Bernie Sanders is one of the most polarizing figures in recent history inside the Democratic Party.
Love him or hate him, however, he is on the rise in the wake of Super Tuesday with hundreds more delegates. The one question on every Democrat’s mind is: can he beat Trump?
If you ask a Sanders supporter, colloquially named the “Bernie bros,” they would say absolutely. The truth, however, is not as straightforward as the Bernie army on Twitter may make you think.
When talking about Sanders, supporters like to bring up many facets of his campaign that make him viable to beat Trump. I’m going to address three of them: his record, his stance on the issues, and his ability to win states.
First his record: it’s complicated. Let’s start with the good: Sanders has a terrific record on civil rights. In fact, a 22-year-old Bernie Sanders was in the crowd during Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. Sanders also worked with his fellow University of Chicago peers to fight for civil rights causes. But when it comes to Bernie’s record in Washington, it isn’t one of radical change and revolution that his campaign promises. According to the official U.S. Congress website, there are only three bills that Senator Sanders sponsored or co-sponsored that became law. Two of them were naming post offices in his home state of Vermont. In comparison, rival Joe Biden has 28.
Senator Sanders has a controversial record when it comes to the economy.
Second, Senator Sanders has a controversial record when it comes to the economy. He was quoted as saying “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is because people are lining up for food. That’s a good thing [referring to the breadlines in Nicaragua].”
He was also quoted as saying “I think you change [income inequality in America] through tax laws, I think you change it through public ownership of significant parts of the economy.” Senator Sanders also praised the public transportation in the Soviet Union, saying that “[The Soviet] public transportation system was the cleanest, most effective mass transit system I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Even recently, he praised the literacy program of Fidel Castro, who oversaw a regime that killed 73,000. Those interviews will be playing on every TV station across America come election season.
The third facet is policy. The policies on Sanders’ website, according to his own statistics, cost 74.58 trillion dollars. This is not including many plans on his website that have no cost provided. Bernie plans to pay for this by completely restructuring the economy of the United States; he wants to significantly raise corporate taxes. In the process, taxes on the middle class will increase, large banks will be broken up, the list goes on and on. One of his flagship policies, “Medicare for All,” polls anywhere between 40-55% nationally. In contrast, the policy of Joe Biden, Senator Sanders’ main rival, polls at about 70% favorability nationally.
Entering a general election with a controversial candidate will further divide a nation seeking stability.
Speaking of polling and electability, Bernie’s “socialist” label doesn’t lend itself kindly to national polls. Recent polls show between 13% and 29% of voters have a positive view of socialism. This is reflected in swing state polling, where Sanders is within the margin of error, effectively in a polling tie with the incumbent president. Joe Biden polls 7 points ahead.
While polling will never be 100% correct, what is certain is that entering a general election with a controversial candidate will further divide a nation seeking stability.