Is Bernie’s Niceness Going to be His Downfall?

It might be time for him to throw caution to the wind, and call out his colleagues.

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Photo via Bernie Sanders on Instagram

As the Democratic Primary continues, clear frontrunners have begun to solidify their positions and distance themselves from the rest of the crowded field of candidates. Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders have emerged as the big three, with virtually no other candidates having any chance of surpassing them. As of late, Biden has begin to fade. But at least in my view, that hasn’t been the most interesting recent development in the race.

In more ways than one, Elizabeth Warren has either intentionally or unintentionally begun to differentiate herself from Bernie Sanders in a number of subtle ways. While Biden continues to fall, she continues to rise and has pulled ahead of both Bernie and Biden in polls from Iowa, New Hampshire, and is even beginning creep ahead nationally.

While Elizabeth Warren is a solid candidate and I would not go so far as to compare her to Neoliberals like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, there is just no denying that she is not on the same level of Bernie Sanders in terms of the changes that they both are proposing. Of course, she has some incredible plans, but most would acknowledge that Bernie’s proposals go far deeper in addressing the systemic problems facing average Americans, whether it be healthcare or the wealthy avoiding taxation.

Of course, Bernie is still a strong candidate and is certainly capable of an upset, there is no denying he’s struggling and it may be time for his campaign to reflect, figure out what’s going on, and how best to address it. After signs began to point to Warren overtaking him, I have started to wonder if Bernie’s instinctual niceness may be hurting him.

While I understand it goes against his instincts, perhaps it is time for Bernie to throw a little caution to the wind, and get a little more brave when it comes to calling out his colleagues. Perhaps at this stage in the game, Bernie might be better off by just naming names, and becoming more clear in differentiating himself from the rest of the field, including Warren.

Of course, it clearly goes against Bernie’s nature to be aggressive and critique people he considers friends. But the thing is, he doesn’t even need to be necessarily aggressive. I know I’m not alone in wanting him to say something as simple as: “now, my friend Senator Warren has proposed a a wealth tax of her own, but in my view it doesn’t go far enough…” or, “as much as I hate to to say it, Vice President Biden is LYING to the American people when he says…”

Bernie’s shining moments have been on the debate stage, when he’s looked his colleagues like John Delaney and Joe Biden in the eye, and told them exactly why they were wrong, or that what they were saying was misleading. Polls have reflected this as well. Unfortunately, as much as Bernie may dislike doing it, we might need to see more of it on the campaign trail if he hopes to get the comeback he needs.

A primary is a grueling process, and in Bernie’s case in particular it must feel exhausting to feel as though you’re shouting from the rooftops, doing your best to stay true to your values and remain civil, while still it doesn’t seem to be enough. I have all the respect for his desire to remain as nice as possible, but at some point calling out his friends more clearly and persistently is going to be the only way to go as the field continues to narrow. If he wants to come out on top in a field where he is among the top three with another progressive, it’s time for him to be brave and honest about the differences between him and someone who he considers his friend.

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Lauren is a writer & leftist with analysis on topics related to politics & policy. She can be reached at or Twitter @xlauren_mx

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