Who is the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump in November?
This was the urgent question facing voters in South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary, where 60 percent of the electorate are African-Americans. Communities of color can’t afford another four years of a president who gives encouragement to white supremacists, routinely violates the rights of immigrants and refugees, and actively plans to suppress votes in black and brown neighborhoods.
South Carolina was viewed as a testing ground to determine which candidate can build the inclusive, multi-racial coalition necessary for a Democratic victory in 2020. After winning the most votes in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, Sen. Bernie Sanders was the clear front-runner.
The “Sanders Surge” is causing intense anxiety within the consultant class who earn fat fees by telling us what we are supposed to think.
Best-selling author Anand Giridharadas summed it up in a tweet from his appearance on MSNBC, which went viral: “This is a wake-up moment for the American power establishment. Many in this elite are behaving like aristocrats in a dying regime ...”
Here’s an idea: Since these aristocrats — along with their pundits and pollsters — were so thoroughly wrong about the last presidential election, why don’t we listen to actual voters this time around?
As Peter Beinart pointed out in The Atlantic, while party elites are hostile to the Vermont senator, “among ordinary Democrats, Sanders is strikingly popular, even with voters who favor his rivals.”
The available data indicate that Sanders is better positioned than anyone else to unify Democrats and lead a winning campaign:
- A recent Monmouth University poll shows Sanders with a net favorability rating of 53 percent, the highest of any Democratic candidate.
- A survey from Quinnipiac University shows Sanders receiving high marks — a net favorability of 43 percent — from Democrats who describe themselves as “moderate” or “conservative.”
- In trial heats, Sanders regularly defeats Trump — more consistently, and typically by larger margins than his principal opponents.
- Sanders has created a grassroots fundraising army of 1.4 million small donors, far more than any other candidate, an essential ingredient for a successful general election campaign.
Sanders speaks truth more directly to power, than power is accustomed to hearing: he often calls out the billionaires, Wall Street titans, military-industrial complex, and other elites. He is an unconventional front-runner. So why is he winning?
A lot of the answer is in his consistent track record and the honesty that it shows: he has been saying the same things for decades, fighting for greater equality — including racial equality — and better living standards for working people. Agree with him or not, nobody doubts he is a man who means what he says. Authenticity goes a long way with today’s skeptical voters, especially when it’s backed up by detailed plans that address real-life problems — like health care costs and access, low and stagnant wages, and the low incomes of senior citizens that need a boost from expanded Social Security benefits.
If you listen to the pundits, you’ll hear that Medicare-for-All is an electoral liability. In fact, polls in early primary and caucus states found that Sanders’ plan for universal health care is overwhelmingly popular among voters. So is his proposal for free college tuition among voters generally, and his commitment to increase taxes on the wealthy to fund vital public programs.
The inequality of income and wealth in this country is out of control and has been worsening for decades. Requiring the well-off to pay a little more so everyone else can make ends meet has wide appeal across race, class, gender and geography. Sanders won Nevada, the New York Times reports,with “a multiracial coalition of immigrants, college students, Latina mothers, younger black voters, white liberals and even some moderates ...”
That sounds like a winning formula, especially in the hands of a guy who knows how to win. Bernie Sanders has won 11 statewide races in Vermont since 1990; in every presidential election year when he was also on the ballot, he received more votes than Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry or Barack Obama. That means more than a few Vermonters pulled a Republican lever for president, then looked down ballot and selected a gruff Brooklyn-born fighter who tells it like it is and has a long track record of standing up for the underdog.
There are a lot more underdogs than overdogs in America. That’s why it looks like Bernie Sanders will prevail in the primaries, unify a diverse Democratic coalition, and be the person who puts his hand on the Bible in January 2021.
Danny Glover is an actor, producer, humanitarian and activist for economic justice. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.