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Why Bernie Can Win

The pundits are wrong. Bernie Sanders is the most electable candidate this November.

(Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

It’s almost surreal to go back and watch Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign announcement today.

Last April, with a handful of reporters gathered outside the US Capitol, Sanders strode casually across the grass and unfolded a crinkled sheet of notes. As he spoke — airing his now-familiar grievances with the ever-more-unequal American economy — photographers snapped perfunctory pictures while journalists fiddled with their smartphones. It was all over in about ten minutes.

If little pomp attended Sanders’s announcement, there appeared to be even less circumstance. An obscure Vermont socialist, polling 3 percent nationally, had joined the race against Hillary Clinton? This was practically the textbook definition of a protest candidate. “It’s more important to you to get these ideas out,” one reporter asked Sanders, “than to contest the Democratic nomination?”

The next day, media analysts sized up Sanders’s candidacy with the same mix of mild amusement and polite condescension. The best possible outcome for a Sanders campaign, agreed the New York Times, NBC News, and Politico, was that his “liberal zeal” might “force Clinton to the left.”

Nine months later, this verdict seems terribly wrong. Not only has Sanders emerged as a serious threat to capture the nomination — his victory in New Hampshire was the largest in primary history — but his impact on the shape of the campaign has been almost the opposite of what experts imagined.

Read the full article at Jacobin.

Matt Karp

Matt Karp is an assistant professor of history at Princeton University and a Jacobin contributing editor.

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