This is a subject I’ve been analyzing a lot lately — not necessarily as to whether he can win the primary, because arguably anything can happen (gander at the White House today if you will) but what exactly Bernie Sanders would have to do to push through the Democratic nomination. It’s best to start with the disadvantages the Senator has ahead of him.
- He is hated by lobbyists, corporate donors & neoliberal quarters.
Now arguably, this was his biggest advantage going into 2016. The easy contrast of Sanders, reformist despised by the establishment and Hillary, successor coronated by that same corrupt establishment, was Bernie’s most effective weapon. It made polling unpredictable — it gave him swing conservative-leaning party voters, it won him the midwest in overwhelming numbers. It turned an obscure issues-based candidacy into a genuine hail mary for the nomination. But this time, he is not running against the single successor of the establishment — his competition is a very broad, very diverse field of candidates. This means that conservative voters who hated Clinton-era corruption have untainted centrists to choose from. Genuine leftists have a variety of ranges of “left” candidates to choose from. Which means Bernie is no longer the clear choice for many, which leads us to our next disadvantage…
- Because of this, mainstream cable & print news outlets throttle him.
Just take a look at the headlines. While some candidates clearly receive favorable coverage — “ ” Bernie is typically and, very rarely, positive coverage toned with surprise to convey the general message that, “yes, this may be good for him, but it’s an outlier”. And this is provided that he gets any coverage at all. When Bernie had a heart attack, virtually every outlet in existence covered it and called for him to drop out instantly (before it was even confirmed as a heart attack) — but when Bernie had a record-breaking rally larger than any in the field and, in the same day, received some of the most coveted endorsements in politics? Hardly anything! And this is much more damaging to him than it was in 2016, because frankly, other closely-aligned leftist candidates are not receiving such stifling coverage and in some cases are being treated positively. This means that on policy alone, Warren’s agenda is featured heavily, whereas Bernie’s, though just as if not more comprehensive, is hardly ever covered by outlets. This makes Bernie appear to be the “words” candidate, while Warren looks like the “policy” candidate.
- A following “off-the-grid”.
. And while it’s abundantly clear that it is extremely dedicated, pushing him to the very top of the fundraising field through small dollar donations alone while some opponents take corporate and Super PAC bundles by the millions, polls do matter. Voters often select candidates strategically, and the overwhelming message of the year is “remove Trump from office” — the impeachment inquiry, which will fail, only solidifies that sentiment. Strategy voting is going to be a very strong factor this election. When polls come out showing Bernie in 3rd and 4th, it looks very bad, and it is very bad. But there is more to that low performance than meets the eye — Bernie sunk drastically in the polls when doing as much as 5 rallies a day in rural, downtrodden working class areas. While his small dollar donors went up, his polling went down. What gives? Bernie’s agenda appeals the most to infrequent voters, unlikely voters like the youth demographic, the minority youth demographic, the poor and the unemployed. Polls define outcomes by typical turnout, and so often ignore these demographics or hardly feature them because they don’t vote frequently. This means that Bernie’s campaign is certainly going to outperform the polls, but the question is how many strategic voters he will lose in the process.
- A contested convention.
The dreaded “super-delegates” are inbound to make a return. The DNC, which had only partially removed super-delegates from the primary, snuck in some back-door rules which basically employs all super-delegates to the vote if a candidate doesn’t win the primary in a de-facto landslide. The first election will occur under the “First Ballot”, and if it’s contested (ie if it’s remotely close) the DNC will move to a “Second Ballot” which is given to super-delegates as the deciding vote. This means that Bernie doesn’t just need to win, he needs to win decisively, or else he loses it all — and worse, likely to a candidate that wasn’t voted in by a majority of Democratic voters. This means that Warren and Sanders both being in the race is made all the more devastating for hopes of a progressive nomination, because by challenging one another’s voter blocs, they could be very well giving the nomination to Joe Biden or .
- A disloyal party.
We return to the first disadvantage — the establishment despises him. And by raising candidates like , they have shown they will stop at no means to prevent his administration. Already, top partisan officials have admitted that they may even support the Republican nominee over him — and this is coming from party officials. Imagine if someone like AOC, while in office, were to threaten to support Trump over Biden! They would be disavowed from the party instantly. Pelosi and Schumer’s tolerance of insubordination and threats towards Sanders is by all means silent encouragement, and a very ominous warning from the DNC. We can be certain that Democrat-leaning lobbyists and PACs will flood toward Trump if Bernie wins the nomination. We can then also be certain that they are doing everything in their power, today, to prevent him from winning the nomination. The DNC may well give up an election to hold Sanders from the White House, so legally employing super-delegates, directing the media and flooding the primary race to stop him isn’t so far-fetched as it once might have seemed.
If he can march through all of this, then he has a very firm chance at winning the nomination. It will be incredibly hard: the tools being utilized to stop him from gaining momentum are like an arsenal of the most despicable things about DC, all coalescing behind closed doors and targeting a single candidate. And really, Iowa will tell it all — if he outperforms the polls and wins Iowa in a way that forces the media to admit failure and shows the strategic base that he is, tactically speaking, the “Trump of the Democrats” — then it’s looking very, very good for Bernie 2020.