I know, I know, Bernie Sanders is not going to win the Democratic Party nomination for president, and if by some miracle he does, he will not be elected president. But still, but still ... At this moment, he is the hottest ticket on the circuit, drawing crowds that must make the Clinton clique green with envy. He is going where his supporters are, to college towns, to liberal states. Gather together all the people who have come out to hear him, and they could not elect a member of the House, let alone a president. But still, but still ...
The truth is simple, well-known, but always conveniently forgotten. This is a large country, in which only a third of the eligible voters vote in off-years and little more than half vote in presidential years. There are always tens of millions of voters out there who, if energized and mobilized, can win elections. It would be easy to imagine that a tidal shift is taking place in the political allegiances of American voters, but the truth, I am convinced, is different. Those Berniemaniacs, like their opposite numbers in the Tea Party, have always been there. They are simply becoming stirred up by the economic disaster of American capitalism and by the presence of a seventy-three year old man with untamed hair who tells the truth.
More than sixty years ago, an American political scientist named Samuel Lubell published a little book called The Future of American Politics in which he analyzed the electorate into its interest group fragments -- Catholic big city workers, Negroes, small farmers, and so forth, and then showed that their voting behavior was remarkably stable and consistent. What changed from time to time was the party that those groups voted for. The shifts from Democratic to Republican and back again made it appear that between the Left and the Right was a group of Independents who listened carefully to the candidates' speeches and made their minds up by a rational process distinct from the knee-jerk party voting of the reliably D or R voters. But that notion, Lubell showed, was a myth invented by radio and newspaper commentators.
Here is my dream: Sanders continues to surge in the polls, and the Republican base, encouraged by the prospect of facing off against an eminently beatable Socialist [for God's sake], turns its back on yet another Bush and nominates a certified wacko, believing that at long last, they will get to put one of their own in the White House. In response, the sensible Democrats who have privately come to terms with the dismal prospect of Clinton rise up and actually nominate Sanders. Faced with a rightwing nut job and a Democratic Socialist, the American electorate either stays home or votes for Bernie.
Will this happen? Nope. Is it realistically possible? Nope. But will Bernie's quixotic run for the nomination change American politics for the better? Maybe, just maybe.
Chalk it up to an old man's dream.