Here Comes Bernie

I talk often about the Democratic Party, especially now that we’re in campaign season and there are like twenty candidates to sift through. Two weeks ago I updated the betting odds to win the Democratic Primary, listing Harris (+300), O’Rourke (+400), Biden (+600) and Sanders (+750) as the top four favorites, and said that I believed Bernie Sanders at 7.5-to-1 was the best bet in the Democratic field. I didn’t have any inside information, and it wasn’t merely my brand of wishful thinking. I just said, look, Bernie is the most popular politician in the country. The policies he supports are the policies supported by a majority of the American people. Pretty lazy analysis, if you ask me.

But two weeks later the odds have changed, and drastically. Where Bernie was once in 4th at +750, he is now the favorite at +300. Harris is now the second favorite (at +350), while Biden (+400) has leapfrogged over O’Rourke (+450) in third. The next-best odds are at +900, so it’s clear which four candidates are ahead of the rest of the pack.

To put all that in other words: A $100 bet on Bernie Sanders two weeks ago would have paid out $750 if he won the primary; that same bet if placed today would net you only $300. That’s a massive difference. Further, two weeks ago Sanders was at +1000 — 10-to-1 — to win the Presidency. Today he is at +550, or 11-to-2. I’m not saying any of this means anything, because of course there is a long way to go before the winner is crowned, but if nothing else it does validate my original position. Bernie was the best bet, and he still is the best bet. The only difference now is that the betting markets have caught up.

I still believe Kamala Harris remains the biggest threat to Sanders’s chances, and almost all of why I think that has to do with identity. She checks the right boxes — (1) woman, (2) person of color — for those who don’t care about policies. Because once you take a look even for two seconds, you realize Harris is not only flimsy and wishy-washy on policy, but, what we do know about her, that she was once the lead prosecutor for the state of California, the types of cases she decided were worth dedicating her time to involved cracking down on poor people and arguing against a parole program that would have granted early release to inmates.

The most infamous item in Kamala’s time as Attorney General wasn’t for a case she pursued; it was for a case she wouldn’t even take. Then-CEO of One West Bank (and now Donald Trump’s Treasurer), Steve Mnuchin, committed a thousand violations while he was at the helm. But Harris decided not to do anything about it, and, as these things go, Mnuchin later donated to Kamala Harris’s victorious Senate campaign in California.

Okay, so I’m not trying to shit all over Kamala Harris here. But surely the past has to matter, right? Corruption out in the open is a bad thing, isn’t it? People on the news keep telling me Kamala Harris is a rising star in the Democratic Party, but seemingly the only things I know about her are that she has been against pot legalization, she wanted to prosecute the parents of kids who were truant at school, she didn’t want to grant early release to the state’s free labor, and she didn’t prosecute a super rich guy who ended up donating to her Senate bid. All of those things suck.

Maybe she’s a nice person in real life, and maybe she is earnest about Medicare For All and other popular social programs a majority of Americans support. But when you look at her record as prosecutor, and you see the types of people she usually came down hard on were poor (disproportionately people of color), and the types of people she chose not to go after were extremely wealthy (and tied to Wall Street), I don’t know what would make you think once she became President she would all of a sudden flip those practices.

But this is why I don’t identify as a Democrat. When you think the Democratic Party, you think of Barack Obama and the Clinton family; after all, this is still their Party. When I think of all the 2020 candidates the corporate media establishment are trying to shove down my throat — Harris, O’Rourke, Biden — I see nothing more than facsimiles of the same proven failure of an ideology.

Beto O’Rourke might be the most interesting of that bundle, if for no other reason than how comically opposed he is to mentioning any policies he supports. Like Harris, on the surface O’Rourke seems palatable. He says a lot of words and sounds upbeat — like he is passionate about what he’s saying — but then you look at his track record and see there isn’t a lot there. (And even when you listen to what he is saying there isn’t a lot there.)

In past blogs I have talked about how he has voted against single-payer healthcare and free college. He has voted three times to increase Donald Trump’s military budget. He has taken more money from the fossil fuel industry than anyone in Washington not named Ted Cruz. And on top of it all, his personal net worth hovers around $10 million, while his wife’s side of the family is worth billions. And yes, all of those things suck.

Again I am not going to imply that any of this makes Beto O’Rourke a bad person, it just makes you wonder why he should be leading a party that is supposed to look out for regular people. Everything in his recent past suggests he is a neoliberal cut from the same cloth as Obama and Clinton (and Harris… and Biden), so why should ordinary people like me believe he is going to upset the system that has made him and his wife’s family so wealthy?

Going into Bernie Sanders’s 2020 campaign I was kind of under the impression he would continue with his 2016 message. I thought he would talk about Medicare For All and free college and a higher minimum wage and expanded Social Security benefits until the cows came home. If that’s how he played it I wouldn’t be upset, because I’m a policy guy. I’m here for all of that.

Surprisingly, but in a good way, he has been more in your face about where the country now is. He talks about Medicare For All and how in 2016 everyone said it was a radical idea, but now in 2020 every serious Democratic contender supports it; he talks about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and how in 2016 everyone said it was a radical idea, but now five states have passed it and Amazon has made it their base rate; he talks about money in politics and how in 2016 he didn’t take money from corporate PACs, and now in 2020 several candidates have followed suit.

This is essentially what the last two years of this blog have consisted of. I have written about how Bernie Sanders was on the right side of all of these issues before they were popular, and why I trust him more than the others to follow through if and when he becomes President. As I said in the original paragraph, none of this is complicated business. I don’t know more than the next person, I just do my lazy thing and find that this is what makes sense to me.

That’s why I am absolutely convinced the problem with Sanders isn’t that his ideas are too radical, it’s that not enough people are exposed to those ideas. In 2016 Hillary Clinton had something like a 70-point advantage over Bernie when he entered the race. By the end, he took home 47 percent of the pledged delegates. Cheating in the DNC notwithstanding, he almost won.

What I really mean is this: When Clinton started talking, she lost support. She didn’t have any original ideas, and her campaign slogan “I’m With Her” expressed perfectly what her mission was all about. It was all about her.

You compare that to Sanders, who ran far from a perfect campaign. But one thing he did effectively was he talked about policies relentlessly. And when he talked about policies, people liked what they heard. I mean he was also up against a media establishment that would rather show Donald Trump’s empty podium than Sanders after he won a primary, and places like The Washington Post and New York Times running hit and smear pieces all goddamn day. Even with everything working against him, his message still seeped through.

We will definitely see what happens, but it means something that Bernie Sanders went from 10-to-1 down to 5.5-to-1 to beat Trump in 2020, and it means something that he jumped over the field and went from 7.5-to-1 down to 3-to-1 to win the Democratic nomination. I can write and write and write some more about Democrats and Socialists and politics in general, and you can either take it in stride or believe I am another crazy lefty who is blinded by idealism.

But there is no denying sports books, who really have no dog in the fight outside of giving the least favorable odds to the favorite, and the most favorable odds to the long-shots. They want to scare you away from betting on the favorite, just as they want to entice you into betting on those who don’t have a chance. The top four are all in the same range of odds — anywhere from +300 to +450 — but the fact that Bernie has ascended so quickly is kind of making me think he can do this.