June 20, 2018

Bernie Sanders in 2020?

Bernie SandersI voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary election. I did so because I found him preferable to the other Democratic candidates on the ballot. Although I was not surprised that he lost the primary to Clinton, it was nice to see him tap into something and perform better than I expected. Following the general election, I was not among the "Bernie would have won" crowd. I didn't think he would have fared any better than Clinton did.

During the last month or two, I have seen some people suggesting that Sanders might run again in 2020 and others calling on him to do so. Given that I previously voted for him, it may seem strange that I now find myself hoping he will not run again in 2020. Frankly, the fact that some on the left are even talking about Sanders running again tells me just how much trouble the Democratic Party is in. I suppose Sanders might almost begin to make sense if the party can't find a viable candidate, but I sure hope it doesn't come to that.

There is no question that Sanders appealed to a large segment of the left in 2016, and many of them still count themselves among his fans. There is also no question that they were (and in many cases still are) enthusiastic about him. There just weren't (and probably still aren't) enough of them. When I try to imagine Sanders running again in 2020, my guess is that he'd still have some passionate supporters but probably fewer of them than was the case in 2016. I'm sure some people would be delighted to hear his greatest hits (e.g., "income inequality") again, but I suspect I wouldn't be alone in hoping for some new material.

Sure, Sanders could come out in 2020 and run an entirely different sort of campaign. Instead of making a bunch of pie-in-the-sky promises on which he'd never be able to deliver and pandering to every sort of identity group on the left, he could come out with detailed plans for how he would accomplish his goals without any Republican support. He could do this, but I've seen no reason to think that he would do this. I think we'd probably hear more of the same from him.

My hope is that the Democratic Party will look to the future and find some younger candidates with whom we are less familiar. Given that little, if any progress has been made on bridging the divide between the centrist wing of the party and the progressive wing of the party, unification seems like it will be a critical task. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine how any candidate can simultaneously appeal to enough moderate and independent voters while incorporating all the identity politics stuff the far left will require. I suspect that figuring this out may prove to be every bit as important as selecting a candidate.