It may be too early to make predictions, but it looks like Bernie Sanders will end up being the Democratic nominee for president in the upcoming election in November. This prospect has Republicans giddy with glee and establishment Democrats dismayed, as they foresee a result similar to the election of 1972. In that election, the Democrats nominated the very left-wing George McGovern who then went on to lose to Nixon in one of the most lopsided defeats (520-17 electoral votes) in the history of American presidential elections. It is easy to imagine that the openly “democratic socialist” aka Communist, Sanders will suffer a similar humiliation.
I am not so sure. This is not the same country as it was in 1972 or 1984 when Reagan won by an even more lopsided 525-13 electoral votes. We are more evenly polarized these days and people seem to be more loyal to their political tribes and less willing to vote for the other side’s candidate. Elections seem to be won more at the margins and there is less likelihood of the kind of massive landslide that occurred in those two elections. I cannot imagine California going red and voting for Trump, no matter how insane the Democratic candidate might be. I doubt if Sanders will make much headway in the deep red south. I do not think Trump is going to carry forty-nine states no matter what happens in the campaign. I am also not so sure that Sanders is doomed to be defeated. I do believe that Trump is likely to be reelected. He has the advantages of the incumbent and the economy is doing well, but nothing is absolutely certain. Bernie Sanders could win. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Bernie Sanders is actually the Democratic candidate most likely to defeat Trump.
Donald Trump’s main advantage has been the enthusiasm of his supporters, and detractors. No one seems to be neutral or apathetic in their opinion about Trump. The people who do like like Trump, really hate him, and the people who support Trump really, really love him. It is this enthusiasm that won him the presidency in the previous election. Hilary Clinton had many advantages and ought to have won the election, but no one really liked her all that much. Her support among Democrats was lukewarm. She was too much a part of an increasingly unpopular establishment. People voted for her as the least bad option, not because they were excited about another Clinton presidency. In contrast, the people who voted for Trump were excited about his promise to Make America Great Again. They voted for him because they wanted him to be president.
Of all the Democratic candidates this year, only Bernie Sanders really generates the same kind of excitement that Donald Trump does. No one really likes Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Pete Buttigieg. Their supporters are not excited in the same way that Bernie’s are. If any of the other candidates become the nominee, Democratic voters will be voting against Trump. If Bernie Sanders is the nominee, they will be voting for Sanders. Voting for a candidate generates more excitement than voting against a candidate. Bernie Sanders is the only Democrat who generates the kind of enthusiasm that Trump gets from his supporters. I think that Sanders is the only candidate who might be a threat to Trump.
It is disturbing that Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner and has at least some chance of being the next president. Judging by his campaign promises, a Sanders presidency would have the most extremist left-wing agenda in the history of the United States. He will ban fracking and the export of American oil, remove any limits on accepting refugees and leave the borders wide open. He wants Medicare for all to be paid for with massive tax increases on the wealthy and deep cuts to military spending. Because of the urgent climate emergency (and the fact that even a Democratic Congressional majority might balk at some of his more extreme plans), Bernie won’t have time to enact his proposals by legislation or permit the usual democratic give and take. He plans to act by executive orders, bypassing Congress and the constitution. In effect, Bernie Sanders plans to govern as an autocrat, ruling by decree. Bernie Sanders has never met an enemy of the United States he didn’t like and has expressed his admiration for some of the worst tyrants in the world. A Sanders presidency would be a gift to our enemies, especially Putin who would benefit greatly from the increase in the price of oil from an American ban on fracking.
It is even more disturbing that almost the entire field of Democratic candidates are competing to see who can out-Bernie Bernie and move furthest to the left. There don’t seem to be any moderates in the race, except for Michael Bloomberg, who has authoritarian issues of his own. Maybe some of them, perhaps Joe Biden for one, are not being entirely sincere and plan to pivot to the center, but the fact that they feel the need to even pretend to be so extreme is worrisome. As it is, the only difference between Bernie Sanders and the rest is that he is honest enough to openly run as a socialist.
The election of any of the current field of Democrats would be a disaster for our country and the cause of freedom. The danger is not just that we would have a socialist president, but that the Democrats will continue their movement to the extreme left. Trump and the Republicans in down-ticket races need to win by a large enough margin to thrash the Democrats and move them back towards the center.
To make that happen, the Republicans cannot be overconfident or think that running against Bernie Sanders will be an easy victory. The adage, “Be careful what you wish for” applies here. Bernie Sanders probably has as good as, if not better chance of winning as any other Democratic candidate. Don’t get cocky.