Sanders is a risk, not a winner

Please, Democrats, find a practical, moderate candidate for president to help those of us in the center of the American political spectrum oust Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE and his mindless supporters in Congress from power in November.

The Bernie SandersBernie SandersButtigieg stands in as Pence for Harris's debate practice Bernie Sanders warns of 'nightmare scenario' if Trump refuses election results Harris joins women's voter mobilization event also featuring Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda MORE revolution is not the answer.

The country needs a return to sanity, not an extremist from the idealistic far left to defeat Trump, the extremist reactionary on the far right. Give us someone — any gender or race — who is a real problem solver and who has some hope of winning the presidential and congressional election and then creating the political conditions for real change. 


I make this plea as someone who grew up in the South and has worked in government for presidents of both parties. I am also not affiliated with any political party or candidate.

Large numbers of voters in Democratic primaries seem to think that a cranky, old, arm waving New England socialist with a heart condition can defeat Trump and carry through on his idealistic promises — Not a chance, and the Republicans know it.

The Democrats have a spectacular opportunity this Fall to define Trump as Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinEx-Trump national security adviser says US leaders 'making it easy for Putin' to meddle The Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting Putin calls on UN to strengthen World Health Organization MORE’s candidate, using videos and statements by Trump in his own words and images with Putin and others. If Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) is the nominee, Democrats lose that advantage — and Trump will define all Democrats as crazy socialists — even communists — who want to destroy successful American capitalism and implement suffocating government to replace freedom.

I can envision old images of an arm waving Lenin beside photos of an arm-waving Bernie.

With Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan, Trump can rightly say that Sanders, like him, wants to kill Obamacare. Sanders’ proposal is unaffordable and would take current health insurance away from millions of Americans who are happy with the health coverage they have now. This is another unnecessary gift to Trump.

The Democrats need to retain control of the House and gain control of the Senate to have any hope of working with moderate Republicans to clean up the mess after Trump. That means the Democrats need to win elections in the center of the country. 


Unfortunately, Democrats today, like in 2016, seem to have lost sight of the critical importance of the South and the center of the country — and the golden center of the American political spectrum — where they must win to oust Trump.

The enthusiasm of idealistic liberals pushing Sanders for the Democratic nominee will not translate into electoral college votes in the South and the center of the country where Trump is strongest.

I find it hard to believe any incumbent Democrats in Congress from the South or the center states think that a Sanders ticket would help their campaign for re-election.

Imagine Democratic candidates in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida or Wisconsin, who are trying to defeat Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Senate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report Trump argues full Supreme Court needed to settle potential election disputes MORE and running against other Trump candidates having to defend a Democratic Party led by Bernie Sanders. This could produce a Senate wipe-out and the potential loss of the House majority.

Even if Sanders were elected, his presidency would be a failure if Democrats lose their majority in the House, do not win the Senate and Mitch McConnell returns as Majority Leader.  What’s more, he had a thin reputation for working across the aisle and negotiating compromise to pass legislation. The “purity” that seems to attract his supporters argues against his effectiveness in accomplishing anything he promises. 

With that reality, what’s the point of a Sanders nomination?

Who are the potentially successful Democratic candidates? Any one of several experienced moderates — Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSocial media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight Sunday shows - Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death dominates MORE, a Minnesota moderate; former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate Trump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' MORE, and former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg would work.  Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHarris joins women's voter mobilization event also featuring Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda Judd Gregg: The Kamala threat — the Californiaization of America GOP set to release controversial Biden report MORE (D-Mass.) is not as destructive as Sanders, but she jumped left when she should have gone to the center and now is trying to play it both ways. Others who have dropped out, like Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisButtigieg stands in as Pence for Harris's debate practice First presidential debate to cover coronavirus, Supreme Court Harris joins women's voter mobilization event also featuring Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda MORE, could have been acceptable but are out of the picture now.

Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg stands in as Pence for Harris's debate practice Hillicon Valley: FBI, DHS warn that foreign hackers will likely spread disinformation around election results | Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day | Trump to meet with Republican state officials on tech liability shield Facebook takes down Chinese network targeting Philippines, Southeast Asia and the US MORE is impressive, smart and moderate — but very inexperienced. He also faces a serious, practical question that Democrats won’t talk about now, but will face in a general election: Is the nation ready to elect a gay president? Right or wrong, a very large number of voters on religious or traditional grounds will not vote for him. His orientation is a risk, and again, Trump will exploit fear and prejudice through surrogates like Rush Limbaugh to undermine Buttigieg in a general election.

Democrats should stop obsessing about offending the Sanders fanatics. Sanders’ people must decide if their self-righteous and extreme liberal policies are more important than the future of the nation and four more years under Donald Trump. If the Sanders message is most important, they will be blamed for the result, and the left of the Democratic Party will be discredited.

The nation is handing the Democrats a victory in November if they are smart enough to take it.

Trump has turned American democracy on its head. His corruption, incompetence, racism, history with women, attacks on democracy and the rule of law and the damage to U.S. national security all make him vulnerable. In addition, several winning issues in moderate America are open for Democrats:

  • Affordable healthcare and drug costs, quality public schools and affordable, quality public university options.
  • Reasonable gun control and measures to stop the ravages of drug addiction that ravage communities.
  • Programs to re-energize communities devastated by globalization and the loss of manufacturing and fossil fuel jobs.
  • A comprehensive program to deal with the obvious immigration problems on the borders as an alternative to Trump’s hateful, simplistic exclusionary wall.

Sanders must be the favored Democratic candidate for the Trump campaign because he offsets so many of Trump’s vulnerabilities and could present a devastating environment for down ballot candidates in critical states.


The temptation of nominating Sanders risks far too great a disaster for Democrats when four more years of a Donald Trump presidency is at stake in the November election.

Please Democrats, give us a practical candidate for president who can win.

James W. Pardew is a former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria and career Army intelligence officer. He has served as deputy assistant secretary-general of NATO and is the author of "Peacemakers: American Leadership and the End of Genocide in the Balkans."