will be interesting to see the results pour in tomorrow night and watch, in real time, as the media learns that much of the pro-Bernie vote in 2016 was actually anti-Clinton and that he would have been smoked in the general.
Signed, a WV Democrat who told you that in 2016
— John Cole (@Johngcole) March 9, 2020
As someone who has never thought Bernie’s support was as broad as it was deep, so far this primary has been a validation of, well, my existence. I mean, I live and breathe and talk to Democrats in West Virginia, I’ve watched dozens of progressive candidates flame out and the Mountain Party never do anything other than act as a spoiler if they are even that relevant, and my friends are from West Virginia and I saw and heard the anti-Hillary rhetoric, so it was kind of maddening listening to underemployed neckbeards from Brooklyn writing for socialist magazines telling me Bernie would have won West Virginia in the general election. He wouldn’t have, he won’t in 2020, and Biden probably won’t, either. Also, when I tell you Manchin is the best we can get for now, I am not just making shit up.
For those still in denial, Bernie’s popularity in 2016 was based on decades of anti-Hillary propaganda, a series of media attacks from… the media, residual distaste for the ACA and Democrats in general, her association with the swarthy Kenyan muslim usurper,and a whole host of other things, including her Kinsley gaffe about coal mining jobs. It was not because Bernie was super popular. Indeed, all the folks who were super pro-Bernie in the primary promptly voted for Trump in the general, and now are busy sharing anti-Socialist and anti-Communist memes and discussing his trips to Cuba and Russia and his penchant for flying first class as a socialist and oh the vacation home and did you hear about his wife and that college she ran?
Let me put it this way: If your signature policy proposal is medicare for all, which polls over 50% everywhere and you can not sell it during a global pandemic to the liberal party, maybe it is time to look past the message and focus on the candidate and the strategy.
Again, all of this felt perfectly predictable to me, but the insularity of people on the internet and the actual desperation that so many people are feeling regarding their financial and medical situations can cloud people’s judgment. At this point, though, we have gone from Bernie being the frontrunner to this being Biden’s race to lose, and I don’t see much in the way of opportunity for Bernie to turn things around. There is the debate coming up, and I expect that to be vicious. The Republicans, the Russians, and the Jacobin/Intercept crowd, as well as rank and file Sanders supporters, have spent the last few weeks convinced that Biden is deep in the throes of dementia, so even if the debate is tepid I expect a shitload of made up or exaggerated bullshit about his mental health.
The race can still be won by Bernie- there are a ton of delegates still out there. But really, at this point, Sanders needs a win and the only way for Bernie to turn things around is to go negative. Beyond the fact that this will damage Biden in the general should he win the nomination, there is also the decades worth of research (it really started to pick up in the early 90’s when I was a poly sci major) that shows that negative campaigning hurts not only the attacked, but the attacker, and can often backfire. So while he may be able to slow down Biden, he won’t necessarily be helping himself.
On the other hand, there are lots of fertile areas for Bernie to hit Biden without going negative or being churlish. Joe Biden is straight up LYING about his Iraq war vote, and again, Biden’s entire campaign platform is him standing on a stage next to Trump, pointing at him, and saying “For real? This fucking guy?” Bernie can contrast his popular and transformative agenda without going negative. I have my doubts that he will, but he can.
Two quick things- First, I don’t think Biden has dementia. I watched the interview on Lawrence, have watched him speak, and what I see is the same old Joe Biden, just older. Yes, his response latency is slower, but if you have ever studied aging or read the literature on lifespan communication (again, I have!), this is fairly typical. Bernie, for his part, is also slower than he used to be, although he is less likely to produce the same type of gaffes Biden does because Bernie, no matter what he is asked, always pivots back to the same fucking five things he has been saying for fifty years. Trump, on the other hand, is nucking futz.
Second, I will remind you that Biden was not my first, second, or even third choice in this race when it started. I am all in for the Democrat running against Trump, whoever that may be. If Bernie and Biden both drop dead and the DNC nominates a barely sentient dumpster fire, I will have yard signs that say “Barely Sentient Dumpster Fire 2020” up the very next day.
I am, however, anti-bullshit, and having people tell me what I perceived to be obvious nonsense about the deep support for Sanders in 2016 has driven me mental for quite some time. I mean, am I the only one who remembers watching every Bernie and Trump rally on CNN/MSNBC/FOX in between panels discussing Hillary’s emails and Uranium One?
At any rate, have fun, wash your hands, and don’t look at your 401k if you have one.