Sanders’ Voters Are Not the Key to a Democratic Majority in the 2020s

by D.J. McGuire

Kevin Kelton is not just my collaborator on the More Perfect Union Podcast, he is also a friend. So it should not surprise anyone that I highly recommend the cyber-gauntlet he throws at Bernie Sanders supporters for 2018. I do think, however, that Kevin will be disappointed (although not surprised) to find that Sanders voters won’t tip the balance for the Democrats in 2018. On the plus side, once the lesson is learned, the Democrats can start reaching out to the center-right voters that are actually able and willing to help them build a majority coalition in the 2020s.

Part of the problem is that Kevin himself doesn’t realize how right he is when he asserts that Hillary Clinton was the better of the two choices facing most Democrats (Martin O’Malley was only an option for Iowa Democrats). Those of us who were outside the Democratic Party at the time (I was an anti-Trump Republican back then) knew full well that Bernie Sanders would be a busted flush in a general election. Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s people told anyone who would listen that he would have entered the race against Trump and Sanders (New York Times). Given that Bloomberg is (1) an actual billionaire who has no qualms spending his own money in a campaign, (2) a former Mayor of New York with a record of enviable success, and (3) a politician whose “base” included chunks of both major parties, he could very well have won – and almost certainly pushed a nominated Sanders into third place. On a personal note, I would have voted for Bloomberg over Trump and Sanders in a heartbeat. I’m not sure Kevin would say that.

I’m not so sure about Kevin’s assertion that if Sanders’ backers “show up at the polls the way they promised to had Bernie been the nominee, they will launch a real revolutionary force that can turn the Senate and maybe even the House back to Democratic control.” The deck is stacked pretty firmly against us in 2018. Then again, Kevin seems fairly certain that a large chunk of the Sandernista vote isn’t Democratic at all, and recent evidence from the  Cooperative Congressional Election Survey backs him up to the hilt on that (Townhall). Unfortunately, it may take more defeats in 2018 before it sinks in that the Democratic Party can no longer draw any more blood from the hard-left stone.

That said, if that lesson is learned in 2018, then the Democrats can reverse course and look for votes among the vast (and increasing) number of disaffected center-right voters – especially on economic issues like tax reform, immigration reform, and freer trade. As Donald Trump continues to put his xenophobic and protectionist stamp on the Republican Party, suburban “fiscal conservatives” (in quotes because they’re more likely to use that term) will become more alienated – and more likely to vote Democratic if the party stops spurring them to search for the wayward hard left.

If Kevin makes any mistake it comes in this line: “if you sit back and wait for Bernie to run again, or continue the silly quest to create a viable third party behind the likes of Jill Stein or Gary Johnson…” Gary Johnson voters were not hard-left Sandernistas. As the Washington Post exit poll data shows, he did best among independents and – more crucially – moderates. Johnson voters were centrist voters – meaning they can be won over in 2018 and beyond.

D.J. McGuire is the conservative Democrat on the More Perfect Union podcast – and sometimes feels like he is the lone conservative Democrat in the country.

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