Color me amazed that Bernie Sanders is proving to be about as popular in 2020 as he was in 2016.
Longtime readers of the blog know that in the 2016 Democratic primary, I voted for Bernie Sanders because it “tickled me pink to be able to vote for a septuagenarian socialist Jew as a serious candidate for President of the United States.” They also know that more recently I argued that:
- That Bernie’s was an “ego trip” decision to run for President in 2020, and that lightning would not strike twice.
- That Bernie is too old and not in good enough health to be President, right after he had his heart attack.
I have since admitted that I was wrong, adding to the growing mountain of evidence that the so-called “pundit class” doesn’t know what they’re talking about.1 And I’m including myself in that class for purposes of this argument.
Still, you have to marvel that a cantankerous old Jew who is essentially a one-trick pony continues to have such massive appeal, especially to young people. I thought that Elizabeth Warren, with her boundless energy and solution for every problem, might take off with young people. But nope, Bernie is their man.
And Bernie has one characteristic that you really can’t argue with: he’s as authentic as they come.
It’s pretty clear that most of the rest of the Democratic party have now rallied behind Joe Biden — with Elizabeth Warren being a notable omission — because they believe that a self-professed socialist2 cannot beat Donald Trump and will have a terrible effect on the so-called “down ballot” races. With Bernie leading the ticket, the pundit class fears that we will never flip the Senate and we might have trouble holding the House.3
And they might be right.
These days I would (mostly) throw punditry out the window, as the prognosticators have been wrong at least as often as they have been right.
But yesterday I made the argument that Joe Biden is the overwhelming choice of African Americans (and especially African American women) who come out in numbers when it’s time to vote. And Bernie, who has hugely excited the young base of voters has (as predicted) not been able to get them to the polls.
This is a huge problem for Bernie, because much of the logic for his candidacy is that he will bring out huge numbers of young voters (who traditionally don’t vote) and change the political equation that way.
But in the primaries, it just hasn’t happened.
And if Bernie cannot translate his enormous appeal to young people into enormous number of votes at the polls, he will definitely not become President of the United States.
- Although I may still be right when it comes to the question of whether Bernie is too old for the job.
- Bernie has labeled himself both as a socialist or a Social Democrat on various occasions. His actual policies have certainly not been “socialist,” and clearly young people are not put off by the socialist label. Older voters may be, but then who thought that Republicans would grow to love the “commie” Russkiys. The old labels don’t have the power that they used to have.
- I’ve been a little worried about what kind of effect Bernie would have on down-ballot races, but I no longer trust my own prognostications, which have not proved to be any more accurate than anyone else’s. Still, in a year where the overriding objective has to be getting Trump out of office and flipping the Senate blue, it’s a concern that one cannot simply dismiss.