Talkin’ About a Revolution

50% more Republican voters participated in last week’s Iowa caucus than did in 2012 while Democratic participation dropped 30% from 2008. The party reported 171,109 caucus-goers this year compared to nearly 240,000 in 2008. We find a similar story in New Hampshire where 285,000 Republicans turned out while only 250,974 Democrats voted which is more than 30,000 short of 2008. It is also important to note that the Republicans turned out nearly 15 percent more voters than in 2012–just shy of the all-time record of 287,000 voters that Democrats turned out in 2008.

So, what’s my point? The Sanders’ campaign continues to argue that Bernie is energizing new voters—folks who were eligible to vote but who have never before voted—and young voters for whom this election is the first since they turned or will be turning 18. More bernieimportant, the Sanders’ campaign and Sanders himself in the Feb 4 Democratic debate insists he “can win a general election by exciting young people, the middle class and working-class people and driving up voter turnout.” So far the numbers don’t show this is what’s happening. Yes, he lost by a very narrow margin in Iowa and won big in New Hampshire, but the turn out was less that what it was when the party’s previous big turnout candidate ran in 2008. Obama turned out voters; so far, Sanders hasn’t come close to Obama’s numbers.

Right now, Sanders’ plan of turning out a yooge number of new voters is little more than an idea. I’m not suggesting it’s not possible for Sanders to turn out new and irregular voters—as we know, Barack Obama did so in 2008—and certainly there is a great deal of enthusiasm among Sanders’ supporters. But . .we’ve yet to see any evidence that Sanders can bring forth a revolution.

Still, several questions remain:

  1. Is this a Republican rather than a Democratic revolution?
  2. Can Sanders really get the kind of turn out he needs to win?
  3. Does he have the necessary on ground organizations in every state?
  4. Can he fully address issues he’s so far ignored in his standard stump speech?
  5. Can he offer concrete plans rather than great claims supported by no evidence showing how they’ll actually work?
  6. Can he stand up to the onslaught of attacks the GOP will unleash if he’s the candidate?

If Sanders can do all these things and more, he might have a chance in the general election, but I remain unconvinced that a country as polarized as ours is going to elect a 74 yr old socialist who is only registered as a Democrat so he can run for President.

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6 Responses to Talkin’ About a Revolution

  1. Toad says:

    The more challenging something is, the more it’s worth doing. Perhaps he fails, but at least we’re going to try.

    • Katherine H says:

      As long as the failure you allude to doesn’t saddle us with Trump, Cruz, Rubio, or Bush, fine. But if it does, we will lose everything we’ve fought for over the last 8 years–the ACA, marriage equality, prison reforms–the list goes on and on

      • Toad says:

        As nasty as the idea of Trump as president may be (and it is NASTY), he will be constrained by the same mechanisms that have dogged Obama’s steps since ’08, and if you think the establishment fought him, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

        That being said, keeping Trump out of the White House is every bit as large on my 2016 to-do list as getting Bernie into it. Same goes for Cruz. As for the others, I’d rather risk them than give up on Sanders.

  2. I do prefer these kinds of concise opinion pieces, and your questions are excellent. The Sanders campaign wasn’t taken very seriously by the MSM until the Iowa result, and it previously impacted their ability to market. But they have “momentum” now, an anecdotal indicator of new voter interest, and building the 4th largest war chest (counting both party’s candidates) without a super PAC is an unusual achievement. The next few primaries will help answer your questions more definitively, but I can react to them too:

    1. Since both winners in NH are anti-Establishment candidates, it indicates revolt in both parties.
    2. To win the primaries, probably not, but to win the general, probably so IF he got the nomination. A large % of voters never participate in primaries or caucuses, yet still turn out for elections.
    3. They have over $40 million unspent. That’s enough to get ground game going everywhere. More importantly, Sanders orgs are smarter. The Clinton campaign is leaving their volunteers in place, while Sanders ships volunteers from surrounding states to upcoming primary locations.
    4. I think it was a conscious choice not to, and that he can if he wants to. HRC’s messaging has been overly complex and unfocused, and “more of the same” isn’t aspirational.
    5. See #4. He helped write the PPACA, and understands the law more intimately than most. He probably knows exactly how to change and expand it toward “Medicare for All”.
    6. The GOP has an Achilles heel, the assumption that “socialist” is a trigger word that will easily decimate Sanders. But young voters didn’t live during the Cold War. They don’t get nightmares of commies taking over New York. And to many, “capitalism” isn’t automatically preferable, especially if they’ve been hurt by our system.

  3. Doc says:

    What a great post! I wish you had time to post more often.

  4. Katherine H says:

    Thanks Doc. Wish I had more time, too. I am going to try to make the time to post at least once a week, but we’ll see

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