Salon - November 24, 2019
"Otherwise traditional calculations of electability are meaningless." He cited the examples of supposedly electable Democrats like Michael Dukakis in 1988, Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004 and Hillary Clinton in 2016, all of whom lost.
"My advice to voters is vote for who you believe in and stop trying to decipher 'electability,'" Lichtman advised."
I don't know whether Bernie Sanders should be president. But if the argument is about "electability," a case exists that Sanders is not merely electable, but may be the most electable Democrat running right now. Democrats who want to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 should not assume that Sanders is a politically risky choice — even though that is the conventional wisdom — and instead look dispassionately at the arguments for and against his supposed electability.
More than mere fairness is at stake here. Donald Trump, who represents a grave danger to the United States and the world. His initiatives on global warming and immigration, his economic and foreignpolicies and his personalcorruption are all existential threats to the survival of the free world, as well as severe moral crises for our country. If he is to be defeated, the Democrats must look at whether each of the leading candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sanders — has a realistic argument for how they could win.
That argument exists for Sanders. It's possible that, as Fox Business Network host Trish Regan told me in March, he's simply too far left. Many people make that same argument, from the axiomatic position that a leftist or socialist is inherently unelectable. Yet when I reached out to assorted political experts to get their thoughts on Sanders' electability, I found more complex responses.
Before contacting these people, I identified five hypothetical arguments suggesting that Sanders is the most electable candidate. He has rebounded a bit in the polls since recovering from his recent heart attack, and is currently at or near the top in both Iowa and New Hampshire. His supporters are enthusiastic and will vote for him no matter what, which could lead to higher turnout for him in both the primary and general elections. Voters may care less about ideology than character, which could give Sanders an edge if he is perceived as compassionate and sincere in contrast to the opportunistic and shallow Trump.
If Trump shifted the Overton Window (that is, the frame of what is considered acceptable in mainstream political debate) in 2016, it's entirely conceivable that Sanders could do it again. For that matter, Sanders' ideas aren't even that radical in the first place; they're basically an updated version of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, which got him elected four times.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Sanders has consistently led Trump in head-to-head polling in battleground states, and thus has a plausible Electoral College strategy. As a resident of one such state, Pennsylvania, I encounter this daily, at least on an anecdotal level.
"Conventional wisdom routinely fails to grasp the simmering anger that’s fueled by extreme income inequality," journalist Norman Solomon, co-founder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org and a Sanders delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, told Salon by email. He was making what one could call the "populist wave" argument:
And when the electoral door is closed for progressive populism, the only other door open leads to right-wing demagoguery of the sort that Trump personifies. In the 2020 general election campaign, Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders would fling a progressive populist door wide open.
After dismissing the "mass-media myth" that Democrats need to nominate a moderate like Joe Biden to win (and invoking the example of Hillary Clinton in 2016), Solomon argued that
yes, there are disaffected Republicans to be had, but not many — compared to the huge potential for increasing turnout among people of color, lower-income voters and young people. More than any other candidate, Sanders has enormous potential to inspire that kind of turnout.
In other words, Solomon posits that Sanders' democratic socialist ideology — the very thing that lead many to conclude he can't possible win — is in fact his greatest electoral strength. ...
Read full commentary at Salon