Elections

Bernie Sanders Is the Favorite

Senator Bernie Sanders during a campaign event in Manchester, N.H., February 4, 2020. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Bernie Sanders has by far the best chance of any candidate to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, according to the Nate Silver model. Moreover, the odds that Sanders wins that prize outright are twice as good as the odds for a brokered convention in Milwaukee, in Silver’s view. Sanders has a better chance than anyone else to win the Nevada caucuses, according to Silver’s site, FiveThirtyEight, and a better chance than Joe Biden to win the South Carolina primary.

California? Sanders. Texas? Sanders. North Carolina? Sanders. Virginia? Sanders. Massachusetts? Sanders. Minnesota? Sanders. Colorado, Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Utah, Maine, Vermont, Michigan, Washington, Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho, North Dakota, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Hawaii, Alaska, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island? Ibid.

At the moment, Silver gives Sanders a 44 percent chance of winning Delaware, against 40 percent for Biden.

Could Silver be wrong? Of course. Could Sanders slip? Certainly. Could Biden regain his momentum? It could happen. Could voters take a second look at Mike Bloomberg (whom Silver gives less than a 1 percent shot at winning the nomination)? Sure. But at the moment there is little doubt that Bernie Sanders is your Democratic Party frontrunner.

When I wrote the words, “Joe Biden is done” last March, I was wrong. He wasn’t done. I badly misread the temperature of the media, which I thought was at a fever pitch for a far-left candidate. But what we’ve seen in the coverage is this: The media think like a standard Democratic Party voter, not like a clamorous activist. Despite their woke gesturing, the thing they really want is not to upend the health-insurance system, much less capitalism or white privilege. They simply want any Democrat who can defeat Donald Trump. Biden actually suits them fine. I thought the media would tear apart Biden, but they didn’t. You have to marvel at the delicacy with which they tiptoed around the fact that the influence-peddling actions of Biden’s own son in Ukraine provided the predicate for the phone call that led to the impeachment of Donald Trump.

Alas, people noticed anyway that the Bidens as a family were the clear and obvious beneficiaries of corruption, because, folks, that’s what it is when a foreign company gives a large paycheck to the son of a sitting vice president for no other reason than that he is the son of a sitting vice president. The ex-veep implicitly acknowledged that it was wrong for him to allow Hunter to take the no-show job with Burisma when he promised he wouldn’t allow such a thing to happen should he regain a job in the White House. Yet Biden still has no satisfying response on the (exceedingly rare) occasions when a reporter gently inquires about the Burisma debacle, because how could he? For the same reason, Hillary Clinton had no satisfying response on the matter of having caused classified information to be removed from official channels and having deleted thousands of emails that might have been required to be produced to the public. Biden and Clinton both did wrong and everyone knows it.

So I was wrong to say the media would destroy Biden; such destruction as has occurred was brought about by Biden himself, for allowing his son (and other family members) to cash in on his public-official status and also for coming across as a befuddled nincompoop in his increasingly dicey public appearances.

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is not corrupt. (Writing a bestselling book, not influence peddling, is how Sanders got rich.) He’s not incoherent. His message is now and always has been perfectly clear and consistent. Sanders wants to turn the U.S. into 1970 Sweden. Thirty or so percent of Democratic primary voters agree. That could be enough to power him to the nomination.

What does this mean for the rest of us? “Bernie could win,” say some of my colleagues, envisioning Sanders in the Oval Office. I disagree. Bernie cannot win. Bernie will not win. If Bernie Sanders is the choice of my country to be president, I do not know my country. The agitational wing of one party may want the things Bernie wants, but the country doesn’t. The country doesn’t want its private health insurance to be made illegal. The country doesn’t want rich kids to see their college debts canceled, or to pick up the tab for their four-year frolics on leafy campuses. The country likes capitalism, albeit in a grumbly sort of way, and mostly admires rather than despises our most successful citizens.

Economic confidence hasn’t been this high in many years. Unemployment hasn’t been this low in many years. Large numbers of Americans may find Trump’s personality irritating, bordering on rebarbative, but the Democrats are mistaken if they think that means Americans want federal policy turned inside out. Moreover, when it comes to personality, Sanders is . . . irritating, bordering on rebarbative. Barack Obama was able to infuse his core followers with a near-religious level of devotion while striking moderates as a gentle incrementalist. Sanders can’t pull off the latter trick and based on his history to this point, he won’t even try. For the Democratic Party to pick him would be to load a revolver and aim it at its own head. I say fire away.

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