Fear of a Sanders Candidacy
By Peter Kremidas
Look, it breaks my heart to say this, but I don’t think Bernie is the one. Not this time.
Believe me, I’m a Sanders supporter to such an extent that I’m a stereotype. I’ve liked him from the time I saw him so vocally support Occupy Wall Street in what now is back in the day. I voted for him in 2016. I am totally that guy who argued with Hillary supporters online about him (Yes, I voted for her in the general, and proudly. A topic for another day). I think that Bernie was the preferable candidate, hell, I think he even could have won in 2016 on the same anti-establishment sentiment wave Trump clumsily surfed into office on. He’s consistent. He’s honest. He scares the bad guys. I believe his model for political revolution is our only chance to turn things around. He has been consistently been proven correct time and time again for years. His last debate performance was fantastic and I would love to see him debate Trump. I really could go on and on about all the things I like about Bernie Sanders. In fact, the reasons I don’t think he’s our guy have absolutely nothing to do with anything wrong with him, nor to do with anything he has done wrong.
I just think that, in 2020, it’s too big a risk. And here’s why…
What’s different now than in 2016, huh? HUH!?
Trump is running with the incumbency, the full backing of the RNC, a billion dollar war chest, and, unless Mitch McConnell decides otherwise, a currently non-functioning Federal Election Committee, which means that there will be cheating. Whoever the candidate is needs to overwhelm all this, and I think the extra baggage Bernie carries, some that did not exist in 2016, just exacerbates this.
What baggage, huh? HUH!?
A lot of democrats hate him, the media hates him, and republicans believe that he is literally Joseph Stalin.
Bernie Sanders, despite being a great candidate with the right answers, despite the debt that I believe America owes to him for making policies like Medicare for all into the mainstream, has an uphill battle that other candidates simply don’t have. And it’s not his fault. And it’s not fair.
Democrats are not Bernie Sander’s friend. And I don’t just mean the establishment. We all know there is some suspicion or resentment for Sanders from the democratic donor class. He is not the guy rubbing shoulders five thousand-dollars-a-plate dinners making friends with the right people and playing the game. That’s one of the things that’s so great about Bernie. But I am also talking about many, many democratic voters.
There are a lot of Hillary supporters from 2016 who just are not over it, and aren’t going to get over it. They hate Bernie Sanders and you aren’t going to convince them otherwise. Not all Hillary supporters, but a sizable portion. I have met many a democrat who believe Sanders is an ego maniac. Many believe he is sexist and actually blame him for Trump’s victory. All nonsense from the resentful who apparently forgot what a perfectly normal primary looks like, to be sure, but you aren’t going to convince them otherwise.
It’s probably the least significant confluence of things working against Bernie Sanders, but it matters. It steepens the slope to his victory, even if slightly. I believe the amount of resentment that exists from democrats is enough to cost him favors and votes (believe me, the number of Never Bernie democrats, both from resentment and the belief that he is too far left, is not insignificant) in what is sure to be an extremely close election.
To be honest, I’m much more worried about…
The media hate Bernie Sanders. And of course they do, we’re talking about a guy who’s an existential threat to the system that props up the owners of mass media conglomerates. A quick Google search will show you the amount of false narratives and hit pieces pedaled by all major national newspapers (most notably The Washington Post) and all three major news channels.
Before you say “The media hates Trump,” hold on. They certainly report true stories about Trump that prove to us on a weekly basis that he is, against all odds, an even bigger asshole than we thought last week. But Donald Trump has been a business boon for mass media. People either love him or hate him, and both have a hard time looking away. They gave Trump a huge amount of free press in 2016, and there is no reason to believe that they will change in 2020. After all, they have not stopped since.
I’m not saying that the reporting on Trump has not been newsworthy. It is. My point is only that the business of media has a financial incentive to keep Trump around, and Bernie Sanders presents a potential loss of profits both due to policy and because he is not a lightning rod for controversy (and sweet, sweet ratings) the way having an insane narcissistic man baby as president is.
Based on what incentivizes media, and how they already treat him, I think the media contributes to a steeper climb to the White House than other candidates face.
It’s not fair. It’s not Bernie’s fault. But it’s real. We can’t trust the news to give Bernie a fair shake.
Our best case scenario we can hope for is that they talk about Trump and Sanders as if they are equally extreme, and that is also a sucky lie.
This is why the ‘S’ word matters. The fact that Bernie calls himself a democratic socialist (despite that he has the policies of an FDR–style social democrat) is going to scare the shit out of old people and the republican base. No they will not make a distinction between socialist and democratic socialist. They are going to believe that the time has come, the jig is up, and communism has come to our shores. They are going to believe that this is a battle to save America from the gulags and paltry rations of bread.
I highly doubt that right wing media will anything to disabuse their base of these notions.
Yes, they are going to call the democratic candidate a socialist no matter what. But it’s one thing when republicans are saying it, it’s quite another when their opposing candidate is saying it too.
No it doesn’t matter what the actual type of socialist he is, we are talking about people who credibly believed, and probably still do, that Barack Obama was not born in The United States.
For all the typical non-voters you will get out the door excited by Sanders (mainly the youth vote), you are going to get the same amount, if not more, right leaning non-voters who are going to believe what they are told and fight to prevent the communist takeover of The United States.
The right wing base is already terrified, terrify them more and you get a huge turnout. And there are millions of these people, and they live in swing states.
The suburbs, and elsewhere
He’s a hard sell to many swing voters, especially the suburbs, where they can’t wait to vote against Trump but Sanders is too extreme for them. The media will back up this narrative. This means either stay home and vote for neither, or a vote for Trump.
It does not matter that his policies are reasonable and that he is not nearly as far left as the right in this country is far right. People do not tend to vote based on issues, they mostly vote based on feelings. Many many people are just going to feel that Sanders is a trade from one extreme to another, and absent an economic meltdown it’s going to be hard to move them to the change vote.
Yes, I realize he polls ahead of Trump in many places right now. That’s over a year out and absent any of the things I’ve discussed here being present in the context of a high stakes national election dominating everything you see, everywhere, all the time.
Look, I’m not happy about this. And hopefully I’m wrong. I know that Sanders also has crossover appeal, and there is an argument to be made that his portrayal in the media could feasibly work for him by way of cementing his status as anti-establishment. But I think there’s just too much at stake here, and he’s just got more extra stuff to deal with that other candidates simply don’t. And it’s not his fault.
It’s not Bernie. It’s the flawed world. I predicted Trump’s victory based on, among other things, my commitment to never underestimate how dumb the American voter can be as an aggregate. The fact that Trump’s approvals remain around 40% tells me that it isn’t time to abandon this assumption about the electorate any time soon.
I love you, Mr. Sanders. But I don’t trust all these other folks over here.
So it’s gotta be someone else this time.