Don’t Tell Me It’s ‘Bernie or Bust’ for the American Dream

Is this all we get? Sources: AP, Getty Image

You say you want a revolution…? Deliver us someone who can beat Donald Trump.

Iowa and New Hampshire are in the books and the results have given us more chaos than clarity. As one congressman said below, this is still a wide-open race.

Congratulations to Bernie Sanders, who won the New Hampshire primary and might have scored a contested victory in Iowa. Sanders is truly the front runner as of today, flush with money, staff and a youthful volunteer Army. His chief rivals–Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden–are at best struggling to remain viable. (When a candidate says, “we’re just getting started,” you know something is amiss.)

Bernie’s day in the sun comes with a few caveats.

  • The “S” word: Democratic party leaders are understandably worried that when the economy is perceived as going strong, it’s probably not the best time to debate the virtues of democratic socialism.
  • Demographics: Sanders’ supporters argue that Bernie can expand his electoral base to make up for the suburban moderates he’ll likely lose. Someone should remind the Sanders team that it was those suburban moderates who surged in the 2018 midterms and made Nancy Pelosi speaker.
  • Down ballot races: First-time Democratic House members, the class of 2018, are worried that a democratic socialist at the top of the ticket could cost them their hard-won seats. Rep. Brendan Boyle of Philadelphia has spoken to a handful of colleagues about their reelection prospects. “[They’ve] expressed concern or real concern about running with Sanders at the top of the ticket,” says Boyle. “I think Bernie has run a damn good campaign and deserves to be recognized. At the same time, I believe this is a wide-open race.”
The Iowa Caucuses

Yes, it was a fiasco, but Iowa yielded one important metric that should concern Democrats.

Source: Getty Images

Ever since the juiced turnout for the 2018 midterm elections, it’s been assumed that the 2020 Democratic primary season would continue that trend, especially with a despised president on the ballot.

Data out of Iowa seem to indicate otherwise. The party line from Iowa officials was “on pace for 2016,” far below expectations, when Clinton was assumed to be the likely nominee. Politico:

Democrats were counting on Barack Obama-levels of enthusiasm. They got Hillary Clinton numbers instead…

If [projections] hold, turnout will run to about 170,000 people, well below the 240,000 people…in 2008.

New Hampshire
Source: Seattle Times.

The 2020 primary results certainly wasn’t a Bernie Sanders slam-dunk victory in his own backyard. Among candidates who were awarded delegates, you can regard it this way: The two more moderate candidates, Buttigieg and Klobuchar, gathered 44% of the vote to Sanders’ 26%.

Compare that to 2016 when Bernie beat Hillary Clinton by a 60% to 38% margin.

New Hampshire Turnout

Democrats concerned about Iowa’s paltry voter turnout can take heart in that the 2020 New Hampshire turnout could very well exceed 2008 levels when all the votes are counted. After Iowa, we’ll take the good news.

Remember these folks? Source:

Looking at some of the faces above makes me feel wistful and nostalgic. (Did Bill de Blasio really run for president?) I had high hopes for candidates of color, especially Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Julian Castro, to break through.

I believe one of the ironies of the 2020 Democratic cycle was the Joe Biden factor. The concept is that Biden has such a hold on black voters that it made it more difficult for black candidates to succeed. Now that Joe Biden is faltering (“we’re just getting started”), some excellent candidates have exited the race. I miss them greatly.

It’s still a wide open race.

Andrew Goutman

Andrew Goutman is the editor of The Record.

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