The people who run the Democratic Party who regularly meet in rooms that are formerly smoked filled have a new problem. He is an elderly man with unkempt white hair and a Brooklyn accent who happens to be a United States Senator and is a two-time presidential candidate. The problem’s name is Bernie Sanders. He threatens to upend the carefully laid plans to truncate the presidency of Donald J. Trump and restore a Democrat to the Oval Office, preferably former Vice President Joe Biden, though someone like Buttigieg would do.
The Associated Press explains.
“Increasingly alarmed that Bernie Sanders could become their party’s presidential nominee, establishment-minded Democrats are warning primary voters that the self-described democratic socialist would struggle to defeat President Donald Trump and hurt the party’s chances in premier House, Senate and governors’ races.
“The urgent warnings come as Sanders shows new signs of strength on the ground in the first two states on the presidential primary calendar, Iowa and New Hampshire, backed by a dominant fundraising operation. The Vermont senator has largely escaped scrutiny over the last year as his rivals doubted the quirky 78-year-old’s ability to win the nomination. But less than a month before Iowa’s kickoff caucuses, the doubters are being forced to take Sanders seriously.”
The one event that has focused the Democratic establishment has been Bernie’s huge haul of campaign contributions for the fourth quarter, $34.5 million, The number is remarkable considering that Sanders has eschewed big-money donors and has not held fundraisers with deep-pocketed rich people. He does not want anything from the wealthy. He wants to get rid of the wealthy.
The problem with Bernie Sanders is that while other Democratic presidential candidates favor something like socialism at home and appeasement abroad, Bernie is upfront about his beliefs. He even calls himself a socialist, something that most other Democrats deny being. He is all in on Medicare for All, which envisions the destruction of private healthcare and the imposition of a Canadian-style health insurance system. Bernie also favors a version of the Green New Deal, which would end fossil fuels by government fiat. He has even gone so far as to demand that oil and gas company executives be thrown in jail.
Bernie Sanders has gotten a large following because of his policy proposals, especially among younger voters. The young, somewhat unschooled in history and with little or no knowledge about the Soviet Union, find the prospect of free stuff, especially free healthcare and free college, attractive. They find Bernie’s authenticity to be attractive as well. The Senator from Vermont believes everything he says.
Democratic establishment movers and shakers have seen this movie before, or at least have heard of it. In 1972, buoyed by youthful liberal enthusiasm, the Democratic Party nominated Sen George McGovern as its nominee. McGovern, while never calling himself a socialist, believes in many of the same things that Bernie Sanders believes, including income redistribution and a pacifist foreign policy. He favored an unconditional withdraw from Vietnam. McGovern lost to then-President Richard Nixon in a 49-state blowout.
The problem with Bernie has been exacerbated by the fact, as reported by Politico, that Democrats are uncertain that any of their candidates can beat Trump in the general election. Biden polls best against Trump, despite his tendency for the gaffe. But Democrats fear that Biden may be a repeat of another disaster election, the one that took place in 1984. That year the Democrats nominated another former vice president, a man named Walter Mondale, with firm establishment credentials. He got trounced in another 49-state annihilation by then-President Ronald Reagan.
The problem with the Democrats is that the economy is roaring and Mr. Trump seems to be making some adroit foreign policy moves, the most recent of which was handling the crisis with Iran in the wake of the killing of terror mastermind Qassem Soleimani. Hysterical fears on the part of some that a Third World War would result have thus far proven dumfounded.
Even impeachment is not helping. Most polling suggests that voters find the Democrats effort to remove President Trump to be tiresome at best and at worst outrageous.
The inevitable conclusion by most pundits who are not partisan players is that the Democrats could choose Biden, Bernie, or someone else. It’s just a matter of which poison goes down easier.