Here's Why Jeff Merkley Sells Bernie Sanders Better Than The Man Himself
Following a rough patch that had many questioning his knowledge of Wall Street and conduct toward rival Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders got his first Senate endorsement, from Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon. In an op-ed published in The New York Times on Wednesday, Merkley nodded to his working-class Oregonian roots and said that Sanders is the candidate who can give the American middle class the opportunities it deserves. The endorsement, and its timing, are exactly what Sanders needs. In fact, it’s done a much better job articulating what Sanders needs to say than anything Sanders himself has said in the last two weeks.
Merkley's op-ed reminds us all of the things I love about Sanders, and it does it in a way that balances idealism with tangibility. Crucially, it’s respectful of frontrunner Hillary Clinton, following a week in which we didn’t see a ton of respect toward Clinton from Sanders himself.
Watch closely, all who feel the Bern, because this endorsement from Merkley is how it should be done. Merkley gives Clinton the credit she deserves, does it in language that unites the party (or tries to, anyway), and then pivots to the core of what draws us to Sanders while emphasizing that the man can in fact generate institutional support.
Unlike the Republican primary circus, Democrats have a choice between two candidates with lifelong track records of fighting for economic opportunity and who are committed to America’s being a force for peace and stability and who are eager to meet today’s challenges and move our country forward for all its citizens, together.
From her time advocating for children as a young lawyer to her work as first lady of Arkansas and the United States, and as a senator and secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has a remarkable record. She would be a strong and capable president.
But Bernie Sanders is boldly and fiercely addressing the biggest challenges facing our country.”
Because he is the gift that keeps on giving, Merkley then went on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss his endorsement, whereupon he was asked about the New York Daily News interview from Sanders’ previously-mentioned terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week. Merkely responded:
You’ve got to judge someone by the totality of their record ... And [Sanders has] put forth a number of detailed proposals. He backed the Volcker gambling out of Wall Street. He backed the amendment to cap the share of deposits that any single big bank could have. He backed the increased levels of capital required if you’re a significant financial institution. So, perhaps that interview wasn’t the moment that he put [that] on display.
Merkley also stated firmly that he believes Sanders can win, explained his strong moral platforms in trade and clean energy, and basically made us all believe in the American Dream again. Merkley is doing way more for Sanders with this endorsement than, say Ben Carson has been doing for Donald Trump with his. From my perspective, Sanders has struggled of late to bring these points home. While Sanders has definitely gained on Clinton in New York, he's still losing by double digits at the moment. More irksome to me is that Sanders recently seemed to stoop to tactics that are beneath him, like suggesting Clinton is not "qualified" (and then back-tracking), while failing to convince us of his expertise. Merkley should really be doing as much of Sanders’ PR legwork as he can manage at the moment. I mean, look at these lines from his op-ed:
It has been noted that Bernie has an uphill battle ahead of him to win the Democratic nomination. But his leadership on these issues and his willingness to fearlessly stand up to the powers that be have galvanized a grass-roots movement. People know that we don’t just need better policies, we need a wholesale rethinking of how our economy and our politics work, and for whom they work.
The first three words of the Constitution, in bold script, are “We the People.” The American story is a journey of continuous striving to more fully realize our founding principles of hope and opportunity for all.
It is time to recommit ourselves to that vision of a country that measures our nation’s success not at the boardroom table, but at kitchen tables across America. Bernie Sanders stands for that America, and so I stand with Bernie Sanders for president.
Incidentally, Merkley also executed a much better, far less sexist kitchen-related campaign reference than John Kasich did.