Many odds makers now consider Bernie Sanders as the favorite Democratic nominee to take on Trump. For many in the progressive media, the self-described socialist and Independent is already the “presumptive nominee” having a solid ground game carried over from the 2016 race and a consistent progressive message that especially appeals to 18-29 demographic. In a sense, a perfect storm is brewing for Sanders as Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Biden and now Bloomberg are splitting the moderate centrist vote. Nevertheless, regardless of the outcome, it is critical that all Democrats get fully behind the eventual nominee. We cannot have a repeat of 2016 when Democratic “Never Hillary” supporters crossed over and voted for Trump assuring him of a surprising victory.
The March 3rd Super Tuesday outcome will be telling with one third of the population voting in 13 states plus American Samoa and Democrats abroad. On March 3rd, it is conceivable that Sanders could build an insurmountable lead if all the moderate candidates are still on the ballot splitting the moderate vote evenly amongst them.
Also, unorthodoxly some Trump supporters are temporarily switching parties to vote for the “socialist Bernie” as he and his ideology are thought to be the best opponent to fire up Trump’s base. In New Hampshire, for example, we watched live on MSNBC as some apparent unaffiliated Trump supporters registered as a Democrat on the day of the election and then unregistered immediately afterward. Trump encouraged that practice at his New Hampshire rally the night before and is encouraging that practice in other states with open primaries. There is little that the Democratic Party establishment can do to stop it except to aggressively push one of the moderate Democratic candidates to the front, something that is sure to alienate the Sanders voters.
Pete Buttigieg, for one, is making his case having earned more delegates than Sanders in the first two states. However, the Bernie supporters have tagged him as “Wall Street Pete” for taking donations from “billionaires”, Super Pacs and at “$900 a bottle wine caves”. Amy Klobuchar made an impression in New Hampshire, but may not have the financial resources to sustain her New Hampshire surge. She has also been branded as someone who treats her staff poorly, suffering one of the highest rate of staff turnover by Senators. Joe Biden, the early favorite in the race, has struggled in knowing how to effectively counter the Hunter Biden Ukraine conspiracy, but is holding on through South Carolina hoping for a large African American vote.
Elizabeth Warren is trying to find traction in-between the Sanders loyalists and the moderates, but the Sanders supporters on the left of her remain steadfast in the Bernie lane while the moderates to the right of her are scared off by the cost of her “plans for everything”. Her campaign seems to be floundering after a fourth-place finish in New Hampshire, a state bordering her home state of Massachusetts, and for which she was expected to do very well. She got no delegates out of New Hampshire, a bad omen for the future of her campaign. If she suspends her campaign early, probably the largest percentage of her supporters and delegates will turn to Sanders.
Michael Bloomberg, the late comer in the race has been saturating the national airwaves with $350 million worth of TV ads. The ads appear to be working as polls show him rising, but we won’t know for sure until the results of voting on March 3rd, Super Tuesday are known. He is having to answer for his "stop and frisk" laws while mayor of New York.
In my state of Colorado as well as other Super Tuesday states, we have already received our ballots in the mail for early voting. Colorado has 17 names on the ballot including Michael Bloomberg.
So how did Bernie Sanders who will be 79 years old on election day, not even a registered Democrat, and shunning the Democratic platform for his own revolutionary socialist platform, become such a strong candidate to win the Democratic nomination?
Sanders’s favorable position in the Democratic nomination process just didn’t happen. One must credit him for being a shrewd politician and opportunist who understands the electorate probably as well or better than Donald Trump. Sanders has executed a well-orchestrated campaign plan that builds and improves on the gains of his 2016 campaign. First, he forced many rules changes to the 2016 Democratic nomination process that will help him in the 2020 nomination process. Secondly, and most importantly, he has continued to keep his base of loyal supporters engaged by participating in endless rallies from 2017 to 2020. His message of free healthcare for everyone, free college for everyone, and the cancellation of all student debt resonates with young people especially. He has polished his message on the “free stuff” while avoiding or dismissing any questions as to how the $60 trillion price tag of his proposals will be paid for. Furthermore, polls show that all five of the top Democratic Party candidates including Sanders are favored to beat Trump in November 2020, and Sanders certainly lets his supporters know that the “dream” is indeed possible.
As mentioned above, at the 2016 Democratic Convention and later in 2018, even though he wasn’t the nominee, Sanders used the leverage of his avid supporters to force several rules changes to the 2020 Democratic nomination process. The most significant rule change is that the Super Delegates that helped propel Hillary Clinton to victory in the primaries, now have no vote in the primary process and can only come into play if no candidate achieves a majority of delegates going into the convention – hence helping decide a brokered convention. But even then, if he achieves a “super plurality” in the primary campaign many of the Super Delegates will feel compelled to support Bernie, not to mention that, unlike 2016, the list of Super Delegates now includes many Bernie supporters like Representative Ocasio-Cortez.
Furthermore, after his defeat in 2016, Sanders did not lay down. He continued over the next 3½ years pushing his Democratic Socialist agenda by participating in countless rallies for several noble causes, and especially taking advantage of the 2018 mid-term primaries where he campaigned and attended rallies all over the USA in support of Democrats on the ballot. In many of those rallies held on university campuses and paid for by the respective local Democratic parties and candidates, he upstaged the candidates as the crowd went into their characteristic “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie” chant. Those rallies kept his base energized and loyal, much the same as Trump’s endless rallies following his election have kept his base energized.
Sanders’s base of rabid loyal supporters assures him of at least 25-30 percent of the votes in the remaining states, Washington DC and the five territories. His share of the delegate count in each of these states will be much higher as the large field of moderate candidates – Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, and now Michel Bloomberg – will continue to split the moderate vote until one or more drop out. The moderates’ chance of beating Bernie will require that the field be reduced to two or maybe three by Super Tuesday. If Buttigieg and Bloomberg are the only declared candidates on Super Tuesday besides Sanders, then both can probably be viable (more than 15 percent in each state and Congressional district). But shortly thereafter the field will have to be winnowed to just Sanders and one moderate, perhaps Buttigieg or Bloomberg but not both as they will split the moderate vote.
Whatever the outcome it is important that Democrats unify behind the ultimate Democratic Party candidate whether it be Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg or someone else. A repeat of 2016 in which some 10 percent of the disenchanted Bernie supporters crossed over and voted for Trump must not happen as the election is again expected to be very close. With Democratic cross over votes to Trump, the perfect storm for Donald Trump winning in 2016 could be reenacted as another perfect storm for him winning again in 2020...an agonizing thought.
For my part, as a passionate Hillary supporter in 2016, I will be knocking on doors in support of Pete Buttigieg. However, if the Democratic nominee is Bernie Sanders, I will relish the thought that Trump supporters helped put him there as he goes on to defeat Trump in the general election. In campaigning for him I will be honest in telling everyone that I saw next to zero chance of his being able to enact any of his signature “freebee” proposals, but I’ll trust him to nominate good progressive judges to the Supreme Court and lower courts. Defeating Trump should be an urgent priority for all Democrats, Democratic Socialists, Independents and moderate Republicans. America cannot afford another four years of his creeping fascism undermining our Republic.