Tomorrow is the Democratic primary in South Carolina that polls predict Hillary Clinton will win handily. What has been extraordinary is how Bernie Sanders has made the word socialism and socialist ideas so acceptable, especially among the young, so that they view it as a more compassionate system than capitalism. This is certainly true but the mainstream media in the US has been relentlessly extolling the virtues of a particular form of capitalism that leads to vast inequalities, and they cannot believe that their sustained propaganda has been upended by a hitherto obscure senator from Vermont.
Republican pollster Frank Luntz finds that young people are “terrifyingly liberal”. Sanders is not only their favorite politician, beating even president Obama, but he is also the favorite choice of 18-21 year olds to have dinner with, beating out Obama, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates, Taylor Swift, and (if you can believe it) Beyoncé.
As Glenn Greenwald says, Sanders represents the future of America and the Democratic party would be taking a huge risk by nominating Hillary Clinton, since all the empirical evidence suggests that Sanders will do better than she would against all the Republican possibilities, including Donald Trump.
Despite this mountain of data, the pundit consensus — which has been wrong about essentially everything — is that Hillary Clinton is electable and Bernie Sanders is not. There’s virtually no data to support this assertion. All of the relevant data compels the opposite conclusion. Rather than data, the assertion relies on highly speculative, evidence-free claims: Sanders will also become unpopular once he’s the target of GOP attacks; nobody who self-identifies as a “socialist” can win a national election; he’s too old or too ethnic to win, etc. The very same supporters of Hillary Clinton were saying very similar things just eight years ago about an unknown African-American first-term senator with the name Barack Hussein Obama.
Perhaps those claims are true this time. But given the stakes we’re being told are at play if Trump is nominated, wouldn’t one want to base one’s assessment in empirical evidence rather than pundit assertions, no matter how authoritative the tone used to express them?
It’s possible to argue that electability should not be the primary factor. That’s certainly reasonable: Elections often are and should be about aspirations, ideology, and opinion-changing leaders. But given the lurking possibility of a Trump presidency, is now really the time to gamble on such a risky general election candidate as Hillary Clinton?
Seth Meyers takes a closer look at these unusual developments in US politics