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After a divisive primary challenge, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has taken to the campaign hustings urging voters to mark their election ballot for his former foe, Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Sanders tells voters Clinton is “the superior candidate” and that her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, is a “Pathological liar.”

Sanders is following the precedent of most candidates who lose their party’s Presidential nomination. It is commonplace for them to urge their supporters to support the party’s nominee.

However, if the nominee is elected, there is history of the vanquished primary rival becoming a thorn in his/her side.

Sanders became a tribune of the progressive left. With the formidable support of over 13 million Democratic primary voters, Sanders has the electoral bone fides to lead the charge against Clinton should she pivot to the center once in office. He could become her biggest critic should she pursue an interventionist foreign policy, support trade deals opposed by labor and environmental groups, or become an ally of the large financial institutions which helped to fund her campaign.

There is a history of defeated primary foes becoming critics of the President who beat them. In 1892, former President Grover Cleveland mustered the Democratic Presidential nomination by defeating a former ally, U.S. Senator David B. Hill (D-NY). In another political lifetime, Hill had been a ticketmate with Cleveland. Cleveland was Governor and Hill was Lieutenant Governor of New York. With Cleveland’s blessing, Hill was elected to succeed him.

However, the two developed irreconcilable differences, with Hill supporting bi-mettallism, where both gold and silver would be certified as legal tender, and economic nationalism, favoring a higher protective tariff. Contrariwise, Cleveland advocated hard money, supported the Gold Standard, and a lower protective tariff.

After losing the nomination, Hill got in line and endorsed his political friend turned foe. However, once Cleveland was elected, Senator Hill led the charge in blocking two of Cleveland’s nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Four years later, the Republicans selected former Ohio Governor William McKinley for President. McKinley got his political revenge by defeating Thomas Bracket Reed of Maine for the nomination. When McKinley was in the House, Reed had upended him for the post of U.S. House Speaker. While Reed supported McKinley in the General Election, he became indignant at the President for his support of the Spanish American War. Reed, a non-interventionist on foreign policy, gave up his gavel in protest, resigning from the Speakership and his House seat in the middle of his term.

In another example, New York Governor Al Smith was once an ally of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In fact, in 1924, when the Republicans nominated Roosevelt’s cousin, Theodore Roosevelt Jr., to challenge Smith, Franklin was foursquare for Smith. That year, Roosevelt also nominated Smith for President at the Democratic National Convention, bestowing upon him the moniker: “The Happy Warrior.”

However the ambitions of both men collided in 1932 as Roosevelt vanquished Smith for the nomination. Being a good soldier, Smith campaigned for Roosevelt in the General Election, singing his praises in the critically important state of Massachusetts. Smith, a Catholic, was wildly popular with the state’s proliferating Catholic voting block.

However, Smith became a critic of Roosevelt. He came to see Roosevelt’s “New Deal” as too pervasive. Smith lambasted Roosevelt for pitting “class against class.” Smith even actively campaigned for Roosevelt’s Republican opponents in 1936, and again in 1940, Alf Landon and Wendell Willkie, respectively.

More recently, in 1976, the Democrats nominated former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, who was elected as an outsider to the Washington establishment and who branded himself as “untainted” by politics. On the heels of the Watergate imbroglio, voters were looking for someone from outside of the Beltway establishment. Thus Carter defeated the early frontrunner and structural candidate, U.S. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-WA.), who was first elected to the U.S. Congress in 1940.

Jackson however was a party man through and through. Accordingly, he hit the campaign trail hard for Carter.

Yet once Carter was elected, Jackson was a frequent critic of his foreign policy. Jackson, who favored a hard line on Russia, was a cheerleader for the opposition to the Second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty negotiated by Carter and the Russians. Jackson led the effort against Carter’s nomination of Paul Warnke as Arms Control Negotiator. Furthermore, in 1980, he endorsed Carter’s primary opponent, U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA.)

Bill Clinton dealt with two former primary rivals who acted as good soldiers in endorsing him in the General Election. They then became critics during Clinton’s administration. One of these antagonists was former U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas (D-MA). Clinton and Tsongas exchange blows many times in the Democratic primary. Tsongas branded Clinton “unprincipled” and a “pander bear.” Moreover, he approved an advertisement which asserted, “Some people will say anything to be elected President.” Yet when Clinton secured the nomination, Tsongas heaped praise on Clinton, averring: “Bill Clinton is a healer by instinct and that skill will be critical as we come to understand the pulls and tugs of our multi-cultural society.” As for Tsongas’ earlier statement, he averred: “It was a campaign. Campaigns are tough. People make tough statements and I did, and others did as well.”

However, that praise was supplanted with condemnation when Clinton became President. Tsongas, a deficit hawk, believed that Clinton was spending too much money rather than promoting fiscal austerity. Tsongas told the New York Times that Clinton was a “direct threat to my children’s generation” and that Clinton’s “biggest problem is a lack of moral authority.” In 1994, Tsongas even floated the idea of forming a third party which would nominate General Colin Powell to challenge Clinton for re-election.

Another rival of Clinton was U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE). During the primary sweepstakes, Kerrey, a Medal of Honor winner, questioned why Clinton did not serve in Vietnam, opining: “There is an apparent unwillingness to accept responsibility for a decision that was apparently based on conscience . . . I quibble with a decision that was premeditatively designed to further a political career, even then.” Kerrey also suggested Clinton “should not be the nominee of the party because he will not be able to win.”

Still, Kerrey put that behind him and campaigned for Clinton in the General Election. He was even a contender to become Clinton’s runningmate.

However, after Clinton became President, Kerrey called Clinton an usually good liar.” Kerrey said of Clinton: “There’s a tendency at times to play the victim-card a bit too much . . . It doesn’t trouble me; I get angry with it.’’ Kerrey and his Republican colleague John Danforth of Missouri promulgated a report calling for entitlement reform. However, Clinton rejected it. Kerrey even considered challenging Clinton for re-election, ultimately deciding against it.

Alternatively, some rivals have become allies of the President who defeated them. For example, in 1952 there was a bitter internecine feud between General Dwight D. Eisenhower and U.S. Senator Robert A. Taft (R-OH) for the GOP nomination. Eisenhower eked out a victory. However, that rivalry was set aside, as Taft, now the Senate Majority Leader, shepherded through Eisenhower’s legislative agenda his first year in office. The two former rivals even became social friends. However, Taft died just over half way into Eisenhower’s first year in office.

Similarly, in 1988, Vice President George H.W. Bush and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS) were embroiled in a political battle royale. At one point, the two candidates were on the air at the same time. Brokaw asked Bush if he had anything to say to Dole. Bush responded: “No, just wish him well and [we’ll] meet again in the South.” Brokaw then asked Dole if he had anything to say to Bush. Dole was inflamed by an advertisement the Bush campaign was running accusing him of “straddling on taxes.” Dole responded: “Yeah, tell him to stop lying about my record.”

However, Dole became Bush’s chief defender in the Senate and was instrumental in supporting Bush on foreign and domestic affairs.

In the present election, Bernie Sanders has gone from political obscurity to a cult figure in progressive circles. Should Hillary be elected President, Sanders will likely be a constant presence, urging her to pursue a progressive agenda. In fact, Sanders could become her chief antagonist should she govern as a centrist. He could also be her chief exponent should she act as a progressive Democrat.

Today there appears to be a rapprochement between Sanders and Clinton. Should Clinton be elected President, she will need the support of Sanders. Sanders will clearly be in the political catbird seat, and could be a thorn in the side of Clinton should she fail to give proper deference to progressive polices.

Follow Rich Rubino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichRubinoPOL


The 2016 Presidential election is a watershed for two movements long marginalized by both major political parties. For the Republicans, the nomination of Donald Trump symbolized the re-emergence of “paleoconservatives.” On the Democratic side, the Bernie Sanders movement represents the return of the progressive left as a formidable force in the Democratic Party.

Donald Trump won the GOP nomination by emphasizing limiting the U.S. role around the world, halting illegal immigration, curtailing legal immigration, limiting the size and scope of the federal government, and instituting a trade policy of economic nationalism. Trump brands his program “Putting America First.”

This nationalistic approach is known as paleoconservatism because it was once the prevailing orthodoxy on the right. It can also be referred to as the “alternative right.” This variant of conservatism has, until this election been subjugated by a globalist conservative mindset.

The golden years for the ideology that Trump’s espouses in the GOP were the 1920’s. In 1920, Republican Warren G. Harding won the Presidency with 60.3% of the vote by running on an eerily similar platform as Trump. With WWI having recently ended, the American people were apprehensive toward foreign entanglements. Capitalizing on this sentiment, Harding used the slogan “America First.” He averred: “We decided long ago that we objected to foreign government of our people.”

In his 1921 inaugural address, Harding told the American people: “America can be a party to no permanent military alliance. It can enter into no political commitments, nor assume any economic obligations which will subject our decisions to any other than our own authority.” This is similar to Trump questioning the U.S. commitment to defending NATO allies in case of an attack. Trump said he would aid NATO allies only if they “fulfilled their obligations to us.” Trump also supports charging countries like South Korea and Germany for U.S. military protection.

Like Trump, Harding was an adherent to the gospel of limited immigration to the U.S. In his first year as President, Harding signed the Emergency Quota Act into law, which limited immigration through the application of a quota system.

On international trade, Harding, like Trump, sang from the same economic nationalism hymnbook. He signed the Emergency Tariff Act, which increased tariffs on many agricultural products imported into the U.S.

Harding’s Republican successor, Calvin Coolidge, opposed U.S. entry into the League of Nations. He was an exponent of “restrictive immigration.” In 1924, he singed the all-encompassing Comprehensive Immigration Act, which leveled quotas on each nation based on their percentage of the population in 1890. In the “America First” view, Coolidge, after signing the legislation, vocalized: “America must remain American.”

Coolidge was also an economic nationalist who borrowed a catchphrase from Republican President William McKinley (1897-1901), calling for the “full dinner pail,” meaning that the effects of protective tariffs would be advantageous for the entire nation.

The last time a Republican candidate ran on these ideals and was taken seriously was in 1996. That year, former Republican operative Pat Buchanan astounded the political establishment by upending establishment Republicans and winning the New Hampshire Presidential Primary. However, after a loss in South Carolina, known as the firewall for the GOP establishment, the campaign and the movement faded from the GOP mainstream.

Buchanan promoted “a wholesale review of our foreign policy and our Defense policy.” His message of “a new nationalism” resuscitated the dormant paleo-conservative movement.” Buchanan called U.S. intervention “imperial overreach” and called for a halt to all foreign aide.

In addition, Buchanan advocated for a five-year moratorium on legal immigration and was an ardent economic Nationalist, opposing U.S. involvement in NAFTA, and calling for protective tariffs to protect U.S. industry. In true paleoconservative oratory, Buchanan declared: “When I walk into that Oval Office, we start looking out for America first.”

On the left, in 2016 Bernie Sanders became the torchbearer for a brand of progressivism that only had quick flashes in the Democratic Party. This version of progressivism calls for a redoubtable federal government, increases in social spending, establishing a single-payer health care system, decreases in the military budget, and opposition to most U.S. military interventions.

Since the Democratic Party usually offers up more moderate Presidential candidates, Sanders’ ideological antecedents have sometimes come from left wing third party candidates.

In 1924, the Democratic Party nominated the conservative John W. Davis. The Republicans selected the conservative Calvin Coolidge. This left an aperture on the left for a progressive Presidential candidate. U.S. Senator Robert La Follette Sr. of Wisconsin became the nominee of the Progressive party and filled that vacuum. La Follette, like Sanders, was skeptical of power held in private hands. His flagship goal was “to break the combined power of the private-monopoly system over the political and economic life of the American people.” La Follette was probably to the left of Sanders in his anti-war approach, calling for a national plebiscite where the American people can decide whether to enter war “except in cases of actual invasion.” That year the American Socialist Party endorsed La Follette, marking the only time it has supported with a nominee from another party. La Follette mustered 16.6% of the vote.

In 1948, the Progressive Party nominated former Vice President Henry Wallace, who was to the left of Democratic President Harry S. Truman. Interestingly, Wallace was a former Republican. When Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt nominated him for Vice President in 1940, some in the party thought he was too conservative. When his name was placed in nomination at the convention, a Democratic Stalwart commandeered a microphone demanding: “Give us a Democrat! We don’t want a Republican.”

By 1948, Wallace advocated a rapprochement with the Soviet Union, calling for “a peaceful foreign policy,” instituting single-payer health insurance, and racial desegregation. Wallace pocketed just 2.4% of the vote.

Sanders’ style of progressivism reached its high water mark in 1972 when U.S. Senator George McGovern (D-SD) miraculously won the Democratic Presidential nomination despite 200-1 odds against him when he announced his candidacy. McGovern advocated bringing U.S. troops home from the Vietnam War, emphasizing that he had long held this position. McGovern’s slogan was “Right From The Start.” In addition, McGovern proposed to truncate the U.S. military budget by “$30 billion a year in fat by 1975.” Moreover, his plan to bestow every American with a $1,000 income supplement was seen as too radical for moderate voters.

McGovern proved too liberal for the vox populi, losing 49-states. Since that time period, the progressives have occasionally popped up, only to be batted back down.

In 1992, Irvine, California Mayor Larry Agran ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination with a plan for economic convergence, calling for a $150 billion cut in the military budget, with some of the proceeds being pipelined directly to the cites. His campaign gained little traction, and many major media outlets ignored his candidacy. In fact, in one poll, Agran was ahead of former California Governor Jerry Brown. However, ABC News, in reporting on the poll, mentioned Brown’s numbers but not Agran’s. In a surreal moment, Agran attended a debate as an audience member (He had not been invited as a participant) and was arrested for heckling the moderator.

More recently, in 2004 and 2008, U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) captured the enthusiastic support of hardcore progressives by calling for a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq. He also supported the U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA, single-payer health care, and the establishment of a Federal Department of Peace in the Cabinet. However, Kucinich did not win a single state or territory in either campaign.

2016 is “back to the future” for the paleoconservative and liberal progressive movements. Both are no longer an ostracized bloodline in their respective parties.

A chasm has developed in the GOP between supporters of contemporary conservatives like U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and paleoconservatives like Republican nominee Donald Trump. Contrariwise, a schism has emerged on the left between supporters of contemporary center-left Democrats like the party’s Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and progressive devotees of Bernie Sanders. The ideological divide in both parties is the underlying legacy of the 2016 Presidential sweepstakes. view

Follow Rich Rubino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichRubinoPOL


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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is becoming an albatross around the necks of members of his party. Down-ballot GOP candidates are put in the awkward position of constantly distancing themselves from the “most” recent linguistic pyrotechnics touched off by Trump. The Real Estate mogul has suggested that Gonzalo Curiel, the Latino judge presiding over a […]

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Conservatives often excoriate the “liberal media.” The Media Research Center, a content analysis organization, brands itself as a vehicle to “expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the left: the national news media.” After an unflattering political cartoon featuring his two daughters, then Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz bewailed how “desperate the liberal media is […]

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Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump is in the inchoate stages of vetting possible Vice Presidential runningmates. Much media focus is centering on Ohio Governor John Kasich. Electorally, it would make sense to select a popular Governor of a critically important showdown state. No Republican has ever won the Presidency without carrying the Buckeye state. […]

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I’m From Massachusetts: My Vote Doesn’t Count

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This primary election cycle is showcasing the fundamental unfairness of the way political parties select their nominees. Republicans are aghast that some states choose their nominees at state conventions rather than letting voters choose. Democrats are becoming cognizant that their vote is subservient to the vote of their Governors and members of the U.S. Congress, […]

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