Feeling the Semi-Bern


TPM Reader MJ has a question …

I’ve been dying for your opinion on a few issues.

Just to echo what readers WA and ML said earlier, I’m a longtime reader of eight years who has vacillated between Bernie and Clinton. In 2008 I switched early on to Obama, when it became apparent that he combined hopeful idealism with a kind of pragmatism. I don’t really see Bernie in the same way—he and his supporters don’t appear to have the pragmatic streak that was part of what made Obama appealing to many people in 2008.

But my biggest concern with Bernie is something I haven’t heard you talk much about. It has nothing to do with his proposed policies or his style.

It’s that I think the Republicans have a potentially brutal pre-scripted attack in the general election on him: divorced, atheist, socialist white guy from a small liberal state, and the oldest person ever to run for the office. Red-baiting, with all of its unsavory and anti-semitic implications, may rear its ugly head.

It’s unknowable what effect this will have on general election voters. It seems to me that general election matchup polls at this point are meaningless. But Bernie supporters consistently cite these polls to point to his electability. What do you think?

Many of my Bernie-supporting friends live in bubbles surrounded by other voters like them. But here in Texas, my friends and family run from leftist hippies to true centrist independents to right wing evangelicals. My centrist independent friends, many of whom voted for Obama, are really skeptical about Bernie’s “socialism” which they wrongly conflate with communism. I hear tons of talk like “we tried that with the Soviets and it didn’t work out.” There’s no convincing them that Bernie’s idea of democratic socialism has nothing to do with authoritarian dictatorships.

For these reasons, I have a real concern that the moderates and centrists who showed up for Obama may not show up for Bernie. Am I just being paranoid? Could Bernie capture the general election voters that Obama captured?

Also, what’s your take on a Bernie vs Trump matchup, versus a Bernie vs Cruz or Bernie vs Rubio matchup? Each of these seems to me to be a distinct scenario with its own pitfalls.

I’m not yet feeling the Bern, partly because I haven’t been convinced of his electability in the general election. But I WANT to be convinced, one way or the other.

Incidentally, a website that I go to almost daily, TPM, now has a huge banner on its opening page featuring Bernie Sanders’ face. As I click through, I see not one but two sidebar ads for the Bernie campaign, and no other advertising. 🙂