“Crazy Bernie” May Be Perfect

Before You Get All Over Us, This Story Has Very Little To Do With Bernie Sanders, Or The Fact He Declared Last Week He’s Running For President Again

It has everything to do with how Trump welcomed him back to the race:

That let to all kinds of snark in the Twitter-sphere, chiding Trump for not coming up with a more creative nickname for the Vermont Senator in the past 2 years. So much so, that the Huffington Post did an article about it, asserting Trump’s insult this time around “falls flat”.

But we think they’re wrong, and Trump’s completely right. Again, not because we are commenting on Sanders’ strength or weakness as a candidate! But because convincing voters that Democrats are crazier than he is, is one of the President’s keys to winning reelection in 2020. That’s why he keeps saying Democrats want to turn the U.S. into Venezuela. That’s why he keeps saying Democrats “love” murderers. That’s why he keeps saying Democrats want to take your cars, planes, and cows away (he’s hardly been mentioning guns these days; he doesn’t have to). We could keep going, but we know you haven’t got all morning

Democrats’ big wins in the Midterm elections had a lot to do with voters getting excited and inspired by a young, fresh group of exciting and inspiring candidates. But it also had a lot to with voters simply getting sick and tired of the never-seen-before level of crazy in the White House this country has to put up with on a daily basis.

Trump and Republican operatives know this, and they’re responding loudly, and in the very familiar way Trump always responds to things: by insisting he’s not the crazy one, it’s the Democrats who are.

Why is that message so crucially important to Trump’s re-election campaign? Because if you can convince people to look past the madness, Trump and his cronies otherwise appear to be trying to recreate President Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984, which he won in an unprecedented landslide. (His opponent, Walter Mondale won only his home state of Minnesota, and Washington, D.C.) George Washington University Professor Matthew Dallek discusses this in a thoughtful and insightful article in Politico Magazine, which ultimately doesn’t really come to any conclusions.

What did Reagan have going for him that Trump thinks he can emulate?

  1. A strong economy. Trump’s got that, at least for now.
  2. A cooling-off in the Cold War that eventually led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Reagan in Berlin famously declaring: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” (Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s last head of state, came into power in 1985, the first year of Reagan’s second term). Trump thinks he can pave the way for a similar historic milestone by forging some kind of agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who he is scheduled to meet in Vietnam in just a few days.

So all he needs is to stop driving voters away because they think he’s crazy, and then it’s a lock as far as he’s concerned. At the same time, with Trump, that’s a tall order. And of course if he goes too far off the rails with how crazy Democrats are (“Crazy Bernie” is a pretty tame epithet in this context), he runs the risk of looking even more crazy himself.

So who’s got the best shot at beating Trump? We generally believe that Americans do not really care that much about competence and experience in Presidential candidates; they are looking for someone who might be transformative. That was true of Reagan, that was true of Obama, that was true of Trump.

But this time around, we might disagree with our own thesis: because if people (especially “swing” or independent voters) are looking for a remedy against crazy, they might for once gravitate to the candidate with the most experience.

But the reality is probably somewhere in between: someone who can fire-up the emergent Progressive base that turned out in such great numbers in the Midterms, but can also reassure folks government won’t just continue to be a series of unbridled, going-off-the-deep-end experiments and rash, unfiltered proclamations.

We’re really talking about who can best reclaim the sense of security lacking in this country these days, and the answer has nothing to do with a wall.

We’re thinking more like Harris (although our super-liberal friends really hate her!), or Klobuchar, or Sherrod Brown (who hasn’t declared yet); less like Bernie or Biden or Beto. But that’s just what we’re thinking today

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) VT, at a recent D.C. event