Electability for Boffins:
12 reasons Bernie is the most electable candidate
Melissa Tandiwe Myambo
Have you heard of this disgrace to humanity with less moral fiber than an amoeba? His name is Donald Trump. The most unelectable candidate in the history of the universe because he is:
- A repellent misogynist and self-confessed sexual predator — see his Access Hollywood tape and the 25 women who have accused him of sexual misconduct or worse. It’s become a cliche but is still a fact that more white women voted for him than the first female nominee for president, the extremely well-qualified Hillary Rodham Clinton. Self-hating women?
- A thrice-married adulterer who has affairs with playmates and porn stars…yet, the evangelical Christians love him. Hypocrites?
- A racist, a bigot, a corrupt con man, an Islamophobe — yet my Uber driver in Iowa City, a Bangladeshi Muslim immigrant, told me shortly before the caucuses that he voted for Trump who campaigned on introducing a Muslim ban because he “couldn’t vote for that woman.” Back to misogyny again?
I could literally be here all day writing up all the reasons why Trump was and should have been unelectable but the point is that once Trump was elected — despite being totally unelectable — we should have put the kibosh on this whole discussion. Yet, here we are still talking about this when clearly, Bernie is the most electable candidate.
Although no-one really knows what electability means, pundits, journalists and the powers-that-be keep talking about it because they have a vested interest in equating electability with moderate/centrist/status quo. This bland Mr. Politics-as-Usual straight out of some imaginary political science textbook offends no-one and is amenable to big business, corporate interests and the political elite. He is preferably a middle-aged, well-educated, dignified WASP who can appeal to that biggest myth of all, centrists, independents and swing voters, especially those in swing states.
This is more fantasy than reality. Let me give you a dozen very good reasons why Bernie Sanders is the most electable Democratic candidate. There is a narrative floating around out there that voters are torn between their heads and their hearts when it comes to Bernie. Then to make things more complicated, they try to second-guess what other voters will consider electable. Whilst their hearts supposedly love Bernie’s policies, their heads say an anti-establishment democratic socialist who is almost an octogenarian will never win the nomination or defeat Trump.
Wrong, wrong and wrong. Unlike many other Bernie fans, I didn’t choose to support Bernie because of my heart. Yes, I am tickled by the endurance of his strong Brooklyn accent after decades of living in Vermont but I made a cold-blooded analysis of the current global conditions. Then I rationally examined all the Democratic candidates running. Subsequently I deduced a la Sherlock Holmes that Bernie is the most electable, not only due to his strengths but also counter-intuitively because his perceived weaknesses are often interpreted as strengths by his supporters.
There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. — Sherlock Holmes
1) There is no political candidate who is perfectly electable across time and space. Electability is not a set of static characteristics. It must meet the moment. In 2004, John Kerry got the democratic nomination because he was pro-war. Today, being pro-war is anathema. Electability depends on the current zeitgeist and right now, we are in an era of fervent populism. Trump represents negative, xenophobic, divisive, racist populism. Bernie channels a populism that unifies across difference to create a diverse coalition which is advocating for positive social and economic change for the majority of people.
2) Arguably, if Bernie had been the candidate in 2016, he would have defeated Trump. Trump is only one, albeit horrendous, man but Trumpism is another story. The other Democratic candidates are running campaigns but Bernie has got a movement and that movement can defeat not only Trump but Trumpism.
3) Dynamic enthusiasm and revolutionary zeal are on the side of Bernie Sanders because a populist movement is so powerful that it can propel an outsider candidate to victory just as it did in 2016. If the DNC, corporate and/or establishment Dems try to artificially prop up a more centrist/moderate/“electable” candidate as they did in 2016, they will again be guilty of severely misreading the current moment. The energy of the democratic party is on the progressive left and if that fire is put out by a Buttigieg, a Biden, or a billionnaire Bloomberg who can blanket the airwaves with his omni-present message, the Democratic Party will not win against Trump in November. I know this because…
4) There are no swing voters anymore who can coalesce behind a centrist candidate. Since the Great Recession of 2007–9, the political landscape has been completely upended. There is no longer any appetite for campaigns that promote moderate, centrist, pragmatic Washington insiderism. Severe income inequality and its corollary culture wars have polarized Western democracies into warring tribes and tribalism does not welcome wishy-washy nibbling around the edges. Tribalism, for better or for worse, likes BIG and BOLD ideas. Politicians trying to chart a course down the middle will soon find themselves sinking into the treacherous quicksand that currently occupies the erstwhile middle ground. Bernie is the opposite of that formula for failure.
5) Every time the Dems go with the safe, establishment candidate, they lose. Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, HRC — they all lost! Don’t take it from me. Michael Moore always mentions this point. If Dems want to win, they have to go BIG and BOLD, not timid and tinkering. People can’t just vote against Trump or for the “lesser of two evils.” They have to be motivated to vote for something and the progressive wing of the party is the most galvanized and invigorated and will work hard to turn out the vote for Bernie in order to achieve fundamental structural and systemic change.
6) The safe option ran in 2016 but who can remember Hillary’s platform or any of her policy positions? No-one. Even on the historic night she clinched the nomination as the first female Democratic nominee for president, it was difficult to muster much excitement. At that moment, Bernie Sanders had lost the nomination but he had already won the argument. He so successfully captured the democratic base with his ambitious policies that he single-handedly moved the party to the left and now, four years later, everyone is singing from some version of his hymn book. All the remaining candidates want a $15 minimum wage, some type of universal health coverage, greener policies etc.
7) So whose afraid of Bernie Sanders? A lot of people apparently! Many pundits have tried to paint Bernie’s progressive leftist policy positions as a liablity, especially after the Labour Party suffered their biggest loss since 1935 in the December, 2019 election in the UK. In the lead-up to the election, the Labour Party, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, supposedly Bernie’s doppelganger, offered up a panoply of far-left policies that were then roundly rejected by the electorate. Will Bernie suffer the same fate? No. The reason Labour lost is because they had a muddled and confused message about where they stood on Brexit. The BoJo-led Tories, inspired by the UK’s version of Steve Bannon, one Dominic Cummings, had a clear message, “Get Brexit Done!” Three pithy words which speak to the British psyche and self-image of people who keep calm and carry on. Does Bernie have a clear message? You betcha.
8) Bernie’s campaign slogan is, “Not me. Us” because the movement’s goal is to bring together millions of people to demand change yet one of the most common talking points of the anti-Bernie brigade in the GOP and the mainstream Democratic Party is that Bernie will lose because he is a self-proclaimed democratic socialist. Sigh dramatically, gasp fearfully — He will be painted as a rabid socialist or even — clutch your pearls, here — a communist! Fact: People under 40 don’t suffer the same negative Cold War associations with communism and socialism. Policies older people may consider radical socialism, younger generations who witnessed first hand the ravages of the 2008 recession and the corporate welfare extended to Wall Street actually view as common sense responses to a planet that is running out of time when it comes to climate change and a gig economy that has made their lives and livelihoods all too precarious.
9) There is no such thing as “the economy” and there is also no such entity as “the American people.” There are myriad interlocking and sometimes overlapping micro-economies in which a huge diversity of American peoples are experiencing vastly different living conditions. Well-paid anchors on cable TV like to talk about how great Trump’s singular economy is because their stock portfolios are doing well thanks to the soaring Dow Jones. Try speaking to the average New Yorker who is working three jobs and still can’t afford child care or her rent. Working people know that unemployment numbers do not reflect the reality of their underpaid work and exploitative wages. This majority can swing the vote for Bernie.
10) Besides, voters don’t only vote on policy and its intricate details. They vote on the values that underpin policy positions. Frankly, there is more chance of Medicare for All than Mexico paying to build Trump’s dumb wall. Probably most Trump voters didn’t really believe Mexico was ever going to pay for the wall’s construction but they liked the chutzpah behind the proposal. Predicting the decisions of would-be voters is a hazardous business because voters do not always conform to cookie-cutter stereotypes that political strategists use to model their behavior. But sit down with the average American and listen to their complaints about their health insurance coverage. Medicare for All sounds like manna from heaven to millions and Bernie “wrote the damn bill.”
11) Hindsight is 20/20 and so in 2020, we should recognize what we failed to identify in 2016. Like the last election, 2020 will be a change election. MAGA-supporters are on the defense as they have changed their slogan to Keep America Great. Yeah, good luck with that. More than half of the country does not think Trump or his version of America is great and let’s not forget he only won by the slimmest of margins: 78,000 votes in three states- Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin. Do not forget this. Trump is a pretty weak incumbent. Can Trump win? Sure he can. Will he win? Not if Bernie is his opponent because Bernie won both Michigan and Wisconsin in the 2016 primaries. If he had been the candidate in 2016 instead of HRC, he would have likely carried them. Can a strong advocate of working families win those states plus Ohio and Pennsylvania back for the Dems? Yes, if a large enough majority is motivated to work to make it happen. Not me. Us!
12) Finally, Bernie’s age is often portrayed as a weakness and even I wish that he was ten years younger but oddly, his age actually plays to his benefit and makes him even more electable. Unlike his age-mates, Bloomberg and Trump who are also very old, Bernie has been consistent through the decades whereas both Trump and Bloomberg have opportunistically changed their party affiliations and their policy stance when the political winds change direction. Bernie is like the proverbial rock in the storm and it actually comforts many Bernie supporters that over the last forty years, he has doggedly, stubbornly, persistently stuck to his beliefs — when they were popular and when they were not. Pete Buttigieg, to his credit, wrote a compelling and convincing essay when he was a high school senior in 2000 about Bernie’s authenticity and integrity because no matter what, Bernie is a man of principle, whether you like those principles or not.
Do I agree with Bernie Sanders about every little thing? Oops, should I continue and risk the wrath of the famous internet trolls the media obsessively calls “Bernie Bros” — Well, yes I will continue. Do I agree with him on gun policy? Am not so sure. What is his actual stance on the dairy industry which receives huge government subsidies and brutalizes animals? I am an ethical vegetarian since the age of 9-years-old. I could have a problem with that and I will always raise my voice for animal rights to Bernie or anyone else. A big tent party requires unity not uniformity.
Are there other good candidates? Sure there are. Would I not like to see Boy Wonder Buttigieg impress the world with his fluency in several languages, especially after a president who hasn’t even mastered English?
What about Biden with his dazzling smile and his warm empathy? Or a capable woman like an Amy Klobuchar or the efficacious Elizabeth Warren?
Yes, all light years better than Trump. I love Tom Steyer’s bold approach to talking about reparations for African Americans. Can Steyer and Mike Bloomberg’s billions buoy the hopes of the Democrats? Sans doute! But should spending billions bulldoze an insurgent people-powered campaign into submission? No! America is not supposed to be a plutocracy or an oligarchy and big money in politics is why all the politicians are beholden to the people with excess capital instead of us, the people.
Do I think that Bernie is The Chosen One, the Messiah or a Savior who can reverse all the ravages of this brutal capitalism that privileges profit over people?
No, I absolutely do not.
But do I think he’s the best man to defeat Trump and change the country’s direction in this populist moment at this inflection point in the country’s trajectory? Yes, I do.
I think he’s the only candidate who can do it and you don’t know me but I am always right! :)