Here are a few tastes of what was in store for Sanders, straight out of the Republican playbook: He thinks rape is A-OK. In 1972, when he was 31, Sanders wrote a fictitious essay in which he described a woman enjoying being raped by three men. Yes, there is an explanation for it -- a long, complicated one, just like the one that would make clear why the Clinton emails story was nonsense. And we all know how well that worked out.I dunno. I'm unimpressed.
Then there’s the fact that Sanders was on unemployment until his mid-30s, and that he stole electricity from a neighbor after failing to pay his bills, and that he co-sponsored a bill to ship Vermont’s nuclear waste to a poor Hispanic community in Texas, where it could be dumped. You can just see the words “environmental racist” on Republican billboards. And if you can’t, I already did. They were in the Republican opposition research book as a proposal on how to frame the nuclear waste issue.
Also on the list: Sanders violated campaign finance laws, criticized Clinton for supporting the 1994 crime bill that he voted for, and he voted against the Amber Alert system. His pitch for universal health care would have been used against him too, since it was tried in his home state of Vermont and collapsed due to excessive costs. Worst of all, the Republicans also had video of Sanders at a 1985 rally thrown by the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua where half a million people chanted, “Here, there, everywhere/the Yankee will die," while President Daniel Ortega condemned “state terrorism” by America. Sanders said, on camera, supporting the Sandinistas was “patriotic.”
Let's start at the top. That fictionalized rape? We knew about it last May -- you can read the entire 1972 essay here. It never stuck to Sanders, I think, because a lot of very mainstream entertainment is sexual, violent, or both. If you read the Sanders essay, you can see that he's arguing that cultural forces make both men and women sexually unhealthy. He doesn't make a convincing case, but he clearly isn't saying "rape is A-OK."
Republicans tried a similar line of attack against Jim Webb in 2006 when he was running as a Democratic Senate candidate from Virginia. Sexually provocative passages from Webb's novels were splashed all over the Drudge Report and elsewhere, including one passage, set in Southeast Asia, in which a man picks up a young boy and puts the boy's penis in his mouth. Webb defended his writing, noting in particular that he'd actually seen an incident like the one with the young boy in a poor part of Bangkok.
The attack failed. Webb won the election.
As for the rest of this, much of it falls into the category of "stuff Sanders did years ago that's irrelevant to America's future." We just spent months watching Donald Trump endure one devastating revelation about his past after another -- and approximately 47% of the voters decided they didn't care because they thought he could bring their old jobs back.
Some of this might have stuck -- the environmental racism attack might have hurt Sanders with Hispanic voters (although, after all, he would have been running against Donald Trump). The vote for the crime bill might have hurt Sanders with African-American voters. Eichenwald says that the section of the GOP's oppo file "calling [Sanders] a communist with connections to Castro alone would have cost him Florida" -- but Hillary Clinton lost Florida, too, and she wasn't supposed to need it to win.
Eichenwald says that "the opposition research folder was almost 2-feet thick" -- but we were also told that the Clinton campaign's anti-Trump oppo was pretty awesome, and that didn't work out.
I agree that some of what Eichenwald describes would have cut into Sanders's popularity. But none of it seems devastating enough to have knocked him out.
I continue to believe that Republicans would have just fallen back on the tried-and-true: Sanders believes in big government and will raise your taxes to stratospheric levels. I think that would have hurt him more than any of this oppo. So I still think it's unclear how Sanders would have done in a general election. I'm just surprised at how little the GOP had on him.