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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