With the caucuses in Iowa and the primaries in New Hampshire for the Democratic Party now having been held, voters have started to show who they support in the 2020 presidential race. The first results were actually important to understand the tendency of primary state voters as the candidates were mainly split into two camps: progressives and moderates.
Following Iowa and New Hampshire, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for progressives and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg for moderates emerged as the top names for both wings of the Democrats.
Bernie Sanders: Progressive Savior of the Democratic Party?
The progressive savior of the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders has always been a controversial figure over the past years. His leftist policies and physical challenges due to his age have been brought under the spotlight by his adversaries both inside and outside of the Democratic Party. However, this time the criticism against him has focused on a different element: that of “electability.”
Current candidate and former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden has primarily gone after Sanders by raising the electability issue over and over again. Since the beginning of his campaign, Biden has termed himself as “the only candidate who is able to beat Donald Trump”, stressing his electability. Since the former Vice President faced a huge loss after the first primary votes, he started to use his electability weapon against Sanders and others. Biden mainly questions whether Sanders could win against Trump, asking if the Vermont Senator was the right one to unify the Democratic Party.
In terms of media analysis, in some opinion pieces, Sanders has even been compared to Jeremy Corbyn of the British Labour Party, describing both of them as politicians who spent decades on the political margins. As Bernie Sanders is in a much stronger position than in 2016, he will eventually face harder attacks and it’s only up to him to convince voters to elect him and that he can actually beat Donald Trump. Despite the criticism, Sanders is gaining support from various influential individuals and has already been endorsed by strong names such as U.S. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.
‘Frankly I’d Rather Run Against Bloomberg Than Bernie Sanders’
The President of the United States, Donald Trump has also joined these debates amid the ups and downs that Sanders is currently facing. He attacked another democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg but defended Sanders by saying, “Frankly, I’d rather run against Bloomberg than Bernie Sanders, because Sanders has followers. Bloomberg’s just buying his way in.” Only days after his comments, Trump once again tweeted in support of his political rival by saying: “They are taking the Democrat nomination away from him, and there’s very little he can do. A Rigged System!” These were two obvious cases where Trump made statements in favor of Sanders, attacking the moderates of the Democratic Party. It is possible to read Trump’s tweets in two ways, as a political mind-game or genuine political empathy.
According to the first theory, Trump knows the danger emerging from moderate candidates and their capability of obtaining bipartisan support. In addition, he focuses on Michael Bloomberg because Trump thinks Bloomberg is a wealthier and more democratic version of himself, thus he is a greater risk against his presidency. On the other hand, Sanders will never get more support than Trump as he is already facing strong doubts within the Democratic Party and he won’t be able to steal votes from Trump’s pool. Trump’s main plan is to split more votes between Democratic candidates, causing more uncertainty and targeting moderate candidates as much as possible. This division would give Trump an advantage and give Democrats less solid ground and unity during the primaries. If we look at Trump’s past strategies against his opposition, his plan to split his adversaries is more than understandable and it may work due to unpredictability within the Democrats who will face him on November 3.
Another explanation of Trump’s actions – perhaps a more naiver explanation – can be related to both the outsider positions of Trump and Sanders during their political campaigns. Trump was involved with politics but he was never a full-time politician before his run in 2016. During his run within the Republican Party and against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, he was never considered seriously and was heavily criticized, due to many controversiesd surrounding him prior to and during his presidential run. Sanders is facing some of the same anti-populist critiques that Trump faced in 2016, and these are coming from the elites of the party as they struggle to see their parties represented by names who are not completely fitting to the ideal candidate profile that they have in their minds. Thus, again, it may be naive to say in this way but perhaps deep down Donald Trump has sympathy for a name which is facing against the established political system, which Trump himself has criticized on numerous occasions.
Feeling the Bern
Despite many attacks coming at his campaign, Sanders’ journey continues with strong momentum as he continues to have a strong position according to majority of the polls. As Donald Trump also witnessed, ‘electability’ was and is a political dilemma that parties question only during the election process. Not only in modern-day politics but also in the past, many leaders of the United States won the presidential race, despite the electability trap. For example, John F. Kennedy became President despite his Irish roots and Catholicism, Ronald Reagan despite his Hollywood background and divorce, Barack Obama despite being African-American. The electability concerns are just not enough to take down Bernie Sanders, particularly since if he wins he will already face a name that wasn’t more electable than him when he was running for the presidency in 2016: Donald J. Trump!