Something I didn’t mention in the Pete Buttigieg blog was just how shallow his support is. The same people who are backing him now were once very likely supporters of Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, or any number of other candidates who they thought would eventually gain steam. That’s been the story of the 2020 race so far, the constant boom and bust cycle of each flavor of the month candidate.
Joe Biden has basically been the frontrunner from the get-go, but he has been losing support all the way through. Elizabeth Warren surged a couple months ago, and now she is back with the pack. Kamala Harris, who I thought of as one of the major favorites going in, just dropped out. O’Rourke is out. Booker never made it past like four percent. So: I’m not saying Mayor Pete is destined to fail, but based on how things have gone with other candidates, and the fact that he isn’t markedly different from any of them, leads me to think odds are more likely than not that he will fall back as well.
It all reminds me of something Cornell West said back in March, on a podcast with The Intercept:
Yeah, but [most of the Democratic candidates] are newcomers, you know, and they’re latecomers. Bernie is the real thing. Bernie has been a thermostat. He has shaped the climate of opinion. Too many of them are thermometers. They reflect the climate of opinion. When you’re a thermostat, you are consistent. You are speaking your truth. You are bearing your witness and there’s no doubt that Bernie and he would say, of course the whole movement from Occupy, especially in the younger generation, multiracial to the core, that they have been thermostats. They have shaped the climate of opinion and I think many of us in our own small ways really we can celebrate the fact that people now have to talk about grotesque wealth inequality as a result of social movements, as a result of organizing and mobilizing. The Black Lives movement, that’s part of that too. The Black Lives movement has a critique of grotesque wealth inequality just as they have a critique of militarism. All of these things go hand in hand.
Buttigieg is one of the many thermometers West is referencing, just another politician who came along with a loose set of convenient beliefs for the times. I backed Bernie, the losing horse, in 2016, and it still kind of dumbfounds me every time someone asks who I am supporting in 2020. Bernie supporters were right in 2016 — we said Hillary stood a chance to lose (which she did), and that Bernie would have won — so why would I (or any of the rest of us) roll with somebody else this time around?
Whether liberals like it or not, the 2020 race is just 2016 all over again. The reason is that Bernie Sanders’ 2016 platform is still what everybody is talking about. Candidates went in saying they wouldn’t accept corporate PAC money, they went in endorsing some form of Medicare For All, they went in with some form of expanding opportunities for public college. In 2016 these ideas were popular, of course, but Hillary Clinton had too much of an ego to give in on any of them.
This time around the centrists and establishment-backed horses weren’t afforded that luxury. Bernie’s ideas were and are more popular, so the cavalcade of candidates knew if they didn’t at least pay lip service to those popular ideas they would have no chance of winning over the Democratic base. That has (temporarily, at least) paved the way for people like Pete Buttigieg and (to a much lesser degree) Elizabeth Warren.
Joe Biden still leads the national polls by a comfortable margin, but in reality it’s a very soft advantage. Consider that Bernie Sanders is at or near the top of the Iowa polls — the first primary state. Consider that he is probably going to win comfortably, as he did in 2016, in New Hampshire — the second primary state. And consider that he is currently leading in Nevada — the third primary state. If Sanders can somehow win the first three primary states, a somewhat unlikely but hardly unrealistic set of events, what then of Joe Biden?
It’s nice to lead in national polls, but I’m saying national polls don’t mean a helluva lot when the Democratic Primary goes state-by-state in the beginning. If and when Bernie wins Iowa, and then New Hampshire, and then Nevada, his campaign is going to have all the momentum, and the Dem field by that point will probably be whittled down to just three or four candidates.
And if we assume the final three or four candidates involve, in some order, Bernie, Biden, Warren and Buttigieg, then the real contrasts can finally begin. Joe Biden is clearly a centrist, the furthest-to-the-right candidate in the field, and Buttigieg is a fake progressive who doesn’t believe in Medicare For All or free public college. On the other end you are left with Elizabeth Warren, who is Bernie-lite, and Bernie himself.
I said from the beginning that I believe this race will come down to an establishment candidate and a progressive candidate, but right now I just can’t picture a scenario that doesn’t involve Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. I feel like that’s the old white guy matchup America needs to see. At some point between now and then, Elizabeth Warren needs to think long and hard about which side of the fence she is on. If she is as lefty as everyone makes her seem, then what she ought to do is drop out and endorse Bernie. The longer she stays in the race, the more it feels like she is aiming at a three-way chop (along with Biden and Sanders) to where the DNC can handpick their candidate on the second ballot of the Democratic Convention.
I shouldn’t have to tell you how disastrous it would be for the Democratic Party if Bernie Sanders wins the most states and earns the most pledged delegates, only to have the DNC steal it from him at the convention. Not only would that be a suicidal proposition for the 2020 general election, almost surely guaranteeing a Trump victory, but it might dissolve the Party altogether.
This, of course, assumes the Democrats’ main priority — as they claim — is defeating Donald Trump. I’ve been consistent in saying the party establishment would rather lose to Trump in 2020 than win with Bernie Sanders. There aren’t a lot of us who see it that way, but by this point the evidence seems overwhelming. The mainstream media has been against him from the very beginning, and party leadership still refuses to endorse Medicare For All or any of the other popular policies he is for.
I want Bernie to win, but there’s a part of me that just wants to witness the complete chaos that would come from a Sanders vs. Trump matchup:
- I want to see the Never Trump Republicans — that have gained popularity on places like MSNBC and CNN — fall back in line and support Trump over Bernie.
- I want to see all the liberals who blamed Hillary Clinton’s loss on Bernie supporters who stayed home or voted third party… turn around and either back Trump or vote third party.
- I want to see millionaire MSNBC and CNN personalities exposed for what they are — corporate — in not going all the way to support Donald Trump while also making it clear that a Sanders Presidency isn’t what they want, either.
- I want to see Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi go silent because they don’t support what Sanders stands for.
- I want to see all the Republicans who litter my Facebook feed puff out their chests, for it’s going to be so easy to defeat an old socialist.
The point is, none of it matters. People don’t like the mainstream news. They don’t trust it. And people don’t like the Democratic Party establishment, the Pelosi’s or the Schumer’s. Bernie Sanders doesn’t need any of these people to win. He only needs ordinary, working people. And if he is the Democratic nominee he is going to crush Donald Trump in a general election. Democrats win when the voter turnout is high. They lose when the turnout is low.
So you can take the 60 million people who are going to vote for Trump, and you can take the millionaires on the news to tell you that Bernie Sanders would be bad for the country. Bernie’s game plan doesn’t involve changing minds of people who are already set in their ways, or trying to appease the rich. It’s all about workers. And since half the country — some 170 million people or so — don’t vote, he is banking on some percentage of them (maybe 5, maybe 10), to come out. And if they do, it doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say.
I’m laying out the absolute best-case scenario here, but I can assure you that the challenge will not be a potential matchup against Trump. The challenge is winning the Democratic Primary when the entire establishment — both political and media — are against him. The DNC rigged the game against him in 2016 and he still managed to come away with something like 45% of the pledged delegates. He won 23 states.
I’ve been steadfast in saying Bernie isn’t going to win. I still won’t allow myself to get my hopes up. I didn’t start caring about politics until 2015, because of Bernie, but I know for sure that this opportunity isn’t going to come around again for at least another decade, but probably longer. By then I will be a 39 year-old, I will probably be married and I will probably have a couple kids. My life will be in an entirely different position, something I couldn’t predict even if I wanted to.
The only thing I’m certain of is that no other candidate — not Biden, not Buttigieg, and not Warren — stand as good of a chance to win as Bernie does. And further, even if they did win there is much less chance that it would meaningfully impact my life. Young people like me have so few opportunities to think big, to think there is something better out there that exists. My fear is that is it doesn’t happen with Bernie, it won’t happen at all.
This point of view doesn’t get reflected hardly at all on mainstream airways, since places like Fox News are more prone to calling Sanders a crazy socialist, and places like CNN and MSNBC are more centered on downplaying his popularity or ignoring him altogether. But one thing I can promise you is that despite all this, despite the constantly negative coverage that surrounds his campaign, he does have the people on his side. I don’t think the political establishment, the corporate media, liberal wine moms, or conservative Facebook posters, are prepared for what’s going to happen when the votes start pouring in.
For that, I say bring on Iowa. Bring on New Hampshire. Bring on Nevada. Let’s stop dreaming on rising star candidates, and let’s stop telling Americans that popular policies won’t play well in non-coastal states. Let’s just get to the votes, the real shit, and let the best candidate win.