Political endorsements are often sought after; difficult to obtain; and even harder to quantify. In Vermont we recently witnessed an early Presidential endorsement battle worthy of the Cold War. Leading Democrats such as Senator Leahy and Former Governors Kunin and Dean endorsed Secretary Hillary Clinton. Governor Shumlin strategically tweeted his endorsement for Clinton the day before Senator Sanders’ official Presidential announcement. Bernie countered and parlayed with the endorsements of noted environmentalist Bill McKibben, Ice Cream gurus Ben and Jerry as well as nearly the entire slate of elected progressive officer holders in Vermont. Subsequent notable endorsements for Sanders include Comedian Sarah Silverman, the Vermont National Education Association and of course legendary Canadian rocker Neil Young.
How much do political endorsements really mean? In limited circumstances the endorsement of an elected official may make the difference in how a citizen votes. More often then not though, the true value of an endorsement is to add gravitas and momentum to a campaign. And as the result of his own gravitas and those of his endorsements, Senator Sanders is by all accounts rapidly gaining momentum.
Sanders endorser Neil Young will soon be playing in Vermont for the first time in nearly fifty years. And while my heart hopes he will play his legendary tune Pocahontas, Sanders’ rapid rise in the Presidential polls reminds me on several different fronts of his classic - Hey Hey, My My.
Young tells us that it is “better to burn out, then it is to rust.” And as Lao Tzu once stated “the flame that burns twice as bright, burns half as long.” And of course that is a real possibility with Bernie, considering that even though 2016 is coming, we are still many months away from the first Presidential primary. And only time will tell if Vermont’s junior senator can maintain his rapid ascent.
Endorsements or not, I have to disagree with Senator Sanders when he recently claimed that “what elections are about are serious debates over serious issues, not political gossip, not making campaigns into soap operas.” That is of course what elections should be about, but political pugilism has for better or worse become the gladiatorial games of 21st Century America and Bernie knows more than most that only the strong survive.
And Neil Young’s observation is as applicable to politics as it is to music, “Hey hey, my my, Rock and Roll can never die. There’s more to the picture than meets the eye.”