Presidential Campaign

Why Sanders would have defeated Trump in 2016

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On Wednesday, I wrote about what Hillary Clinton said this week and what she did not say, discussing the reasons she lost the 2016 presidential election. Today, let’s consider a far more interesting and important question than why Clinton lost, which is why Bernie Sanders would have won.

It is a fact that for well over a year, match-up polls showed that Sanders would have defeated Trump by substantial margins. Favorability polls have similarly and consistently showed Sanders to have substantially higher approval and favorable ratings than Trump.

While I wish Hillary Clinton had emerged this week with something more important to say than who she blamed for her loss, it is revealing that Sanders spent this week and every week since the election talking not about himself but about his vision for America.

{mosads}It speaks volumes about why Sanders would have won that, on the day Trump spent celebrating a healthcare victory in the House of Representatives that will ultimately leave many Americans worse off, the president also said — correctly and incredibly —  that the Australian single-payer healthcare system provides better healthcare for Australians than Americans have!

Perhaps after offering this accurate and enlightened view, Trump will endorse the Sanders plan to create Medicare for all Americans. Of course, Trump will not do what he said, but the huge victory for Sanders in the battle of ideas is unmistakable.

The sad fact is, as I noted in my response to her comments, Clinton was out of touch with the temper of the nation, the mood of the times and the public aspiration for change eight years after President Obama campaigned on hope we can believe in. Trump was attuned to the temper of the times and the demand for change, but masqueraded as a populist when he is really a crony capitalist who exploited racial and religious hatred along the way.

Sanders would have won because he was attuned to the temper of the times and the demand for change, but he was also authentic, honest and uplifting. In addition, he offered specific, detailed and transformative proposals we can truly believe in.

After the TrumpCare monstrosity that passed the House on Thursday, Sanders is more right than ever in fighting for the real solution — single-payer healthcare.

After TrumpCare launches an all-out attack against Medicaid, which the American people will rise against when they understand what Republicans will do, Sanders will fight like a lion to defend it and create a system of Medicare that is unquestionably the wave of the future for American healthcare policy. It is also the best platform to help Democrats win future elections.

Sanders would have won in 2016 because he alone called for a president to lead the charge for giving every American an opportunity for a college education, offering tuition-free public college enrollment.

Sanders would have won in 2016 because he alone called for the bold, transforming and egalitarian economic policies that are the antithesis of Trump’s crony capitalism, which he would have exposed in ways Clinton could not.

Sanders would have won in 2016 because he offered the honest and true choice for change and, as a political leader far more liked and trusted than Trump could ever dream of being, was the ultimate messenger for the great cause a majority of voters were willing to support.

Sanders would have won in 2016 because he did not need an army of consultants to tell him what he believes and sell it like soap suds, and voters sensed that Sanders was speaking from powerful and strongly-held convictions that he would implement as president on their behalf.

FBI Director James Comey would never have influenced the election because Sanders never used private emails that needed to be investigated in the first place.  Vladimir Putin would never have been able to successfully hack our democracy because, if he had stolen every secret about Bernie Sanders, voters would have rallied behind him even more!

Sanders would have won in 2016 because he believes in a dream that most Americans share, speaks of his dream with words most Americans trust and offers real plans to make the dream come true that Americans can understand, respect and support.

If Democrats fully understand the reasons Sanders would have defeated Trump in 2016, then in 2018 and 2020, Democrats will elect candidates who will enable Trump to benefit from the single-payer healthcare system that his successor will propose and help enact into law.


Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors blog and reached at

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of the Hill. 

Tags Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders presidential campaign Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton presidential campaign Politics United States presidential election

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