Wednesday, February 26, 2020

You say you want a revolution -- Feb. 27, 2020 column


Four years ago this week, I wrote that voters on Super Tuesday could put the brakes on Donald Trump – “but will they?”

At the time, mainstream Republicans and Democrats were both worried that insurgent presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders might actually win their parties’ presidential nominations but turn off general election voters that November.

Trump Fever seemed to be spreading, I wrote, and on Super Tuesday a few days later Trump triumphed over his GOP rivals, winning seven of the 12 states with Republican contests, including Virginia. Of the 11 Democratic contests, Hillary Clinton beat Sanders in Virginia and six other states.

And so, Trump, the candidate many were sure couldn’t win a general election last time is now the president many say can’t lose reelection if his opponent is the current frontrunner, an avowed Democratic socialist. 

Michael Bloomberg painted this bleak scenario at the Democratic debate Tuesday night:

“If you keep on going, we will elect Bernie, Bernie will lose to Donald Trump, and Donald Trump and the House and the Senate and some of the statehouses will all go red and then, between gerrymandering and appointing judges, for the next 20 or 30 years we are going to live with this catastrophe."

So far, just a trickle of votes in three states has been cast. (As of this writing, South Carolina hasn’t yet voted.) A torrent is coming.

On Super Tuesday, 15 jurisdictions, including California, Texas and Virginia, will select more than a third of the pledged delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination. Forty percent of the U.S. population will have a primary event that day.

Sanders, who is not a Democrat, sent chills down many Democratic spines with his appreciation on “60 Minutes” last Sunday of Fidel Castro’s literacy program. Castro is anathema to Cuban-American voters in South Florida. Florida, for those who don’t remember the 2000 election, is a crucial state.

Sanders, 78, insists he has “opposed authoritarianism all over the world,” but he hasn’t budged in decades in his admiration for aspects of those ruthless regimes.

“When dictatorships, whether it is the Chinese or the Cubans, do something good, you acknowledge that,” he said at the debate. “But you don’t have to trade love letters with them.” Trump said in 2018 he and North Korea’s Kim Jung Un “fell in love” over their “beautiful love letters.”

Pete Buttigieg warned that Democrats can’t win critical House and Senate races “if people in those races have to explain why the nominee of the Democratic Party is telling people to look at the bright side of the Castro regime.”

Sanders claims he will beat Trump with an infusion of young, new voters, but turnout has not surged. He has won in the early states not by bringing in new voters but by expanding his appeal among existing Democratic voters, a New York Times analysis found.  

Sanders has proposed a Medicare for All plan, free child care and free public college tuition. He hasn’t said how much all that would cost and talks about raising taxes on the wealthiest 1%. Amy Klobuchar put a pricetag of nearly $60 trillion over 10 years on Sanders’s plans. Voters would not support such a huge expenditure, she said.

But Sanders maintained on CBS after the debate, “The truth is, nothing I am saying is radical.”

Sanders argues the United States already has corporate socialism, which benefits billionaires like Trump, while Sanders’s brand of democratic socialism would use the federal government to protect the interests of working families.

Buttigieg, 38, warned of “a scenario where it comes down to Donald Trump with his nostalgia for the social order of the ‘50s and Bernie Sanders with a nostalgia for the revolution politics of the ‘60s.”

No Democrat wants a repeat of the 1972 or 1984 debacles, which many Sanders supporters probably don’t remember.

In 1972, George McGovern lost 49 states to Richard Nixon, winning only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. In 1984, Ronald Reagan’s landslide left Democratic Walter Mondale with wins only in his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.  

The big question this Super Tuesday: Democratic voters can put the brakes on Sanders – but will they?

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