Yesterday I wrote a post about my concerns that Bernie Sanders would be taken apart by the rightwing attack machine should he win the Democratic nomination. While the response was mostly positive, many Sanders supporters dismissed my concerns as either the hysterical rants of a Hillary Clinton shill, or at odds with current inter-party polling match-ups that suggest Sanders would defeat GOP frontrunner Donald Trump handily in a national election. Still others argued that Sanders is leading a new political earthquake that will destroy all in his path.
So today I want to speak to that reaction. I base my concern about Sanders viability on my experience of having lived through the presidential elections of 1972, 1984, 1988, and 2004, when liberal candidates got defined by their opponents and ultimately trounced by their GOP opponents. (I don’t count 2000 because Al Gore won the popular vote.) I’ve seen people on Facebook dismiss those examples as being out of step for this year. Their arguments range from “no one could’ve beaten Ronald Reagan in 1984” to “Michael Dukakis was a weak candidate” to “young voters are being energized by Sanders and will turn out in record numbers.” Let’s look at each of those claims.