He’s an independent Senator from Vermont who identifies as a socialist, and who decided to run for the presidency as a Democrat. He made great strides, promising social justice, stronger welfare benefits, free college, single-payer healthcare, and many other things that appealed quite aggressively to those on the left, and to no small number of centrists and those on the right. And had he been the choice of the Democratic party, he would now be our president elect.
In reality, Bernie Sanders never stood a chance. He lost in the primaries by about the same number of votes as the polls indicated he would. There were no surprises there, aside from in some areas where he did better than expected.
But even had he gotten the nomination, he would have been a far weaker candidate than Clinton. Why?
First, let’s get the two biggest issues out of the way: religion and politics. Sanders has Jewish heritage (in as much as a religion can be inherited, but we’ll skip that for now), and though he doesn’t appear to be a practicing Jew, he does appear to be an atheist.
Now tell me; do you honestly think that the large portion of Trump supporters that made up the “basket of delporables” would have been willing to vote for a Jew/atheist? Trump himself made comments toward the end of the campaign about “international bankers”, which is dog-whistle for “Jews run the world.” The right-wing religious supporter of the Republican party would have been equally unlikely to cross the aisle and vote for an atheist.
This is a very serious problem, and it would have been tough for the Sanders campaign to overcome. Had it been just this, then they possibly could have pulled it off. But there were other issues, too.
The politics issue basically boils down to one word: Communism. Sanders is a Western European-style socialist, and I am as well. We, and most of the people in this country, “get” what this style of socialism is, and how it’s very different from Communism.
Now consider the largely poor, largely rural, largely white electorate who voted for Trump. Do you really believe that they would have crossed over to vote for someone like Sanders after months and months of the Trump campaign talking about him as a Communist? Of course not, and a number of more mainstream Republicans would have had problems with it, too. Hell, even some moderates would have raised an eyebrow or two over his politics once it has an unhappy label.
Then we get to the scandals. What scandals, you might ask? Go ahead, ask. I’ll wait.
How about something he wrote in 1972 talking about women fantasizing about being raped by three men at once? Yep, he did that thing. Now in context it’s not that bad, and certainly less terrible and easier to excuse than Trump’s video comments, but it isn’t great, either.
Or what about his praise for Fidel Castro and the Sandinistas? That happened, too, in 1985, and it’s on video. Now he’s walked back those comments, and I’m ok with this all in context. But how do you think this would have been received by mainstream America? Picture those comments on loop in a commercial or news cycle and you tell me.
Ok, so these two things aren’t that big of a deal, you might think. But let me ask you this: given that I got these two things with a cursory Google search that took me a total of about two minutes to get together, how many other scandals do you think are out there?
I mean this was almost literally no effort to find. It was stupidly easy. Now put the national media (who didn’t bother really investigating Sanders), and the RNC machine onto the case, and just what do you think they’ll scrape up about him? In fact there are many other negative things out there that have already been looked into, but imagine how many more there might be lurking in the shadows.
Now does all this mean that Sanders would have definitely lost to Trump? No, but these things also make a victory against the man very uncertain. Sanders had and has considerable baggage that would have presented a severe problem, and pretending otherwise is just putting your head in the sand. He might have been able to overcome them, he might not have been. We’ll never know for sure, obviously, but given that he couldn’t even make it out of the primaries, I suspect the results in the general would not have been what the Bernouts would have wanted.