How Alike Are Corbyn and Sanders?

Britain’s Labour Party suffered its worst electoral defeat since 1935 in December, because it chose to be led by a far-left extremist.

Center-left Democrats in the United States worry their party is about to make the same mistake. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist from Vermont, won the most votes in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary and now places first in national polls. (Although he has yet to get more than 26 percent support.)

James Carville, the architect of Bill Clinton’s 1992 election victory, warned Democrats this week: “if we nominate Jeremy Corbyn, it’s going to be the end of days.”

Andrew Sullivan, a British-born conservative commentator, believes a Republican campaign against Sanders would be brutal:

He’s a man … who sided with a Marxist-Leninist party that supported Ayatollah Khomeini during the hostage crisis in 1979. He loved the monstrous dictator Fidel Castro and took his 1988 honeymoon in the Soviet Union, no less, where he openly and publicly criticized his own country and praised many aspects of the Soviet system.

On the other hand, Sullivan points out Corbyn had a net favorability rating of -40. Sanders is only at -3. Most polls show him beating Donald Trump with between 2 and 8 points.

Corbyn and Sanders are not the same — but they are not completely dissimilar either. There are differences in policy, but worrying similarities in strategy. Read more “How Alike Are Corbyn and Sanders?”

What Is a Brokered Convention? Could It Happen?

Republican National Convention
The Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 30, 2012 (Think Out Loud)

It’s every political junkie’s dream: a contested convention. When no American presidential candidate wins a majority of the delegates ahead of the party’s convention in the summer, the assembly — normally stage-managed for television — will have to go through as many voting rounds as it takes to elect a nominee. Imagine the theater!

It hasn’t happened in almost seventy years, and for good reason.

The last time the Democrats needed to “broker” their convention was in 1952. The last time the Republicans had one was in 1948. At both times, the parties went on to lose the general election. The spectacle of a party struggling to find a presidential candidate doesn’t inspire much confidence in voters that they’ve made the right choice.

Could the same happen to Democrats this year? Read more “What Is a Brokered Convention? Could It Happen?”

Panic About Sanders Is Premature

Bernie Sanders
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders gives a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, January 9, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

Having placed first in both Iowa and New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders can expect stronger opposition from moderate Democrats who fear he would lose to Donald Trump. There are already calls to unite behind a single, center-left presidential candidate. Those calls will grow leader.

This overlearns the lesson of 2016. Trump was able to win the Republican nomination that year with plurality support against several center-right candidates. But most Republican contests are winner-takes-all. The Democrats award their delegates, who will elect the nominee at the convention in July, proportionally. If several centrist and center-left candidates remain in the race, the most likely outcome is not a Sanders nomination but a brokered convention, where the moderates would need to join forces. Read more “Panic About Sanders Is Premature”

Sanders Wins in New Hampshire, Biden Places Fifth

  • Bernie Sanders has won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire, the second state to vote in the presidential nominating contest.
  • The socialist from neighboring Vermont won 26 percent support.
  • Center-left candidates Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor, and Amy Klobuchar, a senator from Minnesota, won 24 and 20 percent, respectively.
  • Former vice president Joe Biden and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren did not meet the 15 percent threshold to quality for delegates. Read more “Sanders Wins in New Hampshire, Biden Places Fifth”

Democratic Primary News

Bernie Sanders
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders attends the Comanche Nation Fair Powwow near Lawton, Oklahoma, September 29, 2019 (Bernie 2020)
  • Bernie Sanders is now the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to FiveThirtyEight, which takes into account the Iowa caucus results and recent polls. The runner-up: no one. FiveThirtyEight believes there is a one-in-four chance no candidate will have a majority of the delegates by the time Democrats convene in Milwaukee in July. (Those odds will change.)
  • Joe Biden‘s support in New Hampshire, which votes on Tuesday, has collapsed from a high of 22-23 percent a month ago to 13 percent.
  • Biden did benefit the most in terms of fundraising from the departure of Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris from the race.
  • Michael Bloomberg could benefit the most from the inconclusive Iowa caucuses. He is up to an average of 10-11 percent support in national polls, has surpassed Sanders in the endorsement primary, doubled his spending on television commercials and doubled his field staff to more than 2,000 (the biggest of any campaign).
  • But Sanders raised the most money in January: $25 million.
  • South Carolina Republicans are plotting to vote for Sanders in the February 29 primary.
  • California, the biggest state voting on March 3, Super Tuesday, with 415 pledged delegates at stake, is making it easier for non-Democrats to vote. Read more “Democratic Primary News”

Why Democratic Party Officials Are Reluctant to Take Sides

Hillary Clinton Andrew Cuomo
Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York attend a political event in New York City, April 4, 2016 (Hillary for America/Barbara Kinney)

You may remember that in 2016, we interpreted both the Democratic and Republican primaries in the United States through the prism of “the party decides” theory, which argues that party elites — including elected and party officials, interest group leaders and other partisan figures — coordinate before presidential nominating contests in order to help their preferred candidate win.

Or, as The Economist pithily summarized the argument: parties tell the electorate how to vote, rather than voters telling the party whom to support.

That obviously didn’t happen in the Republican Party, where elites failed to stop Donald Trump.

Democratic elites (everyone from the chair of the Democratic National Committee to local union bosses) did coalesce around Hillary Clinton, but many voters didn’t listen: 43 percent backed Bernie Sanders.

This year, public endorsements from Democratic Party figures are slower than usual, suggesting that — like Republicans four years ago — “the” party is reluctant to decide. Read more “Why Democratic Party Officials Are Reluctant to Take Sides”

Buttigieg, Sanders Share First Place in Iowa

  • Democratic presidential hopefuls Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders tied in the Iowa caucuses on Monday.
  • Sanders won the popular vote but split the delegates with the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
  • Elizabeth Warren placed third, followed by former vice president Joe Biden. Read more “Buttigieg, Sanders Share First Place in Iowa”

Democratic Primary News

Bernie Sanders
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders makes a speech in Manchester, New Hampshire, October 30, 2015 (Michael Vadon)
  • Bernie Sanders is going into Monday’s Iowa caucuses with an average of 24 percent support in the polls, followed by Joe Biden at 20 percent.
  • Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren both poll around 15 percent in the state, which is the minimum needed to qualify for delegates.
  • Nationally, Biden still leads with an average of 27 percent support against 23.5 for Sanders.
  • Sanders raised the most money in 2019 ($96 million), but billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, who are largely self-funding their campaigns, outspent the other candidates ($388 million combined).
  • Bloomberg‘s Super Tuesday strategy may be working. The former New York mayor has moved into fourth place in national polls.
  • John Delaney has ended his presidential bid. Read more “Democratic Primary News”

Democratic Primary News

Elizabeth Warren
Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts gives a speech in Bloomfield Township, Iowa, January 19 (Phil Roeder)
  • Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren have been endorsed by The New York Times.
  • Warren has also been endorsed by The Des Moines Register, the top newspaper in Iowa.
  • Bernie Sanders has once again apologized to a fellow candidate for the tactics of his supporters. In an op-ed that Sanders’ campaign promoted in their newsletter, failed congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout accuses Joe Biden of corruption. Another Sanders ally, Nina Turner, earlier accused Biden of “betraying” black voters. Sanders has apologized, just like he apologized to Warren for instructing supporters to describe her as the candidate of wealthy white liberals. It’s the same pattern NBC described at the time: “Sanders, his supporters and his surrogates go on the attack; Sanders downplays or dismisses the attacks; and the party becomes more divided.”
  • Iowa Democrats caucus in a week from now, on February 3. Read more “Democratic Primary News”

My Take on the Democratic Primary

I learned in 2016 not to make predictions. First Brexit happened. Then Donald Trump won the American presidential election. I didn’t expect either. Indeed, I went so far as to urge Republicans in the United States to purge Trump’s nativists from their party after what I was sure would be his defeat.

I allowed my own biases to reject what the polls showed to be very real possibilities. Rather than improve my predictions and try harder to be neutral, my resolution has been to prioritize analysis of what is happening over what could happen and own up to my biases, sometimes explicitly, so you can better make up your mind. This is an opinion blog, after all, not a newspaper.

To that end, I’m giving you my take on the Democratic presidential primaries, which kick off in Iowa on February 3. I don’t think I’m a partisan for any candidate, but my thoughts and feelings about them probably inform everything I write about the election. Best then to share them.

I’m excluding Michael Bennet, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang. All are polling under 4 percent nationally and far below the 15 percent support needed to win delegates in Iowa. Read more “My Take on the Democratic Primary”