- - Monday, December 30, 2019

Happy New Year Democrats: Bernie Sanders can still win your nomination. As much as the party wants to ignore it, their worst choice could be their presidential one. Not only will he not go away, several factors point to the race running toward him.

Overlooked and under-liked by the Democratic Party, Sen. Bernie Sanders is still hanging around. Their disdain and disquiet calls to mind the poem “Antigonish”:

“Yesterday, upon the stair,

“I met a man who wasn’t there!

“He wasn’t there again today,

“Oh how I wish he’d go away!”

Yet the “man who wasn’t there” remains quite there. According to RealClearPolitics’ latest average of national polling, he is firmly in second at 19.3 percent. Unlike front-runner Joe Biden, Mr. Sanders has gained ground since the Democrats’ first debate in June. He could gain more, as underlying dynamics favor him.

As the party knows well, Mr. Sanders has nothing to lose from his quest. By staying in until the end, he made numerous enemies in 2016; he therefore has no friends to lose now. In the Senate, Mr. Sanders has no leadership role and no other contender would offer him a future role for his present departure.

As a result, Mr. Sanders will not quit. He did not in 2016 for the party’s preordained candidate; he certainly will not for the second-tier challengers he now faces.

Having run this road before, Mr. Sanders knows if he keeps going, Party rules allow him to keep winning delegates. More favorable than four years ago, they also prevent “super delegates” from peremptorily deciding the convention outcome on the first ballot, as they did in 2016.

Mr. Sanders also knows his core supporters will stick. He knows so because they have: While other contenders count their support’s duration in months, Mr. Sanders counts his in years. This gives him dependable resiliency and resources others lack, which is why he has withstood the boomlets of Mr. Biden, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg. As they wane, Mr. Sanders waxes.

Quixotic, determined and resilient, the race’s ideological tilt also favors him. The collective, but unconsolidated, left have never been stronger among Democrats. Even so-called moderates are running left. Biden-plus-Bloomberg are less than Mr. Biden’s support in June, and the left candidates’ support together is larger than both. All this means the race is running toward Mr. Sanders.

Almost half of Democrats have already voted for Mr. Sanders. In 2016, he won more than 40 percent of total Democratic votes. No current candidate comes close to that total. That means Democrats are used to voting for him — that is important, and a good predictor they could again.All this adds up to Mr. Sanders benefiting from a war of attrition, which exactly resembles the current contest. He can wait out others and expect, with better than even assurance, that supporters from the fallen will come to him.

His ideal scenario would be one between himself and a moderate, where the collective left has no choice between giving him the nomination or giving it away. That too resembles today’s duel with Mr. Biden. Once the nominee, he holds the party under the banner “anyone but Trump.”

Everyone has overlooked Mr. Sanders. Party leaders want to. The media feel they have already looked him over, and view him now as old news. This four-and-a-half-year luxury is coming to an end.

Mr. Sanders would be the furthest left nominee of any major American party in history. He would be President Trump’s favorite option — extreme, older, male, white, who alienated his party’s establishment and moderates, and does not appeal to its minority base. Democrats can “wish how he’d go away” … but everything argues he will not. Instead, he continues to ascend the stair.

J.T. Young served in the Office of Management and Budget and at the Treasury Department.

Sign up for Daily Opinion Newsletter

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide