On the Electability of Bernie Sanders


by Farbod Moghadam

As primary election season nears, voters are faced with the question of who they will choose to represent their party in the general election. In such a crucial election as this one, electability comes to the forefront of the minds of the electorate. For Democrats, the doomsday scenario of Trump becoming president is frightening to even think about, and many turn to Hillary as the solid, moderate candidate to carry the party to victory.

Naturally, I completely understand this sentiment, and as a Muslim-American I join my fellow progressives in fearing the repercussions of this bigoted psycho finding his way to the White House. But, in the midst of this discussion, we mustn’t lose track of the heart and soul of our party – its populist platform. We must choose the candidate who actually represents our interests and our ideology. This article is not intended as a scalding criticism of Hillary Clinton, but it is foolish for me not to highlight some key facts about the presumptive nominee of my party. In 1964, as a young college student, Hillary supported the Barry Goldwater campaign, which, in part, aimed to do away with the Civil Rights Act passed that same year. Clinton voted for the Iraq War in 2003, the only remaining nominee on the Democratic side who did so. She was against gay marriage before she was for it, and she was for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Keystone Pipeline before she was against them. Such a record of flip-flopping has earned Hillary a record of being unreliable, as┬áher secrecy and scandals of the past have painted her as untruthful as well. Whether these are valid claims or not, this characterization of the prospective leader of the┬ánation hurts her among her own party’s voters, mobilizes the Republican voter base, and, worst of all, turns Independents and undecideds against the Democrats in the general election.

Whereas electability was previously a point projected by Hillary supporters as an advantage over Bernie, I would argue the script has flipped completely, and Sanders is the Democratic nominee with the greatest chance of winning the White House. First of all, Bernie supporters are excited, unlike a mostly half-hearted pro-Hillary voter base. The proposition to correct the rigged economic and political systems in this country is something that will bring people onto their feet and draw them to the polling booths on November 2. This excitement, coincidentally, is most apparent among millennials, who actually outnumber the baby boom generation but tend to field the lowest turnout rate among any age group. High turnout among a normally inactive core of millennials would ensure Democratic victory. Aside from this point, growing Latino frustration with Hillary Clinton in light of her alleged “hispandering” tactics in recent weeks threatens Democrats with the prospect of losing their key strength against Republicans – a large margin of victory among minority voters. Latinos already have a relatively low rate of voter turnout, and only a Bernie candidacy could surely prevent disaster on election day. Additionally, there are many liberals who simply will not vote for Hillary if she is nominated by the Democratic Party, while the number of people who would never vote for Sanders is far lower.

Most interestingly, Sanders has a remarkable advantage over all candidates among independent voters, who ultimately decide the election. 45% of American voters, an all-time high, now identify as political independents, and an IVN poll shows that among self-identified Independents 45% support Sanders, while 26% back Trump, and a paltry 9% prefer Clinton. To quantify the effect of these preferences in a general election, one can point to general election matchup polls, which show Hillary up by only single digit percentage points against Trump (as low as 1 or 2 in some polls), within the margin of error, and in a losing position against Cruz and Rubio, the two next most-likely Republican nominees. On the contrary, the most recent poll between Trump and Sanders shows Sanders with a 13% advantage over the Republican front-runner.

Clearly, it is time for voters to stop labeling Sanders, or Clinton for that matter, as unelectable, and instead focus on the issues. Vote for the candidate who you agree with most, and he or she will have a shot at winning the election. And, if you do care a great deal about the Democratic nominee’s chance at winning the election, let your judgment be guided by facts rather than pre-established misconceptions. The neo-progressivist movement is sweeping the nation. Let’s ride it to victory in 2016.

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