In many ways, he’s the idea candidate, and would make a fantastic president! Seriously, it would be amazing to see him in the White House, with a solid Democratic majority in the House and Senate. The kind of lasting, positive change that could be created boggles the mind.
Here’s the problem: Bernie Sanders is almost 100% un-electable outside of Vermont. Having him as the Democratic party nomination would almost guarantee that we’d lose the general election. That’s assuming he can even get the nomination, which he can’t.
See, much as I like Sanders, I know he’d almost certain fail in the general election. Americans have a history of electing moderates. Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Bush (the first), Clinton, Obama, and many others were fairly middle of the road. The only times they’ve elected people who were to the extreme right (Reagan, Bush II), were when they thought they were electing moderates and got something very different. The only times they’ve elected someone on the extreme left…well, really, it’s only happened with Franklin Roosevelt, and then the country had about 33% unemployment and we were on the brink of an armed revolution.
Bernie Sanders is a proud socialist (which makes me wonder why he isn’t running for the Socialist party nomination, but never mind). Americans have no interest in electing a socialist, which says nothing good about our country, but that’s a different discussion. The public, who in general favor most of his position, would never vote for him because they think he’s too far to the left.
Now we do have to take a moment to explore that bizarre phenomenon. Most Americans are likely in favor of pretty much everything on that list up there. Most Americans agree that those are good things and should be done. Most Americans would also say that they’re centrists and wouldn’t vote for someone like Sanders. It’s a strange and unhealthy disconnect that we have.
But that’s even assuming Bernie could get to the general election as a Democrat. He can’t. He doesn’t have any of the money or endorsements that Clinton (who has earned all of her current status), has. That might sound like a minor thing, but it isn’t. It gives her a huge advantage heading into the primaries. It’s one of the major reasons that Joe Biden likely won’t run.
The poll numbers really tell the story. Much as the Sanders crowd likes to crow about how well Bernie is doing in the polls, the fact is that he’s severely behind Clinton at the national level. Just look at these numbers here. Polling not too far behind him is Biden.
So let’s consider. At the moment, Clinton has roughly 40% of the voters to Sanders’ 25.8%, with Biden at 20%. Once BIden officially says he isn’t running, which I believe will happen in the next few days, where do you think his supporters, who are establishment Democrats, are going to go? Will they throw their support in with Sanders? No. They’ll go to Hillary, and she’ll poll up around 55% with Sanders gaining maybe slightly to get to 30%. That does not a nomination get. That’s not even going to into things like his problems with any voters who aren’t white and middle class.
Now it’s not impossible that Sanders could get the nomination. If Biden announces that he’s not going to run and Clinton gets indicted for the email scandal (not gonna happen), then yes, Bernie might get the nomination. Maybe. More likely we’d see a surge in support for Webb or O’Malley. Sorry, Chaffee, but people raise an eyebrow at your Republican past.
It’s also not impossible that he could win the general election. If the Republicans somehow nominated Trump, or some right-wing lunatic like Cruz, then, yes, he’d likely stand a very good chance of winning. But that wouldn’t be because people support him; it would be because they’d be voting against the others.
Can you imagine, too, what a Sanders presidency would be like? You think it’s been bad with Obama, just wait until someone who actually is a socialist gets into office. The Tea Party would go insane, and the Republican-controlled Congress would stymie every single thing he tries to pass. Maybe he could get lucky with a Democrat sweep in the 2018 mid-terms, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Lastly, let’s take a moment to remember Howard Dean, and others like him who seemed like great candidates and appeared to be doing very well. These darlings of the left were fun and entertaining and utterly failed in the primaries. History is not on Sanders’ side.
Now all this said…I’m happy he’s running. He’s getting people interested in the election, and that’s good. He’s also forcing Hillary to track to the left, at least a bit. That’s also good! Further, it’s helping Hillary to be more prepared for the general election, and that’s no bad thing.
So support Sanders if you must. Be happy that he’s running. But make no mistake: it’s not going to happen, and hopefully he’ll be smart enough to drop out of the primaries early, support Clinton, and get her into the White House. If he then were to become Secretary of Labor, I’d be one happy camper indeed.