On the menu today: a reminder that Bernie Sanders’s controversial remarks came when he was well into adult life; the grim outlook for Sanders in the general election in Florida and Pennsylvania; and why you shouldn’t always bet on the candidate who’s hot on social media.
People Will Discuss ‘Ancient History’ When the Nominee Is an Ancient Candidate
As winter turns to spring, and as spring turns to summer, prominent Democrats and left-leaning public voices will try to gaslight you. Some of the Democrats who are most worried about nominating Bernie Sanders right now will bury their doubts and objections down deep and insist that anyone who isn’t on board is some sort of unthinking lunatic, or that not being a Sanders supporter must reflect a complete endorsement of everything Donald Trump has done as president.
One of the arguments you are certain to hear in defense of Sanders, when others criticize his past stances and statements, is a variation of: “Why are you bringing up all this ancient history?”
The correct answer is: “Because you guys nominated an ancient candidate. You notice nobody’s talking about what Pete Buttigieg did in the 1980s.”
Bernie Sanders was born three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
This means Sanders was 28 years old when he wrote: “The manner in which you bring up your daughter with regard to sexual attitudes may very well determine whether or not she will develop breast cancer.”
Sanders was 30 years old when he wrote his infamous op-ed about women’s rape fantasies.
He was 31 years old when he decided that George McGovern was too centrist for him.
He was 32 years old when he discussed eating placentas with a new mother on a Vermont commune. “How long after the birth were you eating the afterbirth? Don’t all mammals eat the afterbirth?”
He was 33 years old when he ran for a U.S. Senate seat while collecting unemployment benefits.
Sanders was 38 when he joined the Socialist Workers Party and became its presidential elector in Vermont for the 1980 election. The Socialist Workers Party’s candidate declared of the American hostages in Iran, “we can be sure that many of them are simply spies . . . or people assigned to protect the spies.”
He was 39 years old when he was elected mayor and received “his first steady paycheck.” (Think about how many steady paychecks you had collected by age 39, or how many you will collect if you’re younger than 39.)
He was a 40-year-old mayor when he declared at a United Way fundraiser, “I don’t believe in charities.”
He was a 44-year-old mayor when he told the Los Angeles Times that he espouses “traditional socialist goals — public ownership of oil companies, factories, utilities, banks, etc.” He was the same age when he asked, “We’re spending billions on military. Why can’t we take some of that money to pay for thousands of U.S. children to go to the Soviet Union?”
That was the same year Sanders traveled to Nicaragua and attended the rally led by Daniel Ortega. For what it’s worth, Kurt Eichenwald reported:
The Republicans also had video of Sanders at a 1985 rally thrown by the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua where half a million people chanted, “Here, there, everywhere/the Yankee will die,” while President Daniel Ortega condemned “state terrorism” by America. Sanders said, on camera, supporting the Sandinistas was “patriotic.”
Sanders was a 46-year-old mayor when he decided that the University of Vermont Medical Center was no longer a tax-exempt institution in the eyes of the city and sent the hospital a tax bill for $2.9 million. Sanders declared, “There are a heck of a lot of people up there making a heck of a lot of money,” when a Superior Court judge ruled against the city on all counts, and the state supreme court ruled against the city as well.
He was at least 47 years old when he declared: “I have my own feelings about what causes cancer and the psychosomatic aspects of cancer.”
In 1994, then-53-year-old congressman Bernie Sanders voted for the crime bill — you know, the one everyone keeps giving Joe Biden grief about. The crime bill that created 60 new death penalty offenses under 41 federal capital statutes, the one that eliminated higher education for inmates, authorized boot camps for delinquent minors, and created fifty new federal offenses, including membership in a gang, and three-strikes provisions.
Bernie Sanders was 57 years old when, as a congressman, he tried to get nuclear waste from Vermont dumped in Sierra Blanca, Texas, a small, extremely poor, and mostly Latino town, which brought charges of “environmental racism”:
On May 11th, about a dozen activists met with Sanders at his office. The delegation included two University of Vermont students who had just completed a thorough analysis of the scientific arguments in support of the Texas dump; they found numerous unanswered questions and more than a few outright falsehoods in the proponents’ arguments. Several participants in the meeting were astonished by the “independent” congressman’s vehement and unrelenting support for shipping nuclear waste 2400 miles to West Texas. It was the best site geologically, he claimed, much better than having nuclear waste scattered across the country, and besides, how dare we accuse Bernie Sanders of environmental racism? The August meeting with the Texas delegation featured Sanders at his most obstinate, insisting that he’d done the right thing and that he was no longer interested in the issue now that the compact bill had passed the House.
Bernie Sanders was 62 years old when he voted against creating the Amber Alert system, contending “its sentencing provisions were an unconstitutional intrusion by Congress, taking power that should rest with the judiciary.” The bill passed the House 390 to 24 and the Senate 98–0.
None of these are the actions or statements of a confused, rebellious teenager. Yes, they date back to five decades ago, but the candidate has been around for almost eight decades. He was a grown man when he said and did these things, and they aren’t so easily dismissed as youthful naivete and indiscretions.
Hey, Who Needs to Win Florida, Anyway?
The Democrats appear to be on the verge of unofficially conceding the state of Florida in 2020, nominating a man who believes that Fidel Castro doesn’t get enough credit for all the good things he did. Last night on 60 Minutes, Sanders declared: “We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair simply to say everything is bad. You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program.”
There are about 2.3 million Cuban Americans in the United States, and roughly 1.5 million live in Florida. Oh, and more than 200,000 Venezuelan immigrants have moved to Florida from 2000 to 2017.
Back in 2016, Donald Trump won the Cuban-American vote in Florida, 54 percent to 41 percent. Trump won Florida by 1.2 percent in 2016, but that amounts to a margin of 112,911 votes.
First-term Barack Obama was much less open about normalizing relations with Cuba than second-term Obama, and Hillary Clinton wasn’t as openly pro-Castro (or pro-normalization) as Obama was. (People forget she went after Sanders’s embrace of Castro during the primary debates.) Maybe Sanders’s “Fidel is getting a bad rap” routine doesn’t lose all the Cuban-American votes in Florida, but it probably doesn’t improve on that 54–41 split. The Vermont senator is going to have to make up those votes elsewhere.
Hey, Who Needs to Win Pennsylvania, Anyway?
The Democrats appear to be on the verge of unofficially conceding the state of Pennsylvania in 2020, nominating a man who pledges to ban fracking. Don’t take it from me, take it from Democrats in the Keystone State:
Pennsylvania’s top Democrats, including Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, have tried to discourage talk of a fracking ban, while labor leaders point to thousands of building trades members working on gas drilling sites, laying billions of dollars in pipelines and building massive refineries.
“Nobody can tell me what these new jobs are that are going to replace these good union jobs in the energy industry if we ban fracking,” Rick Bloomingdale, the president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the AFL-CIO, said in an interview Thursday.
After the fracking ban bill was introduced earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-PA., wrote a letter urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to move the bill.
“If this bill were enacted — and survived likely court challenges — it would eliminate thousands of jobs in my state and likely millions across the country,” Lamb wrote. “It would also remove from our energy grid the source of power that has been most responsible for reducing carbon emissions in our country.”
ADDENDUM: Peter Hamby, arguing that Democrats are far too pessimistic about Sanders: “Instead of asking if Sanders is unelectable, ask another question: What if Sanders is actually the MOST electable Democrat? In the age of Trump, hyper-partisanship, institutional distrust, and social media, Sanders could be examined as a candidate almost custom-built to go head-to-head with Trump this year.”
Of course Sanders could win; if 2016 taught us anything it is that elections are unpredictable. By the time you read this, the coronavirus will have knocked U.S. stock markets for a loop. We don’t know how this will impact the global economy, and maybe Trump won’t be running for reelection with such a great economy this fall.
But Hamby’s argument for Sanders’s strengths sounds a lot like his argument that Beto O’Rourke should run for president even if he loses his Senate race, from back on August 29, 2018:
What the wise men of Washington are absolutely wrong about is this: O’Rourke can absolutely run for president if he loses. Who is the Democratic primary voter who would care? Does that person exist? He’s a star who would pack any room in Des Moines or Nashua, end of story.
In little over a year, O’Rourke has built a thriving political movement in the country’s second-largest state, with a strategy built purely on hustle, grassroots organizing, and his hunch that the standard-issue campaign playbook met its final demise in 2016. O’Rourke has raised over $23 million so far, all from small donors and a lot it from out of state. But his campaign money hasn’t gone to television ads or consultants. It’s gone to online advertising (Sanders’s digital firm, to be precise) and a T-shirt vendor in Austin tasked with pumping out thousands of heather gray “Beto for Senate” shirts. He’s Spanish-fluent and hails from a border city, El Paso, in a moment when immigration has become the hottest-burning political issue in the country. And at a time when Americans view politics through their mobile screens, O’Rourke passes the ever-fetishized “authenticity” test by a mile.
Beto . . . didn’t quite catch fire, did he?