Before examining other reasons why 78-year old Senator Bernie “Democrat-in-Leap-Years-Only” Sanders will never be president, here’s the rationale behind the headline: Committed Sanders supporters are too few to elect him president, and, if Bernie isn’t nominated, will be too angry to support a Democrat.
Sanders’ supporters believe, with reason, that Bernie was unfairly denied the 2016 nomination. They were so angered by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) having stacked the deck for Hillary Clinton that 12 percent of them voted for now-President Donald Trump, 5.8 percent of Vermont’s total voters wrote-in Sanders on their general election ballots, and Sanders received 79,341 write-in votes in California where he’s leading 2020 primary polling. In the (only) eight states that report write-in votes, Sanders tallied 111,609.
A recent poll found that only 53 percent of current Bernie supporters say they would “definitely support” another nominee. If Sanders is denied the nomination again, a lot of Bernie’s people will stay home, write-in, or, in worst-case scenarios for Democrats, “Dexit” – vote for or form a third party – or vote Republican. Any combination could prove the difference in crucial swing states.
If he is nominated, though, Bernie lacks crossover appeal. Moreover, he’s target-rich for opposition researchers. Having honeymooned in the Soviet Union, Bernie has always been a (wink, wink) “socialist,” the system with which he openly identifies. Following his first successful campaign for mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Sanders kicked off the local United Way fundraising drive by announcing, “I don’t believe in charities,” arguing that government alone should administer social programs.
Once, Bernie suggested that Communist countries’ bread lines were a sign of the system’s success, and in a 1985 interview, Bernie espoused “traditional socialist goals – public ownership of oil companies, factories, utilities, banks, etc.” Today, in true Marxist fashion, Sanders calls for nationalizing major industries/services such as higher education, healthcare, power generation and even the internet.
Sanders’ agenda, including universal government-run health care, open borders, the Green New Deal, letting prisoners vote, student loan forgiveness and “free” college, doesn’t resonate with a sufficiently broad constituency to win in November. Furthermore, no one has ever accused Bernie of being attractive, entertaining or even appealing. Measured in decibels, though, he’s clearly irate. Only his left-wing politics indemnify Sanders from being labeled the “angry old white man” generally reviled by young progressives.
Sanders’ support has held rather steady in national Democratic polling. Other than Hillary Clinton’s self-interested attacks, Bernie took no significant early primary hits, presumably because few Democrats felt genuinely threatened. When Bernie became the frontrunner, though, a terrified Democratic establishment mobilized to torpedo him – but at the party’s peril.
As penance for hosing Sanders in 2016, the DNC moved (sort of) to diminish superdelegates’ influence in the party’s nominating process, but, in the increasingly-likely event no one wins on the first ballot taken at their nominating convention, restrictions are automatically lifted on the superdelegates who nearly-uniformly opposed Bernie in 2016. DNC managers have already made an accommodation they refused to make for non-qualifying minority candidates by scrapping their debate qualifying rules so Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire, could buy his way onstage.
Party bosses should reconsider. If President Trump wins a second term, the left will lose its collective mind – again. But losing with a “moderate” nominee would be worse for the party, because its noisy base will become even more radical in the belief that Democrats only lost in 2020 because the party didn’t move far enough left to “win” with Bernie. That’s how progressives reacted in 2016.
It would prove difficult, probably nasty, and entertaining (for non-Democrats, at least), but, before Donald Trump leaves office in 2025, arguably the only way for smarter, longer-term institutional thinkers to save the Democratic Party is to nominate its greater threat, Bernie Sanders, set up a Queens/Brooklyn, free market/socialism cage match, and lose big this November, following which any remaining adults can reclaim the party from the “Democratic Socialists” who currently dictate policy.
Democrats may have choices, but, this year, no matter who they choose, they lose.