So last Friday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. Which struck me as an interesting, nay curious, move — partly due to policy, and partly due to timing.
Above all, and pardon me if my blogger cynicism is showing, it struck me as less a heartfelt choice for President and more a positioning maneuver in the Democratic primary. It seems designed to reinforce Dunne’s claim as the outsider in the race, since many current Dem officeholders have opted for Hillary Clinton. Policy-wise, I’d expect Dunne to have more common ground with a centrist than a Democratic Socialist. Indeed, in his endorsement Dunne tried to paper over the potential differences between himself and Sanders by emphasizing what “Bernie has been talking about” over the solutions Bernie proposes.
All along, Bernie has been talking about issues of critical importance at this moment in time: the loss of our middle class, addressing global climate change, fixing our broken healthcare system, providing needed support for our veterans and seniors, and giving the next generation the opportunity to graduate from college debt free.
Take the last one, for example: Sanders and Dunne both want to give students “the opportunity to graduate… debt free.” But I don’t think Dunne would back Bernie’s call for free tuition or anything like it.
Besides, Clinton is talking about those same issues with roughly as much apparent passion as Sanders.
As for the timing, Dunne says he came to his decision “after the Democratic debate.” Okay, Sanders had a very good performance. But so did Hillary Clinton. I didn’t see anything that elevated Bernie above Hillary.
And Dunne issued his endorsement just after two events crystallized Clinton’s front-runner status: Joe Biden’s decision not to run, and Clinton’s masterful performance before the Benghazi
Clown Car Special Committee.
Which is where my cynicism comes in. I find myself thinking that Dunne made his move at the most convenient moment — when Clinton had just re-established her control of the Democratic race. It’s a time when a Sanders endorsement is likely to have the least impact on the presidential campaign, but still send a useful message in the gubernatorial.
Then there’s the climactic paragraph of Dunne’s statement:
At the end of the day, however, I thought about what would be best for Vermont. As I have traveled around the state, I’ve heard loud and clear that we need an economy that works for all Vermonters and all of Vermont. This will not be easy, and we will need partnership from the federal government. So, when I ask myself which candidate, when in the White House, would be most likely to have Vermont in his or her focus, who would understand the unique challenges of Vermonters in the Northeast Kingdom or in Bennington, who would answer the phone if someone from Vermont called, the answer is clearly Bernie.
Really now. His choice of a President came down to “what’s best for Vermont”? On having a favorite son in the White House? That’s opportunism, not conviction.