Winston-Salem councilman: Sanders nomination would be ‘catastrophe’

Molly Leight, DD Adams and Dan Besse
Molly Leight, DD Adams and Dan Besse (l-r)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton continues to pull support from elected officials in the run-up to the March 15 primary in North Carolina, notching endorsements today from four members of Winston-Salem City Council today.

“Those of us who have been working hard and effectively for progressive change on local, state and national levels see in Hillary Clinton a leader who understands how to make it happen,” said Councilman Dan Besse, a Democrat who represents the Southwest Ward. “We’re hungry for that. We’re fired up about the opportunity to continue and expand the Obama legacy.”

Besse, who made the public endorsement earlier this afternoon with Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burke, Councilwoman DD Adams and Councilwoman Molly Leight at the Forsyth County Democratic Party headquarters, said he and his colleagues shared an enthusiasm about Clinton’s candidacy and took the initiative to express their support on their own.

Besse cited lessons from inspiring Democratic presidential candidates who lost badly in the general election as a caution against the outsider candidacy of Bernie Sanders, who is electrifying young people with his message about economic inequality.

“Walter Mondale in 1984 was running against someone who all the progressives saw as the big, bad guy — Ronald Reagan,” Besse said. “I remember cheering for Walter Mondale. He stood up on the convention floor at the Democratic National Convention and in a brilliant stroke of candor, said, ‘The truth is I will raise your taxes, and so will he. The difference is I will tell you; he won’t.’ It was a catastrophe. That’s the kind of situation we face today if we make the wrong decision.”

Besse warned that if Sanders is somehow able to win the Democratic nomination, “he would be politically destroyed by the Republicans and the right wing. They would do it with his own words — his promise to raise taxes. That’s a message that the swing voters will be allergic to.

“I have been so frustrated holding that in because I respect what he wants to do,” Besse continued. “I respect the young people and the idealistic progressives who get frustrated with incremental progress, who want to throw the Hail Mary, who want to go for broke. I know from long work in public life that it wouldn’t work and that we would have an unprecedented national catastrophe, if we give up on the opportunity to work on the progressive legacy of the Obama years and turn towards the magical thinking of ‘do it all now.’”

Besse added that he and his colleagues on city council, far from seeing Clinton as merely an “acceptable alternative,” view her candidacy with genuine enthusiasm. In particular, he cited her advocacy for expanded access to healthcare, including her vocal support for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, implemented under her husband’s administration.

“We have cut the national uninsured rate in half,” Besse said. “Hillary understands that we’ve got to fix that problem. We’ll get to universal access in the end. The option that Sen. Sanders favors of abandoning the ground game where we’ve made progress over the past decade and throwing a Hail Mary pass of all or nothing means we’ll end up with nothing.”

  • Joshua

    I very much respect Dan Besse. I wonder if TCB could get him to answer why he thinks HRC is immune from the influence of her big money donors. The Democratic Party — from leaders as mainstream as Biden and RBG — have warned repeatedly that our democracy is being undermined at a fundamental level by the role of big money in politics. Everyone’s on board to overturn Citizens United because of this threat.

    If HRC wins the nomination, then the party needs to effectively communicate to an energized progressive base why HRC won’t be swayed by the tons of money given to her by Goldman Sachs and the like. And if she won’t be swayed by the millions poured into her campaign by Wall St, then maybe big money in politics isn’t so bad after all? Or maybe she’s somehow immune?

    I sincerely do not intend this line of questioning as an attack, or to be snarky. I’m genuinely concerned about the influence of money in politics. And so, I thought, was the Democratic Party.