Thursday 27 February 2020 5:20 am

DEBATE: Would it be a disaster for Democrats if Bernie Sanders became the nominee?

Eleanor Penny
Eleanor Penny is editor of Novara Media.

Would it be a disaster for Democrats if Bernie Sanders became the nominee?

Samuel Armstrong, head of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, says YES.

Successful Democratic campaigns have one thing in common: they focus on what matters to ordinary people. This rule’s famed champion, James Carville, delivered Bill Clinton’s victory in 1992. The motto “It’s the economy, stupid” won that election — what mattered to paycheques mattered to voters.

As the only man alive to have defeated an incumbent President, it is worth listening to Carville when he says “you’re a fool” if you think Bernie Sanders can win.

Bernie’s Corbyn-like fascination with Cuba, socialism, and Israel are not top priorities for the voters he needs to win in states like Wisconsin. These are proud, decent working people who want a President who defends their values, not someone who obsesses about fringe left-wing causes.

But it is not just that Bernie won’t win. The army of trolls who unquestioningly back him suggests a Momentum-style hardening of American discourse. Corbynism coarsened our national debate. It would hurt to see this play out in the world’s greatest democracy.

Eleanor Penny, editor of Novara Media, NO.

Bernie Sanders’ headline policies — like universal healthcare and a Green New Deal — are widely popular in the US. His grassroots network provides a constant funding stream and a powerful cadre of activists which has already proved critics wrong.

His message channels working-class outrage at injustice, painting Donald Trump as one of the wealthy, out-of-touch wreckers taking ordinary Americans for a ride.

These tactics are poised to deflate Trump’s sham anti-elitism, outwit him in the culture war, and mobilise a powerful multi-racial electoral coalition, encompassing non-voters, the Democratic base, and disillusioned working-class Republicans.

Defeating Trump is a tall order for any candidate. But in voting booths across the world, centrism is being battered; its bureaucratic adult-in-the-room posturing and shallow policy offerings ring hollow to electorates facing crises that demand radical action.

The Democrats won’t survive unless they adapt to this moment in history. Bernie offers them the chance to do just that.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.