There’s good reason for the Democratic Party establishment to heavily favor a Clinton nomination: Bernie Sanders’ record would render him defenseless against lethal attacks from candidate Trump or candidate Cruz in a general election. I don’t intend to litigate the Senator’s vision for America or his ideals — many of which I personally favor and trust more than Hillary Clinton’s. And I deeply respect Sanders for his honesty and commitment to changing a damaged system in Washington. Unfortunately, however, if the Democratic Party nominates Sanders, the Senator would never even have a chance to clarify his policy positions; instead, his candidacy would be dead on arrival.
First, a word about polls. I’ve seen a number of my Sanders-supporting friends post on Facebook polls that claim victory for Sanders but defeat for Clinton in the respective scenarios of “Sanders vs. Trump” and “Clinton vs. Trump.” These do not matter at all. A November Quinnipiac poll showed Ben Carson beating Hillary Clinton by 10 points in the general election, a comic result just four months later. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight found that such hypothetical polls are typically wrong by double-digits and have little value. Why is this the case? The economy will likely change between now and November, and the main issue of the election may not have emerged yet. I, for one, would cringe at the outcome of a Sanders vs. Trump election in the wake of a terrorist attack on American soil. But this avoids the most pressing problem with early polls — while Clinton, as the presumptive nominee, has faced Republican attacks for months, Republican operatives haven’t even touched Sanders’ record.
If they did, Sanders’ general election hopes would collapse. The March 9 Democratic debate flashed a glimmer of what he would face from the Republicans as the nominee. The moderator showed a clip of Sanders from 1985 when, as mayor of Burlington, he appeared to praise Castro’s Cuba. Asked to “explain the difference between the socialism that [Sanders] professes and the socialism in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela,” the Senator answered evasively and looked uncomfortable. And he should feel uncomfortable because he stands on unelectable ground. Sanders’ comments while he was Burlington’s mayor would offer Trump or Cruz an arsenal of damning advertisement fodder. Reflecting on a visit to Cuba, Mayor Sanders says, “The people we met had almost a religious affection for [Castro]. The revolution there is far deeper and more profound than I understood it to be. It really is a revolution in terms of values.” Then, “And the Cuban revolution is only 30-years-old. It may get even better.” The American populace shudders at the notion of being more like Denmark — I can only imagine how the electorate would recoil at an ad blasting the Democrats for wanting to emulate Cuba. Then, as Michael Moynihan quotes in a scathing piece in The Daily Beast, Mayor Sanders speaks favorably of Soviet-style food queues of all things: “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food: the rich get the food and the poor starve to death.” I included the last sentence of that statement, because I value context, but the Republicans won’t. It is delusional to think that an election with Sanders as the Democratic nominee would ever focus on the issues. It is even more delusional (or out of touch) to claim that he could win.
I understand the popular enthusiasm that Bernie Sanders’ campaign has evoked, as well as the craving for overhaul in Washington. But I also understand the stakes of this election, with at least one Supreme Court seat and the Congress up for grabs and the electoral realities of the United States. Seizing on Sanders’ recorded support of totalitarian communist regimes in Latin America, the Republican Party would tear his candidacy to shreds, leaving us with four years of Trump or Cruz and decades of whomever the Republicans appoint to the Supreme Court. I can’t afford that and neither can you.
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