PR in Politics: A Spotlight on Bernie Sanders

By: Julian Sanchez

The general election is quickly approaching its final year bringing much more of politics to our daily lives. Within a few months, both social media and television will be bombarded with ads relating to the political race. It has become clear to the American people that politics is cannot be avoided. The decisions made in this election will affect current and future American policies.

For many people in public relations, the elections are generally a time to see examples of many cases of good and bad PR. Each candidate has their instances of good and bad moments, but in all reality, it is almost impossible to focus on each and every one. The role someone in public relation plays in the election is vital especially to help change the minds of the American people.

Take Bernie Sanders as an example. Although he is aware of his current status in the election, he continues to push his agenda onto the American people fully knowing that he may not get the democratic bid. He continues to run on strong platforms and constantly maintains a positive image, one that makes it hard for others to comment on. Sanders is a notable character that could easily be talked about in terms of good and bad PR given his role in this election.

Sanders, an independent senator in the state of Vermont, is running to secure the spot for the Democratic bid. Although trending, Senator Sanders fails to pass frontrunner Secretary Clinton. While Sanders is a long way from Clinton, he seems to be gaining momentum fairly quick in large battleground states and often times fills large venues with large amounts of support. With the never ending conversation regarding Clinton’s email server, Senator Sanders has been able to generate more buzz for his campaign as people move away from Clintons. These kind of scandals can easily sway the voters and change an election. This is why it is important to keep a favorable image no matter what party a candidate is on.

Senator Sanders is by no means a perfect candidate and has had his fair share of good and bad PR examples. Let us take his consideration as a “socialist” candidate as an example. This is definitely a moment of bad PR. The title “socialist” is not a favorable tagline to be streaming under your name while running to be one of the most powerful figures in the world. An NPR article [1] highlights this idea and talks about the harmful impacts it has. Many Americans would rather elect a politician that has a very uncommon religious practice or even one who does not follow any religious background than to elect someone who considers themselves as a “socialist.” This tag can significantly hurt his chances at being elected if he does not clearly articulate his meaning. Luckily for Sanders, he did clarify saying he believes in some of the ideals they believe in such as universal health care, paid sick leave, etc. If the candidate

himself did not comment, this could have easily been a PR crisis and potentially could have been the downfall of his campaign.

Sanders is no lone wolf when it comes to being hurt from his past political choices. In a 1972 essay [2], the Vermont senator wrote about how gender roles impact the sex lives of individuals. In this text, Sander’s talks about an interaction between an assumed couple, but portrays it in a way that sounds like rape. Any form of sexual assault is easily the quickest way to lose support and create a multitude of bad PR. As expected, the Sander’s campaign tried to separate the candidate as far as he could from this paper. Although no official statement was made, buzz about this has died down a bit causing his image to stay more positive.

On another note, Sanders has also experienced substantial positive feedback and has been able to keep a pristine image in this campaign. Take his record regarding LGBT issues. Senator Sanders has always rallied for LGBT equality and has never swayed from his position. In the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, Sanders was one of the 67 House members to vote against this bill. Even with the legalization of same-sex marriage in America, Sanders proposed adding full protection under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for LGBT individuals. His progressive thinking on this topic has only helped him gain a more favorable image.

Whether it is his stance on Civil Rights, minimum wage, fight to reform Wall Street, etc., Sanders has maintained a positive image and continues to gain support and good PR. Part of his success is the lack of attacks from other presidential candidates. For this same reason, Sanders is polling higher in more significant states and avoids being brought down from any bad choices or votes he has made in his political career. In this election cycle, we can see the importance of maintaining a favorable image among voters. A simple statement can end a campaign and bring rise to another.