I am certainly rooting for Bernie Sanders to beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. He is the only candidate with a vision for how to transform America using grassroots mass movements. He has a real plan to tackle climate change which is the most important issue facing the survival of the human race. Most importantly, he is willing to fight for a progressive agenda and has spent the last 25 years in congress writing bills that he wants to implement as President. Unlike the other candidates, he is will call on the American people to mass mobilize to implement the policies he is proposing. Like Obama, Clinton, Webb, O’Malley and Chaffee simply do not have a vision for how to mobilize the American public to force through change.
All of that said, we need to take seriously Nate Silver’s analysis that Bernie Sanders’ support is limited to white liberals. Sanders really does need to make an active effort to reach out to the black and Hispanic voters and not just say that their issues are the class issues that he already speaks about. On the other hand, Sanders may have a lot more appeal to these voters than the pundits expect once he starts talking about his civil rights activism in college and his experience as the son of an immigrant. The problem is that Sanders isn’t very comfortable doing identity politics and talking about personal experiences.
Hopefully black voters will look at Sander’s experience as a leader of CORE at the University of Chicago, getting arrested for protesting housing discrimination at the university and marching on Washington in 1963 with MLK. If any candidate should have credibility with the black community, it should be Sanders, but he won’t make the kind of personal appeal and talk about feeling their pain, so I’m not sure that he will win the black vote. Still, the more Sanders gets out his message, he can only gain support, so I’m not willing to give up hope yet. I don’t see Hillary’s hold on the black and Hispanic vote as being very deep. She has lined up the support of the leaders of those communities, but there is wide spread dissatisfaction among the minority communities and Sanders talk about jobs programs for the youth, reducing the number of youth in prison, and free tuition at public universities does have a good chance of swaying many black and Hispanic voters.
Where I see the biggest challenge is among more conservative democrats who are scared by the word “socialist”. Anyone looking at Sander’s policy proposals can see that he isn’t advocating government owning the means of production, which is the traditional definition of socialism, but some people, especially older voters, will have a knee jerk reaction against Sanders just because he has that label.
On the other hand, Sanders has the ability to pull people to the Democratic ticket who ordinarily wouldn’t vote. I actually think that Sanders will have more appeal than Clinton in a general election, especially for lower income cultural conservatives. They will say, look I don’t agree with him about gays and and he is a godless Jew, but at least he’s honest and he wants to raise my wage and make it possible for my kids to go to college. Sanders will also appeal to voters who are sick of establishment politics. On the other hand, you know that if he is the Democratic nominee, we will see hours of attack ads excoriating him for having a child out of wedlock, being a socialist and not being religious.