Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bern Notice

As the odds increase that Bernie Sanders will be the Democratic nominee, I am trying to talk myself off a ledge and into believing that he could somehow emerge victorious in November. Although he placed last when I took the Washington Post's quiz about which Democratic candidate you agree with most, my only real issue with him is my fear that he is unelectable.

The New York Times notes that Sanders won big on Saturday and is now the clear front-runner. Former Vice President Joe Biden saved enough face to march on to his must-win in South Carolina a week from now. Pete Buttigieg finished in the top tier again and embraced the urgency of knocking down a rising Sanders, though it is not clear where he wins next. And Elizabeth Warren is awash in cash after her debate dismantling of Michael Bloomberg -- $9 million in three days -- but the performance did not nudge her up in the standings in Nevada, in part due to early caucusing(!), which happened before the aforementioned debate.

How about this?

Yes, Sanders alienates many so-called swing voters -- who may or may not really exist anymore -- and anti-Trump Republicans who seriously might have voted for the Democratic offering ... except him. But let's assume all of the normal Democrats who desperately do not want four more years of this demagogue do their job and vote for him (Hillary Clinton did get nearly three million more votes than Trump in 2016). And Sanders does bring out a youth and/or independent vote that stayed home in 2016. Might that do the trick against a badly damaged Trump?

I think the key states again will be Virginia and Nevada, where Hillary handily defeated Bernie in 2016. Bernie has shown he's popular in Nevada this weekend -- despite all the pushback he was getting from the Culinary Workers Union there -- and will need to have a strong showing in Virginia on Super Tuesday to allay my fears there. The other one to watch is Arizona on March 17. My suspicion is Wisconsin has gone to the dark side, and may not come back anytime soon. If I'm right, we'll need to pick up a new state now that Florida and especially Ohio appear to be lost. Increasingly purple Arizona seems like the most likely one. But while it was "this close" to electing a moderate candidate like Clinton (over Trump), will it be as ready to do the same with Sanders? Clinton defeated Sanders 56% to 41% four years ago.

On a purely anecdotal basis, I offer this: In 2016, I felt the country was awash in people "feeling the Bern." This time, though, I don't. The few people I know who supported him then say he's the wrong candidate for this election, or that his time has passed. While he has done well in all three primary events thus well, he's not winning by huge margins. Should we be reading into this or was it just easier when it more of a two-person contest (against Clinton)?

As far as all of the socialism stuff is concerned, I do think Sanders has more liabilities than any of the other candidates. But if Trump can turn one of the most qualified people in the history of the union into a convicted felon -- guilty of only having a vagina -- and was misusing his office to try to do the same to Joe Biden -- odds are he will do that to whoever is nominated, so perhaps we need to just assume the worst no matter what.

My old NYT colleague Jesse Fox Mayshark had this to say:
A few thoughts on "electability." Or well just one thought, really: Nobody knows. I had conservative friends who were 100 percent certain that Barack Obama wasn't electable in 2008 and were cackling over his rise in the Democratic primaries. A black guy with a Muslim name, running in the first open-seat presidential race since 9/11? No way.
In 2016, I along with many other people was 100 percent certain that Donald Trump a.) couldn't possibly win the Republican nomination; and b.) couldn't possibly win the presidency. I mostly viewed his campaign as a source of entertainment.  
I have seen candidates for local and state offices win elections that I didn't think they possibly could. I have also seen candidates who seemed unstoppable get stopped. Elections are weird. Politics is complicated. People are unpredictable. A lot of factors come into play.  
I'm not saying people shouldn't consider what they view as "electability" in their political decision-making, I think most people do in one way or another. I just think it's a difficult thing to quantify, and the highway of political punditry is littered with the roadkill of mistaken assumptions. (How's THAT for a metaphor?)  
There is ultimately only one real metric of electability, and that's getting elected. Our recent history tells us there are many ways to do that, and many ways to screw it up. Which is to say, wherever you are on the political spectrum, whichever candidates you love or hate or despair at the thought of, whatever momentum you perceive or don't, the reality is that nobody knows. 

Andy Humm, co-host of Gay USA, adds this, which felt like a bit of an admonishment of me, even though he doesn't know who I am!
Again, I don't have a candidate. But stop with the "Bernie is not a Democrat" line. Bernie has done nothing but caucus with Democrats in the Senate and support other Democrats for public office--unlike Bloomberg, for instance, who switched his registration from Democrat to Republican to Independent (is he a Democrat now?) and supported a Republican for U.S. Senate with millions as recently as 2018. Trump had barely switched to the Republican Party when he won their nomination and remade the party in his racist image. If Bernie wins the nomination (no sure thing but becoming more likely) it is because we Democratic voters have been moving left in the 21st century. The conventional wisdom is you win elections in the center--but that's not how Trump did it and that's not how Bernie is trying to do it. And he is being validated by Democratic voters.

Also of note: This came up in Humm's memories yesterday -- his first exposure to a little-known mayor from South Bend, Ind.:
I know the race for chair of the Democratic National Committee is between Congress Member Keith Ellison, who I've been favoring, and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. But if I was just judging from the CNN debate tonight, I'd go with South Bend Mayor Peter Buttigieg, 35, not because he is openly gay -- though he integrates his identity smoothly -- but because he was poised, appealing, sharp, and communicated well on a slew of controversial issues in ways that will connect with a range of voters. Those may not be all the skills needed to rejuvenate our ailing party, but he sure stood out in this crowd.


Myk said...

Good stuff to think about - at least it's helped me catch my breath. Two things to remember: (1) Make sure you and everyone you know is registered to vote, and (2) VOTE! Progressives (or call us non-authoritarians if you prefer) have the numbers - we just need to vote.

James Dwight Williamson said...

I believe Bernie cannot win, we as moderates etc are expected to vote for him but, if he doesn’t by some chance win , his voters will all stay home. Pete can’t get the nomination because of appeal to People of color. Not that he’s bad he just has no history. Swing voters would vote for Biden who could beat Sanders but the other moderates , would have to resign. Bloomberg , Sanders and Trump , no rules , but my rules.
At this point the train has left the station, Trump will be elected and we will lose the house and Senate. I will probably hold my nose and vote blue no matter who, but full well knowing it is an exercise in futility .

Coligny said...

Bernie Sanders? The new McGovern!

jaragon said...

I for one will not vote for Comrade Sanders- I might change my mind if he picks a moderate running mate.

Jack said...

Thanks for this post. I too am disappointed that Sanders seems to be leading. But I will vote for him if I have to.

Rix said...

HE needs to get the swing state votes not the popular nationwide count, or is that were he will falter.

Stop the insanity and ignore the national polls.

Randommess_of_me said...

Wi primary is in April, by that time it usually seems to be what's the point since a front-runner is declared. Wi is very pro Trump which scares the hell out of me since I live there.

Dave R said...

There is so much hatred towards Donald Trump right now even Daffy Duck would win if running against him.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Williamson above. If Bernie wins the primary you can say goodbye to the house and the senate too. No one in my area that is a mature Democrat likes or will vote for Bernie Sanders. In fact, they have said if he's the choice they will vote for Trump. I'm hoping that Klobuchar, Warren, Biden, or Bloomberg can do something much bigger than they have and come out ahead. Oh..yeah no one in my area would consider voting for Buttigieg either. So it kinda looks like, from here, that Trump wins again. And bigger this time than before. If only Sanders could see himself the way everyone else does and could change a bit.