The decisive win by Bernie Sanders in the Nevada caucuses where, with currently 60% of the votes counted, he has more than the next three people combined, is finally starting to make the establishment narrative about him crumble. So far he has 46% of the vote, 27 points higher than Joe Biden, handily beating the 13-point margin the polls had predicted before the vote.
Sanders achieved this win with a diverse coalition of volunteers and supporters from across the entire spectrum of voters, spanning age, gender, and ethnicity, and also winning the union vote.
For Sanders, the caucus victory adds momentum to what’s beginning to feel like a runaway train. Barring a severe derailment in South Carolina, Sanders has unique advantages, as the early-state contests transition into a nationwide race. His locked-in base of support, grassroots infrastructure, prodigious low-dollar fundraising, and increasing resonance with voters of color make Sanders the best bet to clean up on Super Tuesday.
The youth vote was utterly lopsided: Sanders was the runaway favorite claiming 66 percent support from voters under 30, according to an entrance poll of caucus goers. Nevada is the first state with any true diversity to vote in the 2020 cycle. Sanders’ Latino backing was robust; he claimed 53 percent support. Sanders also registered 27 percent of support from black caucus goers, second only to Joe Biden, who received 36 percent. Underscoring why he may be tough for Trump to beat, Sanders also emerged as the wide favorite among white men without college degrees, at 42 percent.
Some of the entrance poll results upended pundit assumptions. For all the talk about moderates consolidating around a Sanders alternative, Sanders in fact received the most support from self-identified moderates and conservatives, 25 percent, beating out Biden (21 percent), Buttigieg (19 percent) and Klobuchar (13 percent). The candidate who bashes the “Democratic establishment” was also a hit among self-identified Democrats, 31 percent, and particularly with independents, winning 49 percent. (Only Buttigieg also registered in double digits with this demographic.)
Healthcare was the top concern among caucus goers. And as in New Hampshire, nearly 60 percent of Nevada voters said they support doing away with private insurance to institute universal healthcare like Medicare for All.
Young Latinos also went big for ‘Tío Bernie’ , Tío being Spanish for uncle but is also the affectionate term of respect given to older men, and they persuaded their relatives to come along.
The anti-Sanders elements in the mainstream media, especially at MSNBC, have gone into ‘full-blown freakout mode’ following the Nevada results.
As it became clear Saturday evening that Sen. Bernie Sanders would run away with the Nevada caucus and secure his position as the frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary, MSNBC anchors and contributors lashed out at the senator and his supporters in bizarre and sometimes hysterical fashion, descending into what one observer could only describe as a “full-blown freakout.”
Earlier in the Democratic primary process, the Comcast-owned network was notorious for ignoring the senator from Vermont, and covering him negatively when it covered him at all.
But Saturday marked a clear escalation in hostility from MSNBC’s on-air personalities as Sanders’ diverse coalition of supporters propelled him to a landslide victory in Nevada, the third consecutive state in which the senator has won the popular vote.
Earlier Saturday, as Common Dreams reported, [MSNBC personality Chris] Matthews suggested that four more years of President Donald Trump might be better for the Democratic Party than a Sanders presidency.
But Sanders’s performance has resulted in at least a few mainstream journalists like Peter Beinart at The Atlantic providing a more dispassionate look at the Democratic race. He says that the mainstream media narrative about Sanders is hopelessly wrong and writes that “many in the party elite remain deeply skeptical of the Vermont senator, but rank-and-file voters do not share that hesitation”, (something I too noticed and wrote about).
Judging by media coverage and the comments of party luminaries, you might think Democrats are bitterly polarized over Bernie Sanders’s presidential bid. Last month, Hillary Clinton declared that “nobody likes” the Vermont senator. Last week, James Carville, who ran Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, said he was “scared to death” of the Sanders campaign, which he likened to “a cult.” Since the beginning of the year, news organization after news organization has speculated that Sanders’s success may set off a Democratic “civil war.”
But polls of Democratic voters show nothing of the sort. Among ordinary Democrats, Sanders is strikingly popular, even with voters who favor his rivals. He sparks less opposition—in some cases far less—than his major competitors. On paper, he appears well positioned to unify the party should he win its presidential nomination.
So why all the talk of civil war? Because Sanders is far more divisive among Democratic elites—who prize institutional loyalty and ideological moderation—than Democratic voters. [My emphasis-MS] The danger is that by projecting their own anxieties onto rank-and-file Democrats, party insiders are exaggerating the risk of a schism if Sanders wins the nomination, and overlooking the greater risk that the party could fracture if they engineer his defeat.
Strange as it sounds, Sanders may be the least polarizing candidate in the presidential field, at least according to surveys of ordinary Democrats. A Monmouth University poll last week found not only that Sanders’s favorability rating among Democrats nationally—71 percent—was higher than his five top rivals’, but also that his unfavorability rating—19 percent—was tied for second lowest. Sanders’s net favorability rating was six points higher than Elizabeth Warren’s, 16 points higher than Joe Biden’s, 18 points higher than Pete Buttigieg’s, 23 points higher than Amy Klobuchar’s, and a whopping 40 points higher than that of Michael Bloomberg, whom more than a third of Democratic voters viewed unfavorably. (By contrast, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn—whom Sanders’s critics often cite as a cautionary tale—enjoyed the support of only 56 percent of his own party members in the months leading up to December’s British election.)
What about the idea that it is only the Sanders fans who like him and that everyone else dislikes him, a variation on the ‘Bernie bros’ narrative?
Although political handicappers sometimes presume that centrist Democrats are hostile to Sanders, the Quinnipiac poll suggests that Sanders enjoys widespread affection even outside his ideological lane. Among self-described moderate or conservative Democrats, Sanders boasts a net favorability rating of 43 points—far higher than Biden or Bloomberg fares among the “very liberal” Democrats who compose Sanders’s ideological base.
Beinart adds an important point.
None of this means Sanders would necessarily beat Trump. His ultra-progressive policies and socialist self-identification could energize Trump’s base and alienate the independents and Republican moderates who backed Democratic candidates in 2018. But the evidence does suggest that, if Democratic elites let him, he’s capable of unifying his party’s rank and file behind his campaign. He’s far better positioned than Trump was at this point in 2016, when his net favorability rating among Republicans was almost 20 points lower than Sanders’s is among Democrats today. [My emphasis-MS]
Beinart then issues a warning to the Democratic party establishment.
The greatest danger to Democratic unity is that, once primary voting is done, Sanders receives only a plurality of delegates—an outcome that the forecasters at FiveThirtyEight view as a strong possibility—yet party elites try to steer the nomination to Bloomberg or another moderate. They could do so through the roughly 770 superdelegates, politicians and party officials who, although now barred from voting on the first ballot at the convention, could vote on the second ballot if no candidate receives an initial majority.
Across the ideological spectrum, ordinary Democrats like Bernie Sanders. That doesn’t mean he’ll beat Donald Trump. But his nomination won’t tear the party apart. Denying him the nomination just might.
Beinart’s article is an excellent analysis by a mainstream journalist and a welcome sign that at least some in the media are beginning to recognize reality rather than live in a fantasy world in which Sanders represents a small minority and is hated by all ‘reasonable’ people.