Bernie Sanders is making a lot of Democrats nervous

Bernie Sanders is making a lot of Democrats nervous
Bernie Sanders/Shutterstock
Bernie Sanders/Shutterstock

Sen. Bernie Sanders, along with former Vice President Joe Biden, has been leading in polls of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. But a lot could happen between now and 2020, when the Democratic Party will decide on a nominee to go up against President Donald Trump in the general election. In the New York Times, Thomas B. Edsall reports that there are still many Americans who have strong reservations about Sanders—and a lot of them are Democrats.


For his article, published on Wednesday, Edsall asked a group of  consultants, economists, pollsters, and political scientists he described as “Democratic and liberal-leaning” to weigh in on Sanders’ chances of winning the 2020 Democratic nomination and—if that happens—defeating Trump in the general election. Edsall offered them anonymity if they wanted it. And some of the responses, Edsall reports, “revealed considerable wariness toward Sanders.”

An anonymous Democratic operative told Edsall, “Point 1: I am very worried about Bernie. Socialism is a problem word.” And another Democratic operative, also interviewed on conditions on anonymity, feared, “Bernie is one Democrat who probably cannot win.”

Edsall notes, “Sanders has never been tested in a general election. His only experience running against Republicans has been in Vermont, a state ranked third most liberal in the nation and second most Democratic, according to Gallup.”

Edsall also found that some economists expressed reservations about Sanders as well, including Jagdish N. Bhagwai—a Columbia University economist who supported the Vermont senator in 2016 but described his thinking as “a little bit naïve.”

M.I.T. economist Erik Brynjolfsson told Edsall, “Advocates for Bernie Sanders often argue that ‘socialist’ policies have worked in places like Denmark. That’s half right. While Denmark provides a generous welfare state, its model can better be described as progressive capitalism.”

But while Edsall says that Sanders “carries a lot of baggage,” he also brings some “major strengths” to the table—including “strong backing from younger voters” and “the exceptionally high levels of support he receives from small donors who contribute $200 or less.” And Edsall writes, “A third advantage Sanders brings is the appeal of his anti-corporate, anti-rich message to a segment of populist Trump voters — those who backed Sanders in the 2016 primaries and shifted to Trump in the general election.”

Edsall concludes his piece by noting some internal Sanders campaign polling through Tulchin Research: in a hypothetical Sanders/Trump matchup, Sanders “led 52-41 in Michigan, 52-42 in Wisconsin and 51-43 in Pennsylvania.”

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