The Case for Bernie

As I write this, New Hampshire has just been called for Bernie Sanders. As a Warren supporter, I’m obviously a bit dismayed at her distant 3rd and 4th place finishes in the first two states. I think there’s a lot of baked-in misogyny in our country, but there’s also a lot of fear. I can see the casual voter who looks at Elizabeth Warren, sees Hillary Clinton 2.0, and sees Donald Trump getting reelected.

Naysayers will say that Bernie didn’t increase his turnout from 2016. I’d counter that the electorate is far more fractured when you’re running against four people (plus a few people that never really had a chance) than when you’re running against one person. Bernie was never going to repeat his 22-point New Hampshire victory from 2016; there’s not enough vote to go around. Naysayers will say that because Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Biden split the moderate vote, there are more moderates than Bernie supporters. I’d counter that’s not how elections work, and if that’s the math you want to do, then all it takes is for Kasich, Rubio, Cruz, and Bush to beat Trump in the 2016 Republican primary. The win is the win, so what you need to concern yourself with is whether or not those people who voted for other candidates other than Bernie in the primary will come out for Bernie in a general election.

Looking out at the field, I think Bernie is a strong contender for several reasons:

There’s the theory that each election is a “remedy” to the previous election. Granted, if things are going well, you get a reelection, but Trump makes that difficult because he’s an unpopular President with a popular economy. But I think that people are, by and large, tired by Trump. Even if you don’t follow the news closely, you know there’s this idiot blowhard around who needs to make everything about him. He is, simply put, exhausting.

Sanders looks appealing by virtue of being, frankly, uninterested in anything that deals with his personality. That may seem like an odd trait in someone who is looking to win a popularity contest, but Sanders has his brand–no-nonsense progressive who fights against the wealthy–and that brand is popular. If you’re a swing voter who voted for Trump because you wanted “change” and then Trump just continues on in a general direction of constant corruption while getting into trade wars with China, then you’re still angry and still looking for change. Bernie is your change candidate who gives you what you want (“a new system”) minus the constant need for adoration.

Some are worried that Bernie will turn off suburban women because he’s too “radical.” But this theory reminds me of 2016 when Trump couldn’t win with white women because not only was Clinton too popular with that demographic, but the Access Hollywood tape wiped out any gains Trump may have made with that group. Trump ended up winning with white women 57% to 37%. I’m not disputing the argument that you need women to win; my argument is you have no idea how women are going to vote in 2020.

I also think Bernie has the intangibles to win this race. I think he has a simple message that he never deviates from. I think he’s endearing in a curmudgeonly fashion. I think what people don’t like about him are tired arguments that no longer resonate (“Socialism!”) The worst thing about him are his followers, and if that’s your hang-up, Trump’s followers and some of his employees are white nationalists. I’m not saying Bernie Bros. are great (they can be quite toxic on social media), but I also don’t think Bernie follows their lead or needs to call them “very fine people.”

Will Bernie get hammered with opposition research? Of course. There’s no candidate that will avoid it. If you aren’t expecting Trump and the media establishment to fight back against Sanders tooth-and-nail, you haven’t been paying attention. But it’s not like they’re going to roll out the red carpet for Pete Buttigieg or Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar. There is no path of least resistance here.

Honestly, I’m not all that worried about Trump because everyone knows who he is and what he’ll do. The reason his approval hovers at 42% is because he’s a polarizing figure. Your opinion on him doesn’t really change. He’s going to lie and cheat and use all the levers of government to stop the Democratic nominee, but Trump needs the media as a willing handmaiden. His whole Ukraine scam was to open an investigation on Biden because he needed dirt that the media could run with. He knew that once any cloud of controversy surrounded Biden, it would be the new “e-mails” and the media, in their dopey need to be “objective”, would pounce and “raise questions.”

The media is my concern. The media needs this election (and every election) to be a horserace. They need it to be sports. If it’s not a competition and Bernie is a normal candidate who is not corrupt and Donald Trump is clearly corrupt, then that’s not a good conflict and that’s bad for ratings. But if Bernie is corrupt and Donald Trump is corrupt then wHaT wiLL vOTeRs dO? It’s all a game to people like Chuck Todd and Chris Cillizza because politics doesn’t affect them. They cover it, but the outcomes can’t touch rich, white men.

I’m not pollyanna about a Sanders win. If we should have learned anything in 2016 it’s not to take a single election for granted, especially when the GOP has made it clear that they will use every trick in the book to ensure their rule for as long as possible. But I think Sanders is a strong candidate who’s easy to understand, hard to knock off message, and doesn’t mince words. I don’t know how he’ll be as a President (my preference for Warren is that I think she’d be a stronger executive), but I think he gives Democrats a stronger case than any “moderate” who has the approval of the punditry but not the people. The pundits said Biden was the Electability candidate; he got clobbered in the first two states. The pundits said Sanders was too radical; he’s got the best path to the nomination right now.

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020 politics

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