Bernie might lose the nomination, but he won the platform war

Bernie might lose the nomination, but he won the platform war
© Greg Nash

Is it all over for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California On The Money: Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors | Pelosi says deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' | Mnuchin downplays shutdown threat | Trump hits Fed after Walmart boasts strong earnings MORE (I-Vt.)? The political chatter seems to think so.

He had a bad quarter. His debate performance was forgettable at best; all the buzz went to Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Overnight Health Care: Cigarette smoking rates at new low | Spread of vaping illness slowing | Dems in Congress push to block Trump abortion rule Democratic senators introduce bill to push ICE to stop 'overuse' of solitary confinement MORE (D-Calif.). Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Overnight Health Care: Cigarette smoking rates at new low | Spread of vaping illness slowing | Dems in Congress push to block Trump abortion rule Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field MORE of South Bend, Ind., out-raised him by $7 million. Four polls — by Quinnipiac University, CNN and Suffolk University — have put him in fourth place. Newer and shinier objects have displaced him, and his floor — 1,000,000 donors strong! — has become his ceiling.  

Worse still, it appears that the children of his own socialist movement are now devouring him.

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In the 2016 presidential campaign he had a long runway. When fellow primary contenders Lincoln Chafee (D-R.I.), Martin O’Malley (D-Md.), and James Webb (D-Va.) vanished into oblivion, Bernie became the party’s anti-Clinton choice. She was tried-and-true establishment, and he was the outsider.

Despite his decades in Congress, the Bern had neither joined the club nor changed his message. He was an exciting alternative — an unapologetic liberal voice who embraced bigger government and free stuff, and flipped a finger to Wall Street. It was a Peter Paul and Mary reunion served with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for newly recruited college grads who like the idea of student-loan forgiveness. 

Hillary couldn’t attack him. Her team may have been confident of victory but they knew his red-meat base could deflect to the Green Party’s Jill Stein, just as they had jumped to Ralph Nader in 2000. Such would assure a GOP victory. Hence, she rarely challenged his ideas, and he got to espouse the virtues of socialism with very little dissension. 

He even became America’s crotchety old uncle. Comedian Larry David did a better imitation of Bernie than Bernie could do himself. The idea of government running anything and everything was more amusing than horrifying. The natural result was a following. Bernie-believers had far greater numbers than anyone could imagine. 

Today, a mere three years later, to see Bernie’s influence one only needs to look at the top five issues of the Democratic Party — health care, abortion, climate change, immigration and the economy. The position of nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates are all his: On health care, “Medicare for All.” On abortion, government-funded procedures on demand at any time. On climate change, the “Green New Deal.” On immigration, open borders and, now, free health care for border-crossers. Finally, on the economy, tax the rich, require a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and provide a guaranteed income to all. And then there are reparations for the descendants of slaves, restored voting rights for felons, and outlawing private insurance.

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Sure, there are nuances and blurred technicalities. But the big stuff is all Bernie: Government solutions for every ill on the fruited plain. 

In short, diversity among the Democrats ends with demography, age, sex and race. On philosophy and policy, they are as unified as you can get.

So why isn’t the 2020 nomination Bernie’s to lose? 

Another poll taken by ABC News/The Washington Post may explain it. It shows another value of Democratic primary voters — winnability. In that poll, 26 percent of respondents said they’ll forgo their preferred candidate for the one who can beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE. They like smoother talkers, candidates who don’t yell, ones who can speak several languages, ones with a softer face and better TV appeal. 

One can even blame it on Larry David. He helped Bernie become the lovable, crotchety character whose fame spilled way over the boundaries of late-night comedy. Yet, he also type-cast Bernie to be a one-trick pony of limited appeal. It was his mannerism, not his candidacy, that America embraced. 

But if voters ultimately reject his candidacy, Bernie need not despair. The Democratic Party has fully adopted his platform.

Jack Kingston represented Georgia’s 1st congressional district from 1993 to 2015 and was vice chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2002 to 2006. He has chaired the Georgia Republican Party Foundation, a fundraising organization, since 2015 and was a senior adviser to President Trump’s 2016 campaign. He is now a public policy principal at the Washington law firm of Squire Patton Boggs.