OP-ED: The Safe Choice To Beat Trump Might Not Be Who You Expect

WashCo Dems op-ed article

By Laura Wadlin, Washington County

While the primary season tends to highlight our differences, Democrats are unified in our desire to beat Trump in 2020. Much ink has been spilled about electibility – but is it possible the “safe bet” to end Trump’s reign is the old grump from Vermont?

The bearish among us might wonder if Bernie Sanders can win support from voters who lean moderate. Despite him being branded as a progressive radical, many of his proposals have deep roots in American history. Take, for instance, his plan to strengthen the post office and protect low-income people from predatory banks by bringing back postal banking, a service available in this country from 1910 to 1967. (In elementary school, did you ever practice filling out a deposit slip and putting your allowance in the mail? My parents did.) Even Sanders’s signature fight for universal single-payer health care was first proposed by Teddy Roosevelt and later supported by JFK. Beyond lowering the age minimum, Sanders wants to expand Medicare – beloved by seniors since its inception under LBJ – to cover dental, hearing, vision, long-term care, mental health care, and prescriptions. Sanders is most often compared to FDR, however, for his commitment to revitalizing labor and defending Social Security.

In a general election, Sanders would draw a stark contrast between himself and his divisive, highly partisan incumbent opponent. With over sixteen years in the House and thirteen years in the Senate, Sanders has become known for his successes in bipartisanship. Conservative lawmakers laud Sanders for his integrity and being a pleasure to work with. Most recently he spearheaded a campaign to end US involvement in the horrifying war in Yemen, managing to pass a bill in both the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate. Sanders was also a key negotiator on the 2014 bill to improve the Veterans Affairs Department. “He knew when to hold and knew when to fold and, I think, maximized what we could get for veterans,” said Senator Chuck Schumer. Sanders’s adeptness at advancing a progressive agenda through amendments earned him the nickname “the Amendment King.” He has even allied with Republicans to oppose Trump’s inflated military budgets.

Defense spending isn’t the only instance where Sanders has proven his fiscal responsibility bona fides. Contrary to what you might hear on Fox News, Sanders’s health care proposal would cut national expenditures by $5.1 trillion over ten years (or $2 trillion according to even the most conservative estimates). These savings are in addition to slashing health care costs for consumers – by around $5,000 per year, in fact, for a middle class family. Bold climate plans like Sanders’s are projected to save trillions of dollars in lost GDP over the next few decades. He is also an outspoken critic of the Republican tax cuts and has instead proposed using revenue to make college as affordable as it was for previous generations. All of these proposals poll with overwhelming support.

What is especially remarkable about Sanders is that he not only checks all the boxes to appeal to the elusive swing voter, but he also inspires participation among groups Democrats need to turn out. He has uniquely enthusiastic support among young people (who are projected to be the largest voting bloc in 2020), and he has eclipsed Biden as the favorite among all non-white voters – two groups that are critical to winning the general. What’s more, Sanders has deep support in rust-belt states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. He has even received more contributions from members of the military than any other candidate – including Trump! What accounts for Sanders’s popularity across a wide range of demographics? More than any politician in the country, people believe he will fight for them.

Indeed, traditional metrics show Sanders to be best positioned to face Trump in the general. He has long held the highest favorability rating among all voters, and especially among voters of color. Head-to-head matchup polls show Sanders beating Trump in almost every survey published this year, outperforming other Democrats even in Republican strongholds like Georgia and Texas. (Sanders has overwhelming support among Latinos. Could Texas go blue in 2020 if Sanders is on the ballot?) Compared with his Democratic competitors, Sanders has a ”mega volunteer program” and record-breaking fundraising totals from purely small-dollar grassroots donors, a feat previously thought impossible.

It’s no wonder the media has recently been abuzz with speculation of a Sanders victory. “Could it be Bernie Sanders?” Newsweek asks. “Democratic insiders [say] Bernie could win the nomination,” Politico reports. “Bernie is tough to beat,” reads a NYT headline. Sanders “has the best shot at winning the nomination,” according to the Boston Globe. Politico muses what a Sanders presidency would look like, saying, “It could happen, really.” Even beltway skeptics are beginning to recognize that Sanders has a strong pathway to winning both the primary and the general.

If elected, Sanders would not only be the first Jewish president, but also the first president descended from victims of the Holocaust – a poetically fitting replacement for the demagogue who reads “Mein Kampf”. Sanders is the son of a Polish immigrant who escaped the Nazis but whose entire family was murdered. In Sanders’s youth, his family lived paycheck to paycheck in a rent-controlled apartment, and he lost both his parents by the age of 18. Sanders is no stranger to hardship, and his earnestness and empathy come through in his conversations with community members at town halls.

At the end of the day, Sanders is the candidate Democratic and Independent voters trust most to beat back the far right, making him our best chance to oust Trump. As a college instructor, a union organizer, and a lifelong Democrat – I trust him, too.

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