In the past few days, I've run into two Republicans who said that they want Bernie Sanders for President. Republicans for an avowed democratic socialist. How did that happen?
The first one was on Facebook. I later learned his name, Everett Clifford. He commented on a pro-Bernie post that I put up. He told me that he was a Republican, an ex-Marine, and a minister. “Have been living in Vermont for many years, have voted for Bernie every time, very proud of him, he tells us what's wrong, and how to fix it, never ran a dirty campaign, so as a Republican, Marine vet, and Minister, I'm voting for Bernie Sanders.”
I made a poster with him on it and told him I thought that Bernie's campaign should find more Republicans like him. (I contacted Bernie.org and told them the same thing). If Republicans could supported a democratic socialist, that would show that his message of battling the billionaires has broad appeal. Everett Clifford told me that he thought that there were others like him. (He said he liked my poster. Someone reposted my Clifford poster on a liberal Facebook page and it drew 86 “likes,” which I thought was good, even though I didn't find my poster that attractive).
Then, a day later, I found a post by another avowed Republican. This post went to great lengths, explaining why the person was supporting Bernie Sanders and was against the Republican party:
I am a long-time GOP supporter. During my teenage years, I witnessed Reagan, contrary to the narrative today, being a very pragmatic moderate Republican. After providing the economy with some Keynesian stimulus in the form of tax cuts, as the economy got back on its feet we saw him increase taxes to help reduce the deficit. He closed loopholes for the wealthy. He granted amnesty (something I oppose but it shows how he was willing to compromise.) He worked with Tip O’Neill to salvage Social Security.
While I did not support Iran Contra, I proudly registered to become a Repbulican just in time for the upcoming election of 1988. I voted for H W Bush, and after being impressed with his pragmatism (i.e. raising taxes although they were unpopular) I voted for him again. During the Clinton Presidency, however, I began to notice a substantial shift to the right. They pushed legislation like DOMA and NAFTA, which I could absolutely not support. However, they showed willingness to compromise with Clinton on major issues such as welfare reform and balancing the budget, so I was not yet ready to abandon the GOP, although I did vote for Perot in ’96.
In 2000, I voted for W, noting the pragmatism of his father and his seemingly reasonable ‘compassionate conservatism.’ However, I quickly noticed things were a bit off. He began the War on Terror and simultaneously cut taxes, even though wars are generally financed through tax hikes. He then expanded Medicare, and again he did not pay for it. I was upset with this, but I was also sucked into the whole “we need a strong leader to defeat terrorism,” which I was convinced John Kerry was not, so I voted for him. Deficits kept rising, the wars were failing, and the WMD claims turned out not to be true. Then the economy collapsed thanks to deregulation, and I strongly regretted my decision to vote for him. In 2008, I refused to vote for McCain, because he seemed way too far right on foreign policy, abortion, and gay marriage (shouldn’t small government supporters be pro choice,) but I also didn’t vote for Obama as his rhetoric seemed extremely far left.
Everything Sanders did was for the American worker, from protecting them from outsourcing and cheap foreign labor, to fixing the budget deficit by hiking taxes on the rich, to boosting the minimum wage. He’d be considered a centrist back in the 80s, which is why he has my vote.
Of course, when Obama got into office, I quickly realized that he was actually, if anything, a moderate Republican. He passed the ACA (Heritagecare) bill, extended the Bush tax cuts (even for the wealthy at first!), and steered us out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. After the 2010 wave elections for the Tea Party, I was disgusted with how far right the Republican party had gone, and began noticing the blatant racism. I found republicansforobama.org, a group of people closely reflecting my views, and voted Obama in 2012 and Democrat in 2014. I lurked on Reddit for a few months, reading r/politics regularly, and was amazed by Bernie Sander’s policies. Everything he did was for the American worker, from protecting them from outsourcing and cheap foreign labor, to fixing the budget deficit by hiking taxes on the rich, to boosting the minimum wage. He’d be considered a centrist back in the 80s, which is why he has my vote.
I cannot vouch for this person. For all I know, his story is made up, although it sounds genuine. One article has already been written about it.
I also found on Facebook a group that calls itself “Republicans for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary.” It has only two likes, and the purpose of group is to have Bernie win so that Hillary will be defeated that the Republicans will win the election.
Republicans wouldn't necessarily want Hillary Clinton to be defeated. If the GOP ran Jeb Bush as its candidate, having Hillary as the opponent might be advantageous. One of Jeb's big problems is that he represents a dynasty—the one that got us into the terrible Iraq War. Hillary is part of the Clinton dynasty. Having her as a candidate would probably nullify the whole “dynasty” argument. On the other hand, if Bernie Sanders ran against Bush, Jeb would have the dynasty problem. Similarly, if Hillary ran against Mario Rubio or Scott Walker, she would likewise have that problem.
Fortunately for the Democrats, their convention in 2016 comes second. They'll know who the Republicans are running before they have to make a choice. Of course, by that time someone may have already wrapped up the nomination for the Democrats. But who knows?
Back to Bernie Sanders. His name has really exploded all over the Internet since he announced his candidacy. I'm an administrator of a small group of supporters on Facebook (“Bernie Sanders 2016 – Ideas Welcome”). The group had 700 members when I joined in November 2014 and 1400 in mid April 2015. As we get towards the end of May, we now have almost 2500 members, so the number has nearly doubled in a month. I get the impression that similar things are happened elsewhere. Bernie got 200,000 volunteers signed up in a few weeks after announcing and $3.0 million in donations in the first four days after he announced. . He is still raising money at a fast pace.
Some of his supporters still think that he should be running an independent campaign and that going for the Democratic nomination will be futile and a “sell out” to a corporate dominated party. However, it's a balancing act. He won't win if he runs independently, but if he keeps to his program of not taking money from the billionaires, he has both a decent chance of winning the nomination and the election.
What's happening on the Hillary Clinton side? Unlike Bernie Sanders, she continuously has problems—potential scandals—that crop up. These could be generated by Republicans, naturally, since many of them do not want to see her in the general election. But the existence of such scandals and issues will not go away. They will be there during the general election as well as the primaries, and they are a cloud over Hillary's position as a candidate.
Bernie Sanders has no such issues. The only thing really against him is that he's a “democratic socialist.” And this is where the support of people like Everett Clifford and other Republicans can become crucial. Bernie Sanders should make it a special point to collect endorsements from Republicans and former Republicans to show that his positions have broad support.
How can the positions of Bernie Sanders be broad? “He’d be considered a centrist back in the 80s, which is why he has my vote,” said the Republican who came out for him. And that's the real truth. Our country has become so conservative in the past 30 years that today a “democratic socialist” is the equivalent of a centrist back in the 1980's. The positions that Ronald Reagan – the hero of the Republican Party—took back then would be anathema to many who call themselves Republicans today. So the left wing of the old Republican Party may be joining with the Democrats and electing Bernie Sanders, “democratic socialist,” as President.