Taking President Sanders seriously

Sanders avoids racial identity politics, and his class-based politics will resonate with Obama-Trump voters. Two weeks ago, when asked about spending in politics, Sanders said: “You know, people have a right to participate in the political process. But again, getting back to the fundamental issue, the reason we have so much income inequality, the reason we are the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all people, the reason that almost all new income and wealth goes to the top 1% is precisely because of a corrupt political system which allows billionaires to have inordinate influence of the economic and political life of the country.”

This might scare some Romney-Johnson voters back into the Republican fold, but for a much wider swath of the electorate this will resonate. While this group of voters also tends to like President Trump, Sanders’ message offers them a way to come around to the Democratic Party, to the extent the election really is a choice.

Moreover, Sanders’ persona and message avoid the racial identity politics that often pushes these voters away from the Democratic Party. Although Pete Buttigieg is to Sanders’ right, I think Buttigieg would potentially have more of a problem because he codes as a Harvard-educated cultural liberal. For many voters, Sanders will code as the curmudgeonly eccentric uncle with whom you disagree at Thanksgiving but share a laugh with afterwards. He’ll be able to get some of these voters back. Relatedly, I’ve long thought that Trump’s heavy regional dialect and “unique” hair helped blue-collar white voters (who are often mocked for those attributes) relate to him; it may work the same for Sanders.