Sanders: Can he win broad support?
Bernie Sanders may now be the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Dylan Scott in Vox.com, but anxious moderates are deeply worried that his signature policy, “Medicare for all,” is “a political albatross.” Last week the powerful Culinary Workers Union of Nevada distributed flyers urging its 60,000 members to oppose Medicare for all when participating in the Feb. 22 caucus, because it would terminate the generous, employer-provided health care plan they’d won through labor negotiations. The Culinary Workers’ opposition hints at a bigger problem for Sanders’ campaign. While Medicare for all polls well (56 percent) in the abstract, support plummets to 37 percent when voters are told it means the end of the private insurance on which 180 million Americans currently depend. Some of Sanders’ supporters seem to recognize the danger, said Joseph Zeballos-Roig in BusinessInsider.com. His “key surrogate,” New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said that people shouldn’t let Medicare for all keep them from supporting Sanders, because Congress won’t pass such a sweeping reform anyway. By putting single-payer on the table, she said, Sanders can get “a public option”—that is, Medicare for those who want it—as a compromise.
But are Sanders’ supporters willing to settle for a compromise? asked Jennifer Medina and Jonathan Martin in The New York Times. After Culinary Workers distributed its flyers, Culinary’s secretary-treasurer says, she was inundated with hundreds of abusive texts and phone calls, with Sanders supporters calling union leaders “bitches” and “evil, entitled a--holes.” Sanders has made “rhetorical overtures toward civility,” said Noah Rothman in CommentaryMagazine.com. But he has surrounded himself with people who viciously attack anyone who opposes him. They are scaring away those voters less interested in “revolution” than in finding someone, anyone, who can beat Donald Trump.
Sanders could certainly use some “messaging adjustments,” said Eric Levitz in NYMag.com. Though he won New Hampshire, his “margins of victory in the popular vote were meager.” The Vermont senator’s “professed game plan” to turn out droves of young and disaffected first-time voters hasn’t panned out: Turnout among under-30 voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire “was unremarkable.” Sanders needs to broaden his appeal to his fellow seniors, who fear that Medicare expansion will dilute their own benefits; he needs to remind them that he alone has a plan for “universal long-term care and increasing Social Security benefits.” To broaden his appeal to other Democrats, Sanders should more frequently engage in “personal narrative” about how he was shaped by growing up in a lower-middle-class Jewish family deeply impacted by the Holocaust. Sanders is best when he makes sincere, “Obama-esque appeals to Americans’ common humanity.” More of that, please.
Sanders may not admit it, said Paul Waldman in The Washington Post, but he’s more of “a pragmatist” than either his critics or superfans realize. As AOC pointed out, Sanders’ “extreme” policies can serve as negotiating positions from which he can compromise to achieve less radical but still valuable reforms. Giving all Americans the option to enroll in Medicare, for example, “could be a much more dramatic reform” than the Affordable Care Act—and serve as “a way station on the road to single-payer.” So why doesn’t Sanders just admit that? Unlike some of his more “electable” rivals, Sanders knows you don’t “compromise with yourself before negotiations begin.” ■