Via the Daily Beast, he’s under no illusions that Sanders will take his advice and quit soon. What he’s suggesting is that this race, which looked so different from the 2016 primaries a week ago, might soon look eerily similar — a well-known establishmentarian clearly ahead nationally, with enough of a delegate lead that they can’t plausibly be caught, and Bernie forging on anyway for month after month because his “revolution” refuses to bow to electoral reality. Why do it again, asks Carville? If the left believes that Trump is some unique threat to American democracy, as it regularly claims, why prolong a divisive primary once the writing’s on the wall?
It’s jarring to hear someone make a credible case that Bernie should fall on his sword when Sanders seemed like the inevitable nominee so recently, but look at it this way. Despite his string of early victories, in what way has Bernie outperformed his 2016 showing thus far? He basically tied with Buttigieg in Iowa; the same happened with Hillary in 2016. He won the New Hampshire primary — as he did in 2016, with a much higher margin of victory. He picked up a state this year that he lost in 2016 when he won Nevada, but his overall vote share wasn’t any higher this time. It was slightly lower, with Bernie dropping from 47.3 percent to 46.8 against a divided field this time. He lost badly in South Carolina in both years but finished with a lower share of the vote this time, 19.8 percent, than he did in 2016, when he notched 26 percent. Right, granted, again he was facing a divided field this year versus a one-on-one with Clinton four years ago. But Bernie invested a lot of time and money to try to improve his showing in SC in 2020, knowing that the media would watch the state closely to see if he had made inroads among black voters. How’d that work out?
Last night he lost three states that he won in 2016: Maine, Minnesota, and Oklahoma. He’s probably going to pick up California, which is a big deal, but given the explosive momentum Biden enjoyed yesterday from same-day voters, Bernie probably would have lost California too if not for the many weeks of early voting that went on there, before Biden’s huge win in SC. He now seems in dire peril of losing Michigan next week after taking that state from Hillary in his most impressive victory of the 2016 cycle.
So, with the benefit of hindsight, having processed the Super Tuesday results, what reason is there to believe Sanders is a more formidable candidate now than he was four years ago, when he had the benefit of facing a less personally popular opponent in Hillary Clinton?
His fans can’t even credibly whine this time that the nomination is being “stolen” from him. Stolen how? Hillary crony Philippe Reines makes a fair point:
Biden has raised less than Bernie.
Biden has spent less than Bernie.
Biden hasn’t run TV ads everywhere. Bernie has.
Biden doesn’t have offices everywhere. Bernie has.
This isn’t the establishment, not insiders, not donors. There’s no rigging.
It’s voters fucking voting.
— Philippe Reines (@PhilippeReines) March 4, 2020
The biggest endorsements Biden got were James Clyburn in SC and then Buttigieg and Klobuchar after he crushed them in that state. There’s nothing novel or unfair about an ideologically similar candidate backing an opponent who’s vanquished them; the left is expecting Warren to do that by endorsing Bernie at any moment, in fact. Nor did the plutocrat, Mike Bloomberg, ever unload on Bernie with a meaningful barrage of negative ads despite his phenomenal ad spending. Sanders had every chance to put the race away with a good showing in South Carolina. He blew it, fair and square.
And the most important way he’s blown it is by not delivering on the huge surge in youth turnout that he keeps promising. That’s Bernie’s entire theory of the case on electability: He doesn’t need as many black voters or suburbanites in November because he’s going to unleash a zombie horde of DSA twentysomethings who’ll swamp the polls and usher in the golden age of socialism. He desperately needed those people to show up last night and snuff out Joementum before it got going. They didn’t.
Even Sanders’ home state of Vermont showed a lackluster turnout of young millennials and ‘Gen Zers.’ Only 11% of the state’s electorate was under 30 compared to 15% when he ran against Clinton, according to exit polls.
And a similar trend played out in other Super Tuesday states such as Texas, where 15% of voters was between 17 and 29 compared to 20% in 2016, and Massachusetts where the share of young voters dropped from 19% four years ago to 16% Tuesday.
The common theme in all those states: Sanders fared worse this year than he did when he faced eventual nominee Hillary Clinton four years ago.
In Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, young voters were a smaller share of the electorate this year than they were four years ago. Now, that doesn’t mean their raw numbers were smaller; it may be that other demographics — like, say, Biden-friendly suburbanites — simply turned out in massive numbers this time in the name of crushing the socialist. Either way, the bottom line is that Bernie needs freakishly high turnout among his base to offset his disadvantages among more moderate demographics. And he’s just not getting that, despite how well positioned he was even 72 hours ago to wrap up the nomination this week.
Even the one group where he has made some gains is being offset by losses in others:
Okay, looking at it more closely, the Sanders’ coalition has changed and is shrinking from 2016. He did much better with Hispanic voters this year, but against Clinton, he won more non-college whites. Biden is winking them now, combining them with black voters and suburban women
— Michael Brendan Dougherty (@michaelbd) March 4, 2020
There’s another problem, as several liberals noted in commentary today. Bernie is the ultimate WYSIWYG candidate, a guy who seems incapable of being something other than he is even if it’s to his electoral benefit to be so. He’s a socialist; he’s been one for 78 years; he’s not going to start watering down his socialism now just because it might make undecided Democrats a little more comfortable. The shining example of this was his refusal to back away from his admiration of Castro’s literacy rates in Cuba, a golden opportunity for him to show that critics who call him a useful idiot have been unfair to him. Bernie didn’t budge. He is a useful idiot, and proudly so. WYSIWYG. David Faris is aghast:
He can’t do it. He can’t walk back a mistake. And it’s terrifying.
I hope this is obvious by now but there is zero conceivable political benefit to soft-pedaling your criticism of Fidel. Pro-Castro voters in America are like less than 1 percent of the electorate. As Andrew Yang might say: MATH. Someone in a position of authority in the campaign needs to pull Sanders aside and just give him a script about the 1970s and 1980s and tell him never to deviate from it. Memorize it, carve it in block letters on his arm, and read it out robotically whenever anyone asks about Cuba or the Sandinistas. Wash, rinse, shout, repeat.
Ezra Klein found a more pragmatic reason to scold Sanders, the fact that his “unyielding revolutionary” approach is great for building an ideological cult but terrible for building majority coalitions. What was his back-up plan for getting to 51 percent if the great youth wave never materialized and his attempt to win over black voters didn’t pan out? Was he prepared to make any deals with Warren or other influential party pols to secure their endorsements? Was he willing to back off Medicare for All for the time being, if only on grounds that it can’t feasibly be passed until Congress turns considerably more progressive? Bernie’s more a preacher than a politician. He’ll proclaim the gospel of socialism and wait for you to be converted. And if you aren’t, he’ll … go on proclaiming it and hope your heart softens. Eventually. Any day now.
I’m curious now to see how next week’s primaries shake out, whether there really is some evidence of the party uniting around Biden a la Carville’s suggestion in the clip below. Of the six states scheduled, Bernie won four of them in 2016, including Michigan. Is he going to match that this year or underperform again? If Biden sweeps, what’s the point of fighting on to Florida, where Sanders is sure to get smoked?