Issues & Insights

This Is Not McGovern’s America: Crazy Bernie Can Win It All

Bernie Sanders nailed it Wednesday wrapping up the Democratic debate – if not the nomination.

Channeling Nelson Mandela, Sanders insisted: “Everything is impossible – until it happens.”

America, let this once seemingly impossible concept sink in, and sink in deep: It can happen.

Sanders can win. Not just the party nod. The election.

The Wall Street Journal fretted recently: “Democrats are waking to the prospect of a nominee who wants to eliminate private health insurance, raise taxes on the middle class, ban fracking and put government in charge of energy production, make college a taxpayer entitlement, offer free health care to illegal immigrants, raise spending by $50 trillion, and tag every down-ballot Democrat with the socialist label.”

Journal editorial writers apparently believe simply repeating those erstwhile bogeymen will ensure McGovern 1972-style catastrophe for Sanders and his party in the fall.

Inquiring readers want to know: what country are they are living in?

Like so many impossibilities in 1972 – not to mention 20 or even 10 years ago – the Journal’s  bugaboos are mere yawners today.

Consider: in this correspondent’s junior high in 1970, administrators showed “Reefer Madness” to scare students away from weed. Now, marijuana liberalization is happening – and Wednesday night, nary a candidate opposed it. Pete Buttigieg even displays a telltale leaf on a campaign button.

In the McGovern days, Roe v. Wade hadn’t even been decided, and most Democratic Party leaders – even Teddy Kennedy – were pro-life. The right to kill babies till the moment of birth has happened – and antiabortion Democrats are scarcer than a ’72 Chevy Vega.

Just before the 1972 election, the Supreme Court refused even to take up a same-sex marriage case, citing “want of a substantial federal question.” (Legalese for “say what?”) Fear of men and women sharing bathrooms? Almost enough in and of itself to sink the Equal Rights Amendment, sent to the states for ratification that year. What’s happened since? You know.

Turning to some of the Journal’s specific nightmares: national health plans mooted by both parties in the ’70s were snuffed by powerful committee chairmen. Yet the government takeover of healthcare happened: jammed through over America’s screams 10 years ago, Obamacare now boasts a favorability rate of 55% to 37%.

Premiums and deductibles exploding? Life expectancies declining? Outcomes worsening? Those Republicans are undermining the “Affordable” Care Act, don’tcha know? So why not double down with a public option or even Medicare for All – as now favored by 63% of the public?

Make college a free entitlement? Might that not seem less radical than what’s actually happening: the $1.4 trillion student loan overhang trapping young folks into a lifetime of debt service?

Ban fracking? How many Americans have bought into the popular narrative of earthquakes and gas exploding in bathroom faucets? (Plenty, apparently.)

Government takeover of energy? Since James Hansen showed up in the Senate declaring “99%” confidence that greenhouse gases were causing “warming,” a majority of the 2020 electorate has grown up under that prevailing orthodoxy. Why not relieve their anxious minds by banning air travel and cow farts to stave off the impending end of the world?

Blow up the budget? Been there, doing that. The fiscal year 2021 Trump proposal already offers rising seas of red ink, with ledgers approaching balance in 2035 – only if annual growth is at or near 3% throughout the 2020s. The public reaction: zzzz. So what’s a few dozen more trillions?

And that “socialism” word: will younger voters really desert Sanders in droves over a couple comments praising Cuban communists? The Berlin Wall fell before a substantial bloc even drew breath. Communist China is our biggest trading partner. Millennials and beyond have a vague notion that socialism has been bad for Venezuela, but not why.

“Moderate” Democrats tried the Journal’s roundhouses on Sanders Wednesday, and didn’t lay a glove on him. Sanders countered with research purporting to show his Medicare for All budget-buster would save money. Cited praise for the Castros from the sainted Barack Obama. Ridiculed efforts to align him with the NRA.

And he pointed to strong head-to-head polling numbers against Donald Trump and burgeoning grassroots support.

What’s that support all about? Sanders, like Trump in 2016, has his finger firmly on the faint pulse of a segment affected by something else that has happened since McGovern-era America. Oren Cass, an analyst now starting a new think tank, asserts that family necessities a typical 1985 male worker could cover working 30 weeks now require 53 weeks. Meanwhile, the president boasted in his State of the Union address that women are benefiting from nearly 60% of new jobs – which has made them a majority of the workforce.

Even in the Trump economy, buffeted by high health costs, crippled by debt, and eclipsed in the job market, the “Bernie Bros” may well be falling further behind. Even as millennials in general remain “Generation Screwed.”

It’s not your father’s Democratic Party, or McGovern’s America. What once seemed impossible for a candidate like Bernie Sanders – winning – may just happen.

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Bob Maistros

Bob Maistros, a messaging and communications strategist and crisis specialist, is of counsel with Strategic Action Public Affairs, and was chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, three U.S. Senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at


  • “Oren Cass, an analyst now starting a new think tank, asserts that family necessities a typical 1985 male worker could cover working 30 weeks now require 53 weeks.”

    This is a result of ever higher taxes which gouge workers’ wages. Taxing workers more will not fix this, but exacerbate it.

    • As a point of history, the architects of the 16th Amendment specifically intended to exclude normal working families from any income tax.

      Biden recently said that “no amendment is absolute”. (He was, of course, speaking about the 2nd Amendment.)
      Does he really mean this?

      Liberals like Biden never saw a tax hike they didn’t like. They definitely regard the 16th Amendment as absolute.
      They tax everyone as high as they want to.

      Judges have been trained to claim that the 16th amendment is ‘the power to destroy’. This of course is in complete contradiction to both the history and reasonable purpose of the 16th Amendment.

  • It’s not McGovern’s America, but it’s not the USSR either. Anything is possible, but Bernie winning is a long shot. His floor is about 45%, but his ceiling is probably about 50%. Which is admittedly scary. But not enough to win.

    • I sure hope you’re right, but it’s still frightening to think that his floor is 45% with a platform that once would have been unthinkable.

      Back in 1972 I voted for George McGovern, but I was young and didn’t know any better back then. However, my regard for him grew over time as he took some rather courageous positions contrary to the ever-leftward Dem party. For instance, he very strongly opposed the union thug “card check” initiative (which has fortunately not resurfaced), and wrote a moving opinion article in the Wall Street Journal about personal responsibility, and elsewhere about his tribulations as an innkeeper in Connecticut.

      And finally, I grieved with him over the loss of his daughter Terry, an alcoholic who froze to death in a snowbank in Madison, WI. He was a good father and that says a lot to me. RIP George McGovern. I can’t imagine what he would think of today’s Dem field.

      • I disagreed with McGovern on many things. I also knew he flew B-24 bomber missions-over 30-over Europe. I did admire the man. They don’t make Democrats like that any more.

      • His 50% would include overwhelming majorities in liberal bastions like California and New York. That is why he would need more than 50% to win the presidency in the Electoral College.

  • I simply disagree. He can’t win Florida with his pro-Castro / Cuba schtick. He can’t win PA or OH with his anti-coal push. He can’t win any of the oil states with his ban fossil fuels nonsense. How is he going to win heavily in the Midwest when his plans would devastate farming?

    Blacks are not going to turn out for a godless old lily white socialist in similar numbers that they did for Obama–which he MUST have to win. There is little doubt Trump is going to eat into that number, and perhaps bigly.

    Bernie plays GREAT with the younger demographic. However, when you explain what socialism really means, more than 50% strongly oppose it. What types of commercials and ground game do you think the Trump team is going to have that front? And–we have seen this before many times–the young shout and slogan tremendous energy, but never show up to vote in the numbers needed for their candidate of choice to win.

    Trump is going to mop the floor with any of these potential nominees, and especially one with all the baggage Sanders–other old nutty uncle with gravy stains on his dandruff-laced cheap suit and a bad haircut–brings to the table.

    • I repeat the premise of the article: would you have considered abortion on demand until the moment of birth, same-sex marriage, men using women’s bathrooms/locker rooms and competing in women’s sports, Obamacare and many other new norms within the realm of possibility in the day?

      I didn’t even have the space to get into how many third rails Trump hit in 2016 and still got elected.

      Sanders “can’t” win Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc., huh? I’m here in FL, and Republicans barely won the governorship in 2018 over a candidate with a radical agenda that would have reversed decades of pro-growth, pro-school choice and other conservative policies. Won the Senate seat by not much more. Democratic Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade electoral officials can manufacture votes on demand when needed.

      Trump won PA OH MI WI on the strength of Obama voters who didn’t find Hillary speaking to their issues of disaffection and despair. That’s exactly whom Bernie is also addressing. Don’t be shocked if many come home. Trump loses two or even one of those states, and it is all over.

      • The only reason Hillary came close in 2016 was the rampant voter fraud and complicit media. Trump will destroy anyone in 2020, and win reelection. Florida, like Texas, has been infiltrated by woke hipster democrats, and you have had more than your fair share of voter and election fraud. So while the 2018 election was close, it was being stolen by criminal democrats.

      • Actually, the senate race was closer than the governor’s race. Rick Scott won by a shade over 10K votes. DeSantis’ margin for governor was about 33K, but you’re still right about everything else.

        And if that weren’t bad enough, we are seeing sustained violence perpetrated against Republicans. Witness auto attack in Jacksonville, assaults in New Hampshire over MAGA hats, repeated vandalism of GOP office in Eureka, California. Why aren’t we taking the violence to THEM?

  • Then again, Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 and only 94.3% of the voters voted for either Trump or Hillary. And too, perhaps the voters have had enough of a White House occupant who makes LBJ in retrospect seem intelligent and articulate they will vote for anyone else. It’s the Chinese Curse – May you live in interesting times.

    • I hear this projection from the minds of left leaning individuals. That Bernie can win. Never going to happen, and certainly not with a Trump hammering and sickleing him. He is merely a learning tool for the youngsters and old hippies who have been smarter than everyone else for a long time. It’s put your ideas on the table time.

  • If people stay home on election day, as is often the case, the “Virginia Result” will sweep the nation. Those being offered free stuff are being told that they will get their “free” on day one, no waiting. That is a big motivator. The Conservative side is being lulled into believing that Trump can’t be beaten by the likes of Bernie and will become complacent. Guess what the result will be.
    And don’t forget about the Senate races. If the demoncrats can take a majority, the president, and the country, are done.

    Vote in November as if your life depended on it.

  • I live in a Marxist city, work in a industry who have been taught the teachings of Marx and while they don’t recognize it as Marxism by name they are Marxists. 19/20 of them will vote for Crazy Bernie in The Party(D)’s primary and in the general. Crazy Bernie could be our next POTUS.

  • “The mob is fickle, brother.’ (“Gladiator”)

    Public opinion does not form itself, it is formed from outside. To some extent public opinion is formed by the media, but more so during the educational process where liberal educators hold the whip hand (grades, college recommendations, etc.) over the future careers of their students.

    Perhaps most of all, public opinion follows Supreme Court decisions, as it has with abortion and homosexual ‘marriage’.

  • Keep in mind that if Sanders wins, and worse, controls the entire Congress, America is over, and your children and grandchildren will undergo a hell that no American has ever undergone. We are talking extinction level event for humanity.

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