Super Tuesday did not go as planned for Bernie Sanders. The results are still coming in as I write this, but it looks like he’ll only win California, Colorado, Utah and Vermont, with Biden sweeping the rest. It’s still a decent set of results for Sanders in the abstract, but he was looking to emerge as the undeniable frontrunner. Instead, Biden has stormed ahead of the pack.
Supporters of Sanders are already attempting to blame anyone but themselves and their guy for this relatively poor result. Elizabeth Warren splitting the “progressive” vote is one doing the rounds. Instead, they need to look at their own campaign and realise that it has been terrible and that if they want Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic nominee in the autumn, they had better change things quickly.
I do not live in America, nor am I American, and although I am a politics nerd nothing can make up for those two things. I have been watching the Democratic primaries closely, however, and I can say these are the major things about Bernie Sanders’ campaign that have struck me thus far:
- Bernie talks a lot about attacking things; sometimes this includes the Democratic party itself, albeit usually in veiled terms;
- His supporters have spent a great deal of their time saying Pete Buttigieg is not “a real gay”, which is a poor look to say the least;
- Bernie, when looking for a positive example from another country, weirdly reaches for Cuba as opposed to say, Denmark.
I actually want to like Bernie Sanders. I really do. I think he is a powerful public speaker, unlike Corbyn who always sounds like he’s giving the eulogy at the funeral of someone he doesn’t particularly like. His healthcare reforms are desperately necessary. A lot of people in Britain have no idea how bad it is in America in terms of healthcare costs. I am haunted by reading a focus group report from Kansas from when Trump first got elected in which one of those taking part said he was terrified about Obamacare being axed because the programme had meant his healthcare insurance bill every month had come down to “only” $2,000 a month for him, his wife and three kids. Jesus, what was it before Obamacare? This guy was spending 24 grand a year for a healthcare plan which didn’t include deductibles or even the fact that he could still be refused care for any number of reasons. He was paying more for his healthcare than 98% of British taxpayers pay for not only a healthcare system that will always treat them but absolutely everything else, meaning schools, motorways, the army, etc.
This is what is so wrong with Sanders’ campaign – if he went hard on healthcare as his primary issue, I think he would not only win the nomination, but beat Trump as well. Particularly with the current Coronavirus scare focusing minds, healthcare is front and centre in American consciousness. He could attack his fellow Democrats for not being radical enough on healthcare and hurt Trump with the fact that the current president has done nothing to make the situation better despite saying he would when he ran in 2016. I think it’s a no-brainer that this should be the underlying basis for the entire Bernie Sanders campaign.
Instead, Bernie is following a Corbynesque route of scattergunning all over the shop. Bernie will fix everything in one term! Not only healthcare for all by roll out of Medicare, but 1.6 trillion dollars of student debt covered by the federal government! Lots of other stuff that costs massive amounts of tax payers money! Some ultra-woke stuff most swing voters hate! Oh and Cuba is a positive role model! I used to defend Bernie against accusations that he was an American Corbyn. Now, I’m not so sure that was ever wise. He has the same scary followers, people who seem more interested in pursuing a cult of personality than making their country a better place. This rhetoric of being “truly socialist” and looking to smash everything down is awful as well, when in fact they have solid, convincing arguments at their fingertips.
Bernie should have attacked the other nominees on their healthcare plans and nothing else. It would have put them on the spot and gained Sanders traction. Instead, it’s been the usual far left crap about the “establishment” halting the progress of their “movement”. Instead of ranting about tearing things down, Sanders should be talking about what he has to offer both the Democratic party and America. He should be trying to convince swing voters, both in the primaries and in the presidential election he has to assume he will face, that is he is their guy instead of telling people who don’t agree with him they are wrong. Like Corbyn, he is enjoying playing to his core support way, way too much.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign, at least thus far, has totally sucked. The fact that he has got to where he has is down to his huge support base and the fact that he is an effective fundraiser, organiser and speaker. He won’t get any further if he doesn’t understand that people don’t want a revolutionary – they want someone who can help them improve their lives. The lessons are there for the Labour Party in the UK, although they have been there in front of them for some time already – tell people how you are going to make their lives better. Stop going on about the establishment and movements. In an age when the Right have alighted on talentless chancers, all the Left has to do to win is be more visibly competent, which shouldn’t be difficult when the bar is set so low. But the Left keeps losing because it can’t seem to grasp that this is the fight; they keep trying to out-outrage the Right, which never works. A lot of us Centrist Dad types would vote for left-wing candidates and parties if they spent more time talking about the issues in a convincing way and less time talking about “democratic renewal”. Maybe one day soon, they’ll get it, but probably not in time to save Bernie’s bid to be the Democratic nominee.