The pundit class of DC politics is waking up to the probability of a Bernie Sanders being the Democratic nominee for president and let me tell you, they are FREAKING OUT.
To be fair, it's not without reason. And it's not all due to being part of a privileged class being encroached upon, don't kid yourself.
The oppo research on Bernie Sanders is deep and the Clinton campaign largely left it alone in 2016 in the hopes of bringing Bernie supporters to her camp. The Trump campaign and all those dark money conservative groups will have no such constraint. And that doesn't even take into account the things that will get fed and embraced by the mainstream media by other dark forces (Anyone remember how much The New York Times loved the entirely fact-free "Clinton Cash"?). Russian troll farms showed in 2016 how easy it was to seed discontent through social media and hurt turn out.
It's also absolutely true that all these will be factors for any Democratic candidate. But in our current state of asymmetrical polarization, studies have shown that voters are more likely to come out to vote AGAINST a candidate who threatens their sense of identity than actively for a candidate who only sort of shares their values. A self-identified Jewish socialist who is promising a "revolution" to help poor people of every stripe step up is a scary prospect for those deeply steeped in white grievance.
I bring all this up not to dissuade anyone from supporting Bernie Sanders, but to be clear-eyed about the path forward. It's going to be rough. And if I know this stuff, so does the entire chattering class in DC. And that may explain some of the hair pulling seen by them on the cable news channels.
Democratic consultant Jimmy Williams shares a lot of those concerns, along with the aforementioned fact that Boomer voters (who have been historically more reliable than younger voters) misunderstand what "socialism" means to Sanders supporters.
I don't think that Williams is being unfair here. He's simply passing on conventional wisdom for his area of the country, which skews conservative and skeptical of "isms". They don't view Sanders as a New Deal-style Democrat, but more an outsider promising to overturn how they understand the world. That's a big hurdle for the Sanders campaign to overcome (and they did not do well at it in 2016, but to their credit, they do seem to working hard on their minority outreach this time around).
Williams thinks it's time for party leaders to step up to curb Sanders' popularity going forward. But Joy Reid is not content on letting conventional wisdom stand without looking at exactly why Sanders is resonating in the field of choices so far: the Boomers and GenXers who may fear the concept of socialism don't realize that they are being outnumbered by the Millennials and GenZers whose futures they've greatly diminished by their own selfishness.
And Reid chides those focusing so much on labels to remember the real stakes:
If you get him, you're going to have to get in your mind right with the idea that this democratic socialist is who you got and it's him or Trump. It's a binary election when it comes to November.
Damn straight. We're still early in the primary process (it's hard to believe that we've got media people demanding candidates get out when there are still 54 more contests to go), but to a one, we need to be clear that the choice is the Democratic nominee (with all his/her flaws) or Trump, and the republic cannot survive further violations of laws and norms that Trump does without fear of accountability.