Presidential Campaign

Bernie Sanders is the Ron Paul of 2016

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the Ron Paul of the 2016 election — with his enormous crowds, a network of hardcore supporters and an iconoclasm that seems to transcend the politics-as-usual establishment.

{mosads}But none of that will be enough to carry him to victory. The fringe candidate drawing huge crowds and surging in the polls because he appeals to the party base is nothing new. He’ll strut and fret his hour upon the stage and then be heard no more — just like then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) in 2012.

Here’s how Nina Malika Henderson summed up the state of the Paul campaign in The Washington Post on April 1, 2012: “[E]nthusiastic crowds who love Paul’s fierce independence but fail to carry him to victory at the polls. After running in 30 states and gaining a scant 50 delegates, according to the Associated Press, Paul has learned a hard lesson: Crowds don’t vote.”

Sanders is going to learn the same lesson in a few months.

Geoffrey Skelley, associate editor of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, had this to say about Sanders’s crowds:

Most of the places we’ve seen him draw huge crowds are exactly the kinds of spots where we might expect it: whiter urban areas like Denver and Minneapolis (compared to most big cities), liberal college towns like Madison, Wis., and now most recently in very white Portland, Maine, the most liberal part of the Pine Tree State. National polling hasn’t shown Sanders making in-roads with nonwhite voters, and much of his support is coming from whites who are particularly liberal.

Progressive media outlets will continue to cite enormous crowds, cherry-picked state polls and a general feeling of Bernie-mania in order to push the narrative that Hillary Clinton is being seriously challenged.

In late 2011 to early 2012, Paul had a media surge very similar to what Sanders is experiencing now.

When Paul spoke at UCLA to a crowd of 6,000 to 7,000 people jammed into an over-capacity stadium, one wire service reported that Paul fans who couldn’t get in were “climbing nearby trees to see the speech.”

Stories of Paul’s rise in the Iowa polls were ubiquitous for weeks.

But you know how the story ends: with former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) coasting over the finish line and beating Paul by a count of nearly 1,400 delegates.

Paul had niche appeal, but not mass appeal. Any argument that Sanders will be different — that he’ll score the mass appeal that Paul lacked — is two parts hope and zero parts reality.

Sanders’s power to rise in the polls is going to slam headfirst into the socialist ceiling. It makes no difference what the word “socialism” means to Sanders or his supporters. A Gallup poll from June 22 showed that while 74 percent of Americans would vote for a gay or lesbian presidential candidate, 73 percent would vote for an evangelical Christian and 60 percent would vote for a Muslim, only 47 percent of Americans would vote for a socialist presidential candidate.

Then, there’s money. If the rest of Sanders’s problems don’t shut his campaign down, the money problem will. Michael Hagen, associate professor of political science at Temple University, points out that “Sanders’s funding situation will make it difficult for him to let Democrats know who he is and what he stands for.”

The largest differences between Paul and Sanders are the advantages Paul enjoyed, which Sanders does not.

In order for Sanders — a candidate on the party’s fringe — to win, he would need serious challengers to divide and conquer the Clinton coalition. Former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.), former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and former Gov. Lincoln Chaffee (D-R.I.) are practically nonexistent. Vice President Biden puts a small dent in Clinton’s lead (as we’ve seen when his name is removed from polls). But Sanders fanatics need Biden and a second establishment challenger to step in. Preferably a big-name Democrat who is within an ideological arm’s length of Clinton.

My goal is not to pour cold water on the hopes of Sanders fans. It is simply to hold a mirror up to nature and present the reality of his situation — a reality being ignored by the left-wing media where many Sanders fans turn to for their news.

Partisan news sources are food for intellectual dishonesty. The real story about candidates like Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders is the same every four years: big crowds, big hype, big loss.

Zipperer is assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College. Follow him on Twitter @eddiezipperer.

Tags 2012 presidential campaign 2012 Republican primary 2016 Democratic primary 2016 presidential campaign Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton Jim Webb Joe Biden Martin O'Malley Mitt Romney Ron Paul
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