Juan Williams: Democratic voters rebuff Bernie's revolution

Juan Williams: Democratic voters rebuff Bernie's revolution
© Greg Nash

I have taken a lot of grief from my fellow Democrats over the years for calling out left-wingers, such as Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump is fighting the wrong war Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report The Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes MORE (I-Vt.), who romanticize Latin American revolutionaries.

I’m all-in on fighting capitalist greed and military dominance. But something is wrong when the left blindly praises the failed leadership of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega — even after the damage done by their oppressive regimes.

“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but …” Sanders told 60 Minutes in February, “[Castro] had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”

That’s a ridiculous comment.

In terms of 2020 presidential politics, it delights President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE’s supporters as they rush to label Sanders a “socialist.”

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzGaetz set to endorse primary opponent of fellow Florida GOP lawmaker The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Progress slow on coronavirus bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Biden VP possible next week; Meadows says relief talks 'miles apart' MORE (R-Fla.) spoke with glee about the prospect of running against the “Venezuela wing of the Democratic Party.” He predicted it to be the “death of the political left” during an appearance on ABC’s “The View.”

And Sanders’s words hurt Democrats with moderate voters, especially blacks and suburban women, who boosted the party to majority control of the House in the 2018 midterms.

But for young Democrats, Sanders’s passionate base, the call for revolution has gained traction because they are infuriated by moderate Democrats who lost the 2016 election to Trump.

What good is being moderate — in the style of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a 'stunt' What Trump got wrong by pushing coal Trump is fighting the wrong war MORE or Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWhy payroll tax cut opponents may want to reconsider Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report Graham says he appreciates Trump orders, but 'would much prefer a congressional agreement' MORE — if an uncompromising minority of voters elect a bullying, immoderate President Trump?

What good is being reasonable if the majority of voters, who chose Clinton over Trump, can only watch as Trump exercises uncompromising control of the Senate while politicizing the Supreme Court?

There is a lot of truth there.

There is also a need for a forceful, political response to Trump’s embrace of right-wing authoritarian rule overseas, as well as his divisive politics at home, including giving tax cuts to the rich at a time of grave income inequality.

But populist left-wing calls for a political revolution are not selling with most Democrats, or the suburban swing voters who will decide the 2020 elections.

Even if we confine the debate to the base of the Democratic Party, Sanders’s appeal falls short because black voters, who know a lot about inequality in America, are not buying it.

Beginning in South Carolina, black Democrats – the party’s most reliable voting bloc – have given more than half of their primary votes to a centrist candidate: former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore HuffPost reporter: Biden's VP shortlist doesn't suggest progressive economic policies Jill Biden says she plans to continue teaching if she becomes first lady MORE.

And most white Democrats aren’t buying it either.

According to a Pew Research poll published in January, a majority of Democrats – 52 percent – describe themselves as either “moderate” (38 percent), “conservative” (11 percent) or “very conservative” (3 percent).

“Americans aren’t looking for revolution,” Biden recently told NBC News. “They’re looking for progress. They’re looking for, ‘Tell me how you’re going to help me with my health care. Tell me you’ll make me safer.’”

“You don't have a majority of the Democrats that are in on your revolution,” James Carville, the former strategist for President Clinton, told MSNBC on the night of Super Tuesday, in comments aimed at Sanders.

“We want to beat Donald Trump…Democrats are not interested in a revolution, they are interested in getting this guy out of power just as fast as they possibly can," he added.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats tell me they fear Trump will label Sanders a communist in the November election — and that will imperil every Democrat running.

"I think everyone knows that it's going to be much more difficult to win back the Senate and keep the House if Bernie is at the top of the ticket," Biden told CNN in an interview last week.

And Sanders’s biggest political vulnerability as he calls for revolution is his exotic view of Latin American dictators.


Putting politics aside for the moment, this is personal for me.

My family left Panama in the early 1950s to escape poverty and open the doors to education and opportunity that began being shut by a Latin strong man — Arnulfo Arias.

Like Castro, Arias claimed to be fighting for poor and working-class people in his country. But Arias jailed, tortured and oppressed anyone who did not obey his regime.

He discriminated against blacks, Asians and native people. That repression extended to confiscating property and even trying to deny Panamanian citizenship to people like my grandfather, who died building the Panama Canal.

Even in the troubling age of Trump, my personal experience with Latin revolutionaries leaves me a true believer in restoring America’s promise of equal rights under the law, free debate and democratic politics.

Democrats, by voting for Biden over Sanders, are coming down on the side of restoring American institutions. They are voting for a revival of those institutions, not a revolution.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.