The Democratic nomination process for 2020 is a race and Bernie Sanders should be the overwhelming favourite. He’s just announced his candidacy, and he’s the form horse, having come a close second in 2016. He won 46 per cent of elected delegates and 23 states. He smashed all sorts of fundraising records. He has a huge movement behind him, something which none of the other announced Democratic candidates have.
Somehow, by hook and crook, the Clinton machine scuppered his candidacy last time. But the Clinton machine is nearly destroyed. Who can stop him now? Bernie has consistently polled as the most popular politician in America. He’s a social-media phenomenon who probably doesn’t know what Instagram is. In an age when everybody loathes politicians, he is widely seen as authentic and good. Likeability wins elections. Bernie isn’t just liked but adored.
Sanders’s political achievements should never be underestimated. He has moved the Democratic Party – kicking and screaming – to the left. It is, in many ways, the Bernie Party now. Sanders’s rivals now compete to be Bernier than each other: Medicare-for-all is now standard policy fare among Democratic hopefuls. Four years ago, it was seen as dangerous.
Of course, one might argue that now Bernie has more competition on the left: Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and others are all ploughing the left-populist terrain. Tulsi Gabbard is a rival among the anti-war crowd. His radicalism no longer feels quite so radical. He’s lost his edge, etc. Add his age (he’s 77) and one starts to wonder if he might be past it.
But politics rewards innovators more than imitators, and Bernie Sanders is the real deal. His old-skool 1950s socialism has more authenticity than the identity-based diversity of the new new left. People trust him. Can the same be said for Amy Klobuchar?
The media will be a problem, again. We saw in 2016 how the mainstream press – take the lowest bow, Washington Post – consistently undermined him. His socialism is a bit too real to be palatable to the elite, though there are now prominent pro-Bernie journalists and he has his own, powerful internet networks.
But President Trump has shown that being the enemy of the enemy of the people can be a strength. The more obviously the media class disdain a candidate, the more people warm to him or her.
Sanders is also best placed to best Donald Trump. He could eat into Trump’s poor, rural support like no other. In 2016, he performed best in places such as West Virginia and New Hampshire. He wasn’t loved in rich, metropolitan areas, because rich, metropolitan people tend not to love redistributive fiscal policies.
But that is precisely his strength. His has an integrity that Donald Trump, the billionaire populist, cannot match. Beyond some questions about his wife and a land deal, nobody doubts he is a man who sticks to his own principles. He may be getting a bit too grouchy in his old age, but for now people seem to find that endearing.
In short, Bernie’s got this. It will be fun watching his rivals try to stop him. It’s hard to see how they can.