Bernie Sanders presents a new image in Schenley rally
Bernie this election cycle is not the same as Bernie in the last cycle. After going to the Bernie rally in Pittsburgh this past Sunday, I have observed that today’s Bernie is much more centrist and patriotic than past Bernie. This is because he is trying to win this time, and he knows he can.
The key to a Democratic victory is support in the swing states; Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Attracting voters from across the aisle is how swing states are won, and that’s the purpose for moving towards the political center.
Sensationalism has become a serious problem in the current political climate and I dislike that Bernie has started to ride that train, but he needs to if he wants to win. Understandably, there were many uses of hyperbolic expressions which have value in campaign events. Bernie stated that his campaign aims to “end racial injustice.” Hyperbolic language like this solidifies candidate’s position on wedge issues. Racial policies will probably be a wedge issue, so it's good that Bernie is clearly indicating which side he is on. Hyperbole can reduce the trustworthiness of the candidate, especially when discussing key platform policies, but in this instance, I think it is done well.
The specific language that politicians use on the campaign trail is very telling of the image they are trying to construct. For example, Obama didn’t use the language of black Americans to create a more white image. Bernie’s language is overall very precise and clear, in a good way. He explicitly called President Trump a “racist” and a “pathological liar.” However, Bernie’s language referring to the LGBTQ community leaves much to be desired. The term that he used was “gay”. He never used the term transgender, LGBT, or even lesbian. Referring to the whole movement of sexual freedom as just “gays” delegitimizes and reduces the social power of groups that have historically faced oppression.
As a front-running candidate, Bernie has a responsibility to legitimize movements that he represents or is supported by. I’m pretty positive that the usage of the term “gay” is another instance of appealing to the center, and indicative of an effort to radicalize his caricature.
Further, Bernie used the imagery of class conflict without using the language of socialism, Marxism, or even anti-capitalism. Instead, the term “economic injustice” was used to distance the campaign from potentially harmful connotations. Bernie did well in referencing the Occupy Wall Street protests by evoking the conflict between the top one percent and the 99 percent. It is clear to me that Bernie wishes to capitalize on the ideas of class conflict without committing to a position that will alienate moderates. I think this economic language is indicative of Bernie’s move towards the economic center and a desire to bring leftist ideas into the mainstream. Americans may support Medicare for all, but not socialism.
I observed that Bernie’s language was significantly more patriotic last week than in 2016. One of the things that all presidential hopefuls must conform to is a positive opinion of the history of the United States. In the past, Bernie has been critical of the U.S.’s aggressive international policy, but now he needs to make his caricature more patriotic. Trump created the image of patriotism with his focus on American greatness, using slogans like “America First” and the now infamous MAGA.
Bernie is not the same as he was in 2016, but he still represents a political perspective that is seriously lacking in the current administration. A majority of young Democrats supported Bernie in 2016, and now they might not do the same in the Democratic primaries in 2020. The Democratic primaries will be rough and crowded, and I predict that the propaganda will be greater than ever before. If Bernie continues to change his refreshing attitude to the old and rotten one we are used to, he risks losing the popular support he so carefully built up.