Eight days remain until the crucial “Super Tuesday” primaries, and the unmistakable momentum of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has the Democratic Party establishment quaking in fear. Longtime Clinton adviser James Carville went off on potential Sanders voters on MSNBC Saturday when it became clear Sanders had scored a crushing victory in the Nevada caucus. “If you want to vote for Bernie Sanders because you feel good about his program, you don’t like the banks on Wall Street or you don’t like pharmaceuticals, that’s legitimate, I understand that,” Carville said. “If you’re voting for him because you think he’ll win the election, politically, you’re a fool. And that’s just a fact. It’s no denying it, there’s so much political science, so much research on this that it is not even a debatable question.”
At a campaign rally Sunday in Houston, Sanders predicted that he would not only win next week’s Texas primary but that he would also defeat President Donald Trump in the Lone Star State in November. This was a bold boast, considering that no Democratic presidential candidate has won Texas since 1976, and that Trump beat Hillary Clinton by an 800,000-vote margin in the state four years ago.
While Bernie’s fans cheered his confident prediction of November victory, establishment Democrats and their media allies were struggling to accept the more sobering near-term reality that “moderate” candidates are unlikely to stop Sanders from winning the nomination. The candidate who spent nearly all of 2019 as the presumed front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, struggled to a weak second-place finish Saturday in Nevada. Democrats were still not finished counting votes Sunday evening, but with 88 percent of precincts reporting, Sanders had 47 percent of the vote, more than doubling Biden’s 21 percent. Very few delegates have been won so far, of course, but Saturday’s win gave Sanders strong momentum going into next Tuesday, when 1,617 total delegates will be awarded in 14 state primaries.
After dismal finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden has been counting on Saturday’s primary in South Carolina as the “firewall” to save his struggling campaign. But even if he wins there, his prospects on Super Tuesday are not encouraging. Billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has saturated the airwaves with advertising in the Super Tuesday states, eroding Biden’s share of the “Anybody But Bernie” vote. In California, for example, Sanders leads the RealClearPolitics average of state polls with 26.3 percent, about 12 points ahead of Biden and Bloomberg, who are in a virtual tie for second place. Polls are not predictions, however, and it’s possible Bloomberg’s support might fade after the shellacking he took in the Las Vegas debate last week, while Biden could get a boost if he wins Saturday in South Carolina. Yet there are still seven Democrats – Biden, Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, billionaire Tom Steyer, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – dividing the non-Sanders vote, while the Vermont socialist’s supporters are united and energized.
Trump supporters are watching the Democrats’ slow-motion train wreck with undisguised glee. During his first three years in the White House, the Republican incumbent has been endlessly investigated and finally impeached, yet Trump’s poll numbers are the best they’ve ever been. Just yesterday, a CBS News poll reported that “65% of registered voters nationwide think President Trump will definitely or probably be reelected, including more than a third of Democrats who think so. Republicans are especially optimistic: more than 9 in 10 expect him to win.” We are still more than eight months away from Election Day, and a lot can change in that time, but there are reasons why the Democrat talking heads on cable news are increasingly giving voice to panic and despair. It’s not really a matter of Trump Derangement Syndrome; their sense of gloom is rational and objective.
Carville’s pronouncement that political science proves Sanders will lead Democrats to defeat reflects the consensus analysis of what happened to the Labour Party in Great Britain in recent years. Since the high tide of “New Labour” under centrist Tony Blair, the British Left has seen its fortunes dwindle precipitously. Five years ago, after Labour suffered unexpected parliamentary losses (mainly because of inroads by the Scottish National Party), the party held a new leadership election and cast its lot with avowed socialist Jeremy Corbyn and has since nearly imploded. In last December’s election, Labour suffered its worst defeat since the 1930s, winning only 31 percent of seats in the House of Commons. What Carville and other mainstream Democrats fear is that Bernie Sanders could bring about the “Corbynization” of their party, turning it into a radical fringe with no hope of gaining an electoral majority. Commentary’s Noah Rothman has pointed out that parallels between Sanders and Corbyn include alliances with anti-Semites, and let’s not even start on Sanders’ praise for the Castro regime in Cuba, which is certain to alienate the crucial Cuban-American vote in Florida.
Carville’s MSNBC outburst was inspired by the genuine risk that Sanders could lead Democrats to an apocalyptic defeat in November — not just seeing Trump reelected but also with Democrats losing otherwise winnable “down-ticket” races in congressional, senatorial, and gubernatorial elections. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews suggested Saturday that moderate Democrats might not even bother to vote in November if Sanders is the nominee. “I’m wondering whether the Democratic moderates want Bernie Sanders to be president.… They don’t like Trump at all. Do they want Bernie Sanders to take over the Democratic Party in perpetuity? I mean, he takes it over, he sets the direction of the future of the party — maybe they’d rather wait four years and put in a Democrat that they like.”
As much as Trump supporters enjoy watching liberals wallowing in hopelessness, it’s important to recognize the huge potential downside. As Glenn Reynolds said, “You can assume that Trump would crush Bernie, and you’re probably right. But any major-party nominee, however lame, has a nonzero chance of becoming President, and that’s bad when we’re talking about a commie.” The possibility that Sanders could actually win the White House may seem far-fetched, but we can’t forget that all the experts thought Trump could never win four years ago. America is a deeply divided country, and watching an avowed socialist score primary victories should inspire concern. Even if all Bernie does this year is lead Democrats to defeat, the omens for our nation’s future are disturbing.