Going Soft on Sanders

Bernie Can't Win

Seemingly concerned that I am going soft on Sanders, and perhaps soft in the head as well, a friend has shared an op-ed in the Financial Times: Janan Ganesh, Democrats are targeting the riches of the 1 percent. (Sorry, I don’t have a link.)

The burden of Mr. Ganesh’s argument is that—contrary to what you may think you are hearing—Bernie does not in fact want to drive America toward the type of political economy prevalent in Denmark and other European democratic socialist countries. That’s because Bernie says he plans only to tax the very, very rich, all the while giving a pass to those who are just very affluent, those who live in “the handsome suburbs around Tampa.” In Europe, he allows, they finance their social safety net by placing heavy taxes on the upper middle class as well as the very rich. But Bernie’s “appeal is less to Nordic universalism and solidarity than to the noblesse oblige of a remote overclass who will not miss the money.”

Ganesh seems to think—though he doesn’t fully develop his argument—that Bernie’s plans to finance his socialist paradise are unethical and dishonest, that affluent folks will see through them, and that they will be driven into the arms of Trump. He concludes, “And so even the most leftwing bunch in decades proposes a social democracy that is not very social, nor all that democratic, and as European as the Eiffel Tower that disfigures the Vegas Strip.”

I shall not dispute the accuracy or the cleverness of Mr. Ganesh’s observations. The point I have been making recently is quite different: it is that, whatever downsides you see in Bernie Sanders—and let us stipulate, for the sake of the discussion, that these faults and downsides are as numerous as the sands of the sea—Bernie appears to be the one viable candidate who has grasped what may be the one most important thing to a vast part of our population: that vast and growing inequality is making their lives a misery.

Bernie sees the elephant in the room. Bernie is willing to talk about the elephant in the room, not just the color of the wallpaper or the design of the chairs.

Robert Reich makes more or less the same point in a recent op-ed:

Robert Reich, Calm down, establishment Democrats. Bernie Sanders might be the safest choice: “Moderate” candidates won’t be electable if they can’t speak to middle- and working-class frustrations.

My estimation of Mr. Reich’s wisdom and perspicacity has greatly increased, due to the fact that he and I seem to think along the same lines.

And, BTW, if you still think that “Bernie can’t win,” you may wish to check out

Steve Phillips, Bernie Sanders Can Beat Trump. Here’s the Math: Most available evidence points in the direction of a popular vote and Electoral College victory.

Starting to Spread

Sanders Can’t Win, Sanders Can Win

Sanders Can’t Win

William Saletan, The Great Socialism Gap: Socialism doesn’t freak out Democratic voters the way it freaks out other Americans. That’s a problem.

Indeed.

Saletan writes,

 In a Gallup poll taken last month, Democrats didn’t differ much from independents in their stated willingness to vote for a black, female, gay, or atheist presidential nominee. For a Muslim nominee, the gap was more then 30 net percentage points. For a socialist, it was more than 60 points. Three-quarters of Democrats were willing to vote for a socialist. Most independents—and, consequently, most of the Gallup respondents—weren’t.

Why are Americans more likely to refuse (or, at least, to tell pollsters that they refuse) to vote for a socialist than for a woman or a Muslim? Probably because socialism isn’t an innate characteristic or a matter of personal faith. It’s a doctrine about how government should intervene in the lives of other people. That makes it a legitimate reason to vote against a candidate and therefore—unlike race, sex, or religion—a legitimate factor when you’re considering whether to nominate a candidate other voters won’t support. …

Democrats, perhaps because they differ from the rest of the electorate in their feelings about socialism, are bad at estimating how socialism would play in a general election. Two weeks ago, in the Yahoo News poll, a 49 percent plurality of Democrats said most, nearly all, or about half of Americans would consider voting for a presidential candidate who called himself a democratic socialist. The guess was incorrect. According to the same poll, only 35 percent of voters said they’d consider voting for such a candidate. Democrats got it wrong.

Sanders Can Win

Greg Sargent, Can Bernie Sanders really beat Trump? His pollster makes the case.

Lots of good points on the pro-Bernie side, too. But Greg Sargent and Bernie’s pollster do not address the socialism branding issues raised in the Salatan piece.

Many People Say …

Many people say that if it’s a Trump referendum, then Trump loses. But if it’s a Trump-Sanders fight, then it’s no longer a Trump referendum, it’s a choice/contrast election. Sanders’s pollster says no, it’s still a Trump referendum. You can decide for yourself whether that’s right or not.

Tuesday’s Two-Handed Conclusion

On the one hand, the safer choice this afternoon seems to be go with a Not Trump generic Democrat, and preserve the Trump referendum.

On the other hand, the hand wringers need to get a grip. Remember, for example, that recent polling in Michigan, about the swingiest of the swing states.