What will Bernie supporters do in November 2020 if the primaries are stolen from him again?
Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has skated along largely unscathed in his second bid for the Democrat nomination for president.
With his poll numbers on the rise, Democrat insiders are reportedly murmuring that he could actually win the nomination this time, and they don’t seem particularly thrilled with the prospect.
Suddenly, Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is being taken seriously.
For months, the Vermont senator was written off by Democratic Party insiders as a candidate with a committed but narrow base who was too far left to win the primary. Elizabeth Warren had skyrocketed in the polls and seemed to be leaving him behind in the race to be progressive voters’ standard-bearer in 2020.
But Warren faced strong pushback from the fringe and the centrist left on everything from her disastrous Medicare for All plan (and its arguably worse follow-up) to her disingenuousness and hypocrisy regarding her legal career, her decades-long claim to be a Native American, and—more recently—her questionable claim that she does not take big dollar donations. As a result, her numbers have dropped.
Bernie, thus far, has not received much scrutiny, nor has he been called out by his fellow Democrat candidates as Warren has been and as others before her were. This is mostly because no one, including among Democrat insiders and his competitors for the nomination, have taken him seriously. Until, it seems, now.
But in the past few weeks, something has changed. In private conversations and on social media, Democratic officials, political operatives and pundits are reconsidering Sanders’ chances.
“It may have been inevitable that eventually you would have two candidates representing each side of the ideological divide in the party. A lot of smart people I’ve talked to lately think there’s a very good chance those two end up being Biden and Sanders,” said David Brock, a longtime Hillary Clinton ally who founded a pro-Clinton super PAC in the 2016 campaign. “They’ve both proven to be very resilient.”
Democratic insiders said they are rethinking Sanders’ bid for a few reasons: First, Warren has recently fallen in national and early state surveys. Second, Sanders has withstood the ups and downs of the primary, including a heart attack. At the same time, other candidates with once-high expectations, such as Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke, have dropped out or languished in single digits in the polls.
“I believe people should take him very seriously. He has a very good shot of winning Iowa, a very good shot of winning New Hampshire, and other than Joe Biden, the best shot of winning Nevada,” said Dan Pfeiffer, who served as an adviser to former President Barack Obama. “He could build a real head of steam heading into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.”
The buzzwords surrounding this surge of interest in Bernie are not inspiring: “resilient,” “consistent.” This makes the sudden recognition that Bernie could win the nomination sound more like a warning to their fellow Democrats than a full-throated endorsement of a self-proclaimed socialist who has a prickly personality and tends to shout. A lot.
California state Sen. Scott Wiener, who defeated a Sanders-backed Democrat for his seat in the liberal-heavy San Francisco area in 2016, said Sanders has been “more resilient than I anticipated.”
“But in retrospect,” he added, “he has a very, very loyal following, and people have really stuck with him.”
. . . . “If you really think about it, Bernie hasn’t been hit a lot with anything. It’s not like he’s getting hit by other campaigns,” said Michael Ceraso, a former New Hampshire director for Pete Buttigieg’s campaign who worked for Sanders in 2016.
“You sort of take for granted that he, like Biden, are institutional figures for very different reasons,” Ceraso said. “Early in the campaign, Bernie’s people said, ‘Look, this guy in these early states has a nice hold, and there’s a percentage of supporters, a quarter of the electorate will potentially go for him.’” He added, “It waned a little bit because people were looking at other options … and now they’re saying, ‘Wait a minute, this guy has been the most consistent of anyone.’”
Bernie and his revolution are a huge turn-off to voters who are not already Bernie supporters, so Democrats are right to sound the alarm. If he wins the nomination, it is unlikely that he will win on his Green New Deal, Medicare for All, “free” college, internet, and who knows what other pie-in-the-sky lunacy he’s championing.
And though Mr. Sanders’s detractors see a numbing repetition in his message, his supporters see his constancy as one of his biggest assets: Mr. Sanders, for instance, has absorbed much less criticism on Medicare for all because he has championed it for decades. Ms. Warren’s evolving position on how to pay for it has hurt her with some voters.
During a recent rally in Burlington, a town along the Mississippi River in southeastern Iowa, Mr. Sanders played his greatest hits. Standing behind a podium, he railed against income inequality. He trumpeted health care as a human right.
. . . . At the same time, there is little indication, in Iowa and elsewhere, that Mr. Sanders is attracting more supporters beyond those who backed him in 2016 and young people who were not old enough to vote then. In interviews with dozens of people at his campaign events in recent months, nearly all said their support dated to his first presidential run, or earlier; at events for other candidates, hardly anyone mentions Mr. Sanders as a top choice.
“From my conversations, it appears that people are not ambivalent about Sanders,” said Jeff Fager, the Democratic chairman in Henry County, where Mr. Sanders battled Hillary Clinton to a tie in 2016. “They are either behind him, or he is not on their list of potential candidates.”
With the Democrats’ impeachment failures, the last thing they want is to chance running a self-proclaimed socialist who proudly announces in his various plans that he will dismantle—for purely ideological reasons—the best economy this country has seen in decades.
Democrat insiders are sounding an alarm, not making an endorsement.DONATE
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