.org's "Run Warren Run" campaign amassed 365,000 followers. Two days ago, the organization officially suspended their efforts to draft her. Their supporters may choose Sanders, a man who has the femininity of a crusty loaf of bread.

I bring up Warren because she nurtured the hunger for a populist President. For many, Sanders fills the void created by her polite refusal to compete in the Democratic primary.

"I'd rather have Elizabeth Warren, but she's not running. Bernie will fight for progressive values more than Hillary," says a comment below Sanders' announcement of his candidacy on YouTube.

But you can't argue with his popularity. One observer of Sanders noted, "In Minnesota [May 31], over 4,000 people showed up to see and listen to Bernie... Hillary should be looking in the mirror and freaking out." In the June 6th Wisconsin straw poll, Sanders captured 208 votes to Clinton's 252. Delegates who chose him had to stick their necks out to do so, for they are going against the Democratic party's standard practice (of voting for a Democrat) to favor an lesser-funded, independent-thinking "democratic socialist." Delegates have some latitude over whom they choose, so it cannot be overstated how strong Sanders must be to rack up as many votes as he did last week.

Building Momentum

As Hillary's favorability numbers have dropped to 45% in the polls, Bernie is building momentum, and he has enough time to surpass her. Right now, polls have him at 15%, up from 8% in April. Extrapolate that out over the next six months, and Sanders will have enough to win the primary.

On the Issues

I was shocked to find that both candidates have a paucity of information about the issues at their respective websites. Sanders' focuses on three topics: climate change, income disparity between the billionaire class and everybody else, and getting money out of politics. Hillary Clinton's website doesn't even have an 'issues' button. That's right. There's absolutely nothing about her solutions yet. Campaign websites notwithstanding, I promise that next week, I will compare and contrast Clinton versus Sanders regarding one issue that is burning my fingertips to get out onto the computer keyboard: the agriculture industry and food.