You’ve seen him fill arenas with screaming fans and tear up the hashtags of social media. The independent senator from Vermont brings bold ideas and dreams of occupying the White House. But somebody’s gotta break it to you, and it may as well be me: Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a chance of being president. Let’s lay out the bad news.
First, Sanders’ main supporting demographic is the under-35 group. Young people may be great for campaign photos and social media efforts, but that’s about all they’re good for. In reality, the sub-35 demographic has the worst voter participation of any age group. Sanders will be lucky if 12% of those young people cheering him will actually bother showing up to the polls in a year. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s 800-pound gorilla, knows that primary elections are won by appealing to the over-65 group, whose voter turnout can expect to exceed 50%. You won’t see Hillary wasting her time and money to fill arenas with young people.
Second, Sanders is being crushed by a person who hasn’t really started campaigning yet. Clinton is polling at about 58% to Sanders’ 17%, and she’s barely done anything. There are 3.5 Clinton voters for every 1 Sanders voter, most of the latter of which won’t bother to vote. Clinton has to do little more than to keep her mouth shut and not invite controversy, and the nomination’s hers.
Third, Sanders sounds like a Socialist Party USA brochure from the 1960s. Sure, you think socialism will work wonders for the nation, but guess what? The age group that votes the most – those over the age of 65 – have heard Sanders’ words before. Unfortunately, they heard them during the Cold War from the communist Eastern Bloc and their fringe supporters. The idea of wealth redistribution and government-enforced equality does not make older people think of Sander’s Utopian America. It makes them think of Soviet SS-20 ICBMs being pointed at them. Sanders has a long road ahead of him if he wants to convince those of us who came of age through the 1980s that his brand of socialism is any different than that preached by the people who were trying to nuke us.
Sure, it’s still early. The Super Tuesday primaries aren’t for another six months. But even with that time frame, given his campaign strategy Bernie Sanders still has a better chance of being kidnapped by aliens than he has becoming President of the United States. After next March, #FeelTheBern will become #FeelTheBernOut.
Matt Haarington, MPH, MSHI is an advisor on public policy and health care issues for Social Justice Solutions. He is the author of The Spider and the Wasp, which is the funniest book you’ll ever read about being traumatized.
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