by D.J. McGuire
I’ve said relatively little about the party I joined in the aftermath of Trump’s election victory — besides warning the Virginia branch not to get too complacent about recent election victories. The Trumpster fire that is the Republican Party has, for what I think are understandable reasons, dominated my attention.
That doesn’t change the fact that the Democrats are in danger of making a very serious mistake in whom we nominate for president. Bernie Sanders, should he be nominated, wouldn’t just be the least likely Democrat among the viable field to win in November; his Administration risks enabling the Trumpified GOP for decades — even as he, Sanders, advances much of Trump’s agenda.
I will not spend much bandwith insisting Sanders “can’t win,” because I’m not sure of that. His path to victory is very narrow (Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — while giving up any chance of Arizona, North Carolina, or Florida) while requiring the party to play defense in states that have been moving its way (Colorado, Virginia, and possibly even New Mexico and Minnesota), but not impossible. What is being ignored — ironically, because so few pundits think Sanders can beat Trump — is what would happen if he does.
For starters, voters looking for a dramatic departure from the Trump Administration would find — to their chagrin — that they won’t get one. On some of the major issues America faces in the world, Sanders and Trump are in agreement.
They both support — and, indeed, personify — the rise in isolationism that is exceedingly dangerous to America. The revulsion felt by many Americans at Sanders’ potential nomination will be shared by our allies at his potential election.
Indeed, a Trump-Sanders race by its very existence is likely to weaken NATO and our other democratic alliances, to say nothing of our partners in the fights against the Taliban and against Daesh. The lesson of 2016 — namely, that leaving Russia to its own devices means allowing them to attack our elections as well as our interests around the world — will be lost. Our allies will take note, and further distance themselves from us.
There are similar problems on international trade. To some extent, the rest of world has been holding its breath, trying to see if America’s protectionist turn is permanent or not. A Sanders nomination would make than an unequivocal “yes” — and they will act accordingly. Tens of millions of Americans who also support freer trade will be effectively silenced, but the biggest problem is that a failed and backward economic theory will be validated without even so much as an argument.
Meanwhile, the Trumpenproletariat will simply bank the policy victories and go all-in on outrage caused by their differences with a Sanders Administration — one whose re-election chances are nearly zero. Whether you subscribe to the Bitecofer Theory (Politico) about negative partisanship dominating the electorate, or look to economics (where a long-delayed recession is almost certain to hit in the early 20s), the Republican nominee for president in 2024 will be in a very competitive position.
Who would that nominee be is less important than what the Republican electorate wants of them. Trump has exposed a dangerously wide authoritarian streak within the GOP. No 2024 nominee can ignore it. More likely, they will embrace it. Even assuming Trump himself doesn’t attempt a rematch, he could put forth one of his children as his successor. Ironically, that may be the best case scenario, as neither Junior nor Ivanka has the dark genius of Josh Hawley or Tom Cotton.
Either way, Republicans in 2024 will be able to run against a president who promised the moon and delivered only what Mitch McConnell would let him – namely, zilch. All the while the damage Trump has done to our international standing would continue, because the policies that created the damage would be continued.
Democrats still have numerous options before them in 2020: Barack Obama’s Vice President, a youthful mayor untainted by Washington, a moderate Senator from the Upper Midwest, a successful Mayor of New York City, and a policy wunderkind. They have their weaknesses, too, to be sure, but all of them would be a better general election candidate than Sanders.
More importantly, all of them would make a better president than Sanders.