Unapologetic democratic socialism will survive 2020, but if Trump wins, there could be no democracy by the 2024 election. Trumpists have been strangely obsessed with ignorant nonsense against a “radical left” Democratic party.
One question that is not about electability as much as General Election tactical messaging is whether more specifically Sanders will effectively combat opposition research that has made Trumpists encouraged by a Sanders nomination despite the polling leads.
David Frum tests that proposition by examining the oppositional disinformation possible in the General Election against a Sanders candidacy. Online mischief is getting worse on the eve of the caucuses/primaries as Sanders takes an aggregated polling lead.
Bernie Can’t Win
But unless other Democrats take a page from his book—stressing the practical over the theoretical, the universal over the particular—they won’t prevail either.
Bernie Sanders is a fragile candidate. He has never fought a race in which he had to face serious personal scrutiny. None of his Democratic rivals is subjecting him to such scrutiny in 2020. Hillary Clinton refrained from scrutinizing Sanders in 2016. It did not happen, either, in his many races in Vermont. A Politico profile in 2015 by Michael Kruse argued that Sanders had benefited from “an unwritten compact between Sanders, his supporters, and local reporters who have steered clear” of writing about Sanders’s personal history “rather than risk lectures about the twisted priorities of the press.”
The Trump campaign will not steer clear. It will hit him with everything it’s got. It will depict him as a Communist in the grip of twisted sexual fantasies, a useless career politician who oversaw a culture of sexual harassment in his 2016 campaign. Through 2019, Donald Trump and his proxies hailed Sanders as a true voice of the people, thwarted by the evil machinations of the Hillary Clinton machine. They will not pause for a minute before pivoting in 2020 to attack him as a seething stew of toxic masculinity whose vicious online followers martyred the Democratic Party’s first female presidential nominee.
“Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney, and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it,” Hillary Clinton says in a forthcoming documentary. She stood by those words in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter last week. At the Sundance Film Festival in Utah this past weekend, Clinton told Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic’s editor in chief, that Sanders—alone among the Democratic aspirants in 2020—had refused to meet with her. If Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, you will hear Clinton’s negative assessment of him repeated so often by pro-Trump talkers that you will almost think Clinton is Trump’s running mate.
Trump will terrorize the suburban moderates with the threat that Sanders will confiscate their health insurance and stock holdings, if not their homes. Trump accused Democrats of pro-ayatollah sympathies for noticing that his story about the killing of Qassem Soleimani was full of holes. In 1980, Sanders joined a left-wing party whose presidential candidate condemned “anti-Iranian hysteria around the U.S. hostages” being held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, suggesting that “many of them are simply spies … or people assigned to protect the spies,” as Ronald Radosh reported in The Daily Beast. Imagine what Trump and his team will do with that.
The members of the team around Sanders are experts in Democratic Party factional infighting. Few have dealt with people who do not play by the rules of the mainstream Democratic Party. They have always been the rule breakers, the people who got inside the other team’s decision cycle. They have been the Minute Men fighting the Redcoats, picking off the other side’s regulars from behind trees and fences. Now they are about to experience what happens when a militia faces off on an open field against a ruthless modern army with cluster bombs and napalm. They will be shredded and torched.
The problem remains that it won’t be like 2016, it could be much worse, and CNN fans the flames:
Sanders now identifies as a “democratic socialist” and says he is not a capitalist. This may not be a dealbreaker among Iowa Democrats since some 43 percent of likely caucus-goers use the word 'socialist' to describe themselves.
But Guma said Sanders’ background with leftist groups could be used to indicate to Democrats that Sanders, who didn’t formally register with the Democratic Party until 2015, isn’t fully one of them.
Some Republicans also view elements of Sanders’ early biography as a vulnerability to be exploited.
In 1977, [Bernie Sanders] left the tiny left-wing Liberty Union Party of Vermont that he'd co-founded, and in 1980 instead aligned himself with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the self-proclaimed Trotskyist revolutionary party, became its presidential elector in Vermont, and campaigned for its candidates and platform that defended the Iranian hostage seizure.
Note that I will vote Blue no matter who. My ideological position is consonant with Sanders, but at present I support Warren since Harris withdrew. My state’s primary is very late in the process.