Can Bernie Do It?


Leonard Zwelling

         I have been bombarded with emails and articles to read in the last few days since Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses and became the true front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. They all focus on whether or not Bernie can beat Trump. Some say yes. Some say no.

         The first big bone of contention is what to do if none of the current aspirants for the nomination have secured the needed number of delegates for a first ballot win in Milwaukee. The rules say that on the second ballot, the 500 or so super delegates, party regulars and public officeholders, start to weigh in. This might generate a win for one of the pretenders not leading the pack on the first ballot especially if that leader is Bernie. This is the hope espoused by those who think Bernie will be the leader going into Milwaukee, but fear he will drag down the rest of the Democratic ticket resulting in the loss of the House and no chance of winning the Senate let alone the White House. People have varying thoughts about such a scenario. We shall see what really happens, but the Democrats, sticklers for rules, will undoubtedly abide by those rules which could deny Bernie the nomination at which point his followers may decide to stay home. See Gene McCarthy circa 1968.

         The first issue leads to the second. Should all the middle of the road candidates but one drop out after Super Tuesday leaving a clear choice for Democratic voters beside Bernie?  For example, should it just come down to Buttigieg and Bernie after March 3 and see what happens as one will surely then get sufficient numbers of delegates for a first ballot win in Milwaukee?

         Finally, and most importantly, is the current wisdom correct about Bernie? That wisdom, that I have heard many times, is that Bernie, a democratic socialist, cannot win against Trump and his candidacy would spell disaster for the Dems. But is that so? As son Richard pointed out to me it is the odd ball Democratic candidates for president who have won in the past fifty years, Carter, Clinton and Obama and the middle of the road ones who have lost, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, and Hillary. Who knows? Maybe Bernie can excite the young people to come out and vote for him and somehow get the middle class folks who are being screwed by Trump and his buddies to vote for him. Maybe.

         Color me skeptical. Bernie’s demeanor is more likely to turn people off than on and his policies of wholesale giveaways—health care, college and debt relief—probably will not attract the people needed for him to win the electoral college. But then again, I’ve been wrong before. Often.

         What is clear is that if all of the current candidates decide to stay in the race for another month or two, no one is likely to have enough delegates for a first ballot win in Milwaukee. Then the Dems are in a pickle. They either give the nomination to the leader going in, likely to be Bernie. or they play it by the rules and the super delegates choose Biden to lead the ticket, a sure fire path to disaster.

         The Democrats have managed to paint themselves into a corner with a collection of very old white people plus a young gay man from Indiana who has never been elected to anything beyond mayor of South Bend and Amy Klobuchar.

         Let’s just say it’s not looking good for the Dems. They needed an outsider to come sweeping in like they had in 1976, 1992 and 2008. Instead they got Mike Bloomberg who in his first real test of strength failed miserably and didn’t do that much better in the South Carolina debate last night.

         The majority of the mail is betting that Trump will win in a landslide. It looks that way to me, too. But, I have yet to make a good prediction about who will be the next president of anything, so don’t ask me. Make sure you vote and then take a seat to see what happens.

Leonard Zwelling