Bernie Sanders gains on Hillary Clinton

While Donald Trump has riveted people’s attention to the Republican race for the nomination, let us not forget that the Democrats also have a race. It has not drawn much attention since the pundits initially assumed that Hillary Clinton was going to win in a walk but recent events have suggested that Bernie Sanders is not merely a sideshow. He has succeeded to some extent in beating back the fringe candidate label and is thus getting some of the valuable free publicity that comes with reporters for national publications covering his campaign.

What should concern the Clinton campaign is a new CNN poll that says that in head-to-head match ups, Sanders would beat Jeb Bush 48-47%, Scott Walker 48-42%, and Donald Trump 59-38%. This undercuts the chief argument of Clinton supporters that while Sanders’s message may be appealing to a lot of people, it is only Clinton who can beat the Republicans and so Democrats should go with the safe choice.

Rolling Stone has had Mark Binelli following Sanders on the campaign trail and reporting on what he sees and he noted the fact that Sanders continues to draw the largest crowds of any of the candidates of either party. Sanders tells him that in the long run, his focus on economic issues will pay off.

Sanders believes that by keeping his focus on economic populism, he has a shot — a long one, he admits — at beating the historical odds. “Once you get off of the social issues — abortion, gay rights, guns — and into the economic issues,” he says, “there is a lot more agreement than the pundits understand.”

Indeed, in Davenport, Sanders manages to hold the crowd’s attention for nearly two hours while focusing — relentlessly, indefatigably, at times in granular detail — on his policy agenda, a new New Deal by way of Oslo or Helsinki: a federal jobs program ($1 trillion of infrastructure spending over five years, creating 13 million jobs and rebuilding our airports, bridges, roads and railways); a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage; the breaking up of Wall Street banks that have become too big to fail; a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United; free tuition at all public universities; raising taxes on the wealthy and closing tax loopholes exploited by corporations; taxing carbon to curb the use of fossil fuels and promoting alternative-energy sources; free universal pre-K; a single-payer, Medicare-for-all health care system; paid sick leave and a minimum of two weeks’ paid vacation for all working Americans.

I like every single one of those policies and a majority of Americans actually support him on many of them. I like to think that I am like a lot of people. While concerned about GRAGGS issues (guns, race, abortion, gays, god, sex), I have been frustrated by the fact that politicians use them to gin up voters’ anger and thus ignore the fact of the serious threat to democracy posed by oligarchic control and would welcome someone who highlights economic issues in the detail they deserve rather than with broad generalities that are meaningless.

One concern about the Sanders campaign has been the perception that his support base lies pretty much exclusively with the educated, white, well-to-do, progressive sector of the population and that hence the ceiling for his support is low and that he may have already reached it, although the rapidity with which he did so took people by surprise. There has been concern that minority support for Sanders was lacking and was perhaps due to the fact that his message has focused relentlessly on economic issues and attacking the dominance of the billionaire class. That dominance undoubtedly affects very strongly the lives of minorities but the effect is indirect, via the suppression of wages, jobs, health insurance, lack of child care, and other benefits. His lack of emphasis on police brutality and immigration, for example, issues that very directly affect the lives of black and Hispanic people may have cost him some support although his policies and votes on crime and immigration are there to see.

But it turns out that when you compare black and Hispanic support for Clinton and Sanders (page 99), while Clinton wins black support by a huge margin (79-11%), it is much closer (51-41%) for the Hispanic vote so he may be able to make inroads there.

Sanders was interviewed by Mother Jones back in April before he formally announced his intentions to run and in it he lays out pretty much that he would make income inequality a major campaign issue.

Sanders was interviewed by Seth Myers on his show and explained why he is unapologetic about identifying himself as a socialist. It is an excellent interview where Myers asks pointed questions and allows Sanders to address them. In this short clip, you can see why people are responding to Sanders’s message.

Jesse A. Myerson argues that Sanders should push an even more radical socialist message.

Ed Kilgore writes that Sanders is spending considerable time in the South, considered inhospitable to even Democrats let alone a democratic socialist, and seems to be resurrecting Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy of not conceding any region or demographic. I think this is a good thing. Sanders is unapologetic about saying that what he seeks is a political revolution and you cannot achieve that by writing off huge swathes of the country.

(You can go to Sanders’s website to join the campaign and contribute and here to see where he stands on the issues. Despite the media trying to paint him as some kind of extremist candidate, a majority of Americans actually support him on most of the issues he stands for.)


  1. Nick Gotts says

    Thanks -- as a non-American who doesn’t watch TV, that’s the first time I’ve heard him interviewed. (His voice is rather croaky, BTW -- he needs to be careful with it, both for itself, and because he can’t afford anything that makes people think “too old”.) From polls I’ve seen, he’s still a long way behind Clinton, but has left the other candidates (who?) in the dust. Even if he doesn’t win the nomination -- and I don’t think he will -- he’s already done the American people a great service by spotlighting the huge growth of economic inequality; and I’m very glad to hear him talk about climate change.

    We have a somewhat similar situation going on in the UK, as it happens. After their poor showing in this year’s general election, the leader of the Labour Party stepped down, and it seemed inevitable that it would move still further right. But at the last moment, a left candidate -- yes, another actual democratic socialist, Jeremy Corbyn (66), got enough nominations from Labour MPs (36 out of 232, one more than the required minimum) to stand in the leadership contest, in which any member or declared supporter of the party gets a vote -- and polls suggest he could well win. (Amusingly, some of his nominators have no intention of voting for him, but thought there should be a token lefty in the contest -- they are now fully occupied kicking themselves round Westminster.) I told a Labour Party friend early on that he wouldn’t win -- which my friend didn’t dispute -- and Corbyn himself has been surprised by the surge of support. I’m a member of the Scottish Green Party, and a supporter of Scottish independence, but if he does win… well, I’d probably stick with the SGP, but I’d certainly have to think about it. It would quite likely lead to a split in the party, as it’s been full for years of the most noxious careerists and corporate catspaws, but the prospect of having a Labour Party leader who’s an actual socialist is amazing; it would be like the corpse at a funeral getting up and dancing a jig. Like Sanders’ run, Corbyn’s shows that when a politician is actually in a position to campaign against the elite neoliberal economic consensus, there’s a huge base of potential support.

  2. Mano Singham says


    I am glad to hear your views about Corbyn. I had heard that he had entered the race and was progressive but hadn’t got around to reading about him. I will now do so.

  3. Robert, not Bob says

    It’s not a matter of “Hillary can beat the Republicans”, it’s “Hillary can get the bank money”, which Bernie will not.

  4. atheistblog says

    For lot of people in US, Hillary or Republican, other than rhetoric, results are same. Hillary as a president, she is not going to fund or defund Planned Parenthood, she is not for Public Free tuition, not for breaking up big bangs, not against TPP, not against Keystone XL, not against any kind of wars, not for raising taxes on the riches, not against cutting Social security and Medicare, not against sending arms to whoever for no reasons, as a president she has more to say and act on these than funding Planned Parenthood.
    So, basically, while democrat thinks she is a liberal champion, lesser of 2 evils, the outcome will be same, republicans or hillary.
    Actually, republicans are honest, they say what they believe and what they gonna do, hillary and establishment are abject hypocrites, they will essentially do what republicans will do in White House.
    Would the world be any different if John Kerry was in office after 2004 ? He wanted more wars and more weapons just like John McCain or no domestic surveillance .
    If Bush had chance for 3rd and 4th term, it would have been essentially same as obama. It was easy to withdraw troops from Iraq which was actually Bush’s plan and proclaim as obama’s victory.
    People should stop telling these lies first, that Democrat are lesser of two evils. Utter Bullshit.

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