I have to admit to being in a deep funk earlier this week after having the sleep-stealing thought: What if Bernie Sanders actually won? Not just the nomination, but the White House, too.
A much more moderate Democrat, Harry Truman, nearly drafted into the Army the entire steel industry’s labor force, just to settle a strike which was impacting industrial production during the Korean War. Lord only knows what wild orders Sanders would issue to “save” the environment. A national emergency to ban fracking? An EPA ruling against gasoline engines displacing more than two liters? Mandatory No-Pants Thursdays? The mind reels.
It’s easy to laugh at Sanders, to minimize or even completely discount his chances of being sworn in on January 20, 2021, as America’s 46th president. (Just typing those words was almost enough to send me right back into that funk.) He’s your crazy/angry old uncle, he’s an old-school Trotskyite Americans would never elect, he brushes his hair with a balloon. Everything about Sanders — from his promises to shut down entire industries while going on an unprecedented spending spree and threatening to make everything compulsory that isn’t forbidden, all the way down to his personal demeanor — are all gut-bustingly laughable.
Or they would be, if it weren’t for this funky feeling I had that his chances of winning it all are not zero.
But it’s cool. I got over it.
A reasonable political party would have declared a non-member like Sanders to be persona non grata from the get-go, and denied him any chance of co-opting their party with his radical agenda. The problem is that the current Democratic Party is not reasonable, and a significant percentage of its voters ardently support a radical agenda. There might be enough of them to make Sanders the Democratic standard-bearer at their convention in Milwaukee this summer, a disease of which Sanders is merely the most prominent symptom.
First, he has to secure the nomination — and that’s where things could really get fun, as panicking Dems might try most anything to deny him the nod.
For now the job of stopping Bernie has fallen to Mike Bloomberg. A Bloomberg campaign advisor hinted that Mini Mike was ready to drop the mother of all oppo dumps on Sanders, including one of his old writings in which he advised the “parents of toddlers to allow them to run naked and explore each others’ genitalia.” Bloomberg has also dropped the mother of all money bombs on Sanders, in the form of attack ads playing everywhere and often since February 17. The blood between the two rivals is so bad that two days ago Sanders claimed if he does win the nomination, he won’t take any money from Bloomberg, even though Bloomberg has promised to spend lavishly to beat Trump, no matter who the nominee ends up being.
And what might the DNC do, if Sanders scores as big as expected on Super Tuesday? Some state-level Dems are already venting their concerns about a Sanders candidacy. This is from a U.S. News & World Report story on Texas Democrats, worried that Sanders will cost them recent gains:
When the Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston inquired with nearly two dozen Texas Democratic officeholders, candidates, activists, and donors about what they thought of Sanders as the nominee, most “expressed concern, sometimes bordering on despair.”
Rice University political science professor Mark Jones warned, “Sanders’ positions on fracking and fossil fuels alone would be enough to cost Democrats a significant number of votes, due to the important role oil and natural gas play in the economic health of the state and in funding public education.”
Who knows if Bloomberg’s money and oppo or DNC shenanigans will prove to be enough to stop Sanders, but depending on how far the DNC is willing to go, the bloodletting ought to be the most entertaining live act since Maximus Decimus Meridius was taking no prisoners in coliseums across Rome.
I got to thinking about Sanders and electability in the general election a couple weeks ago when I saw a clip of him speaking at an event in Las Vegas. Sanders was rattling off the names of local labor leaders in a way that should remind you that these old-school bolshies excel at organizing and at mobilizing the troops on Election Day. There’s a non-zero chance that could be problem in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Trump won those typically blue states by narrow margins in 2016, based on support from blue-collar Obama voters he wooed away from Hillary Clinton. I’m reasonably confident that Trump’s “blue-collar boom” will win him an even larger share of the blue-collar bloc in November.
Those union guys took one look at Hillary Clinton — who had supported NAFTA and the TPP — and another look at their eight years of broken promises from Barack Obama and decided to take a chance on a newly-minted Republican by the name of Donald J. Trump. Or at least enough of them did to swing three reliable Rust Belt blue states to the red in 2016.
As a supporter of NAFTA and then the TPP (although her positions “evolved” during the ‘16 race), as well as being a generally unpleasant person, Clinton’s appeal to union workers was always going to be more… selective. Sanders on the other hand, speaks the language better and much more believably than Clinton ever could. And as we saw in the union-heavy Nevada caucuses last weekend, Sanders knows how to mobilize their votes.
But, c’mon, will union guys in the general election show up and vote for the guy who has promised to end fracking? Fracking generates a lot of high-paying jobs in Pennsylvania, and it’s difficult to imagine someone voting to end their own job today, in exchange for vague promises of “high-paying green jobs” tomorrow.
Without Pennsylvania, as we discussed at length back in December, it’s very, very difficult for a Democrat to win the White House. Even if Sanders were to take back Michigan and Wisconsin, without PA he’s still nine or ten votes shy of 270 to win.
Another twist: Virginia gun owners are highly motivated these days, maybe enough so that they might just flip the state. I’m not holding my breath for that one, but it sure would be nice.
As always, the standard disclaimers apply: A lot can change between now and November 3, the only poll that counts is the one on Election Day, coronavirus might tank the economy, and also I drink. But after looking at the numbers and the latest news, there was no reason for my post-Nevada funk because Bernie Sanders is never going to be elected president.