Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Bernie Sanders has a curious function in Democrat primary battles. He’s the fractious candidate whose radical cult of personality prevents the weak party nominee from facing a true primary challenge.
History might have been different if Hillary Clinton had faced a real primary challenger. Instead there was Bernie, a mumbling socialist who helped elect Trump by pushing Hillary and the Dems to the Left.
But Hillary was probably never going to attract a serious primary challenger. That’s not at all true now.
There’s one man who deserves the credit for Joe Biden hanging on to the lead despite holding a Guinness Book of World Records streak for the most gaffes emitted in the shortest amount of time.
And it’s not Joe. It’s Bernie.
2020 is already shaping up to be a repeat because while Biden is in first place, Bernie continues hovering in second and Elizabeth Warren in third. Sanders and Warren are duplicate candidates. They’re both New England socialists with plans for transforming the country, who rant about capitalist bloodsuckers and sound like nails on a chalk board. Bernie only became a national figure because the spin doctors who plucked him from obscurity failed in their ploy to draft Warren in 2016. Warren then jumped in for 2020 because Bernie’s success made her think the time was right. But Bernie wasn’t about to leave.
The RCP average suggests that if one of the socialists dropped out and redistributed his or her votes to the other, a socialist would take the lead for the 2020 nomination. But even though Sanders and Warren built their careers on telling other people to make sacrifices for the greater good, neither wants to.
Warren and Sanders both want the nomination and neither has a shot until the other drops out.
The beneficiary of this arrangement is Joe Biden whose top two rivals have split the radical leftist vote. The rest of the field had the option of trying to grab Biden’s votes or those of his top rivals. Since Biden’s strength lies in the black vote, the most aggressive attacks against him have come from the black candidates, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, who need those votes to maintain a viable campaign.
With the Democrats divided between white leftists and black moderates, the remaining front runners decided to try and capitalize on the Sanders-Warren base by going as radical as they could. But their radicalism failed to stop the Sanders-Warren bloc and instead torpedoed their candidacies. Just ask Beto O’Rourke who keeps on doubling down on the radicalism even as he bleeds poll numbers.
Bernie Sanders, facing falling poll numbers, decided to build his campaign around abolishing private health insurance. And that dragged the rest of the field, including Kamala Harris, along with him. That freed Biden to run as the guy who will protect ObamaCare and union health plans from Bernie,
Every time Bernie and Warren get in trouble, they go further to the Left. That helps them, it helps Biden, and it crushes the rest of the field who either have to go along with them or take them on.
And no one has successfully taken them on.
If this pattern continues, it doesn’t matter how many stupid things Biden says. If Kamala Harris can’t make a real dent in his support from black voters, then he will very likely become the 2020 nominee. If Harris didn’t have to contend with the Sanders-Warren bloc, she might be able to catch him. But the bloc acts as Biden’s wall. Its radicalism scares his voters, allowing him to coast ahead of the duo.
If Warren and Sanders did negotiate a redistribution of votes, many Democrats would rally to Biden to block a radical and unelectable candidate from the nomination out of fear that it would reelect Trump.
But Biden still has to contend with pressure to adopt radical proposals in order to stay ahead. His strategy of treating the primaries as a prelude to the general election is collapsing under pressure. Every time Bernie tries to score a few points by radicalizing the primaries, Biden is forced to alienate half the party and the country. And that can only end up hurting him in the general election against Trump.
Warren and Sanders have treated the 2020 primaries as an ideological struggle, and assume that producing another radical proposal can shift the balance. But there are only so many voters, even among the Democrats, who are going to be comfortable with socialism. And Warren and Sanders may have hit the ceiling there. And their ceiling is also the radical ceiling for the Democrat field.
The more moderate Democrats who tried to run against socialism are dropping away, unable to break through because Biden is already the candidate of those who think that Warren and Sanders are too extreme. And the candidates with the potential to break through have mostly adopted some flavor of socialism leaving little reason for either socialists or moderates to support their candidacies.
If you want socialized medicine, you can choose between Warren and Sanders. Why bother choosing Kamala Harris? That’s why Kamala attacked Biden over race and is playing on nakedly racial appeals.
Without race, Kamala’s policy proposals are just watered-down versions of Warren’s proposals.
The only reason to vote for her is if you really want a black president. And polls show that Democrats are much less enthusiastic about the idea this time around. If Kamala had the personality and charisma to build up a cult of personality, then she might have become another Obama. But she doesn’t. Nor could she claim, like Obama, to be the most radical candidate in the race. And no matter how hard she tries to be, she ends up lagging behind the radical candidates, even if they’re old white people.
After imitating Warren and Sanders, Kamala Harris bet everything on breaking off black voters from Biden, while co-opting the socialist vote from Warren and Sanders. Both strategies failed. Though not as badly as they failed for Cory Booker. Harris was at least imitating Warren. Booker was imitating Harris.
It’s no wonder that Booker’s campaign has failed to launch and that he’s stuck on the margins.
The socialists have radicalized the Democrats. But they’ve also put them on track for a 2020 defeat. And they doomed themselves long before the actual general election even takes place.
Warren and Sanders have the money and the activist base to keep their campaigns going longer than anyone else except Biden. That means they’re likely to outlast everyone else, leaving a field in which the Democrats will pick between two socialists and Joe Biden. The poll numbers indicate they’ll pick Biden.
The best chance the socialists had of selecting a nominee was splitting the votes of more moderate Democrats between the other candidates. Instead Sanders and Warren are both too greedy and egotistical. Their campaigns will squander a fortune in donations (as Sanders did in 2016), urge each other to drop out, and then belatedly collapse and endorse Biden’s gaffe machine. And that’s 2020.
Politics is volatile. It may not come out that way. But if the current trends continue, it will.
And, once again, Bernie Sanders and his socialist comrades will have helped Trump win.