With Super Tuesday underway, Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination could be nearing its end. Tonight, and again when more states vote on March 15, analysts believe the Vermont senator will face more losses like what Hillary Clinton dealt him in South Carolina. His huge weaknesses with voters of color, particularly the black community, will make clear that he can’t prevail.
And here’s the thing: Democrats should probably be breathing a sigh of relief.
Among the most absurd assumptions Sanders supporters have embraced during this primary is the idea that he’s a safer bet than Clinton against a Republican candidate in November. The senator has said he’s stronger against the GOP in “almost all of the polls,” but the fact-checking website PolitiFact easily rated this claim “false.” Besides, polling at this point reveals nothing about how the race would look like in a general election if Republicans unearth every bit of opposition research they can find against the avowed socialist.
The prospect of Sanders facing this scrutiny has seemed almost irrelevant to his backers, but Clinton supporter Michelle Goldberg offered a useful reminder of what that would look like in a recent Slate column. He’d have to answer for once wanting to abolish the CIA and belonging to the communist Socialist Workers Party, which called for zeroing out the military budget. Plus, as his unofficial biographer Harry Jaffe told InsideSources, he avoided the draft during the Vietnam War in a “very suspect” way.
Even if he’s judged solely on his record in office, Sanders has vulnerabilities no Democratic nominee has ever had. Despite the leftward shift of the party and the increasing popularity of socialism among young people, it’s safe to assume swing voters are still leery of the ideology. Capitalism is the American tradition, and Sanders often sounds hostile to it.
Take his comments to CNBC last May. He said, “You can’t just continue [economic] growth for the sake of growth in a world in which we are struggling with climate change and all kinds of environmental problems. All right? You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country.”
Historically, Democrats have struck a balance between advocating regulations on free markets and praising their virtues. Sanders threatens to put that equation out of whack. It’s one of many ways the senator could be portrayed as too far outside the mainstream.
During the 1970s and 1980s, he “regularly called for public takeovers of various businesses, including utilities and the oil industry,” according to Yahoo News. “Sanders advocated seizing money from corporations and from one of America’s richest families. And, as a mayor, Sanders made forays into foreign policy that included meetings with representatives of hostile nations, rebel groups and Canadian separatists.”
Clinton has many flaws as a candidate. She’s seen as untrustworthy and part of the political establishment. But she’s certainly been vetted. In political life as a first lady, senator, secretary of state and two-time presidential hopeful, it’s fair to say that most of her past is out there, the good with the bad. Later this year, even her Democratic critics might end up grateful for the devil they know, as opposed to the devil they don’t.