Bernie Sanders’ disappointment in 2020 offers Trump a lesson in thought: Keith Boag


“It will always be Joe Biden,” said Joe Trippi, an American campaign professional who has been advising Democrats for decades.

Trippi has been out of the main campaign this season, but he has seen enough to know that there is always a point when he says Democrats are asking this tough question before casting their vote: “Fuckin ‘shit , are we really going to do it? ”

Former Vice President Biden is the presumed candidate in 2020 because he passed the bowel test. His rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, is not because he did not do it. At least it’s part of the story.

If you followed the Democratic presidential primary and you were surprised when it ended with the release of Sanders this week, it may be because the punditocracy has generally misled you once again on the strength of the Sanders campaign.

Over-corrected experts

The first time Sanders ran for president in 2016, experts struck him out as being too far left, before anyone voted once. But Sanders has proven to be a formidable challenger to the favorite, Hillary Clinton.

Experts were wrong again this year when they overcorrected and almost handed Sanders the nomination while there was still snow on the ground in New Hampshire, apparently believing that the party was moving inexorably towards Sanders.

Sanders and former US Vice President Joe Biden greet each other during the Democratic Presidential primary debate on March 15. (Evan Vucci / The Associated Press)

The rule “garbage in, garbage out” means that any analysis based on these two wrong assumptions is probably wrong too. So there’s a little bit of thinking about why Sanders was underestimated in 2016 and overestimated in 2020; what really happened and what it means for the party in the November general elections.

As they did in 2016, some Sanders supporters say their man was excluded from the establishment by a disdainful party establishment of his popular movement.

After Sanders left on Wednesday, for example, his national press secretary, Briahna Joy Gray, suggested that Biden had been installed as a candidate by the Democratic Party leadership. She also retweeted a clip from Fox News asking if Biden could “find his car in a three-level parking lot” or “navigate a salad bar,” let alone run the country.

But if you crosscheck the primary results of 2020 with the results of 2016, it is clear why Sanders is not the candidate: in each primary election – each time – Sanders did worse this time than the last time, sometimes much worse .

Doubts about the enactment of Sanders policies

“Certain parts of the electorate who supported him in 2016 didn’t necessarily support Bernie Sanders’ ideas, they just didn’t want Hilary Clinton to be the candidate,” said John Hudak of the Brookings Institution, who last month compiled statistics for an article. on the two main Sanders campaigns.

Without the benefit of anyone other than Hillary, Sanders faced more scrutiny this time. His progressive proposals – Medicare for all, free college education and the like – were not necessarily unpopular. Many voters liked the things he wanted to do, but they were not convinced that he knew how to do them, said Hudak.

“Bernie Sanders has never thought about the process in his career. This is why he has been an unsuccessful legislator for 30 years. “

The Sanders campaign said it was misleading to compare 2020 results to 2016 results. The field was much wider this year and therefore naturally more fragmented, they say. But the fact is, some main voters supported Sanders because they had no other option than Hillary in 2016. And when they had other options in 2020, they chose someone else.

Unable to get African American vote

Sanders does not seem to have understood the nature of his success in 2016, said Hudak. “It led to a series of strategic mistakes that ultimately left him in second place in 2020.”

The main strategic mistake, Hudak said, didn’t realize that Clinton finally defeated him in 2016 because he swept the African-American vote, especially in the southern states. Sanders had five years to fix it, but he didn’t, and it cost him dearly.

WATCH | Bernie Sanders announces end of 2020 campaign

Bernie Sanders has announced the end of his campaign to be the Democratic presidential candidate after being unable to gain momentum during the COVID-10 pandemic. 1:59

Trippi said it could have been different if Sanders had competed against a candidate, other than Biden, for African American votes.

“Everyone gave Sanders a fair fight with the African Americans, but against Joe Biden, good luck, buddy,” said Trippi.

“Just like Joe Biden was not going to win the fight for the young progressive against Bernie Sanders, right? It is not going to happen. “

Potential lessons for Trump

When Biden won South Carolina in a landslide thanks to African Americans, some progressives behaved as if black voters did not understand their own interests. This provoked a torrid and sarcastic public reaction from Michael Harriot, a columnist for the black political and cultural site The Root, directly targeting supporters of Sanders. This seemed to confirm that they did not have much in common.

“And now your fragile fragile hearts are broken into a thousand little pieces because blacks rejected the Buddha of the Birkenstock bearers during his quest for the presidency. And by not choosing Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden’s supporters are somehow ruining America, “said Harriot. in his open letter to what is called Bernie Bros.

This reconsideration of Sanders’ success in 2016 – partly a by-product of everyone else’s sentiment except Hillary and the gender bias that includes it – could also be bad news for Donald Trump, because obviously Biden is not Clinton. .

President Donald Trump owes much of his 2016 victory to the dislike of many voters toward Hillary Clinton. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

Consider Michigan. Clinton lost the just state against Sanders in the 2016 primary, then lost it even more closely to Trump later in the general election.

But Michigan apparently likes Biden a lot. He beat Sanders hands down this year. This is a flashing red light for Trump, as Michigan remains a milestone on its way to a second term.

The Clinton factor

So the story of Sanders now seems, to a greater extent than before, a story about Hillary Clinton. Without Clinton to run against, Sanders was not as competitive this year, and without her to run against, Trump might not be either.

“It was Hillary Clinton at the top of the standings [in 2016]. Which is kind of sexism on steroids – it’s not just that it’s a woman, it’s this woman, “said Hudak.

Analysts say Sanders was hampered in the 2020 race because he was not against Hillary Clinton. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

“And it was a boost for [Trump in 2016], whether in his support or in a fall in democratic support, and this year he will not have either. ”

Sanders supporters are again injured, disappointed and in some cases angry. But they have time to recover by election day, and some appear to be already turning to the battle against Trump in November, and other battles beyond.

After Sanders ended his campaign on Wednesday, Jonathan Tasini, a former Sanders surrogate, tweeted: “For all those whose worries have been our concern, the work continues, the cause endures, hope still lives and the dream never comes will never die. “

And if someone does not know these lines, Tasini pointed out that they were uttered by Ted Kennedy – a progressive and the embodiment of the Democratic establishment – at the 1980 Democratic convention.


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