How excited should America’s libtards be that Bernie Sanders is sizing up the idea of running for president again in 2020? If you ask us, it’s a toss-up between the moment in vampire movies when Dracula’s coffin lid creaks open and a child’s traumatizing discovery that what’s left of Santa Claus is still clogging the chimney on St. Patrick’s Day. But we don’t live in Iowa. Three and a half years before the Hawkeye State’s next presidential caucuses, Sanders has already been back there once and plans to return next month to hawk his new book, Bernie Sanders’ Guide to Political Revolution.
As long as we’re playing with matches, a hypothetical President Sanders would be the first POTUS ever to blow out 80 birthday candles in the White House just months after moving his wife and grandkids in. Maybe that shouldn’t matter, but it does. Considering the Democrats’ pressing need to rebrand themselves, going hardcore geriatric on 21st-century America’s ass doesn’t seem like the shrewdest move. For the full Grumpy Old Men effect, let’s pause to relish this quote from an unnamed “Sanders associate” reported in political website The Hill: “The last thing he’s going to do is step aside and let Joe Biden take it.” On Inauguration Day 2021, Biden will be a mere stripling of 77—still wet behind the ears, you could say, but bubbling with boyish enthusiasm.
Only 37 percent of Americans think the Democrats stand for anything except being against Trump.
It’s not so much that either man’s age is a huge disqualifier in itself. Unlike most Americans on either side of our festering ideological divide, they’ve both got guaranteed, high-quality, taxpayer-funded health care for life. The real problem is that Sanders’ unreconstructed partisans are plainly itching to refight the last war, with Biden as their he-devil Hillary Clinton stand-in. Donald J. Trump to the contrary, few Democrats have any interest in relitigating the 2016 election. (He’s the one who keeps bringing up Hillary as if he’s still running against her.) But man, do the Bernie-istas thrive on relitigating the 2016 primaries. They’re still insisting their man could have beaten Trucky McTrumpface if Sanders had been the Dems’ nominee.
Sanders himself would have to be much more naïve than we think he is to get a boost out of a recent Public Policy poll showing he’d beat Trump handily if the 2020 election were held today. In the same poll, so does Biden. So does Elizabeth Warren. So do, among others, Kamala Harris—California’s junior senator for all of six months—and New Jersey’s Cory Booker. Only Mark Zuckerberg (yes, Facebook’s Zuckerberg) ends up in a tie in a matchup against Trucky.
Harris’s and Booker’s numbers prove how meaningless polls are at this stage of the game. Outside their home states, they’re all but unknown to the great American public. The basic takeaway is that “generic Democrat” would beat Trump if the 2020 election was held today.
But the 2020 election will be held in 2020, and who knows what life in these United States will be like by then? Even assuming Trump will be in any position to run for a second term (and his party won’t run screaming from the idea) is a dicey proposition. Sanders did well in 2016 because (a) his single-minded focus on income inequality struck a chord with a wide swath of the electorate and (b) the man himself was such a novelty. Especially among younger progressives, his message hasn’t lost any of its appeal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll still be the right messenger in three years.
Right now, Sanders’s big advantage is that people do know what he stands for, which certainly isn’t true of the Democratic Party overall. Notoriously, Hillary’s people had a terrible time cooking up a rationale for her candidacy more compelling than “Because it’s her turn,” which was actually (and incredibly) considered as a campaign slogan at one point. In mid-July, a Washington Post-ABC poll revealed that only 37 percent of Americans think the Democrats stand for anything except being against Trump. Seemingly eager to confirm that suspicion, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently tried out “I mean, have you seen the other guys?” as its 2018 campaign rabble-rouser—not basket-of-deplorables-level snark, but pretty damn bankrupt as voter inducements go.
This week, Nancy Pelosi did unveil a new Democratic agenda modestly titled “A Better Deal.” Promising more jobs, a lower cost of living and reining in corporate interests is fairly mousy stuff in this radicalized age. (Most obviously, establishment Democrats still absolutely quail at the idea of endorsing single-payer health care, the idea currently gaining the most traction with their forward-leaning rank and file.) Besides, making Pelosi its point person virtually guaranteed it would inspire no one.
Even so, like we keep trying to remind you, 2020 is a long way off. If Sanders wants to futz around in Iowa this summer, who’d want to deny either him or his fans the simple pleasure of pretending they can make it come sooner? On top of that, while vanity is no doubt playing its part—c'mon, just try to imagine the delirious effect of only becoming famous and beloved in your seventies—he’s no fool. Even if he’s only pretending he’ll run for president again, he probably knows that’s his best shot at pivoting the Democrats away from believing that opposing Trump is their be-all and end-all.