Will Rogers famously quipped, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” Monday’s Iowa caucuses certainly confirmed the Democratic penchant for chaos. They also highlighted the party’s suicidal tendencies. Any doubt on this score should be cleared up by Bernie Sanders’ Iowa showing, the ulcers it is causing at the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and the glee it inspires among Republicans. For the GOP, his campaign has no downside. If Sanders is again denied the Democratic nomination due to DNC skulduggery, his supporters will stay home in November. If he captures the nomination, Trump will crush him.
This view is not restricted to the GOP. During a recent interview with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Nancy Pelosi reminded her fellow Democrats that they won their House majority by courting moderates: “We won last time with a mainstream message.” Alluding to Sanders’ longtime affinity for socialism, she further noted that it isn’t necessary to nominate a far-left candidate to achieve their policy goals: “There’s plenty of progressive work that we can do in the mainstream without, um, shall we say, having the luxury of our exuberances.” It seems, however, that many participants in Monday’s caucuses ignored Pelosi’s advice.
Sanders very nearly won Monday’s chaotic caucuses, garnering 25.1 percent of the votes counted thus far, compared to Pete Buttigieg’s 26.9 percent and Elizabeth Warren’s 18.3 percent. Erstwhile frontrunner Joe Biden came in fourth place with an anemic 15.6 percent. This tally is tentative, of course, due to meltdown caused by a bug in the improperly tested “Shadow” app that the Iowa Democratic Party deployed throughout the state. Of the 41 pledged delegates whom Iowa will send to the Democratic National Convention, Sanders and Buttigieg have thus far garnered 10 each, Warren has four, and Biden has precisely zero.
Sanders’ experience in Monday’s caucus was eerily similar to his slim “loss” to Hillary Clinton in 2016, yet his supporters still regard it as the beginning of his long march to the White House. This delusion will be reinforced by an almost certain Sanders victory in next week’s New Hampshire primary, where, according to the RealClearPolitics average, he leads Warren by 11 points and Buttigieg by 13. Such a triumph combined with his Iowa showing may give Sanders enough momentum to win Nevada’s upcoming caucus. This possibility has panicked the DNC into repeating another 2016 blunder, as the Washington Times reports:
The closer the Democratic presidential race gets to the first votes of 2020 being cast here in the Iowa caucuses, the more the ghosts of the 2016 primary haunt the party.… The DNC already has changed the debate rules, making it easier for billionaire Michael Bloomberg to be on the stage for the Nevada showdown — irking Sanders backers who also bristled at reports that DNC members are talking about other rule changes to hinder Mr. Sanders.
Among Republicans the combination of DNC skullduggery and a Sanders surge is regarded as a win-win. President Trump seemed hardly able to believe his luck when he learned that Sanders was up in the polls. At a Milwaukee rally, he gleefully declared, “Bernie is surging. Bernie is surging.” And, as Sanders supporters prepared to vote in Iowa, Trump reminded them that the DNC is again sabotaging their candidate: “The DNC on Bernie Sanders, ‘Looks like they’re going to do it to him again, doesn’t it?’ ” Ironically, even if they treated Sanders equitably, he would still lose. According to Gallup, most Americans take a dim view of socialism:
Americans’ reaction to the term “socialism” remains more negative than positive in new Gallup polling, while solid majorities continue to view capitalism and free enterprise positively.… Americans’ ratings of capitalism have not changed and are about the inverse of socialism’s ratings, with roughly six in 10 viewing capitalism positively. Americans are even more positive toward “free enterprise,” with 87% evaluating that term positively.
This is not merely the result of ideological bias. A look at the individual issues shows that virtually every major proposal put forth by Sanders is wildly unpopular. In the case of “Medicare for All,” he would eliminate private insurance, a position supported by only one in 10 Americans. Sanders would decriminalize border crossings, but this is a loser even among Democrats. The Vermont senator favors providing free health care for illegal immigrants. Even CNN’s polling shows that 58 percent of Americans are against this nonsense. Sanders wants to abolish I.C.E. This is opposed by a majority of Americans. And the beat goes on.
Moreover, even if Sanders’ policies were favored by a majority of Americans, his credibility as a crusader for climate justice falls far short of his rhetoric. His positions on fracking and fossil fuels in general, for example, collide rather violently with his personal behavior. The Washington Free Beacon reports, “The Bernie Sanders campaign spent just under $1.2 million on private jet travel last quarter, outpacing the entire 2020 Democratic presidential primary field.” For a man who talks incessantly about income equality, he isn’t exactly a man of the people. According to the New York Times, his tax returns reveal conspicuous incongruities:
The returns show that Mr. Sanders’s earnings shot up after his first presidential bid, when he built up a vast national following. He and his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, reported income that topped $1 million in 2016 and 2017, lifted by proceeds from his books.… Sanders’s higher income in recent years has created some political awkwardness for the senator.… His income now puts him within the top 1 percent of taxpayers.
Now Sen. Sanders — complete with his record of praising communist regimes, his campaign for the Socialist Workers Party during the 1980s, a video of him partying drunk and shirtless with his Soviet comrades, another video of him heaping praise on the Soviet public transportation system, its “superb” cultural program for children, its “free” Soviet heath-care system, ad infinitum — is the choice of many Iowa Democrats to lead their party in the 2020 general election. Sanders is pleased with these results, presumably, but his complacency can’t compare to the euphoria it has produced among President Trump’s reelection team.