Feel the Bern?
First let me get started by saying this article isn't really much about comparing Sanders to the other Democrat candidates here in the primary. It's more broadly about Bernie, Trump, and America.
**3/2/2020 edit** But just before I get in to that I will start by comparing him to Joe Biden. The DNC just Game of Thrones style consolidated what they could (everyone but Bloomberg) around Biden. They left Warren in to steal progressive votes and all of a sudden this turned in to a very close race. So I thought I'd edit this in saying a few reasons why I like Bernie over Biden.
1) Joe Biden is more senile than Bernie. He makes more gaffes than Bernie. He just isn't as intelligent or as sharp as Bernie is. Do you think Biden will look good next to Trump in a debate? No, Biden won't at all. Watch THIS Sanders will look much better next to Trump. Sanders will make better decisions than Biden will.
2) Biden is a career politician with a checkered past. Didn't the Dems just try that in 2016 with Hillary and it didn't work? And now running Biden, the very person the whole impeachment trial was about, out vs Trump seems like a good idea? That will further politicize this election. That will make it easy for Trump to turn in to an ugly contest - which is good for him and bad for getting people excited and out to the polls.
3) Biden's judgement is worse than Bernie's. Biden supported the first Iraq War. Bernie didn't. Biden supported the military-industrial complex like a good lap-dog soldier, bowing to his master to collect the checks. Watch this This was such a colossal error in judgement it should basically disqualify someone outright. Biden is just a tool of the establishment.
Right now looking at realclearpolitics in the swing states, both Bernie and Biden match up pretty similarly vs Trump - and both with a slight lead. I think those polls should be viewed skeptically of course. I believe Biden's failings will prove more costly than Bernie's going forward.
Ok ... so the question then with regards to Sanders is: Should America elect a communist?
If Sanders v Trump, that word is coming.
And we all saw how that failed experiment worked in the USSR. An authoritarian dictator ruled with an iron fist. That said, calling Bernie a communist is a massive misnomer. He isn't authoritarian at all, and in fact his social policies are what I would call common-sense libertarian. Economically, Bernie is a socialist - not a communist. And really, all the politicians that we are deciding between - including Trump - are economically socialist. The question is, to what degree? Republicans are for less medicare or welfare but more military spending. The military-industrial complex is the largest most powerful social program in the USA right now. Don't delude yourself about Republicans... and I would encourage you to verify this in various ways. One is, look at Trump's government spending and see that he is spending significantly more than Obama did. There is your thrifty, pragmatic, Republican businessman - DJT - calmly guiding a government spending 20% more in 2019 than Obama did in his highest spending year (out of 8!). So don't kid yourselves - Republicans are socialists as well, they just socialize different things. So, yes, Bernie is a socialist. And yes he is economically a little more socialist than Trump and some of the other Democrats. But the idea that he is wildly to the left economically in an unprecedented way given the current political climate is wrong.
Yes, if Bernie gets his way (which has to go through Congress), he would increase government spending in some areas such as health care. You could make an argument though that revamping the health care system, while increasing the amount the government is paying, might not actually increase the amount the average American is paying because our current health care system is the most inefficient in the world - a system where the pharmaceutical and insurance companies literally have us all bent over as they take advantage. In other words, it is possible that although the government burden - and possibly taxes - might increase due to government responsibility for a universal health care system, your private responsibilities would decrease and you wouldn't need to pay more. Here is a study from Yale which shows why this might be the case, "Medicare for all is actually simply the most fiscally responsible thing we can do for our country, " Galvani said. "I see it as the morally responsible but also fiscally responsible thing ... we can save money and lives at the same time." (Galvani is a Yale Epidemiology professor who came out with a recent study). While obviously any specialist with political leanings can come out with an argument for either side (hired or not), so I am not saying oh hey this has to be true because this study says so, this argument makes sense to me. There is no good systemic reason why America should be spending significantly more than EVERY other country. Therefore, changing the health care system drastically to this national system should reduce this financial burden. The study explains why this might be the case, suggesting we would save $450 billion per year and 65000 lives because coverage is better and more expansive for many people. And while it sounds illogical, the reason is because it would take away extreme profits from health care companies which are taking advantage and driving up the costs without giving Americans better care.
-- I bring this issue up specifically because this is probably the issue Bernie discusses the most and is the most likely for Bernie to actually try to get through. While in general, I am for a more frugal, decentralized government - I do think that everyone should have access to health care, and I do think we are paying way too much right now to drug/insurance companies.
Also, I actually think Bernie would also try to decrease spending in other areas - military spending, prison system being two examples. I am for both of these things. We keep more people in jail as a raw number and as a % of our population than any other country in the world. SAD! Bernie wants to decriminalize many drugs (but not all) - the most important being, of course, marijuana. This would immediately begin to alleviate the number of people we are sending to jail. A huge step forward as the War on Drugs is provably a failed policy. So while I don't think electing Bernie will cause less government spending, I also don't think it will get a lot worse - which is the main "Bernie is a commie" argument Republicans make. Or at least, I don't think it will be any worse than the Trump administration has been. After all, I believe that Republicans are really just as "socialist" but instead socialize the money through the military-industrial complex, defense spending, prison system, and other areas which IMO are significantly worse for our quality of life. And, just to show you but here is a breakdown of federal spending since 2007:
You can see on the chart that yes, spending increased sharply during 2008-9 as a response to the financial crisis, but then for the rest of Obama's term it remained even. Now during Trump's administration there have been sharp increases in spending year after year. It is a myth now that Republicans are more fiscally responsible. Because they spend just as much and then cut taxes running even bigger deficits. So while during the crisis and recovery, Obama did run large deficits, by 2013 it shrunk considerably and 2014-2016 the deficit was considerably smaller than any of Trump's 3 years 2017-19. And in 2019 Trump ran a deficit on par with some of Obama's deficits during the crisis and recovery - and this is during times of supposed economic boom, exactly when we should be fiscally responsible. But we aren't, and evidence like this makes me think people are insane when they want to tell me Trump is a good businessman smartly running the country who is fiscally responsible (as any businessman should be as they know the bottom line is important, etc...). The truth is that we don't really have any good choices of candidates anymore who are fiscally responsible unfortunately. But thinking Trump is a huge improvement over Bernie in this regard is just incorrect. And yes, Trump and the Republicans will attack Bernie or any progressive candidate saying - they are communist, socialist and they will bring this country to ruin. The joke is that all of them are socialists - all of them keep racking up the deficit and increasing the national interest. So, right now this election if it comes down to Bernie and Trump - you'll have the choice between HOW you want the government to spend you money, not IF. The Republicans in this regard have completely lost their way. So don't be fooled by their lies. I could get behind a more libertarian Republican party candidate and see myself voting for a candidate with those leanings. The current Republican party is authoritarian on social issues and weirdly not fiscally conservative anymore. Yes they are friendly to business, but I don't see that as being fiscally responsible.
I think one of Bernie's big strengths in this election and especially in comparison to Trump is his character. Bernie has integrity, morals, and compassion. He actually seems to me to be a genuine person who has a consistent message which won't change based on who is giving him money or his circumstances. Politicians say things all the time. They have to do this... They HAVE to give opinions and state their positions - but most of them don't really care about their answers and don't have any conviction. They will do what is the most expedient. And while I can respect someone being effective in office for sure - I also admire someone who actually believes the things they say. While I don't agree with everything Bernie states, I actually respect him for his conviction.
I feel pretty close to the opposite about all of this with Trump. He does not have integrity. He doesn't have a meaningful moral compass. He doesn't have compassion. He will do whatever is best for himself (and his family), and his message and decisions will change based on that calculus. While that's not that big a deal for someone in other situations, I think we should have higher standards for the person we elect to run our country and make decisions for the common good and utility of us all. I realize that in the last election, there weren't really any good choices for this criteria. Many Trump supporters absolutely hated Hillary, and the Clintons have a very checkered political past that is also self-serving. But this election isn't Trump vs Hillary. Noone is going to be shouting "Lock Him Up". Try as they might, Trump supporters cannot make Bernie more of a scum bag than Trump - that's simply not happening. Now Trump supporters have to look themselves in the mirror and say hey, it's not Trump vs an establishment political candidate who we think is a criminal - but Trump vs a political outsider who ran as an independent for a lot of his career. A guy who by any measure is a better, more moral, person than Trump. Now, we the Trump supporters, are supporting the scum bag. If you decide you like Trump's policies enough vs Bernie's to justify that, fine - but just realize that you are now supporting the scum bag because no matter what you think about Hillary Clinton, she is long gone.
Some words of encouragement to moderates who don't like Trump, but don't want someone as left as Bernie. First, remember that when it comes to the budget, it has to go through Congress. (Remember this in general - that first and foremost you are electing a President to manage the executive branch, the military, foreign relations, appoint judges, etc... NOT make the budget.) Republicans currently control the Senate, and if you think a Mitch McConnell controlled Senate is going to let many Bernie policies through, than I think you need to take some time to sober up. The main Republican strategy has been obstruction and gridlock, and I don't see why they will oblige Bernie when they didn't oblige Obama (who wanted to compromise much much more than Bernie likely will). The most important thing you are electing a president for are the things he controls more directly. That would be appointing judges, foreign policy and dealing with other countries, executive branch actions, enforcing federal laws, running the administration, etc... As someone with libertarian leanings, I actually think Sanders is more liberty-leaning and in line with my views as opposed to the authoritarian Trump. And I would encourage moderates to think about this very crucial idea as well. This stuff is the stuff you are getting for sure, and I think many moderates would find they agree more with Sanders on these issues than they agree with Trump.
Want to see for yourself? Come and take this test on www.isidewith.com
I think it's the best I've taken on the internet. It takes some time but gives you very precise feedback. And just to clarify a bit further both for the purposes of this article and to show how messed up our current political climate is: isidewith has me as a 65% libertarian with 82% issue agreement with Sanders & 29% with Trump (yet 73% with Ron Paul for example), and looking on the visual map I reasonably on the side between personal freedom & economic freedom (liberterian), across from the side with legislated morality and legislated equality (authoritarian). Map should be HERE
But as an aside, if you're a moderate who is scared about Bernie, you'd think it's crazy that I could be so in line with Ron Paul AND Bernie Sanders. Like how is that possible? I must be a raging left communist because I'm supporting Bernie, right? Yeah actually no - the current political climate is a strange one and classical views on what the left/right Dem/Rep are kind of wrong. I am not a registered Democrat and refuse to do so. I dislike the Democrat party - although I'd be forced to admit I dislike the Republican party more at this point in time. I think Bernie will elect good supreme court justices based on how I view the court. Bernie will prioritize environmental issues - something that is very important to me. I even wrote a long blog article - here - about the global warming situation here just over 3 years ago. These issues alone make it hard for me to vote for a Republican over a Democrat today. I'm not sure why the elephants want to destroy the world so much - you'd think they'd be worried about being an endangered species. If you care about the environment, re-electing Donald Trump is a travesty.
But let's get down to the nitty gritty of the next election and ask the question - can Bernie beat Trump?
First, there is something I am worried about - will the election be fair? And I don't mean the normal voter suppression tactics that are unfortunately going on in this country - such as strict ID laws, restricting voting times, no national holiday to vote which seems absurd given how many other national holidays we have (there are so many reasonable, easy, and obvious solutions to this. If you don't want to create a national voting holiday, than just move another national holiday such as "Presidents Day" etc...). No what I'm somewhat concerned about is that the next election will involve outright cheating. My take is that Trump would cheat if he could, and I doubt he will have any moral compunction in the matter. Trump has seen at this point that there aren't any consequences to his actions as his base is so dug in behind him, and the Republicans in Congress have shown they will support him no matter what, so I believe there is a chance he will brazenly attempt to cheat the elections. I believe Russia would definitely prefer him to be elected over whatever Democrat candidate, and would also help if they could seeing as there were no consequences.
But let's for a moment assume that the election doesn't involve cheating - maybe just the normal Republican anti-democratic voter suppression tactics that have become normal as they find themselves now more and more in a minority #s-wise and have decided they will do whatever-it-takes to win (#facts). I actually think you couldn't have come up with a much better Republican candidate for Bernie to run against.
Yes, Bernie is progressive - and quite left compared to the recent democratic options like Hillary, Obama, & Bill Clinton. He would be the most progressive candidate to come along since maybe FDR and the New Deal (perhaps not coincidentally after the last time we had such extreme economic inequality). Calling him a communist though, which Trump and Republicans likely will, is far-fetched and not accurate. But he is more to the left economically and believes in a more socialized system. Normally, this would be a pretty tough sell in America - but today might be the perfect storm for the Bern.
First, Trump. Trump is a very unpopular sitting president. Approval rating link He has never had an approval rating over 50% or a disapproval rating under 50%. While he has very strong support from a minority, he is overall disliked. Bernie has some moral and personal advantages here. Bernie Sanders is a compassionate guy who hasn't personally offended many people (if any). While you might disagree with some of his policies (and yes for me specifically economically there are some policies that I don't like - for example the Wealth Tax), it's pretty hard to say that Bernie Sanders isn't a good person. It's hard to say that he won't make his decisions based on what he thinks is best for the country. It's hard to say he doesn't have integrity. These are all personal questions I think Trump fails. Trump does not have integrity. Watch the Dirty Money episode on him for example, or anything reviewing his business past. He definitely makes decisions based on what is best for him and not the country (or investors), and I also disagree with many of Trump's policies. Maybe it's time that America stops just complaining about how immoral, selfish, psychotic, back-stabbing, narcissistic, and repugnant politicians are and actually elect someone who has integrity. The fact that Bernie is running against someone as disliked as Trump is (overall not by some) and who definitely loses the moral/integrity high-ground battle is a good start.
Second, current economic environment. The economic environment just might be ready for someone with a progressive message. There is a plethora of information and facts coming out that the income inequality in the USA is getting worse and worse. Here are 3 links to start out looking at:
We are at levels not seen in the USA since the 1920s & 1930s. Comparing our income distribution to other countries using an index such as the Gini coefficient, it's shocking to see that the only countries more unequal than the USA are significantly poorer countries from Africa, Asia, & South America. Not one single European country has a higher Gini coefficient.
I believe the message is starting to sink in, and only because so many Americans are realizing it is the truth looking around. That yes, some measures of the economy, such as stock markets and the GDP, have done well in the past 10 years - all of this growth is being realized by the rich who can afford to invest in these types of assets. There are some very clear economic explanations for why this is happening this way, but it is beyond the scope of this article. The point is that, there are historically extreme levels of income/economic inequality happening, and I think the USA is ripe for someone with Bernie's message ... especially regarding health care where Americans pay more per person than anyone else in the world.
"While the US has similar public spending, its private sector spending is triple that of comparable countries." The problem is our system is set up to allow health care / insurance / pharma companies to absolutely pillage our citizens. The message that we should have better, that this needs to change - is a real one that is ripe to be heard. I don't think that theoretically our system is necessarily bad with a mixture of socialized and privatized options. But, we don't live in a theoretical world, we live in a real one. And really, we have created a system which creates massive profits for health companies at the expense of the average American. Bernie actually has a solution for this, and it likely will not cost the average American more. Even if the tax burden goes up, it will likely not mean the American health consumer pays more - it means that drug/insurance companies will take a beating in the new situation.
So the health care situation sucks and there is a bigger difference than nearly ever between the rich and poor in the USA (a difference similar to many poor "3rd world" countries). This to me looks like a situation ripe for a progressive to come in and win an election - and who better than against a systemically unpopular opposition candidate in Donald Trump.
Lastly lets look at some Electoral demographics. This is very far out, still in the early stages of the Democrat primary, so some of these polls should be viewed very skeptically (I think if and once Sanders is definitely the nomination and there's been some time for the public to get that showdown firmly in their mind, the Sanders v Trump polls should be more significant), but as of right now if you assume the states that went heavy for Clinton/Trump in 2016 stay the same and just look at the polling in the swing states, Sanders rates to eek out a win. I think this type of analysis is way more significant than looking at national general polls, because the winner isn't whoever gets more total votes, but rather whoever gets more Electoral College votes.
Below H2H polls gathered from realclearpolitics:
Michigan: Sanders solidly ahead of Trump (average spread +5 over 5 polls)
Pennsylvania: Sanders slightly ahead (av +3 over 3 polls)
North Carolina: Sanders very narrow ahead (av +1.5 over 6 polls)
Florida: Basically even (Sanders ahead av +.3 over 4 polls)
Ohio: Sanders ahead av +2.5 over 2 polls
Wisconsin: Even (Even over 4 polls)
Minnesota: Sanders +9 in 1 poll
Iowa: Trump solid ahead av +6 in 4 polls
Arizona: Trump solid ahead av +5 in 5 polls
Nevada: Sanders av +2.7 over 4 polls
Texas: Trump solid ahead av +7.5 over 5 polls
Virginia: Sanders slight ahead av +1.5 over 3 polls
Georgia: Trump slight av +1.3 over 4 polls
If you put this on a map, it looks like this:
With 226 Electoral votes being solidly Democrat & 181 being solidly Republican. There are 61 leaning Democrat, 54 tossup, and 16 leaning Republican. So it currently looks quite close. I'd say this is pretty close to pick'em, but not currently with an advantage for Trump - if anything a slight one for Bernie. I would also question the following... I wonder if Georgia will actually be close? I wonder about North Carolina because - despite the polls - NC has only gone blue once (Obama's reelection) since 1976. But I personally think Bernie will do very well in the north midwest (the states that cost Hillary 2016), and I think he will probably win those states including hopefully Wisconsin despite it being a tossup here.
The point is, that right now Trump is being viewed as a solid favorite over Bernie and I just don't see it that way (unless there is outright cheating, in which case I am pretty scared for our future). Moreover, I believe that Bernie is likely the best pick the Dems could run out against Trump out of the remaining big 5 (Biden, Buttigieg, Warren, Bloomberg) although I won't expand on that much here. But a succinct argument is this: The dems have two main strategies which usually don't work together of: 1) try to get out the vote with their (larger) base or 2) appeal to moderates. I don't see a compelling appeal-to-moderates choice here that I think will do better in a GE than Bernie. Bernie might appeal to less moderates, but against an opponent in Trump who is also repugnant to those outside of his base (such as moderates) that might be less costly here in 2020 specifically. But Bernie is by far the most charismatic Dem candidate remaining. Bernie can fill out tens of thousands in a stadium to hear him speak. When factoring in the way Bernie excites the left and is likely to get a high turnout from a base which is demographically substantially larger than the Republican base - I think it adds up to a situation where Bernie is the best choice vs Trump. This is increasingly a point to remember... the Democrat base is larger than the Republican base and growing every year. This is just a demographic fact ... and an existential problem for the Republicans. (In fact this is why they are resorting to voter suppression tactics. It's just the way for scum bags to do immoral things to hold on rather than accept change and move on. Look at Tobacco. Look at Big Oil.) If a Democrat candidate can excite the base and get out the vote - that might be enough, especially if the Republican candidate already isn't that appealing to moderates.
At this point in the Dem primary, it looks like it will be nearly impossible for anyone other than Bernie to win enough delegates outright - and maybe even very difficult to enter a contested convention with more delegates than Bernie. If Bernie comes in to a contested convention the leader and the DNC gives the nomination to someone else - I think the fallout from that will be nuclear and not only will Trump win the election, the Democratic party might split in to two parties... one more represented by the DNC/moderate/corporate wing, and the other being the more progressive wing.
So summing it up - I think Bernie has a good chance to beat Trump in the general election this year. I think Sanders would of beat him in 2016 soundly, and thought it before Hillary lost as well as after. Trump was very unpopular then and barely beat Clinton. And this despite the fact that Trump was almost assuredly losing if Comey didn't release the vague servers statement just a week before the election, when Trump went from under 1% chance to around 35% chance in the polls. That is a massive upswing and essentially won him the election. That never would of came if he was running against Bernie, and the north midwest which turned against Hillary I think would have loved Bernie's friendly message for the average worker who is having a tough time. No matter what a Republican says, it is impossible that any Republican including Trump could ever appeal more than a compassionate progressive like Bernie to the average working man if both are effectively getting their message out - because one is lying and the other isn't.
Bernie sounds more intelligent and sharp than Trump does. Listen to them answer questions. Bernie will look sharper in the debates, where despite both being in their 70s, Bernie comes across as being much sharper and more witty in person at this point (Donald showing signs of definite mental degradation and watching interviews of him when he was younger he sounded way sharper in the past). Donald is much more personally distasteful to many more people than Bernie.
The biggest fade will be making Bernie look like a communist and extremist and what the perception of that will be in America. Normally I would be very worried about this, but given the current extreme economic inequality (and the way say the 2008 crash shook out with Wall Street & Main Street) I think that Bernie's message is not going to fall on deaf ears - especially his message about health care. Bringing it back to the beginning, the communist angle could even backfire some on Trump if Bernie is effective at communicating, and make Bernie look compassionate and Trump not and aloof.
I am intrigued though that both parties are unsatisfied with their candidates because the DNC and RNC are ultimately slimy political machines that essentially prop up a lot of corruption. It is also fascinating to see who are the two candidates that slipped through the cracks: Bernie and Trump, two candidates very different from the regular fare the parties run out. I believe this illuminates more of the real nature of today's political climate - beyond merely the plastic mannequins that the parties normally throw out there. There comes a moment where who your leader is says something about who you are and who you want to be. America needs to take a look in the mirror. I believe that regardless of policies, in a 2020 election between Bernie and Trump, this is an exceedingly easy decision to make between these two men on an integral, personal, and moral level. I can only hope my country agrees with me.