December 06, 2016

Could Bernie have beaten Trump? Maybe not

It's fashionable to say so, but ....

The GOP, going beyond commonplaces raised by the odious Kurt Eichenwald (Kurt Waldheim?), living proof of the amount of Peter Principle in the mainstream media, would have been ready.

As for the four Rust Belt states Trump flipped from 2012 Obama, in the Democratic primaries, Bernie narrowly won Michigan and handily won Wisconsin, whereas Clinton handily won the other two. So, there may be nothing special about Sanders.

And, if we give the 26 EVs of Michigan and Wisconsin to a candidate Sanders, Trump still wins. (Clinton won the Florida Democratic primary.)

Anyway, that ammo?

The 1980s videos of Sanders visiting the Sandinistas would have been red meat in the heartland, including to working-class whites, even unionized or formerly unionized ones. Remember, American unions have generally been ardently, even hysterically, anti-Communist, and not much better on non-Communist socialism.

That stuff would have been red meat for Trump backers. And, for mainline and neocon GOPers who wouldn't have given public support to Sanders, unlike their doing so for Clinton.

Plus, although Trump does have a Jewish son-in-law, and a religiously Jewish daughter by conversion? We know the alt-right types would have had a field day with Sanders' Jewish ethnicity, and Trump, in his semi-mysterious way, would have tried to quell it, or look like he was, without actually doing so.

Plus, the GOP probably would have raised Jane Sanders' failed presidency of Burlington College plus the pricey (to me at least) golden parachute.

I'm actually surprised Clintonistas didn't raise this issue. It was the perfect counterattack on Sanders' claims of favoritism, elitism and insiderism against Clinton and her top dogs. (For the record, I believe Jane was indeed trading on Bernie's name and position with her grandiose expansion ideas. I believe she's been pushing his campaign, his legacy and more this year, too.)

Otherwise, people who know how polls work know that polls of hypothetical matchups don't always translate into reality, or at least, not fully.

Finally, as for appealing to workers, Trump might have caught Sanders in some economic hypocrisy, kind of like that Sanders engaged in last week when calling out Trump over Carrier.

Add to this the likelihood that conservative PACs and sugar daddies lukewarm about Trump facing Clinton would likely have been pretty energized to fight Sanders.

This is like assuming Clinton would actually have won an election without an electoral college. Don't know that; real-world political strategies for both her and Trump would have been different.


Jennifer Donovan said...

Yes, we will never know if Bernie would've beaten Trump. Here are some additional points to consider related to the primary and general election.

1) If the mainstream media & superdelegates hadn't actively worked against Bernie during the primaries he would have done even better. Your point that Bernie would not have won in states he didn't win in the primaries is flawed.

2) The DNC and RNC both wanted their establishment candidates from the outset. For the Repubs, this was Jeb Bush. For the Dems, this was Hillary. There was a reason Florida and Texas were earlier in the race this cycle- it was to promote these two candidates. Bernie didn't even campaign in FL because of he had only so much money and needed to prioritize. I believe Bernie could have won FL if the primaries given the chance to try.

3) I worked for Bernie for the SC primary. The reason Bernie didn't win here is because "somebody" sent people to all the churches essentially saying Bernie and Hillary were the same with one exception "BERNIE DOES NOT ACCEPT JESUS". This is typical Hillary nonsense- she did the same to Obama in 2008 by sending out pics of him in african and muslim outfits. After Bernie's loss in SC, the entire black caucus & leadership supported Hillary. Again, this issue would not have been relevant in the general election had Bernie been the nominee.

4) Hillary won big in some "establishment" dem type states like NY and CA, but Bernie would have won them anyway in the general. Hillary's wins in places like TX, GA, AL etc. should not have been given the same weight at the convention. They should have been utterly SHOCKED that someone nobody heard of before last year took her down Hillary in every blue wall state where he had the resources to make an effort.

5) Hillary lost in the rust belt because she couldn't explain why she was suddenly against TPP. Both Trump and Bernie knew the American message was to keep jobs here with FAIR TRADE POLICIES. Both Trump and Bernie promoted a message of DRAIN THE SWAMP IN A RIGGED ECONOMY. Hillary's only real message was that Trump was bad news.

6) Hillary voted for Iraq. While Trump's early statements on Iraq are contested as to how he felt, he certainly didn't give a speech about it being a "business opportunity" in the well of the Senate. Obama beat Hillary because of that last time. The Iraq war is viewed as even a bigger mistake now and many cannot bring themselves to support anyone that cast a yea vote. Bernie and Obama didn't support the Iraq war and people questioned Hillary's JUDGEMENT.

7) Even the Hillary campaign says that the Comey letters may have affected the race. While Trump had some scandals himself, he explained them somehow (e.g. only someone who avoids taxes knows how to fix the IRS). There were no such scandals for Bernie.

In sum, we'll never know if Bernie would have won in the General but the reasons Hill lost in the General include a lack of economic message especially in the rust belt, lack of a change message, foreign policy judgement, the appearance of being crooked, hawkishness, and the inability to connect with the grassroots efforts of the regular folks in the rust belt. Trump and Bernie both addressed all of these issues. In my opinion, Bernie did it better because he didn't attach xenophobia and fear so enthusiasm would have been enhanced.

Had Bernie lost to Trump, I'd be a lot more upset. Hillary deserved to lose though. Politics aside, I'm almost willing to say anyone could have beaten Trump.....except for a person that was not even intelligent enough to CAMPAIGN IN WISCONSIN ONCE.

Gadfly said...

I partially agree, partially disagree on some of your points.

1. At best, I'll partially agree on this by saying it's a mug's game, but referring back to Sanders' 1970s-80s videos and trips, I still think, for different reasons, he would have as many problems in the Midwest as Clinton.
2. Per other blogging of mine, and reporting by certain media sites, I'm still not sure how much Bernie wanted to win at times. I'm still not sure of that today.
3. Wouldn't surprise me. He lost South Carolina by a 3-1 margin though, and without a single dirty trick would have lost 2-1 or more.
4. States have their delegates allocated well in advance of starting the primary schedule. You can't "deweight" a state in the middle of a campaign, if I'm understanding you correctly.
5. Agreed totally.
6. Sanders has voted for other wars, and was only modestly better on Palestinian issues than Clinton. Had he gotten the nomination, things like this are why I likely still would have voted Green. (Unlike the great majority of voters, I actually look in depth at foreign policy issues, in part because this is an area where the president can actually do more without Congress.)
7. There were no such reported scandals. But see what I wrote in the post about Jane and Burlington College. Small potatoes, sure. But, for the rectitude that Sanders portrayed, it could have hurt, had more fire been found behind that smoke.


Bernie had a chance to run Green as a standing member of the U.S. Senate and an avowed Independent, on paper, though a Democrat in reality for almost 20 years. He made his choice.

Other than that, as even sympathetic political analysts have noted, on the national presidential stage, he simply was not that great of a campaigner. Even before the end of the primaries, he was playing a little thin.


I do, indeed, appreciate the thoughtful conversation.

Jennifer Donovan said...

I believe Bernie was being cautious. He knew his chances of beating the DNC establishment were slim. This is evidenced by the debate when he said he didn't care about the "dam emails". Perhaps he understood the implications of hurting Hillary too much should Trump win his primary. Bernie also knew that running Green would probably also have cost the Dems the election.

Jane's performance at the college IS small potatoes. Hillary's husband was disbarred they paid 850k in sexual harassment settlements. Hilary's scandals included things that were potentially criminal. While Trump had liabilities in civil cases, Bernie didn't have anything close.

My point about SC was not that Dems would ever have won SC, but being first in the south, the dirty tricks in the primaries affected subsequent states and how/where candidates strategize. The DNC gave us a database for people to call, but it only included people who voted in a previous primary (2008). The majority of voters were very old (many of the people I called- their families told me they already died). The others, as I said, were already brainwashed by the media or Hill's covert religious bashing. The fact that the DNC (intentional or not) gave us this database, made it difficult to contact progressives to drive the primary vote here. The primary strategy at the DNC was not intended to choose the candidate that would be most electable- it was intended to nominate her. They paid the price now.

My opinion is that Trump recognized Hillary's flaws years ago and made a calculated decision to run for President because he knew anyone could beat her. He knew he had to convince people he was a Republican so he dilly dallied in calling Obama names to see how stupid the Republicans actually were. He was probably laughing his ass off when over 60% of Republicans believed the Obama crap he was selling. Now, Trump proposes a Trillion dollar infrastructure bill, a wall with "big beautiful doors" and comprehensive immigration reform. We'll see about his healthcare plan-the ACA needed changes. Republicans drooled when they saw what they perceived were tax cuts for the rich, but they never paid attention to the details where some loopholes will go away and rich people are currently paying very little now anyway. He advocates LESS pre-emptive intervention (a big issue of mine), regulations on lobbyists, and a deviation from tariff-free trade. Sound like anyone to you?

Head to head polls consistently put Bernie ahead of Trump, even when people didn't know who he was. Many Dems shared the attitude: anyone but Trump or HRC). The lack of enthusiasm of independents and millennials were factors in the low Dem turnout- Bernie would have done better with these folks. A lot of Democrats didn't vote and ones who did skipped the option to vote for President. The margins in a few rust belt states were low. Bernie didn't have to win all the states Hillary lost, but I can't believe he wouldn't have come closer.

Finally, Hillary's loss was considered to be somewhat improbable. To argue that any other human on this planet could have duplicated this disaster is a "reach". BTW- I voted Green in SC in the end. I would have had a lot if trouble voting for HRC but no trouble voting for Bernie.

Gadfly said...

Stupid Blogger ate my comment.

That said, I agree with much of what you said, on both the DNC and "coronation," and on how much or how little a conventional Republican Trump may be.

That said, I'm not saying Bernie wouldn't have won. I am saying, as the main theme, "don't assume," and offering some reasons why to not assume, just as I tell Clintonistas "don't assume" that she would have won a popular vote contest, because campaign strategies would be different without an electoral college.

I did also say, in the post:
"Add to this the likelihood that conservative PACs and sugar daddies lukewarm about Trump facing Clinton would likely have been pretty energized to fight Sanders."
I definitely believe this. To many GOP thought leaders, and a fair amount of conservative PACs, Clinton was "acceptable," at least. Maybe not "desirable," but she was "acceptable."

Sanders was not. I have little doubt that at least a few of these folks would have stuck crowbars in their wallets, no matter their lack of desire for Trump, to fight a Sanders campaign.

Also, you cite polls. Remember, polls said Clinton was likely to win. Again, it's a mug's game citing polls, especially if they're selectively cited.