5 Pros and Cons to Bernie Sanders the Presidential Candidate

bernie-sanders-2016-formidable-republican-oppAnyone who follows me knows I’m not exactly on the “Bernie Sanders 2016” bandwagon. It’s not that I don’t like him, I just have strong doubts about his ability to win the general election even if he overcomes long odds to win the Democratic nomination.

While many of his supporters are caught up in ideological euphoria, most of them are ignoring the political realities and challenges Sanders would face as the Democratic presidential nominee. Most notably, a Gallup poll that showed 41 percent of Democrats wouldn’t support a candidate who identifies as a “socialist.” In fact, of all the descriptors Gallup asked, socialist ranked dead last among Democrats – even below an evangelical candidate.

Then let’s not forget about independents (only 49 percent said they would support a socialist) who often fall in the middle on many issues. They’re also voters that history has shown usually don’t flock toward ideological purists.

With 2016 probably being one of the most important elections in many of our lifetimes, Democrats cannot risk messing this election up. I don’t care if it’s Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or a box of rocks – get your asses out and vote for whoever the Democratic nominee is. I truly don’t care what you think about Clinton, Sanders or that box of rocks because any one of those options is better than whoever Republicans eventually select… which will likely be Donald Trump.

All that being said, I thought I’d list 5 pros and cons to Bernie Sanders the presidential candidate.


1. What you see is what you get: One thing I like about Sanders most is that he’s very genuine. Like Senator Elizabeth Warren, I feel that almost everything he says is what he really believes. He has his principles and he’s unapologetic for sticking to them. While he’s not perfect, he does bring with him less b.s. than you’ll find with most politicians. Which is a breath of fresh air in American politics.

2. He’s raising money the way it was meant to be raised: Campaigns are meant to be funded by regular Americans giving a few dollars to fund basic ads, speeches, campaign trips and other expenses. They were never meant to be entities funded by the rich and through Super PACs where secret donors are shielded from the public. If you have nothing to hide then you shouldn’t be scared of people knowing who you donated to and how much you donated.

3. He doesn’t care: While I’m not comparing him to Donald Trump, he does have at least one thing in common with “The Donald” – he doesn’t care what people think of him. If you ask him a question, he’ll usually say what’s on his mind.

4. He’s energized young liberals: I’ve asserted that Sanders is like the liberal version of Ron Paul in many ways, though usually not in a positive way. But if there’s one thing he does well, like Paul did in 2012, it’s that he’s gotten the attention of younger Americans. While younger Americans tend to be the least likely demographic to vote, their attention is still an added benefit in aspects of social media and “getting the word out” on the Internet. Which has been made apparent by how popular Sanders is, especially online.

5. Many of his ideas are just common sense: I value two things above all others when it comes to analyzing issues and politics in general: Facts and common sense. Socialized health care and affordable higher education aren’t “radical” liberal nonsense – they’re two things many other modern countries around the world already have. We never hear about countries repealing their socialized health care, do we? We don’t see many seniors pushing for the end to Medicare either. So, logic and common sense would then dictate that it seems when people are given socialized health care, they actually like it. Though the debate we’ve seen this election really hasn’t been about whether or not universal health care is a “good” thing, just whether or not it’s feasible in today’s political world.


1. He’s an ideological purist: Look, it’s great to go out there and say a lot of wonderful things that get people excited, crowds to cheer and your name in the headlines. But if you don’t show an ability to get any of those promises done, they’re mostly just empty words. The fact remains that, while Sanders is pushing for a lot of massive changes to how this country functions, almost every major pillar on which he’s running stands zero chance at getting through Congress. He would either need to compromise (which would defeat the purpose of the “Sanders revolution” as many are calling it) or he would have to stick to his guns and probably go down as the least effective president in U.S. history. As I’ve said many times before, I’d rather elect someone who can give me 70 percent of what I want half the time than someone who will give me almost nothing that I want nearly all the time.

2. He’s never proven to be an actual leader: Honestly, how many of you had heard of Sanders (or knew much about him) prior to Elizabeth Warren becoming a senator? She has done more for the progressive cause in just over two years than Sanders did in the 20+ years he served in Congress before she arrived. Why is it that she made such an immediate impact (which is really what brought him into the national spotlight to begin with) while he served in Congress for over two decades, mostly floundering in obscurity? To me, that hints at the distinct possibility that he’s lacking in leadership skills. When Warren came in, she made a huge impact almost immediately, shifting the whole foundation of the Democratic party – something Sanders never accomplished.

3. Those who know him best, and have worked with him most, seem to be endorsing Hillary Clinton: The fact is, most congressional Democrats are lining up with Hillary Clinton. But it’s not just them, Vermont’s two biggest political leaders, Governor Peter Shumlin and Senator Patrick Leahy, have endorsed Clinton. That tells me a little something about what he might be like behind closed doors. It’s not good when those who should know you best, and have worked with you the most, are siding with your opponent. While many might claim that’s just “part of the establishment,” I think it’s a bit naive to try to dismiss this reality so haphazardly. Even some of the most liberal members of Congress, Corey Booker and Tammy Duckworth, have endorsed Clinton. Folks are free to downplay the significance of this all they want, that’s fine – but this means something. 

4. A lot of his support is coming from younger voters: Look, you can twist numbers however you want, but the overwhelming political fact is this: Older Americans vote much more consistently, and in larger numbers, than younger Americans. Earlier I mentioned that 41 percent of Democrats wouldn’t support a candidate who identified as a socialist, meaning that 59 percent would. Well, when that poll was broken down by age, the numbers get even worse for Sanders. The largest demographic of voters who support a self-described socialist is the 18-29 crowd at 69 percent. But that’s also the demographic least likely to vote in 2016 no matter how “energized” they are. Now, when you get to Americans aged 50 and older, the support for a self-described socialist drops to 34 percent. In the end, while 59 percent of Democrats say they would support a candidate who calls themselves a socialist, the majority of that support is coming from a demographic that votes in the smallest numbers. While he might bring out more of the youth vote than normal, like he did in Iowa, I don’t see him overcoming that large of a deficit among older Democrats. Especially more “conservative” Democrats who aren’t exactly overly supportive of some of his rather large tax hikes. And let’s also not forget that many independents also said they wouldn’t support a self-described socialist.

5. He’s a self-described socialist who’s going to be 75 in 2016: His age is an issue, period. While it might not matter to every voter, it will matter to some. Being a 75-year-old candidate will only impact him in a negative way because nobody is going to vote for him because of his age – just against him. Furthermore, if you honestly don’t think that someone who literally says the words “I want to redistribute wealth” and proudly identifies as a socialist isn’t going to drive some Democrats to either not vote or potentially even vote for a Republican, you’re fooling yourself. If Sanders, the ideological purist, turns out to be the candidate, that leaves a huge swath of voters for Republicans to pander to as the “moderate” alternative. While we all know the GOP has gone batshit radical, to the tens of millions of Americans who are causal followers of politics, all they’ll see is Republicans pushing “Sanders is a socialist (though they’ll likely paint him as a communist as much as they will a socialist) who wants to raise trillions of dollars in taxes (including on the middle class) and have the government take over your health care and education.” That gives the GOP the opportunity to lure in moderates and independents who don’t fall in line with someone who’s easily the most far-left candidate we’ve ever seen in this country.

I know I’ll get hammered by some people no matter what, but I do feel that this is a fair and accurate analysis of Sanders and his campaign. Agree or disagree, feel free to hit me up on Twitter or Facebook either way and let me know what you think.

And please remember, if you want to support Sanders, that’s great. If you want to support Clinton, that’s great. But no matter who you support in the primary, and I cannot stress this enough, make sure you get out and vote for whomever ultimately wins the nomination. The last thing we want is Republicans to potentially be replacing four Supreme Court Justices. 

Image via Formidable Republican Opposition on Facebook

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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