10 Reasons Why Bernie Sanders Is Our Best Chance to Beat Donald Trump
[2/18 Note: Since publication, Bernie won the first two states, has opened up a double-digit lead in multiple primary polls, has a greater chance of winning the primary than every other candidate combined, is winning the prediction market in every state but one, is polling as the most electable candidate, and is the only candidate beating Trump head-to-head in the latest poll.]
In just the past few days, Bernie Sanders has risen to the top in the most recent national poll, betting odds, and the specific poll that has predicted both the winner of Iowa and the eventual Democratic nominee in each of the previous six cycles. As his rivals begin to slip and falter, Bernie persists — he not only appears to have the most momentum, he could also be starting to peak at just the right time.
In light of this, after years of Bernie’s viability being outright ignored or downplayed with the same playbook used to discredit Barack Obama, it’s no longer just the lefty publications that are paying attention. Suddenly, everyone from Hillary Clinton advisers, center-right New York Times columnists, mainstream media pundits, and even Republican strategists are admitting (or warning) that Bernie could win the Democratic nomination.
But can he beat Donald Trump?
Only rarely do polls show Bernie being perceived as the most electable, and when out talking with voters I often hear from those who like him, but have been convinced he has a lower chance of winning. As it turns out, despite the false narrative to the contrary, virtually every single metric shows that not only is Bernie the safest choice, he could very well be the only choice.
Between 60–65% of Democrats currently prioritize choosing a nominee who can beat Trump over a nominee they agree with on the issues, a drastically higher percentage than was seen even after George W. Bush’s first term in 2004. Luckily for those who prefer Bernie’s policies, they don’t have to choose between the two. For everyone else, the time has come to unite around the most electable candidate, even if he’s not your first choice. Here are 10 reasons why.
1. BERNIE HAS THE PROVEN ELECTORAL RESULTS
Though Vermont is thought of as a blue state today, this is only recently — and marginally — the case. Though it’s voted that way in every presidential election since Bernie’s election to Congress in 1990, before then it had chosen the Democratic candidate just once in its entire history. Vermont’s current governor, along with 53 of the previous 59, are Republicans.
Vermont’s progressive evolution is in large part thanks to Bernie, who has won more elections than any other candidate, breaking the GOP stranglehold on the state’s politics. He did this by combatting conservatism not with centrism, but principled democratic socialism far to the left of the local Democrat Party’s failed opposition, even while the Cold War meant this was not an easy thing to do.
After four victorious runs for Mayor of Burlington, Bernie won the state’s only U.S. House seat in 1990, which had been solid red for a staggering 55 of its 57 years in existence. Bernie took this seat from the GOP, and it has been blue ever since he left it. Then in 2006, he flipped a +40 point Republican Senate seat that had never been won by a non-Republican in the 152 years since the party’s formation, and ended the longest single party winning streak in U.S. history with a +33 point victory.
Bernie didn’t just win his previous 15 state and local elections, he even outperformed the Democratic presidential candidate every single time these elections have coincided, beating Bill Clinton’s percentage in both 1992 (+12) and 1996 (+2), Al Gore 2000 (+18), John Kerry 2004 (+8), and Obama 2012 (+4). Bernie isn’t just the most experienced at beating — and winning over — Republicans, he’s by far the best we have.
On the national stage, Bernie has only ever vastly exceeded all expectations, coming in a strong second place behind Hillary Clinton in 2016, despite challenging the all-but-coronated frontrunner as a then-virtually unknown outsider. The first Jewish person to ever win a primary contest, he is the only current candidate who has ever won a single one before, and he has the only proven record of winning battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin.
Compare this to Joe Biden, whose campaign is being kept afloat almost entirely by his purported electability. He has received less than 0.22% of the vote in three previous Democratic primaries, during which he insulted voters before dropping out in disgrace after it was revealed he had plagiarized law school papers and campaign speeches in which he lied about having coal miner roots.
Elizabeth Warren has only won two elections in her entire career, both for a Senate seat that has been Democrat-held for the vast majority of the last 100 years. Pete Buttigieg, who has also only ever won two elections, was last re-elected Mayor of Indiana’s 4th biggest city with an abysmal 14% voter turnout, receiving just 8,515 votes, the least any winning candidate has received since at least 1983. The one time Buttigieg attempted a statewide election he was destroyed in a historically bad loss. We can’t risk less proven campaigners against Trump.
2. BERNIE HAS THE POLLING
While both Warren and Buttigieg are currently losing to Trump in head-to-head polling averages, Bernie joins Biden as one of just two candidates who are winning. Some polls even show Bernie as the only one.
Bernie has beaten Trump in more head-to-head general election polls than any other candidate, consistently winning them by some of the largest margins since July 2015. Bernie also polled against Trump much better than Clinton throughout the 2016 election, and is currently beating Trump on average in four of the six Obama-held states that she ended up losing.
This is especially impressive considering how consistently Bernie performs drastically better than polls predict. We saw this in 2016, when primary polls showed Bernie leading in just three states, yet he actually ended up winning 23 contests. Bernie even won the crucial battleground state of Michigan despite being given <1% chance of doing so!
This disconnect is due to pollsters notoriously underestimating Bernie’s support by under-representing and under-weighting the demographics he inspires to turn out uniquely well, including young people, independents (who outnumber both major parties), and those who don’t usually vote because they are disillusioned with the political process. There are legitimate qualms to be had with polling accuracy this far out, but fortunately for Bernie, when they’re wrong about him it’s usually because they’re not ranking him high enough.
Bernie is polling so well despite receiving the lowest proportional media coverage of any candidate, and he is the top second choice of more rival supporters than any other candidate. These two stats indicate he both has the most room to grow and is best positioned to unite a fractured party once the dust clears.
3. BERNIE HAS THE FAVORABILITY
Bernie has the highest favorability and net favorability among Democrats, independents, and the overall electorate as a whole, in both the primary field and all of Congress. Bernie even has the highest favorability and net favorability specifically amongst voters who flipped from Obama to Trump.
This is a more consequential stat than you might think, as no candidate with a net positive favorability has ever lost to a candidate with a net negative, which Trump has, in modern history. When both major candidates are positive or negative, the one with highest net rating has won every time. Perhaps more than any other indicator, people simply vote for who they like, and people like Bernie the best.
With historically disliked options in 2016, nearly 3 million eligible voters did not go to the polls, and an unprecedented 1.7 million people in 33 states voted but did not select a presidential candidate on their ballots. The top reason given for not voting was a dislike for the candidates, with the percentage citing this higher than it was in the previous two elections combined.
Clinton was viewed so unfavorably that a majority of those who preferred Trump supported him only to oppose her, not because they liked him, resulting in a drastically higher rate of “negative voting” than has been seen in recent history. Despite a vocal minority wishing to portray Bernie as divisive, fewer Democrats say they would never vote for him than would never vote for Biden or Warren.
On top of his high favorables, Bernie is consistently viewed as the most honest and trustworthy candidate who “best understands the problems of people like you.” If we nominate him, Trump will lose a sizable chunk of these negative votes he relied on to win. Running another out of touch and unrelatable candidate like Biden would likely hand Trump millions of disaffected voters once again.
4. BERNIE HAS THE DONORS
Donor numbers are arguably more compelling than polling data, considering that the average poll is a multiple-choice question distributed by cold-calling ~500 random people, whereas donations are an open-ended question presented to the entire nation every single day: Who do you support enough to willfully give your hard-earned money to?
Bernie is the only candidate to have more unique donors (1.4 million as of December 31, 2019, half a million more than 2nd place Warren), individual donations (over 5 million), and total donated money than Trump. At this point, Bernie has more donations from more donors than any other candidate in U.S. history, and he reached the 1 million unique donor mark, which no other candidate has reached, half a year sooner than Obama set the previous record. He’s done all of this despite the most crowded primary field in modern history spreading the potential donor pool far more thinly than it normally is with only two or three major candidates.
Because of this, Bernie has more cash on hand than any other Democratic candidate, and he’s amassed this war chest despite also being the only one not taking any money from billionaires, corporations, or bundling. In fact, when the spouse of one billionaire tried to donate to Bernie’s campaign, he returned the check out of principle.
These numbers, which highlight both superior spending power and popularity, show no sign of slowing down either, as other candidates’ have. 300,000 new people donated to Bernie in the last quarter alone, and, because they’re small dollar contributions averaging $18 and not one-time deposits of the maximum legal amount from ultra-wealthy mega-donors, over 99.9% of Bernie’s contributors can keep giving in the future.
Of course, due to the electoral college, the geographic distribution of these financial backers will matter once the checks turn to ballots, and Bernie’s is the most strategic by far. He leads in 46/50 states — all but the next four candidates’ home states. Crucially, Bernie has received more donations than Biden, Warren, and Buttigieg combined in the 206 specific counties that decided the 2016 election by flipping to Trump after voting for Obama in both 2008 and 2012.
5. BERNIE HAS THE IDEOLOGY
In the 21st century, the Democratic Party has lost every single presidential election in which they ran a centrist/moderate candidate (Gore, Kerry, and Clinton), and won every election in which their nominee ran as a progressive fighting for change (Obama in 2008 and 2012). Simply put, we already tried putting a neoliberal running on incrementalism up against Trump in 2016, and that campaign and its message has failed. Even the Republican “moderates” John McCain and Mitt Romney lost while the more extreme Trump succeeded. The middle lane has died, and it’s time to pick a side.
We simply must learn from these mistakes, adapt, and nominate a better and more progressive candidate in 2020 if we don’t want another Trump victory. You know that tacky cliche about how insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results? It is repeated so often for a reason.
When people are dissatisfied with the status quo, as they are now with wealth inequality at its worst since the Great Depression era, they will seek out change, as they did in electing Obama. Though it was the wrong kind of change, Trump beat Clinton because he was offering some while she was not, and candidates like Biden that are running on the message that “nothing will fundamentally change” follow in her doomed footsteps. Trump’s grip on working class populism is vulnerable not to neoliberalism that ignores it, but to Bernie who speaks to and redirects it with the platform that will most comprehensively improve the average American’s life, and therefore inspire them to vote in November.
The data backs this up — the majority of Democrats now want a candidate more progressive than Obama and (though Bernie isn’t even a “real socialist”) even view socialism more favorably than capitalism. Yes, some are still wary of the ‘s’ word, but the GOP’s tired penchant for indiscriminately lobbing the label at everyone (such as noted capitalist Obama, who won anyway) has essentially rendered the word meaningless and the attack toothless.
Polls show Bernie actually beats Trump by more when labeled a “socialist” than when labeled just a “Democrat,” and even Trump himself has admitted running against “socialism” in 2020 “might not be so easy.” In fact, socialism itself is even polling higher than Trump! It’s time to stop worrying about what the far right will be scared by and start fighting for what the rest of America wants instead.
Still, detractors often point to Trump being the “worst ever” as a reason why we can’t “risk” pushing for real progress and should instead revert to the “safe” status quo for the “most important election of our lifetimes.” While this self-fulfilling excuse for digressing to the mean is almost always (often knowingly) wrong, the opposite is especially true in this case — with the most brazenly repulsive opponent in modern history, even the most anti-Bernie naysayers will find it hard to justify abandoning their own #BlueNoMatterWho crusade of the past four years.
In fact, if a more aesthetically civil and “moderate” Republican was incumbent, such as Mitt Romney, then hordes of corporatist, centrist Democrats could defect in the name of “anti-extremist” “unity.” Yes, you can argue that the stakes are now “higher than ever,” but that would be precisely why this is actually the best time there has ever been to diametrically oppose what is especially wrong with what is the most right.
6. BERNIE HAS THE POLICIES
While those with vested interests in stopping progressive policies will tell you Bernie’s platform is too extreme to win, the opposite is true. Practically every single one of Bernie’s policies are supported by the majority of voters, including tuition free public college and abolishing all student debt, the Green New Deal, legalizing cannabis and expunging past convictions, restoring voting rights to those with criminal records, and expanding employee ownership of companies, to name just a few.
Republicans know this — Trump admits Bernie’s platform would be “a tough one” to run against, and Tucker Carlson predicts it will “win many thousands” of Trump voters. Other Democrats are now adopting policies similar to Bernie’s to capitalize on the support he has built, too. We don’t need to choose between electability and popular policies when it’s Bernie’s policies that make him the most electable.
For example, even a majority of Republicans now support Medicare for All, a flagship policy that Bernie took from fringe to litmus test issue nearly entirely on his own. Crucially, Medicare for All still polls with majority support even when it is explicitly stated that it replaces private insurance. These positions truly matter to voters, as we saw when Warren dropped dramatically in the polls following her abandonment of Medicare for All. [3/1 Note: Medicare for All has received +6 to +27 net positive approval ratings in exit polls in each of the four states to vote thus far, proving its popularity even in red states.]
Because he has the most popular platform, voters consistently rank Bernie as the best candidate on healthcare, on the environment, the economy, and immigration. Top organizations feel the same way: Greenpeace and Sunrise Movement both rank Bernie as their #1 candidate to combat the climate crisis with A+ and A- ratings, respectively, and The Network for Public Education grades Bernie highest with an A on average across all areas.
By putting people-focused policy over party, Bernie attracts unique crossover appeal. His ability to speak openly and honestly about his ideas to right-leaning voters, instead of pandering to or disparaging them, consistently wins them over like no other Democrat can. The candidate that will win is the candidate with a proven ability to earn raucous support for his platform whether deep in Trump country or in a Fox News town hall, and only Bernie has shown the ability to be that candidate.
7. BERNIE HAS THE DEMOGRAPHICS
Despite the false narrative to the contrary, Bernie has the most diverse coalition, consistently winning the most nonwhite, women, and LGBTQ supporters and donors out of the entire pack. He consistently ranks highest with independents and working class voters and donors too, which will be key in winning over Trump’s populist base. On the other hand, largely white, college-educated bases such as Warren’s and Buttigieg’s are incredibly unlikely to win on their own. [3/1 Note: Though he’s always led with all nonwhite and younger black voters, Bernie now leads with all black voters as well.]
Despite Bernie’s age, he is also far and away the most popular candidate with younger voters. Bernie is the only Democrat currently beating Trump with college students, and his student support group is the largest in history. Recent polls show a stunning majority of those under 35 currently support him, which isn’t surprising considering he received more votes from those under 30 than Clinton and Trump combined in 2016.
When looking at the past two Democratic nominations, this demographic has been crucial — Obama won young voters and they carried him to a general election victory, whereas Clinton’s failure with youth saw her lose to Trump. Moving forward, this demographic is only becoming more important than ever, as Boomers were outvoted for the first time in 2018, and those under 35 became the nation’s largest voting bloc. This is not just due to a natural generational shift, either — voter turnout for those under 30 even increased 79% between 2014 and 2018, the largest increase for any age group. Passing up their candidate of choice would spell disaster come November.
8. BERNIE HAS THE ENDORSEMENTS
Bernie has earned arguably the three highest-profile endorsements made so far, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib all rallying behind him. Far from the usual jockeying for political favor, these endorsements come from the most progressive members of the U.S. House, and they’re bravely sticking their necks out to do it.
As some of the newest members of Congress, these young women of color are the face of a rising generation, and they’ve co-signed Bernie’s vision from a diverse range of perspectives that make up America. AOC represents a New York district as a former bartender of Catholic and Puerto Rican heritage, Omar represents a Minnesota district as a Muslim who came to America as a Somalian refugee, and Tlaib represents a Michigan district that is third-poorest in the nation as a Muslim of Palestinian heritage.
As the sole candidate still fighting for true Medicare for All, Bernie has also won the endorsement of the country’s largest nurses union, the 150,000-member NNU. His support for the Green New Deal won him Sunrise Movement’s endorsement with more than 75% of its 10,000-member vote, and his education platform also earned him the only teachers union endorsement thus far, when UTLA, the second-largest in the nation with 35,000 members, chose Bernie with 80% of the vote.
Bernie’s labor plans have also earned endorsements from the nation’s largest CWA local union, California’s 17,000-member UPTE, and New Hampshire’s 10,000-member SEIU chapter. Most recently, one of the nation’s largest immigrants rights group, Make the Road Action, gave Bernie their first presidential endorsement ever. They canvassed more than 255,000 homes in the 2018 election, and they plan to knock on 600,000 more doors for Bernie in 2020.
The 200,000 member American Postal Union has endorsed Bernie too. Progressive advocacy group Center for Popular Democracy Action (CPD)’s 600,000 mostly nonwhite members also voted to endorse Bernie with 75% of the vote. CPD canvassed an estimated 5 million doors last election, and is behind 65 policy victories, 25 congressional victories, and 110 state legislative victories in just the past few years alone, making them a formidable ally.
9. BERNIE HAS THE EXCITEMENT AND STAMINA
Bernie is best positioned to beat Trump because he is the only movement-based candidate in the race. His “Not Me, Us” calls for a “political revolution” are resulting in some of the hugest grassroots, bottom-up mobilization the nation has seen in generations.
This is illustrated by Bernie having the most volunteers (over 1 million as of the first week of his campaign) and the largest rallies (his biggest had 26,000 inside and thousands more outside). His campaign consistently puts in the most work — his army of passionate supporters have knocked on half a million doors in Iowa and made over 10 million calls nationwide in just the last month, doubling the initial goal.
Bernie is getting these results because his supporters are far more committed, confident, and enthusiastic than any other candidates’. Not only are they least likely to defect or drop off, but they’re most likely to convert friends and family before bringing them along to the polls on election day. Bernie is also by far the most likely to inspire first-time voters to go to the polls, meaning he won’t just keep the Democratic base energized, he’ll bring in badly needed fresh blood as well. No wonder the Senate Democrats made Bernie their Chairman of Outreach despite him technically still being an independent — even the party establishment recognizes his unique ability in this area.
This is especially important following an embarrassing loss in 2016 blamed by many on Clinton’s inability to excite. Biden would be similarly unable to inspire the level of engagement needed to win a general election — a recent poll shows just 8% of respondents feel he is “exciting,” and he has so few volunteers he has to post job listings for canvassers. These are pretty grim signs for the party should he become the nominee.
Bernie is able to excite so many voters in part because he puts in the most work — he’s essentially been campaigning since 2015, and he’s still packing in more events than any other candidate. Even weeks after his health scare, Bernie was back to vastly outperforming Biden, who has been skipping major party events, hiding from the press, and holding only between a quarter and half as many public events as other candidates.
Bernie has the stamina to maintain such a rigorous schedule because he’s still quite healthy, and he’s released more medical records than his rivals to prove it. It’s statistically expected that a man of his age would have some degree of coronary artery disease, and the recent procedure he had for it is one of the most common in the country and regularly reverses this condition without ever affecting job performance.
Comparatively, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, and Bush all suffered the same or worse starting at younger ages. Biden has even required brain surgery after suffering multiple aneurysms, has a cardiac issue that causes mental decline and strokes, and clearly suffers from cognitive issues he refuses to be tested for.
The last time a democratic socialist pushing a “New Deal” ran for president he inspired enough enthusiasm to be elected a record-breaking four different times. If you’re worried about Bernie’s routine tune-up performed with modern technology, consider how FDR’s 19th century-born, polio-ridden body won a world war and ushered in an unprecedented era of domestic prosperity all while confined to a wheelchair.
10. BERNIE HAS THE BEST MATCHUP VS TRUMP
Though Trump is unable to intelligently debate policy, he won in large part because of his ruthless effectiveness at using scandals and personal attacks to target establishment politicians. Hillary Clinton’s plentiful weaknesses lined up perfectly with his wretched strengths, and it was entirely predictable how he would hammer her with her support for the Iraq War, her emails and FBI investigation, her husband’s accusers that she helped discredit, and more.
It’s not hard to imagine Trump doing the same to Biden, who he’d target as an embodiment of the corrupt D.C. “swamp” equally as well. Trump will point out how Biden, who can barely string a coherent sentence together, often lies about also promoting the Iraq War, has worked to cut social security for 40 years, has a history of being bad on women’s issues, and has a penchant for creepiness that has led to at least eight sexual harassment allegations. Then he’ll hit Biden for being both to right of him on trade and easily bought, having donated to the former VP himself.
To make matters worse, Biden is now embroiled in a Ukrainian scandal the Democrats themselves are elevating and perpetuating as the unnecessary premise for impeachment. Showing a shocking lack of temperament, he lashed out at a voter who brought this up, raising serious questions of how Biden would handle Trump’s attacks on the topic. His bizarre decision to defy a subpoena to testify in Trump’s trial will now also make him appear as if he has something to hide, and Trump is already running ads to this effect.
Similarly, Warren faking indigenous ancestry and lying about it is simply senseless ammunition to give Trump. She’s already played directly into his hands on this, and shown an inability to handle even gentle pushback from liberals. If Meghan McCain can get Warren to crumple simply by repeating herself, then, frighteningly, the Senator stands little chance against Trump. Lacking the bravery to even hold a town hall on Fox News, Warren will likely have no answer should Trump claim she has been a Democrat for fewer years than even he was.
With his horrid record on race and, well, pretty much everything else, Buttigieg is surely causing Trump to lick his lips in anticipation as well. The inexperienced former mayor is poorly handling being protested by the activist groups we should instead be fighting alongside, and if he’s so noticeably flustered and clenching his fist aggressively when pressured even mildly by Warren, one can only imagine how his calculated aw-shucks demeanor would be battered by Trump’s more relentless hounding.
It doesn’t even matter if Trump’s attacks are true or not, but many will be, and the optics can be fatal regardless. We simply can’t afford to put forth a candidate who will forever be pinned on the defensive, unable to pivot to the issues, and stripped of the clear moral high ground — even if only in appearance — needed to hold Trump to account.
This is why, as the cleanest and safest option we have, Bernie is the ideal nominee. Even the most vocally anti-Bernie adviser from Clinton’s 2016 campaign (who has since endorsed the Senator) now repeatedly admits there was never any oppo on Bernie that could “derail him in a general election,” calling him “the strongest candidate to handle the right’s smears.” Voters agree.
Despite being thoroughly vetted in the mainstream since 2015, neither party has been able to come up with much besides an awkward critique of gender norms from 1972, a shoddily mischaracterized nuclear waste disposal that never even happened, a few unhinged Russian conspiracy theories, a winter coat his step-son gave him, and some empty insults. Trump still can’t manage any better than weakly calling him “crazy,” if he acknowledges him at all.
Trump’s allies in Congress warn Bernie “poses the greatest risk,” and the President himself has even admitted that the 2016 race “would have been tougher” had Clinton chose Bernie as VP, saying he was “the only one I didn’t want her to pick.” There’s a reason why Trump also cowardly backed out of his proposed debate with Bernie in 2016: Trump simply knows he can’t beat Bernie.
Bernie can’t be attacked as a Beltway swamp monster in need of draining because he is the leader of the anti-establishment movement. With his laser-focus and lack of scandals, only Bernie can be relied on to not play into (and invariably lose) Trump’s games. At the end of the day, Bernie is the only candidate who can force Trump to stick to the issues, exposing him for the fraud he is. That’s exactly how we’re going to win.
If you liked this article you might also be interested in “A Progressive’s Guide to Choosing Between Bernie and Warren” and “125+ Reasons You Should Not Vote for Joe Biden.”