As you may have heard, Vermont Senator and Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders is running for president, and that means that he’ll need to raise some money. We learned this week that he did just that, offering potential supporters the chance to toss him a few bucks and to make history… one way or the other. I’ll confess that even I was a bit surprised to see that he pulled in a million and a half out of the gate.
Advisers to Bernie Sanders have argued that his grassroots network of small-dollar donors could raise him the roughly $50 million the independent senator from Vermont will need to run a credible, competitive campaign in the Democratic presidential primaries.
They may be right.
On Friday, the Sanders campaign announced that it has raised more than $1.5 million online in the 24 hours since he announced his candidacy. It is a surprisingly heavy haul for a candidate whom some in the Democratic chattering class have cast off as a gadfly and viewed as unable to wrest the nomination from the overwhelming favorite, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
While hardly record breaking, that’s really not a bad haul considering Sanders’ complete lack of viability. (And I’d say the same thing even if Hillary wasn’t running.) But let’s also keep in mind that it’s only remarkable because of the small period of time on the clock. If he keeps that up for even a week we might take a fresh look at it, but it will be a tall order. Ted Cruz locked down something in the range of $8M in the first week and has been going strong since then. The rest of the GOP field has been filling envelopes and lining up donor commitments steadily, which is what counts.
In the specific case of Sanders, we also have to match it up against his only known opponent. Hillary Clinton hasn’t even released her first fundraising figures, but they estimate that they’re on track to bank around $2.5B (that’s “billion” with a “b”) before this is all said and done. In reality, $1.5M isn’t even enough to launch a Senate race these days in a mildly competitive state. To even scratch the surface of a serious national bid, Sanders would have to duplicate this feat day in and day out for at least the next month, if not more.
And yet, the media seems to love a good Sanders story. Even Maxwell Tani at Business Insider was willing to throw Bernie some ink in praise of the initial fundraising surge.
“This is a remarkable start for Bernie’s campaign,” Sanders adviser Tad Devine said in a statement. “People across America are yearning for authentic leadership that tells them the truth about what is holding back our nation.”
If Democratic history is any guide, Sanders’ fundraising feat doesn’t mean he’s any closer to the nomination. In the 2004 presidential race, for example, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) stunned primary-watchers by raising millions online from small donors, but flamed out early.
Is it just me, or are there a number of people in the media who seem to be bending over backward trying to make Sanders’ bid seem more legitimate? There are two different schools of thought to explain this, depending on who it is doing the advertising at any given moment. Hillary’s many supporters in the media like the Sanders story because, first, they know that Sanders isn’t a real threat. But second, they absolutely hate the media narrative that Clinton is receiving yet another coronation in the primary – as she did in her New York Senate run – and that it damages her to not have an opponent to sharpen her skills on.
For the rest of the media, Sanders has the potential to take what is otherwise a mind numbingly boring primary race which is a ratings snoozer and turn it into something a bit more interesting and potentially click-worthy. The avowed socialist holds all sorts of views which are so radical that he would immediately drive hordes of even left leaning moderate voters away from the polls in droves in the general election. Having him on the stump in the primary will at least offer the possibility of some Left Side Whacko Bird comments which they could then run and ask Hillary to comment on.
So while the world is not in any pressing danger of a Sanders presidency, politics is a game of spectacle and we can always use something new for a good headline. What the heck. Go Bernie Go!