As the Republican Party seems bent on alienating the final key electoral demographic outside of white men by pledging to cut federal women's health funding and by rewarding the misogynist Donald Trump with surging poll numbers, Hillary Clinton is content to keep quiet. The election is more than a year away, after all, and the GOP is making a great case for her.
But wait, there's an annoying little fly buzzing around — so small, Clinton doesn't want to even swat at it. But there it is again, and something's funny about that fly — it has wild, white hair... Wait, is that... Bernie Sanders?
Yes, as Clinton has kept a low profile, the Vermont senator has been attracting huge crowds. This past weekend, he drew 19,000 to Portland's Rose Garden and 15,000 at UW's Hec Ed in Seattle. Of course, with the Megyn Kelly/Donald Trump drama, mainstream media didn't say much about it.
What can be made of the Sanders Surge? Perhaps it's Clinton fatigue: Doesn't it seem like Hillary Clinton has been running for president, like, forever? America likes the shiny and new, for sure, but even that can't explain Sanders — after all, he looks more like a Founding Father than a polished, prototypical modern candidate.
And maybe that's it — he's a grandfather figure. Like Ron Paul in 2012, young people in particular are flocking to Sanders. Paul was 75 when he ran for president in 2012; Sanders is 73. That comforting, wise vibe can be quite powerful. Ronald Reagan rode that same kind of charm to victory, and he was nearly 70 when he first moved into the White House — the oldest president in American history.
Perhaps it's what Sanders is preaching against — income inequality, the very thing that skewered Mitt Romney in 2012. Most Americans have watched the gulf between the rich and the middle class only grow during Obama's second term. Sanders also means business on climate change. So it could be that the oldest candidate speaks to the youngest voters because they watch the embarrassment that is our presidential election and see no future in it.
With the GOP doubling down on the same mistakes it made in 2012, Clinton might find that her toughest challenge will be Bernie Sanders. Also keep in mind that Sanders is not even a Democrat: He's an independent who only caucuses with the Democrats. Today, 42 percent of Americans identify as independent — the highest ever, and higher than either political party.
As the Republicans' version of The Apprentice plays out on TV, and Hillary Clinton keeps her head down, Bernie Sanders is free to buzz around the country, running a campaign the way your grandfather might have done it. ♦