Monday 17 February 2020 5:34 am

The Democrats’ Bernie Sanders problem will lead to the re-election of Donald Trump

Dr John C. Hulsman is senior columnist at City A.M., a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and president of John C. Hulsman Enterprises. He can be reached for corporate speaking and private briefings at www.chartwellspeakers.com.

The perpetual problem of the American left is that it wants to feel good, rather than do good.

This tendency to suicidal virtue-signalling — damn the consequences — is glaringly apparent in the Democratic party’s full-blown Bernie Sanders problem, made real by his tie for first in Iowa, and his outright victory in last week’s New Hampshire primary. 

There is no doubt that the socialist Sanders is now the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for President. Beyond winning the popular vote in each of the first two contested states, Sanders now leads recent national polls, pulling ahead of the cratering and inept campaign of former vice president Joe Biden for the first time. 

Unlike many of his rivals, Sanders has also raised a tonne of money, much of it through the small donations process he perfected in his earlier 2016 run for the presidency, as his supporters have remained fanatically loyal.

But most importantly of all, the Vermont senator has seen off the challenge of progressive senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and now is the unquestioned standard bearer of the left of the party, with its support quickly coalescing around him.

In contrast, the more moderate wing of the party — represented by Biden, mayor Pete Buttigieg of Indiana, senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and looming former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg — are locked in mortal combat, all futilely straining to gain the upper hand in the centre-left lane of the party. 

For while Sanders support has a definite ceiling to it (given the European-style rules that govern the Democratic party nomination, wherein any candidate managing at least 15 per cent support in a contest gets a share of that state’s delegates), it is hard to see how he can be stopped once he establishes a lead in delegates in the weeks ahead, as the moderates continue to split their majority stake of the vote. 

For Sanders will always manage 20–25 per cent support in every contest moving forward, as he has up until now.

The only hope for moderates is that their lane is quickly winnowed so a consensus centre-left candidate can take on the socialist Sanders. Then, in a two-person race, a moderate could rally the party with the worst of all incantations: that in suicidally nominating a socialist to run what has long been a centre-right country, the Democratic party is doing nothing less than assuring the re-election of their hated nemesis, Donald Trump.  

But even if the moderates in the party somehow get their act together quickly — which appears highly unlikely — there is a further problem which seems to not yet have dawned on the gormless, embattled Democratic establishment. 

Sanders winning is truly a calamity for them; but Sanders losing is scarcely better. 

Consider the long-shot scenario. 

If the Democratic party establishment (the Obamas, the Clintons and the like) — already hated by “Bernie Bros” who think the political professionals unfairly anointed Hillary Clinton the last time around — intervene, putting pressure on moderate runners to drop out in favour of a chosen consensus candidate (most likely Klobuchar or Bloomberg), Sanders and his supporters will go absolutely bonkers, and with good reason. 

The only way for the Democrats to win what is bound to be another close presidential election is to be absolutely unified. “Stealing” the nomination from Sanders in such a fashion ensures that a good chunk of his supporters will certainly turn their backs on any moderate nominee, the very same person who had just robbed their idol of his just deserts. 

The progressive wing of the party will simply sit on their hands come election day, handing a decisive victory to Trump.

The only way to avert either of these two increasingly likely disastrous outcomes is for a consensus moderate to emerge quickly and organically, through the primary process and not through the machinations of the Democratic party establishment. 

But given the nature of the voting system itself, there is little incentive for any of the major moderates still in the race to drop out, and certainly not to do so quickly, as their mathematical chances have not yet been dashed. 

So the inconvenient truth lying behind Sanders’ ascension to frontrunner status is that his nomination spells victory for Trump… but that even his defeat probably now spells victory for Trump. 

Ironically (and let’s face it, politics is full of irony), the rise of the first serious socialist candidate in the US in 100 years is about to directly lead to the re-election of the most divisive right-wing president in modern times.

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.

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