January 10, 2020

Bernie Surges

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“Bernie Sanders announced [last] Thursday that his campaign had raised an impressive $34.5 million in the final three months of last year, solidifying him as the quarter’s top fundraiser in the crowded Democratic presidential field. Former Vice President Joe Biden rebounded from a summer slump to take in a respectable $22.7 million over the same period.” AP News

As of Thursday night, Biden was leading in national polls with 26.6%, Sanders was second with 18.1%, and Warren was third with 15.4%. FiveThirtyEight

See past issues

From the Left

The left believes Sanders’s chances have improved, but notes that obstacles still remain.

“Sanders reportedly pulled in about $34.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, which makes for a total sum of nearly $100 million. No one else is even close… Those who lead in fundraising at this point often win. In primaries in which an incumbent is not running in the given primary, 9 of 14 leaders at this point have gone on to win the nomination. Even when a candidate is trailing in the national polls (like Sanders), the leader has won 3 out of 5 times. This includes candidates like Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992 and Republican Mitt Romney in 2012…

“Biden, though, does significantly better in endorsements. He has 33 endorsements from members of Congress and governors… Dating back to 1980, endorsement leaders at this point [also] have a strong track record of winning primaries. They've gone on to win the nomination 10 of 14 times. When a candidate like Biden leads in the polls and endorsements, they've won 7 of 9 nominations… Interestingly, there aren't a lot of primaries that are like the one we're currently in. Usually, the candidate ahead in endorsements is the same candidate ahead in fundraising.”
Harry Enten, CNN

“Sanders appears ready -- in ways he never seemed comfortable with in his 2016 primary challenge to Hillary Clinton -- to draw real contrasts with his fellow Democratic candidates in order to peel votes away from them…

“Sanders has clearly read up on Biden's looooong voting record -- supported the invasion of Iraq, backed NAFTA, advocated for a bankruptcy bill -- and is beginning to roll out the clear contrast between the former vice president's record on those issues and his own. (Sanders is helped in all of this because he was in the Senate contemporaneously with Biden and can point to moments where the two differed.) The next question for Sanders will be whether he puts these critiques in television ads in places like Iowa and New Hampshire as the votes in both of those states near.”
Chris Cillizza, CNN

Some caution that “In months of debates, interviews and campaign appearances in the 2016 primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was unable to take down Hillary Clinton by attacking her vote for the Iraq War

“It is not clear that Sanders will have any more luck taking down Biden on Iraq than he had taking down Clinton. Four years later, the issue may [be] even less potent than it once was. The greater challenge to Biden may come from former Navy intelligence officer and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, who was too young to vote on the Iraq War, now comes across authoritative on national security and has the added benefit of being able to scold Trump for using a ‘bone spur’ deferment to get out of the Vietnam War.”
Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

Others note that “Sanders is the candidate best positioned to use the ramping up of hostilities in the Middle East as an opportunity to highlight his alternative policy. He’s had a long record as an anti-war activist, going back to the Vietnam War. In 2016, he gained some traction by contrasting his vote against the Iraq War with Hillary Clinton’s vote in favor. In the current race, Sanders has staked out a radical foreign policy that includes ending the forever wars, using aid money as leverage to push Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians, and making climate change a cornerstone of American foreign policy…

“The difficulty for Sanders is that if he raises the salience of foreign policy, he’ll have to make an argument against not only Trump but also Barack Obama… The safer course for Sanders would be to stick to domestic policy, where his popular policies distinguish him enough that they could carry him to victory. But Trump’s recklessness might make that safer path impossible. The United States is already in a de facto war with Iran. If that war becomes a large-scale conflict, Sanders will have no choice but to run as the only true anti-war candidate.”
Jeet Heer, The Nation

“Former President Barack Obama’s top lieutenants are eager to poke every conceivable hole in Bernie Sanders’ resurgent bid for the Democratic nomination. But ask about a coordinated effort to stop his ascending campaign and you’ll get crickets…

“Less than a month before voting begins, Obama has declined to offer a preferred pick to take on President Trump in 2020, only occasionally waxing philosophical about the perils of moving too far left and reminding voters to be ‘rooted in reality’ when exploring nominee options. But as Sanders gained new flashes of traction in recent weeks, the former president’s lack of official guidance to halt his momentum, and the scattering of his inner circle to rival campaigns, have hampered any meaningful NeverBernie movement… The most striking response to an ascendant Sanders is the lack of one.”
Hanna Trudo, Daily Beast

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right sees a realistic path to the nomination for Sanders, but condemns his policies.

From the Right

The right sees a realistic path to the nomination for Sanders, but condemns his policies.

“After the Suleimani strike, Warren issued a statement calling him a ‘murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans.’ That got her in trouble with the left (because heaven forfend killing a bad guy like Suleimani might make Trump look good) so she issued a second statement, calling Suleimani a ‘senior foreign military official’ whom Trump ‘assassinated.’ This is precisely the sort of pandering that no one took seriously in 2016 when Hillary Clinton suddenly reversed a number of long-held views…

Just about the only Democratic candidate who has been consistent is Sanders, whose views have more or less remained unchanged since the 1970s. Setting aside the folly of his socialist ideology, Sanders can at least credibly say, as he did four years ago, that what you see is what you get… Trump won the GOP primary in part by saying exactly what he thinks and never apologizing for it. Democrats had better figure that out, and quickly.”
John Daniel Davidson, The Federalist

“Bernie Sanders significantly outraised his Democratic presidential rivals in the final three months of 2019… He has run second, behind Joe Biden, in national polls for most of the past year and matches up better head-to-head against President Trump than either Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg…

“If his campaign starts strong, it’s possible that the Democratic establishment could turn on Bernie like it did four years ago. But that runs the risk of alienating his large and enthusiastic base of supporters, and it’s hard to see Democrats beating Mr. Trump without the Sandernistas chipping in. The rule requiring a candidate to get at least 15% of the vote in a state to be awarded any delegates should also work in the senator’s favor. As the number of candidates dwindles to three or four, his grass-roots support and sizable war chest should allow him to meet the threshold and again go the distance.”
Jason L. Riley, Wall Street Journal

Some, however, note that “Democratic party leadership as a whole is no more comfortable with the idea of nominating Sanders now than they were in 2019. The only senator who has endorsed Sanders is his Vermont colleague, Patrick Leahy. Sanders’ endorsements from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib generated quite a bit of buzz, but they are three of the mere five members of the House who have endorsed him…

“To get the nomination, Sanders needs Joe Biden to really slide or collapse, and it’s hard to imagine what Biden could say or do that would shake his supporters that have stuck with him this long… And when push comes to shove, the top Democrat left standing against Sanders will have a target-rich environment. (What percentage of Democratic primary voters have heard about Sanders’ 1972 essay about rape fantasies?) Nobody’s really taken a hard shot at Sanders in the debates this year, because so far, no one has felt the need.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

Many caution that “were a major political party to nominate an avowed socialist as its candidate for the White House, it would be a monumental event in the nation’s history. Sanders is not merely an amusing old crank but rather an advocate for truly dangerous ideas that have caused great violence, suffering, and deprivation of freedom throughout the world… Even as a mere mayor in the 1980s, Sanders made a point of inserting himself into international affairs to make excuses for communist dictators. This includes the late Fidel Castro…

“At the time he visited the USSR on his honeymoon in 1988 amid Mikhail Gorbachev’s liberalization, Sanders admitted that its system was undemocratic and forbade dissent. He also acknowledged that it had produced subpar outcomes in housing and healthcare. Yet he praised the Soviet system anyway, pointing out that the Soviets at least provided housing and healthcare for free.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

“Note the example of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain, who shares Sanders’s worldview. His foreign policy views helped drive voters into the arms of the Conservative Party, securing Prime Minister Boris Johnson a nearly unprecedented electoral victory last month…

“Sanders’s nomination would secure a Trump landslide. Not because voters love Trump, but because the more voters learned about Sanders’s socialism, the more they'd oppose him… American aversion to ‘Medicare for all’ is rooted in [a] substantive truth. Namely, the very well-justified suspicion that a government-run healthcare system means longer waits for less personalized care of substantially lower quality, along with far less innovation in new treatments. And let’s see how Sanders fares telling centrist union workers — those so instrumental to securing Trump’s 2016 election — that he’s going to shred their health plans.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.