Former mayor of Burlington, Vermont; avowed Socialist; decades in the House and Senate (usually in a caucus of one); seventy-eight, dogged, determined, and unlikable even by Hillary Clinton’s standards: How does Bernie Sanders even think he’s got a chance?
I’ll give you a hint: It’s because he does. Reputable polling shows clearly and repeatedly that Senator Sanders is by far the most likely of all the Democratic offerings to defeat Donald Trump. He’s leading in most of the early primaries; his fundraising is grassroots and highly effective. Oh, and he’s got a fanatical fanbase that springs from the alienated and the outcast: People who wouldn’t vote for the sun to come up flock in droves to support Sanders.
So who is he? Who is Bernie Sanders that we should support or oppose?
Bernie’s section of the Not Fake News 2020 Scorecard isn’t terribly detailed. To be sure, an in-depth account of the Senator’s life and political efforts would fill several thick books. He’s operated independently his entire political career, pledging to the Democrats only for his two presidential races and, notably, retaining his Independent designation in his 2018 Vermont Senate victory and time in office. Naturally, the Democratic Party machinery views him very much as an outsider.
His views on the issues are extreme and always have been; Bernie Sanders is not a creature of vaccilating political whim. His positions haven’t changed much since the 70s. In consequence, Sanders has always ranked among the lowest few legislators for effectiveness; his contributions have traditionally been a record number of small riders fastened barnacle-like to larger pieces of legislation. This is not to say that he’s had no impact; far from it. In fact, his opinions have influenced many a committee that feared a last-minute Bernie rider would stall their promising new bill.
There’s no simple way to do justice to his issues page with a brief summary, but Medicare For All is the centerpiece. He’s also a proud adherent to a Green New Deal, Housing For All, Jobs For All, a Wealth Tax, and High-Speed Internet For A Lucky Fe– strike that, For All. In short, if there’s a problem, he’s got a plan for government to fix it, and he intends to fund these changes by taxing the exorbitantly wealthy.
For those who doubt his ability to do any of this given our present rather dire Federal budgetary situation, be assured: He’s got a detailed plan to pay for every program, and at least on paper every plan works out.
What’s more, here we have that unique candidate with no dirt stuck to him. Warren staffers implied he’s sexist; he defused the situation in private (with her help). Hillary Clinton slammed him as an unlikable crank; he laughed it off. His campaign is funded by grassroots donations, and his positions make it plain that he’s very obviously not owned by Wall Street. And his appeal is broad and his followers fanatical, so there’s no chance a poor showing in any of the early states will cut his contributor momentum.
But in a larger sense, none of that really matters. In 1972, the big thing was Beating Nixon; today it’s Beating Trump. And Bernie Sanders has got that cold. He’s got enough personal charisma and dogged persistence to match Donald Trump point-for-point in a general election contest, and his loyal following springs from the same alienated voter pool that drives the Trump machine. He’ll divide the enemy’s voters and win before the election has fairly begun.
If Sanders has one mortal flaw, it’s that he’s unable to inspire the loyalty of his own party. Which, to be sure, is entirely natural — but if that continues through a long primary season and then through a general campaign, will his broad appeal be enough to carry the election in November?
If I had to guess right now, I’d give it a resounding YES! and put bells on for good measure. But November is a long time away, and a lot can happen. I guess we’ll find out together.