The Democrats: A choice between Biden and Sanders?
Anything can still happen, said Michael Brendan Dougherty in NationalReview.com, but as Iowans prepare to kick off the 2020 election with their caucuses on Monday, the once crowded Democratic field may soon collapse into “the Biden and Bernie show.” Former Vice President Joe Biden still leads all candidates in national polls, but Sen. Bernie Sanders’ numbers have surged in recent weeks, and averages of state polls show Sanders leading in both Iowa and the second state to vote, New Hampshire. If Sanders—the favorite of young progressive activists—wins both of those, only Biden—backed by older moderates and African-Americans—will stand between him and the nomination, and Democrats will have to decide whether to “move to the left or to the center” for the general election. That debate should have been settled by the 2018 midterms, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. Moderate candidates “accounted for 100 percent of the party’s House gains” of 40 seats, while candidates backed by the Sanders–progressive activist wing lost all 44 of their races in Trump-leaning districts. For the Democrats to run a candidate as “ideologically extreme” as Sanders against President Trump would be “an act of insanity.”
“Moderate fears of a progressive losing to Trump are valid,” said Ibram Kendi in TheAtlantic.com, but so are “progressive fears of a moderate losing to Trump.” After all, that’s what happened in 2016. This year, polls show that most of the white, working-class voters in the Rust Belt who abandoned Democrats for Trump approve of the president’s job performance. Can Biden really win many of them back? Meanwhile, there’s a real danger that very liberal Democrats, who make up about a third of the party’s voters, may be so disappointed by the nomination of the unexciting, 77-year-old Biden that they won’t vote, or will cast ballots for a third-party candidate.
Sorry, but “Bernie can’t win,” said David Frum, also in TheAtlantic.com. He has never fought a race in which “he had to face serious personal scrutiny,” and in a general election Trump’s campaign “will hit him with everything it’s got,” painting him as a Communist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union, and as “a useless career politician” with “twisted” ideas about sex: In the 1970s, the young Marxist wrote an essay about why some women have rape fantasies, and posited that women who are sexually repressed are more likely to get cancer. Sanders’ policy proposals are just as toxic, said Richard North Patterson in TheBulwark.com. He is adamant about kicking 150 million Americans out of private health insurance and forcing them into a single-payer scheme. The freebies in his “political revolution,” experts say, would cost an estimated $60 trillion over a decade—doubling the federal budget and dramatically raising even middle-class taxes. No wonder Trump’s advisers reportedly see Sanders as “their ideal Democratic opponent.”
The Democratic establishment “is caught in a Catch-22,” said Natasha Korecki in Politico.com. It views Sanders as an unelectable “fringe” candidate, but attacking him to stop his surge would alienate a big chunk of the party’s base. The Republicans had the same problem when Trump emerged in 2016, said Kristen Soltis Anderson in WashingtonExaminer.com, but their fringe candidate is now the president. Maybe Democrats should just let the primaries unfold and trust their voters to choose the nominee. After all, “if the last four years of politics haven’t expanded your concept of what is and isn’t impossible, you haven’t been paying attention.” ■