Ever since the new Monmouth Poll came out three days ago, showing Sanders, Warren, and Biden in a statistical dead heat, pundits have been trying to explain it . . . or explain it away. Speaking for myself, what I noticed was how — as far as any one poll can really reveal anything that will last for more than a week — the biggest shift was former Joe Biden voters moving into Bernie Sanders’ column.
One of the explanations we hear is demographic: white working class voters. I think that’s wrong, or at least very incomplete.
Between Sanders and Warren, for example, there is a deeply differentiated base, with Warren appealing most strongly to well-to-do, college-educated WHITE professionals, and Sanders claiming a base that is far more working class and non-white.
But this is precisely the problem I have with the demographic hypothesis. Sanders is not poaching Biden’s “white, working class” followers, he is poaching those who had thrown their lot in with Biden based on the media-groomed perception that Biden has a better chance to defeat Donald Trump. That is, electability. That is where the transfer came from, as Biden has begun revealing Biden.
In fact, Sanders has poached ex-Biden partisans from every demographic (especially people of color) not based on weaponized identities, but based — still — on fear of Trump. In short, Biden, when actually seen in action, does not inspire any confidence that he can take on as disordered and unpredictable a political machine as the Trump cult.
Obviously, I am not a great fan of this “electability” metric, because it was emphasized in an opportunistic way by the bourgeois media to undermine Sanders; but, on the other hand, I do not discount the question of electability — which is itself contingent upon many other variables. But for this little intervention, I want to focus on electability . . . with some of those variables.
Those variables include cash flow, strategic orientation, ground game, broad appeal, policies, and the Big Intangible, morale, which I learned in the military is a kind of magic ring that can equalize unequal odds.
In every single category, Sanders has the edge.
Sanders has a database of three-quarters of a million strong supporters willing to give his campaign money (I give them $27 a month). That means he has a stable cash flow; but this is not the half of it. This cash flow has massive geographic distribution, which connects this cash flow to a base that is likewise mobilizable for the ground game.
When this map came out, I am sure that a number of Biden supporters who had only been paying partial attention to MSNBC for their inputs, sat up and took notice. This does not square with the marginal status MSNBC and other corporate sycophants had tried to paint over Sanders.
Now Biden is waning and Warren is waxing, both contra Sanders, whose enormous base is steady and standing by, ready to be sent into action as elections approach.
Here is where we can raise the electability question — as Joe Biden continues to sabotage his own campaign by being Joe Biden — between Sanders and Warren.
Warren has her “progressive” appeal, but her demographic entrapment within the sphere of white professionals places limits on that appeal. Sanders has the stronger, broader base.
Warren has a mixed history, whereas Sanders has been saying essentially the same things for five decades. This matters when Republicans will look for every angle.
Warren is a technocrat, who believes society should be run by “the experts,” albeit in a fair way. Sanders is a social democrat, whose strategic orientation is toward social movements and popular democracy. Warren will mobilize through coffee klatches in the living rooms of lawyers and a few NGOs. Sanders is courting an increasingly diverse collection of street fighters, socialists, subversives, geriatric hippies, veterans, blue-collar voters, and an army of young people who are watching their future burn before their eyes. They are not afraid, they mean business, and they’ve already made up their minds not to quit. That’s morale.
Cash flow, strategic orientation, ground game, broad appeal, and morale are integrated into a seamless whole in the Sanders campaign; and compared to Warren’s campaign, Sanders is a well-fed, resting crocodile lying alongside a now very energetic lemur.
I will add here that Sanders has a growing, volunteer network of tech-savvy young people who have created an expanding alternative communications and news network, exploiting every social network platform out there, that operates below the radar of pollsters and pundits, and which is quite formidable . . . and a relief if you want to cut the cord with cable news.
Now, to policies. I know, it seems a mere footnote to talk about policies during an election. But there is a rarefied stratum of US voters who find policy (gasp!) to be compelling. First, a quick review of the time-line.
We have just over five months until Super Tuesday (March 3, 2020 —Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia). It will be pretty clear by then who are the front-runners, and that is likely to be, if Biden continues to slide, Warren and Sanders. Prior to that, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina will have their say.
Many of these are so-called red states, but those red states in the South (home of the Black Nation) are crucial for any Democrat to get the nomination; and the candidate who has made the most inroads into African America in recent months has been the Bernie Sanders campaign, which has spent the last four years studying the deficiencies in their first campaign and correcting them through direct association with and support of actual movements. This is where Warren’s white-based support cannot win the day; and it is a gate through which every candidate must pass.
Of course, the electability test is of concern to those who see Trump as the anti-Christ (I get it, but there’s a lot missing from that), and for whom beating Trump is the prime directive. But if I were Trump, running against Warren, I’d roll the tape again and again on her ham-handed “beer commercial,” call her Pocahontas at every turn to the cheers of my maddened crowd of suburban white nitwits, and call her (as he already does the whole Democratic Party) a “socialist.”
Trump might call Bernie, “Crazy Bernie,” and “socialist” (that is already used up on ALL Democrats), but it won’t undermine his credibility and that sense of authenticity. Sanders won’t bear down on this in his race with Warren, but Trump will play it like a piccolo to his lumpen-petit-bourgeois acolytes. Just my opinion, inserted in here . . . Sanders will beat Trump in debates like a rented mule.
Warren and Sanders have already outflanked Trump on trade, being the two candidates who have consistently opposed neoliberal trade deals, which Trump opposed demagogically. He’s neutralized that issue, and in the Midwest, that was The Big One.
But when Warren and Sanders are compared — both are unveiling sweeping plans right now — we will see a far more working class emphasis from the Sanders campaign, because that is his base. By the way, the vast majority of African Americans, Latin@ immigrants, and indigenous people are working class; and his policies will disproportionately help these populations.
Warren’s big problem, in the Primaries, is foreign policy. Democrats and a lot of independents are increasingly soured on US imperial policy abroad — even when they don’t see it as an instrument of capital accumulation through militarization. Warren’s foreign policy is frankly horrible. She is militaristic, highly nationalistic, and a strong supporter of the racist settler state, Israel, which is losing support among Democrats and independents at greater and greater velocity. Warren will be hammered from the left until she is tripped up on her own words, because the Israel-Palestine issue as she frames it is indefensible. African Americans and First Nations people are more and more identifying their own histories with the Palestinians.
So there is my provisional analysis, August 28th. Time will tell. See you all on March 4th. We will see the Democratic establishment reluctantly cozy up to Elizabeth Warren as the last ditch against Sanders . . . an advantage to be sure, but I think a fatal one (she is already being hammered on her recent overtures to secure superdelegates as a hedge against Sanders). But cash flow, strategic orientation, ground game, broad appeal, and morale . . . as well as a superior set of policies, foreign and domestic . . . will win the day.
Sanders will be the nominee, even in the face of all the establishment headwinds, and he will beat the pants off of Donald Trump. That’s when the real work begins . . . capital will declare war. And we have to be ready to set ourselves on the ramparts.
Wanna beat the Mango Mussolini? Nominate Sanders, the most electable. But don’t think it’s over.