It suddenly seems that Bernie Sanders—the democratic socialist candidate competing in the Democratic primaries—might actually have a chance of winning a significant number of primaries, thus becoming the Democratic Party’s nominee for president in 2020.
As Holly Otterbein and David Siders write in Politico, the man who was written off by party insiders “as a candidate with a committed but narrow base who was too far left to win the primary” is now forcing the party’s leaders to reevaluate that assumption. The authors argue that “in the past few weeks, something has changed.”
Dan Pfeiffer, an Obama adviser, told them that Sanders could win Iowa and New Hampshire and create a groundswell by the time the South Carolina primary takes place (which Joe Biden is now favored to win) as well as Super Tuesday. By then Bernie might be an unstoppable force. NBC news national political correspondent Steve Kornacki told Newsweek that “if he starts winning, there could be a bandwagon effect.”
And on New Year's Day it was announced that his campaign had raked in $34.5 million in the last quarter of 2019. It's the biggest number from any Democratic campaign in any quarter so far. Clearly, enthusiasm for him remains strong.
Should Sanders actually pull off the feat of capturing the nomination, Donald Trump would have been given a gift that almost assures his re-election. Trump already refers to the Democrats as “the far-left Democrats” and has branded all of the potential candidates as socialists. “We will not live in a socialist America,” he said to cheers in one of his rallies, suggesting that such an outcome would occur should any Democrat win the White House. With Sanders as the presidential candidate, he could say without distortion that the Vermont senator’s end goal is a socialist United States.
Two days before Christmas, Sanders appeared at a major rally, the first since his heart attack, in Venice, California. At the rally he was joined by his socialist comrade in arms, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Reporting on the event for Newsweek, reporter Benjamin Fearnow wrote that she said the United States shouldn’t be called an advanced society even though it is the richest country in modern history, but “for who?…We’re here to say that what we’re living in now is not an advanced society. A society that allows people—it is fascism.”
As she ought to know, in a real fascist country, she would not be a member of the House, and Bernie Sanders would not be a senator. One of the first acts Hitler undertook after the Emergency Powers Act was instituted by the Weimar government, and after he was Chancellor, was to eventually outlaw both the Socialist and Communist parties, and the independent trade unions. Most of the Socialist and Communist elected members of the Reichstag were arrested, and the party and trade union headquarters were soon raided by the Gestapo and closed down.
What Ocasio-Cortez has really done is both to reveal her ignorance and to repeat the favorite accusation of members of the Old Left (Communists and their allies in the 40s and 50s) when they proclaimed all of their enemies to be fascists. They did it so many times that if a real fascist came along and was close to taking power in our country, no one would listen to their accusation. So prevalent was the accusation that the American Communist Party publicly called President Harry S. Truman—a president who desegregated the armed forces, favored universal health care coverage, and vetoed the repressive McCarran Internal Security Act—a fascist.
While Sanders himself may be aware of the Communist past in the United States, and how the term “fascist” was carelessly thrown around at any opponent, Ocasio-Cortez clearly has no knowledge of the past history of the American far-left. So, when a rally participant shouted out after she called for building an advanced society, “Why aren’t we calling it fascism? That’s what it is,” she agreed immediately and adopted the argument as her own.
Sanders spelled out how he planned on becoming the Democratic candidate to the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times on December 21, the text of which was run in the paper’s Dec. 26 edition. He told them that he was the contender most equipped to beat Donald Trump in the general election. Emphasizing his own populist credentials, Sanders argued that Trump exposed “the Democratic and the political establishment in general, including the Republican establishment.” Clearly, Sanders was saying that like Trump, he rejected the political establishment, but unlike the President, he would act against the real power of the corporations, while Trump spoke the words but didn’t walk the walk.
Editorial Page editor Nick Goldberg put him on the spot. “What do you say to voters,” Goldberg asked, “who worry that in a general election a candidate as far to the left as you are is going to alienate swing voters and moderates and independents?” Sanders answered that his campaign would register students who have not voted as well as poor African-American and Hispanic voters. By doing this he will create a “multi-racial coalition of African-Americans, of Latinos, of Asians.” This base would be cemented by working with the union movement, persuading its members to vote for him, instead of letting disillusionment with America turn them to Trump, as they had when voting in 2016.
Sanders addresses the very real problems facing Americans, i.e., the presence of growing economic inequality, the unparalleled wealth and power of the 1% that had seen “a $21-trillion increase in their wealth” in the last 30 years, while the “bottom half of America has seen a decline in their wealth.” But his solutions like Medicare-for-All are not popular, as Elizabeth Warren found out when she attempted to explain how it would be paid for.
Hopefully, sometime soon, rank-and-file Democrat activists and voters will come to their senses and understand that should Sanders win the nomination of his party, the election results will be a resounding victory for Trump. Our country is not the America of 1972, when Richard M. Nixon campaigned against the liberal-leftist Democratic candidate George McGovern, calling him the candidate of “amnesty, abortion and acid.” In that election, only one state, Massachusetts, gave the electoral college vote to McGovern.
Nevertheless, a Sanders nomination would put many states in play that Democrats had easily won for a quarter-century. Sanders is where he is today in part because no one has really attacked him. But just wait until Republicans spend a billion dollars painting him as an extremist. He’d win Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, California, Washington, and Hawaii, and also probably New York and Illinois. But a huge number of usually-blue states would be up for grabs. He would also find that Democratic candidates would run away from him. Many candidates running for governor, the Senate, and the House in purple states and districts would refuse to campaign with him, or at best make a half-hearted quick appearance.
In 1972, the candidate hated most by the left and the liberals, Richard Nixon, became President of the United States. Is that what today’s Trump opponents really want to repeat?