There is only one reason that Biden has surpassed Bernie in the Democratic primary. It is because voters believe the dubious hypothesis, widely amplified by the media and Democratic Party establishment, that Biden is the best and only option that voters have to beat Trump.
But as an independent investigative journalist with 40 years of professional experience, I believe that recent political trends and the results of the 2016 election suggest the opposite is true: that Bernie is far more likely to beat Trump, while Biden is a much riskier choice.
Anyone who claims to know for certain who will win the presidential election is lying. Recent national polls show that either Sanders or Biden would both beat Trump by roughly similar margins if the election was held today.
This, of course, does not take into account Trump’s electoral college advantage or the impact that months of Trump’s vicious advertising, campaigning and rigged investigations will have on voters. Nor does it take into effect the steep downturn in our economy that has already started, or Trump’s dismal failure to respond to the coronavirus crisis, both of which will help either democratic nominee beat Trump.
Many Democratic primary voters have brought into the Biden hype that Super Tuesday’s results were determinative in proving that Bernie, even with far more support among critically important independents, Latinx, and young voters, does not have the backing he will need to beat Trump. But this argument ignores the fact that the primaries reflect less than half the number of citizens who go on to vote for Democrats in the presidential election, and very few non-party swing voters or historic nonvoters.
The truth is it is anyone’s race at this moment in time: Bernie’s, Biden’s or Trump’s. So I ask primary voters to consider, for themselves, these six reasons that Bernie is more likely to beat Trump, and to weigh them against the reasons given by the political insiders and pundits who proclaim Biden to be the better choice.
These are the six reasons why I believe Bernie Sanders is more likely to beat Trump than Joe Biden:
- Biden’s “Huntergate” will be far worse than Hillary’s emails
- Outsiders always beat insiders for U.S. President
- Bernie has the charisma and vision required to beat Trump
- Bernie gives 2016 nonvoters reasons to turn out
- Independent swing voters prefer Bernie
- Biden voters will vote for Bernie but many Bernie voters will not vote for Biden
Before explaining each of these reasons, I want to emphasize that I believe in the urgency of voting “blue no matter who.” If Biden wins the primary, I will support him in the general election and work hard to encourage others to vote for him.
I have been writing about Donald Trump for longer than any journalist working today. My stories about him in the Washington Post, starting with exposing how Trump conned me into putting him on the Forbes 400 rich list by pretending to be his fictitious spokesperson John Baron, made international news.
I believe that if Trump takes a second term and one more Supreme Court appointment, our democracy will perish and a Hitler-esque dictatorship will follow. I am so alarmed by this prospect that I wrote a new dystopian novel, America 2034, a spinoff of Orwell’s frightening 1984 that is set in President for life Trump’s fifth term.
What is most distressing to Bernie-backing pundits like me is that we watched and warned of the 2016 election train wreck that brought us the nightmare of Trump, and we see frightening similarities between Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and Joe Biden’s. Four years ago, right after Super Tuesday, I wrote a column in the Huffington Post about the results of repeated Reuters polling: “Hillary, the quintessential establishment candidate during an Election year in which voters are in open revolt against party-backed candidates, is so disliked by independent voters that two to one of them will vote for her Republican opponent in November. These same independent voters flip when faced with a Sanders-Trump- lineup, virtually ensuring that a Sanders nomination will lead to a Sanders presidency.”
Although Biden, thankfully, does not have the historically high unfavorability ratings that Hillary had, Biden backers have entirely missed the memo of Trump’s 2016 victory. During the Republican primary, Trump demolished 15 Republican candidates whose political experience caused them to sink like stones against his anti-establishment tirades and hateful lies. He then built a wave of resentment, fear, and white Christian grievance that carried him, against all odds, into the White House in a shocking victory against Hillary Clinton who, like Joe Biden, was a quintessential Washington insider.
Which brings me to argument #1.
- Biden’s “Huntergate” will be far worse than Hillary’s emails
Recalling Trump’s 2016 debate with the woman he called “crooked Hillary” feels like a bad dream from which our nation has not yet awakened. Trump’s most notorious and consequential remark, was “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
Russia’s collusion to elect Trump is, tragically, happening again, but it is going to feel quaint when compared to the assault that Trump’s campaign will wage against Joe Biden and his son Hunter. This time Trump has on his side even more powerful forces than Putin’s Russia and a Fox News-led propaganda network that would make Goebbels’ Nazi hate machine envious. Trump’s upcoming Biden family smear campaign will also have the monumental unrestrained power of every federal agency.
Trump’s enforcers have systematically cleansed every agency of anyone insisting on placing the law of our land ahead of personal loyalty to him. They are now entirely managed by political cronies, especially the F.B.I., C.I.A., State Department and Department of Justice, as well as a Senate stuffed with 53 willful enablers of any and all acts of deceit and criminality.
The Republican controlled Senate will commence its “Burisma investigation” soon. And we can be sure they will continue, in some form or another, right through Election Day. If Biden is his opponent this November, we can be sure that Trump’s unrivaled media network will cast Biden as public enemy number 1, “hijacking foreign policy for the private gains of his family.” Trumpsters and their families will probably never understand the hypocrisy of America’s Mobster-in Chief calling out his opponent’s imaginary corruption. Instead Trump’s campaign rallies through America’s heartland will soon be punctuated with mob chants of “Lock him up!” As a concerned pundit noted, “Biden is the swamp creature of Trump’s dreams.”
It will be impossible for Trump to paint honest Bernie, whose integrity is unimpeachable, with the same “crooked politician” brush that he used against Clinton and has been using against Biden for years.
Instead Trump and his minions would call Bernie a socialist, a commie, anti-American, far left and too radical. But Republicans said the same thing about Obama. And in 2008, Obama’s visionary promise of ‘Change we can believe in” brushed these accusations aside, and brought him to victory.
2. Outsiders always beat insiders for U.S. President
Biden-boosting pundits frequently sound the alarm that nominating Bernie Sanders will result in a disastrous loss to Trump similar to McGovern’s loss to Nixon in 1972.
But I think that the more apt analogy, especially with the economy collapsing around us, is to compare Bernie vs. Trump with FDR’s landslide victory over Republican Herbert Hoover in 1932. With the Great Depression and a stock market collapse decimating the American people, FDR–like Bernie–promised a radical New Deal, structural changes that gave us Social Security and provided the foundation for a half century of middle and working class prosperity.
FDR was a true reformer, and to this day is remembered by historians as the most evolutionarily effective president of the century.
Which sounds a lot like Bernie Sanders. As columnist Arun Gupta observed, Biden, in contrast,, “has no vision, good or bad, that might ignite a mass upsurge the way Obama did in 2008, Reagan did in 1980, or even Trump did in 2016.”
Gupta believes that a Biden candidacy will lose against Trump’s faux populism and surprisingly effective “outsider” mythology. “We’ve seen this movie before,” Gupta writes. “It’s a reboot of Michael Dukakis’s 1988 campaign, when Democratic Party elites and the corporate media frantically rallied behind the Massachusetts governor to stop the insurgent New Deal–style campaign of Jesse Jackson.
Gupta continues that Dukakis’s “ineptitude and lack of appeal are soberingly similar to Biden’s, who looks to be the latest candidate to mobilize the party behind them in the primary only to be defeated in the general election. That includes Walter Mondale in 1984, Bob Dole in 1996, Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, John McCain in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012, and Hillary Clinton in 2016.”
“Every single one was a party insider burdened with decades of crippling compromises and hardened public perceptions. They staved off challengers and insurgents on the road to the convention, but every single one failed because they were captives of their party that had no grander vision to offer.”
3. Bernie has the charisma and vision required to beat Trump
Like most Democrats, I find it difficult to appreciate Trump’s popularity and what a diabolically effective speaker he is. He has perfected the charismatic art of folksy anti-establishment, lie-filled hate mongering in a manner that rivals Adolf Hitler, who also mobilized massive angry white mobs against imagined “enemies of the people.”
This simplistic us vs. them narrative, fueled by grievance, paranoia, xenophobia, racism, and a promise to bring back the good old days by Making America Great Again is a dark vision, but with Trump’s charismatic delivery, it comes across as visionary.
To beat Trump, Democrats need a leader who can deliver an alternative vision, passionately and with charisma.
That leader is Bernie Sanders, not Joe Biden, who offers little in the way of vision beyond not being Trump. Author Naomi Klein recently called Biden “a weak candidate who offers nothing but a dream of the past” whose candidacy has been promoted by “corporate Dems” to “stop the candidate offering health, housing, debt and wage policies that will improve life for millions.”
Bernie’s 2020 vision, on the other hand, is robust and exciting. He offers structural change that will create a government that works for the people and not the corporations and billionaires that finance the campaigns of both political parties. Delivered with passion, charisma and simplicity, it is the vision of a “future to believe in,” a government that places people before party, or ego, a campaign built around the promise: “Not me. Us.”
4. Bernie gives 2016 nonvoters reasons to turn out
More than 100 million eligible Americans sat out the last election. That’s about 50% more than the number of voters who chose either Clinton, or Trump.
There are endless theories about why so many Americans choose not to be part of our democracy. The only observation one could make with certainty is that these 100 million Americans decided that there was not enough in it for them to do the small actions that were necessary to show up and cast a ballot.
A disproportionate number of these nonvoters were young people who vote, on average, at about half the rate as Americans over the age of 65. During the 2016 election, the senior demographic voted 53% for Trump, and 44% for Clinton. Young voters who did turn out voted for Clinton over Trump 58% to 28%.
If even one-tenth of the young Americans who sat out the 2016 contest cast their votes for Sanders this November, Bernie could win numerous states that Trump narrowly won during the last election, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and perhaps even Florida.
Bernie Sanders offers these young nonvoters tangible and advantageous reasons to vote for him in a way that Joe Biden and Donald Trump do not. Bernie’s Medicare for All offers them a ticket out of the nightmare of health insurance anxiety that has forced 20 million Americans to humiliate themselves in their communities by needing to beg for help paying for medical care through crowd sourced websites. Bernie offers them the ability to free up income saddled by the crippling college loan debt that 45 million citizens now hold. As well as the ability to attend college themselves, or for their children. Bernie offers them a $15 federal minimum wage, as well as access to millions of new jobs for a green new deal and infrastructure restoration work.
We have all read the critique that Bernie’s young voters did not show up for the primaries, as though this were clear evidence that young nonvoters will not show up this November. In fact, all this means is that young 2016 nonvoters did not show up for primaries. What nobody is saying is that many citizens, especially young ones, do not even understand what a primary is.
This does not make them stupid. I admit that it took me some years to start voting in primaries. But I made sure that within months of turning 18, I cast my vote for Jimmy Carter against Gerald Ford in the general election. Because I knew there was something in it for me–and my fellow Americans.
Bernie, I believe, will evoke a similar sentiment to thousands, if not millions, of young 2016 nonvoters this November. I do not know this any more, or any less, than another pundit knows that these nonvoters will fail to show up in the general election simply because they did not vote in the primaries.
I do know that if anyone can make nonvoters change their minds and consider that there is an advantage to casting their ballots this November, that person is Bernie Sanders, not Joe Biden. Or Donald Trump.
5. Independent swing voters prefer Bernie
This is the 800-pound electoral gorilla in the room that Biden’s media and political cheerleaders ignore at our peril.
More Americans now identify as independents than either Republican or Democrat. While it is true that many of them typically vote with one party or another, it is also true that independents are far more likely to act as “swing” voters, switching form one party to another depending on the candidate, than the many Americans who identify and vote with their chosen party every election.
Bernie Sanders is the most prominent member of congress ever elected to identify not as a Democrat or Republican, but as an Independent. This has made it a lot easier for him to place people over party, time and time again. And despite the well-repeated lie that “Bernie has no record of achievement,” Sanders got more budgetary and legislative amendments added to bills that passed than any of his hundreds of fellow congress members. As a result of his nonpartisan effectiveness, Bernie’s customer satisfaction rating (“favorability”) among his constituents ranks him number one in the U.S. Senate among his 99 peers. His favorability rating of 65% ranks even higher than how the reddest of red state constituents feel about their Republican senators.
Although ignored by the media, Bernie’s huge advantage among independent voters was demonstrated during Super Tuesday’s primary. Bernie beat Biden for self-described independent votes in almost every one of the 13 races. In Texas Bernie won 39% of independents to Biden’s 23%. In California, 46% to 15%. Colorado was 33% to 9%. Maine was 40% to 22%. Even North Carolina, which Biden carried easily, Bernie won the independents by 34% to Biden’s 29%.
I do not think any candidate for president has been as frequently vilified in the media, and among the Democratic Party establishment as Bernie Sanders. Professionalism and decorum have been shunted aside in the race to denounce his insurgent candidacy. When Bernie was surging a few weeks ago, Washington Post columnist Max Boot wrote an attack with the uncharacteristically hypothetical headline, “Vote for Bernie, elect Trump.” Not to be outdone, the New York Times’ David Brooks wrote one titled, No, Not Sanders, Not Ever” while on MSNBC, Chris Matthews compared Bernie’s victory in New Hampshire and Iowa with the Nazi invasion of France.
It is no surprise, then, that to Democratic Party primary voters following their party’s establishment leaders and media pundits, voting for Biden feels like the right choice to beat Trump.
But to the undecided independent swing voters who are likely to determine the outcome of this election, Bernie is the far more attractive candidate, as he rightfully wears the antipathy of the Democratic Party establishment and corporate media pundits as a badge of honor.
6. Biden voters will vote for Bernie but many Bernie voters will not vote for Biden
During the past few weeks, I have spoken with many Democrats who have proclaimed that the reason they are voting for anyone but Sanders is because they are sure that Bernie will lose badly to Trump due to his radicalism. They maintain this confidence even in the face of national polls that show Bernie and Biden polling roughly equally against Trump in the general election.
I then ask each of them the same question: Would you, or any Democrat you know, vote for Trump over Bernie in November?
Not a single anti-Bernie Democrat has answered this question affirmatively.
The same cannot be said for a small number of the Bernie backers I have spoken with. Bernie attracts not just the young, the idealistic, and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but the disenfranchised, the Occupy Wall Streeters, social justice radicals and other elements from the fringes of the American public who really, really dislike politics as usual. In an NBC News exit poll taken on Super Tuesday, “15 percent of Sanders voters said they weren’t committed to voting for the Democratic nominee, regardless of who it was, compared to 10 percent of Biden voters who said the same.”
The NBC News website reported on this poll with the type of Bernie-bashing headline that has become standard fare for the corporate media: “Sanders voters helped Trump win the White House. Could they do it again?”
The argument that Sanders magically controls people who voted for him and therefore contributed to Trump’s victory and threatens to do so again is a common anti-Bernie theme. Somehow NBC forgot to mention that during the two months leading up to the 2016 general election, Sanders held 39 rallies for Clinton in 13 states.
NBC also failed to mention that in 2008, when Hillary Clinton lost the democratic primary to the man who would become America’s first black president, 24% of “her” primary voters cast their ballots for Republican Bob Dole in that year’s general election. Analysts believe this number was two to four times greater than the number of Bernie voters who switched to Trump.
So these defections are going to happen regardless of who is the nominee. There will simply be fewer of them if Bernie is the nominee. And a few hundred thousand votes here and there may make all the difference between whether a Democrat or Donald Trump runs our government this time next year.