The most honest answer is -- I don't know. And anyone who says they do know is fooling you and themselves. That said, several months back I wrote an article about how I felt that any candidate who can make it through the long, arduous Democratic campaign to get the nomination should be able to beat Trump and win the presidency. I gave numerous reasons, and those reasons for "any candidate" all hold, of course, for Bernie Sanders.
This doesn't mean I absolutely think he will win, let alone am sure that he will win. Just that I think he should. For those earlier reasons, and others.
This is part of my reasoning. It’s not just a gut reaction. And it’s good that so many in the Democratic Party are wary (the polite term for "having their heads explode") because that’s what keeps people from not taking anything for granted. So, if one is not convinced, that’s fine. But as I said, I do have actual reasons why I not only think Sanders, but any Democratic nominee can and will beat Trump. I don’t know if it’s so. But I’m not just pure-guessing, and have reasons. And so if Sanders is the nominee –-
Every Democrat who votes will vote for Bernie Sanders. He won’t lose any, none will stay home, and he’ll likely draw in young voters who usually don’t vote.
He’s not going to lose the entire middle of Independents. Simply based on history, he’ll probably get at least 40% of them who lean Democratic and hate Trump -- and who are smack in the middle, but hate Trump -- or lean Republican but hate Trump. He may get much more than 40%, maybe even a majority, but I’m being conservative here. But if you add those independents on to all the registered Democratic votes (which traditionally outnumber registered Republicans), that alone could put Sanders over the top.
In New Hampshire, 14.5% of Republicans went out in the freezing weather and snow to vote against Trump, despite him being easily guaranteed to win in a massive landslide. Let’s say the number is other states is far less, again let's be conservative and say Trump loses only 5%. And let’s even say that none of those Republicans don’t vote for Sanders – but they also don’t vote for Trump. Losing 5% of your own party simply not voting for you is disastrous. (And if they stay home, that’s disastrous for the down ticket.).
If just a paltry 1-2% of Republicans who hate Trump (and they do exist, as we saw in New Hampshire) vote for Sanders for any reason – they don’t want to see Trump re-elected, they know Sanders is not A Commie, they’re middle class or lower and like what he says about income equality, they like that he rails against the Establishment, whatever the reason – that’s disastrous for Republicans, too.
Further, for all the very real and reasonable concern of people for how the public will respond to Sanders pushing his "Medicare for All" health plan – it ignores how Sanders will reply. As I wrote yesterday, I’m sure it would be something like, “I know that many of you don’t like everything about my health plan, but don’t forget – whether you like all the details or not, I have a health plan to expand your coverage…but Trump wants to take your current health plan away! He wants your health plan gone. NO health care plan. None. And he also wants to cut back your Social Security! And Medicare. On top of getting rid of your health care plan. So, yes, some of you may not like everything about my health care plan. But I’m absolutely sure that you hate having no health care plan. Which is what you’ll get from Trump.” This isn’t to say that Sanders’ health plan isn’t a potential problem, it is, just that you can’t ignore the full argument and the other side being worse.
And maybe even most critically, Democrats have been building a get-out-the-vote operation for three years, with all their rallies and marches. The process is already in place and very well-established. Democrats are profoundly motivated to vote. The Republican base is, as well, but that’s just the base – not all Republicans. (As I said, 14.5% of Republicans voted against Trump in the snow.) All Democrats, however, have been chomping at the bit for three years to vote against Trump, just waiting for the opportunity. Waiting to be let loose for the voting booth.
And that’s where we are now. And we’ve seen how crazed Trump has gotten in just one week after his supposed “best week of his presidency.” Imagine now what other out-of-control problems he’s going to cause for himself. Because we know he will – because he keeps doing it, for the past three years. Just look at yesterday: Trump has been caught so woefully and disastrously unprepared over the coronavirus pandemic (most especially after shutting down the Pandemic Response unit in 2018 and cutting $15 billion from the CDC budget where they had to slash their efforts to prevent global disease outbreak by 80%.") that he had to call his first press conference in perhaps three years -- and it was a ridiculed mess of utter ignorance and lies. This included Trump saying he had no idea that the number of people who die from the flu each year was as high as it was (something that pretty much every doctor in the country knows) and blaming the Democratic debate on Wednesday for the 1,800-point drop in the stock market that occurred two days before the debate, on Monday and Tuesday!
And then add in that will there be a focused, massive political campaign against him, barraged with ads (funded in part by Mike Bloomberg) attacking Trump in return – it won’t all be just one way attacking Sanders – will all the horrific things Trump has been doing throughout his presidency.
And in a debate, he’ll be challenged on it all. And in a debate, Sanders has been answering the “He’s a socialist” charge his whole career. So, he's probably incredibly prepared for that.
Finally, we know -- as a starting point -- almost all polls today show that in a head-to-head match-up against Trump, Bernie Sanders is actually ahead. Now, yes, as I wrote yesterday, we don’t elect a president by popular vote (let alone by poll), but two things – 1) the polls aren't based on supposition, but factual, based on actual numbers, and 2) for everyone who understandably says that such polls are meaningless, I am near-certain that if the exact same “meaningless” polls said the very opposite, that Trump was instead ahead of Sanders, their heads would be exploding in a mass of horror. So, while the polls are indeed without elective meaning, they are not without value. And serve as a foundational starting point.
I’m not suggesting it will be easy. It won’t be. And I don’t know if any of these things will happen. But they’re all very specific reasons why I think they will. And I think they’re all low-key, fair-minded, and not pie-in-the-sky unreasonable hopes. I’m not suggesting that Sanders should be the Democratic nominee. But IF he is, for all these specific reasons and more, I think Bernie Sanders can beat Trump. And that the down tickets in most states (not all) will do fine, as well.