Much like in 2016, Democratic voters are being presented with a choice between a traditional liberal and a democratic socialist. Voters chose the status quo last cycle, but should the Democrats give Sanders a try this time around? Staff Writer Owen Sherry and Guest Writer Sammy Shrestha discuss the merits of nominating Sanders.
At the beginning of the 2020 Democratic primary, many new candidates entered the fray, and many progressives were hopeful that a new left-wing candidate would emerge and bring fresh ideas after being energized by Bernie’s run in 2016. To be clear, a progressive’s ideal candidate is not a 78-year-old straight white man, as they appreciate representation in positions of power, and electing women and marginalized groups is very important to them. Many were hopeful about Elizabeth Warren, or even Pete Buttigieg, emerging as a progressive alternative to Sanders. However, as the race continued, Sanders emerged as the only true and consistent progressive in the field. From Warren’s softening on the urgency of Medicare for All , to Pete’s more aggressive push towards the moderate lane, every candidate other than Bernie softened on their progressive policy positions significantly. And now, with only Bernie and Biden remaining, it is more obvious than ever that Bernie is the only progressive politician in the race.
Bernie Sanders has held elective office since 1981, and throughout this entire period, he has been a consistent advocate of civil rights and progressive policies. He has a long record of making the right decisions, such as voting against the Iraq war and voting against the Defense of Marriage Act . During his time as an elected official, he has been anti-war, fought hard to control big banks, and has been effective in winning policy battles, earning him the nickname of “the Amendment King” . During the 2020 race, Bernie has maintained his consistency, as he continues to fight for a just healthcare system, economic equity, and climate justice.
But one might wonder why Democratic voters should care about progressive policies such as Medicare for All. The Progressive policies that Sanders advances present a more equitable vision for America, and they also provide economic security for all Americans. For example, Medicare for All, by eliminating private insurance companies, would save United States tax-payers more than $450 billion each year, according to a recent Yale study . However, this is not even the most appealing part of the policy, as the same study also estimates that it would prevent 68,000 unnecessary deaths each year. Bernie’s policies strive to make the world a better place as quickly as possible. A politician like Joe Biden does not represent this necessary change. He has consistently been behind the curve on policy, as he voted for both the Iraq War and the Defense of Marriage Act , helped write a controversial crime bill in 1994 , and has an unsettling history of inappropriately touching women . We need true progressive policies and leaders to lead us away from the era of Trump. Joe Biden does not represent that change, but Bernie Sanders certainly does.
Perhaps people understand and appreciate Bernie’s strong progressive history on policy. However, many have expressed concern that advocating for such left-wing policies is silly, as they think it is unrealistic that any of them will get passed. However, we must recognize how important it is to pull our nation’s politics to the left. Trump’s rise has clearly demonstrated a rhetorical and social shift within the Republican Party, as he has abandoned all established political norms. The new right has established that it will do everything it can to distort our politics and fight for Trump’s agenda. Therefore, we must start by arguing for positions which are truly on the left, and then we can compromise towards the middle if need be. If we water down our positions from the start, we lose ground for no reason. And these are concessions we cannot afford, especially when considering issues as serious as medical care for all and the future of our planet.
"Bernie’s policies strive to make the world a better place as quickly as possible."
Potentially the biggest question facing Bernie’s campaign is his electibility. In answer, Sanders can absolutely defeat Trump. In fact, he is in the best position to do so. According to the Real Clear Politics average of general elections polls pitting Bernie against Trump, Bernie has a 4.9 percentage point advantage. Furthermore, Sanders has won 18 out of the last 19 polls conducted, as of March 6th, 2020 . This compares favorably with other candidates in the race, as only Biden polls better, with a half point difference between him and Bernie, a marginal difference. But polls don’t tell the whole story. Bernie can also make the best argument to the American people about why he should replace our current president. Trump won in large part because many voters were disillusioned with Washington politics as usual and wanted a brighter economic future for themselves and their families . Bernie offers a multitude of solutions to these problems. First of all, Bernie has been representing an anti-establishment brand of politics for his entire career. In addition, when Medicare for All is enacted, American families will have more financial stability, and by implementing the Green New Deal, millions of new jobs will be created while we reduce our carbon footprint . In order to defeat Donald Trump, the Democratic Party must offer voters a bold new alternative, not simply a return to Washington politics as normal. Finally, Sanders has a base of incredibly passionate voters who will get out and campaign for him vigorously. No other candidate has this firepower, and Democrats need all the advantages they can get to defeat Trump.
Bernie is building a broad coalition of voters; he is appealing to voters from a variety of geographical, racial, and educational backgrounds. And he isn’t just winning over progressives either. In fact, in Nevada, Sanders won 23% of self-identified Moderates/Conservatives, just behind Joe Biden with 25%, whose whole appeal is to moderate voters . Indeed, the American people are starting to come around to Bernie. Bernie Sanders is now in a two man race for the Democratic nomination. He polls well against Trump, has constructed a wide-ranging voter base, and has a strong, progressive platform. Vote for Bernie!
As Sanders himself tweeted on Feb 21, “ ...I've got news for the Democratic establishment. They can't stop us .” While Joe Biden’s remarkable comeback has blunted Bernie Sanders’s momentum, a broader discussion of the national viability of Sanders-style progressive politics is still relevant, especially as Joe Biden may not run for re-election. Continuing the trend set by figures such as Jeremy Corbyn and Trump, insurgent outsiders who’ve hijacked their parties, Sanders and his acolytes now seek to shape the Democratic Party in their image. However, just as Corbyn appealed to millenial urbanites and made incredible promises like free broadband, only to go on and lose Labour’s Red Wall in late 2019, a Sanders ticket would be disastrous for the Democratic Party. Rather than framing the election on Trump’s record and character, the country would be forced to make a drastic choice between two extremes, neither of which reflect the American electorate.
On policy grounds, Sanders’s 2016 primary defeat has already shifted the party left. The public option, once considered a pipe dream during the Obamacare fight, is now the policy of moderate Democrats. However, Sanders’s platform and radical past, while attractive in its simplistic solutions and raw authenticity, would alienate key populations in battleground states. Sanders advocates for the complete banning of fracking and the private health-care and insurance industries, both significant sources of employment in Pennsylvania .
Sanders has associated himself with and praised left-wing authoritarian regimes and movements, especially in South America. While Sanders’ rivals in the primary have begun to litigate and bring attention to these comments, their attacks have not been effective in a party more positive about socialism than capitalism . Democratic lawmakers in Florida, a state with many refugees who fled Cuba, Venezuela and other regimes with a violent leftist history, have already distanced themselves from Sanders . Attack ads, no matter their disingenuousness, showing Sanders’ trip to a Sandinista rally in Nicaragua or comments praising the state of Cuban education and healthcare would doom him in Florida. Even without such a campaign so far, Real Clear Politics’ polling averages find that Sanders only holds a narrow lead of 0.3% against Trump whereas Joe Biden leads by 1.4%. In states as purple as Florida or Pennsylvania, the impact of these topics in a Sanders-Trump race could be enormous.
Another prominent aspect to Sanders is his emphasis on the turnout theory of electoral politics, the idea that more extreme candidates can drive turnout to compensate for losing the middle ground. However, the only nationwide election since 2016 provides powerful evidence to the contrary. Were you only to read left-wing pundits on Twitter, the 2018 Midterms would seem to be the story of “the Squad,” insurgent young women of color making history and taking decrepit party elites to task. But another set of freshmen congresspeople without millions in laptop sticker sales and Twitter followers serve as better instruction for how Democrats have succeeded in the post-2016 era. Progressives like Reps. Cortez, Pressley, Talib, and Omar represent deep blue districts out of step with the country. Moderate Democrats who actually flipped seats like Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who won a seat carried by Trump in 2016 and held by Republicans for seven election cycles, should be models that Democrats look to, not “the Squad.” According to a study conducted by Alan Abramowitz at the UVA Center for Politics, 2018 candidates that supported Medicare for All performed 2.2% worse in the polls than non-supporters, even controlling for the makeup of districts . Rather than learning from moderates like Spanberger, who won by talking about rebuilding Obamacare, a Sanders ticket in 2020 or beyond would nationalize the out of touch politics of the far left that failed to deliver against Republicans in 2018.
"Rather than framing the election on Trump’s record and character, the country would be forced to make a drastic choice between two extremes, neither of which reflect the American electorate."
Sources and Notes
 https://osf.io/25wm9/, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1532673X13496453?casa_token=d1W49UtC3s8AAAAA%3AetGDCHTjxYQLOGSJrFW2VYU8vdHMTrk7V_7EC7KR-uZ7JLjYsr85tqedEgv7mJD9htiUjVQqbNKV&
 https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/03/04/super-tuesday-bernie-sanders-youth-votes-fell-short-compared-2016/4947795002/, https://twitter.com/dellavolpe/status/1235320286314102784/photo/1