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Taking Bernie seriously

Michael Brendan Dougherty of National Review Online argues that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has a legitimate chance to win the 2020 presidential election.

Be under no illusions. The 77-year-old Senator from Vermont — the man who tried to bring Sandinista radio to Burlington, and the runner-up to Madame Smart Power for the Democratic nomination in 2016 — may very well be our next president. Bernie can win.

Some have said that Sanders overperformed in the 2016 Democratic primary because Hillary Clinton is a uniquely bad candidate. (Well, Rich Lowry has said that.) Sanders would fade under closer scrutiny. If it seems like he’s a real contender to grab the nomination, people will research the weird things he said in the 1970s and 1980s. Or they’ll get more accustomed to his personal quirks and affect. And then he’ll fade. A gap between the austerity of his democratic-socialist politics and his relatively comfortable personal lifestyle will overwhelm him.

My response: Where have you been the last four years? Polished candidates are out. Candid candidates are in. Voters can and will forgive their politicians almost any verbal lapses, so long as they believe the candidate doesn’t hate them. Sanders has the manners not to talk about huge swathes of the American public with disdain or contempt. We know he won’t repeat Mitt Romney’s “takers” moment. But, crucially, while Sanders will denounce racism and divisiveness, he won’t imply that Trump’s supporters are economically useless “deplorables.” Bernie is not “intersectional” — at least, not in the alienating way. His declared enemies are the millionaires and billionaires who buy up public policy. He will not be tempted, as some other candidates may be, to mimic or adopt the young-lefty-media views on intersectionality that remain avant-garde and alienating to key swing constituencies.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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