Thursday, November 10, 2016


I really don't know whether Bernie Sanders would have beaten Donald Trump this year. In The Washington Post, Freddie deBoer says he'd have been a much better candidate.
In an election of immense importance, Democratic leadership and voters rejected a hugely popular candidate in favor of a deeply unpopular one and are now paying the price. Some of us will be asking why for years to come.
I'm sure Sanders would have raised the enthusiasm level on the Democratic side, and he would have had a better shot at winning blue-collar white voters. On the other hand, I'm one of the people deBoer sneers at here:
Critics of Sanders were quick to poke holes in his high favorability ratings, arguing that he had never been through the bruising Republican attacks that Clinton had and that attack ads spotlighting his self-professed socialism would surely erode his advantage in favorability. Perhaps this was true: Trump surely would’ve pointed out that Sanders identified as a socialist, that he seemed at times radical, and so on. But it fundamentally meant placing a hypothetical above the direct evidence that Sanders was simply a far more popular politician.
But it's not a hypothetical to say that Sanders rose in popularity while never suffering a Republican attack -- that's a simple fact. It's also a fact that he would have been viciously attacked by Republicans in a general election campaign. We know that. We just don't know what the attacks would have been like, or how effective they would have been. I actually think the "socialist" attack might have fallen flat -- people aren't wild about capitalism these days, and no one currently under the age of 45 ever lived as an adult in a world in which the Berlin Wall stood.

I always assumed that Republicans would just go after Sanders as a really big spender who believes in really big government, and wants to tax Joe and Jane Six-Pack to pay for that. I think his proposals would have been portrayed as unworkable and budget-busting.

Would that have damaged him enough for Trump to win? I don't know -- but please note that a referendum in Colorado calling for single-payer health care just lost 80%-20%. Colorado is a state Clinton won, so some liberals as well as conservatives presumably voted no on single payer.

The Huffington Post reports:
The ColoradoCare initiative faced significant political headwinds. In addition to opposition from state Republicans, business groups, the health insurance industry and the Colorado Medical Society, powerful state Democrats also lined up against it, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. Michael Bennet, several U.S. representatives, Colorado House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran and a number of other state legislators....

Even the public backing of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ... wasn’t enough to win over voters....

Amendment 69 called for $25 billion in payroll taxes to fund the new system, drawing from businesses and households.

The nonpartisan Colorado Health Institute estimated that ColoradoCare’s costs would exceed the payroll tax revenue and create an $8 billion deficit. Those findings were disputed by Amendment 69 supporters like the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care. Estimates also varied about whether Coloradans would pay more or less for health coverage under ColoradoCare than they currently do.
That would have been the problem with Bernie's proposals in a general election campaign: The costs would have been measured, even some estimates made in good faith would have been worrying, Republicans and vested interests would have pounced on those cost estimates, and he'd have been on the defensive. I'm not saying all that would have doomed him. I just don't know. But his high approval ratings would have taken a hit.

So we can't look at the positive Sanders numbers in the spring and use that to assess how he'd have done in the fall. We'll just never know.


AllieG said...

Agreed. Clinton lost because Democratic voters from 2012 did not turn out. Since Sanders lost to Clinton in the Democratic primaries where the base dominates the vote, it's hard to see how he would've solved that problem.

Yastreblyansky said...

And the way Sanders lost in the primaries is further evidence: because he kept talking about bringing out the disenfranchised masses who never showed up for more "moderate" candidates, but they didn't show up for him (except in Michigan); he mostly won in low-participation caucuses.

Feud Turgidson said...

AllieG, picking Tom not Tim would've solved that. Perez not Kaine. Kaine was pointless outside blue Virginia, maybe pointless inside as well. She picked a bland white dude who SPOKE Spanish over the real deal.

That was an entirely avoidable mistake. It's on her, and her alone. We, of course, the whole country really, are going to pay the price of her political stupidity.

I agree she also screwed up with Bernie and his natural D Occupier support base. IMO she confused Bernie's 2916 challenge with Obama's 2998 challenge. I don't know if theat was as big a screw-up as Kaine over Perez; it actually might have been worse.

If she'd only screwed up on ONE of those 2 decisions, she wins the general. She'd picked right on both, she'd have won in a landslide; the rest of her campaign was close to as good as anyone could reasonably expect.

But the days of two white dudes slugging it out over ideology are gone. Since Fox News, since Gingrich really, this nation's national elections have been all about who turns out their base better.

She screwed up at two critical points, and now we're screwed for who knows how long.

Read Rick Hansen's editorial piece at TPM and the related on at his website. We are in so much trouble now, it's hard to capture in a brief way. We may never recover; we may not be able to recover. But the only way is if some organization that's too prestigious, too untouchable to take down like Congressional Rs have succeeded in taking down every D-favorable operation since 2004.

One way would be for a still very young very popular soon to be former president to run it. I'm not saying it's the only way to fight off the inevitable efforts by Congress Rs and SCOTUS Rs to kill it, I'm saying it's the one best way I can think of right now.

Otherwise, we're screwed for good, says Hasen. I agree.

Riverboat Grambler said...

We can't know if Sanders would have won, but that doesn't mean there's no lessons to be learned from Clinton's defeat.. Obviously the go-along-to-get-along triangulation politics of the Clinton wing are a nonstarter with American voters. This was obvious in 2010 and 2014, but just take a trip to Daily Kos and you will still find plenty of people willing to throw all the blame for this election on those damn "Bernie or Buster" types, as if the vast majority of them didn't vote for Clinton.

As for single-payer, that's a long game that will require real sustained leadership from the Democrats if it is to ever have the slightest chance of happening, leadership that the party was and is currently unwilling to exhibit. Handing healthcare reform over to the private market forces that made it so fucked up in the first place is not going to cut it, obviously. The opposition to single-payer is immense, and Dems would have to make a unified, nationwide push for it that would take years and some measure of defeats as well as victories. In summary, it would be hard.

Are the Dems ever going to be willing to expend that kind of political capital on such a "pie in the sky" issue? Because millions of Americans are still hurting pretty badly over the healthcare system and no, the ACA was not enough. Maybe, just maybe, if the Dems were willing to spend political capital and demonstrate real leadership on something that would actually really benefit the American people (even if it's hard), there could be great electoral gains to be had.

Or we can just stomp our feet and gnash our teeth at voters who won't settle for less. It's the stupid option, but the party has been taking it for the last couple decades.

Knight of Nothing said...

Thanks, SteveM -- this is a great point against the counterfactual that Sanders would have been more successful as the nominee.

Victor said...

Less than 50% od the people who could vote, voted.

What does THAT say about our "citizens" and our country?

We have too many apathetic and/or lazy shit's in our midst.
If you didn't vote, then sit-down and STFU until the next election.
It's hard for me to care about you, if don't care about others.

I hope t-RUMP is successful.
Because if he is, we all will be - to some degree or another.
I knew that if a Democratic POTUS, we'd have a better chance.

I wished the same thing for Nixon when I was 10 and 14. Need I say more?
Ditto, Reagan when I was 22. I knew he would screw-up. And he did, and was allowed to walk away from Iran-Contra, because... Well, he had become a grandfatherly figure for too many people.
"Papa DOC" Bush also had my best wishes.
Even "Baby Doc" Bush had my hopes for success. But, like with Reagan, I knew it wasn't going to happen.

And as for t-RUMP, I voted for Hillary, and feel like by voting, I earned the right to bitch.
If you didn't vote, just STFU!

Unknown said...

Here is my Faux GOP ad VS Bernie which I wrote in March: "Socialist "Jewish" New England tax raiser wants to screw over Christian real American jobs". Steve if you dont mention JEWISH you are missing what the main point of GOP ads would have been. Like it or not if Gore had not picked Lieberman he would probably have carried his home state of Tennessee. Never mind FL. If Joe Biden was Gore's VP pick BLOWOUT and you know it.

Ken_L said...

It never seemed to me that the majority of liberals were blind rusted-on Hillary supporters, unwilling to consider an alternative. Indeed Bernie's unexpected surge suggested the exact opposite: that many were looking for a better candidate. Yet in the end, the majority concluded that Hillary was the stronger candidate.

We'll never know if their judgement was right or wrong, but nothing happened prior to the election that might have altered that judgement. The real shock to liberals was that Trump could act like an ignorant, boorish buffoon and not trigger mass revulsion amongst the American people. That had nothing to do with either Hillary or Bernie.

pbriggsiam said...

That's very fair of you. I agree. Would have been great trying to beat Trump with Sanders though. Lot less baggage and more upside.

Paradoctor said...

Dear DNC: run a social democrat next time. Like Trump said, what have you got to lose?

Unknown said...

Based on the polling, hell yes. And given that Bernie's strength (like Trump) was based in large part on the fact that he's not a DC insider and neoliberal like the loser that the dem leadership and their media cohorts foisted upon us, I'd say his prospects for a victory were high.

Hopefully the Clintons will take a long slide down into the depths of obscurity now, and take their neoliberal/DLC/centrist/thirdway goons with them.

Anonymous said...

Bernie Sanders would have been smashed to pieces as a tax-hiking terrorist-emboldening weakling, and Trump would have won by 10.

MassMissInformation said...

Don't forget they would have played the anti-semitic card - do you think the electorate that voted in Trump would go for a "socialist Jew"? In Vermont and Massachusetts, sure, but in evangelical territory? In the South? The Midwest?

I would have been happy to vote for Bernie, but I'm really not sure he would have had a chance.

Ken_L said...

It's a little strange to hear argument for Bernie "based on the polling".

That would be the same polling that had Hillary beating Trump for all but a week of the last 18 months.

BKT said...

Ken_L's last comment is the wisest thing I've read in this thread.

As for anti-Semitism precluding Sanders' chances in the South and Midwest, I think that argument suffers from fallacious assumption. After all, the Democrats ran a good, white Christian who was raised in the Midwest and cut her political teeth in the South, and she carried practically none of those states.

His religious upbringing notwithstanding, Sanders was far more likely than Clinton to energize the Democratic base (and at least get more than 48% of eligible voters off the couch) and pull in the disaffected working-class white men from the "Blue Wall" rust-belt states where this election was lost.

Unknown said...

It's a little strange that presumably intelligent commenters think polls indicating small leads within the margin for error and those far/well outside said margin are somehow equivalent just because the polling generally was erroneous.

Imo, the upcoming majority pov is likely gonna be that the the dems need to do the same kinda soul searching that the repugs did, because it's rather obvious that their collective loss this time around is reasonably attributable to rejection by their base in numbers Bernie wouldn't have suffered from.

Ken_L said...

James if the Democrats "do the same kinda soul searching that the repugs did", they'll come up with a beautiful data-rich report that has absolutely no connection with the campaign their next presidential nominee runs.

Both parties need to lose their nauseating managerialist mindset that sees voters as customers and party technocrats as the cunning executives who manipulate the customers with clever scientific marketing tactics. They need to rebuild on an organising model from the grassroots up, trusting that leaders will emerge naturally from a growing, enthused membership. The first party to do that might even get something like 30% of American adults to vote for them, which on last Tuesday's figures would be a landslide.

Unknown said...

Ken -- which doesn't address much less rebut my response to your off the cuff critique of "Poll use".

The "soul searching" and overarching explanation for the loss has long been known and understood, which is why so many of us were opposed to the Clinton candidacy to begin with and found a Trump win not unthinkable with her as the candidate.

"Voters know these problems — yet they chose Donald Trump as their next president. That means the Democratic Party needs to look itself in the mirror and work tirelessly to become once again the party that working people know will work for their interests."

It's only the DLC/centrist/thirdway/clintonite types and their supprters that remain blind to the fruits of their labors, and their likely recalcitrance to change course that stands in the way.

"But the Obama administration’s relentless push for the TPP did help elect Trump. Even if the TPP never goes into effect, its damage will be felt worldwide — in the form of the election of President Donald Trump. Yes, many factors contributed to this outcome. But it was not all racists and other haters who elected Trump. It was also a lot of working class voters who supported President Barack Obama twice. Hillary Clinton suffered her biggest losses in the places where Obama was strongest among white voters."

but who would have very very likely supported BS.

Your either with us or against us eh? I'm done here. Have a good day

The only ones who it hasn't sunk in for

Unknown said...

Two candidates ran on the need for change. One got their party's nomination and in turn the presidency.
The other got the banana from those in charge of their party and the party ran the status quo candidate. Who lost..
So now we are suppose to believe that the other candidate for change could not have won because he's a Jew, socialist, had outrageous ideas, wouldn't/couldn't take the heat, etc....
But Trump who was the most disliked and distrusted candidate ever won! On the message of change.
But Bernie couldn't win. Really?
The winning message was change. The Demos missed it.
The devil ran on change and won.
But Bernie wouldn't have? If you believe that you're part of the problem.