The Democrats’ Weekend At Bernie’s
In the 2020 Democratic presidential contest, nearly every candidate gets a boomlet. Now Bernie Sanders is getting his. The Vermont senator has moved back into second place nationally and, however narrowly, first in New Hampshire, using the RealClearPolitics polling average for both. The 2016 runner-up has also rebounded in the eyes of all-important Democratic insiders, Politico reports.
“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,” Hillary Clinton ally David Brock is quoted as saying. “They’ve both proven to be very resilient.”
“With less than six weeks until voting begins, the loyalty Mr. Sanders commands has turned him into a formidable contender in the 2020 race,” The New York Times concurs. “Despite having a heart attack in October that threatened to derail his second quest for the Democratic nomination, he remains at or near the top of polls in Iowa and other early states, lifted by his near ubiquitous name recognition and an enviable bank account.”
“They can go ahead and crown Joe Biden if they want to, but Bernie Sanders is not going anywhere and his followers are not going anywhere,” a Sanders ally told “Fox and Friends.”
Much like the 2012 Republican presidential race, a game of musical chairs that saw multiple candidates surge ahead until establishment frontrunner Mitt Romney was in the right place when the song ended, many candidates have had their moment. That includes Kamala Harris, who is no longer even in the race. Pete Buttigieg is in the midst of his second positive cycle. Elizabeth Warren’s rise just a few short weeks ago seemed to foreclose any possibility Sanders would seriously threaten for the nomination, even more than his health challenges during the fall.
Yet Bernie is back, and there is some reason to think his brand of progressivism is better suited to compete with President Donald Trump than Warren’s more technocratic version, despite his eager embrace of the “socialist” label dating back to when that was rightly a dealbreaker during the Cold War. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a majority of “The Squad” certainly thought so. Their view was that even if Warren was more likely to win the nomination, Sanders’ candidacy was a better vehicle for building a lasting movement.
Now it is not even clear that Warren, dogged by perceptions of phoniness, is the safer bet to take down Biden from the left. With the exception of the former vice president, however, these boomlets have been as short-lived as the star turns for Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann nearly eight years ago. It could prove no different for Bernie, with weeks still to go before any voting happens. Still, Sanders has a devoted following. If nominated, he could keep the voters most inclined to defect to Trump or vote for a progressive party safely in the Democratic column while winning back some union households.
The downsides? Sanders has only marginally improved his support in the communities of color that kept him from more closely challenging Clinton in 2016 (I predicted a lack of wokeness would doom him with a Left more motivated by race, gender and culture warring than economics) and he threatens Democratic gains in the suburbs. Sanders’ plans would inevitably impose costs on people the Democrats need to vote for them, including people with sub-Michael Bloomberg/Tom Steyer levels of wealth who would feel the pinch. Wall Street could sit on the sidelines in a general election featuring Sanders.
Nevertheless, Bernie at the very least seems ready to make a nomination fight the Democratic establishment hopes will be a stale affair more interesting.