As a Never Trump conservative, The Bulwark’s Jonathan Last would prefer to see the Democratic Party nominate a centrist presidential candidate. But Sen. Bernie Sanders has been surging in recent polls, and Last — in an article published on February 19 — asserts that it’s a mistake to assume that Sanders couldn’t defeat President Donald Trump in November if he receives the Democratic nomination.
Unlike others on the right, Last doesn’t see Sanders as unelectable. Last’s article is divided into two sections: “How Bernie Wins” and “How Bernie Loses.” And in the “How Bernie Wins” section, Last argues that one advantage Sanders might have over other 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidates is a “burn-it-all-down” message.
“Where (former Vice President Joe) Biden is proposing restoration and Mayor Pete is saying he’ll turn the page on the Baby Boomers,” Last writes, “Bernie Sanders is mounting the same burn-it-all down revolution that he would be pitching no matter who he was running against. In other words, Bernie is never going to settle into making ‘Trump so bad’ arguments. His relentless focus is on the future, not the past.”
Last goes on to say that Sanders is “a change candidate who will carry the initiative on a daily basis by proposing his own version of ‘the system is rigged against you, and if you vote for me, I’ll punish the people you hate.’ The difference is that when Trump makes this argument, he’s talking about half the country. And when Bernie makes it, he’s talking about Corporate America and the very rich.”
In the “How Bernie Loses” section of his article, Last notes that Sanders “is a ‘democratic socialist’ at a time when ‘socialism’ polls poorly.”
“Say what you will about Trump, but while he may not be intelligent by intellectual standards — for instance, by knowing facts or history — he has a very deep sense of animal cunning,” Last explains. “And he has demonstrated, over and over, that he has an instinctual understanding of his own interests that is truly awesome.”
But if Trump could successfully run on unrealistic proposals in 2016, Last stresses, one shouldn’t assume that Sanders couldn’t do the same thing from the left.
“Trump ran on the impossible promise that he would build a wall across the entire southern border and that this wall would be paid for by Mexico,” Last notes. “It was literally his signature issue…. All things being equal, I would make Trump the favorite against Sanders, but I think it would be an error to assume that there’s no universe in which Bernie could beat him.”