My guest today is Brent Budowsky, columnist for The Hill. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Brent.
JB: We haven't talked since back in 2010*. Of late, Bernie Sanders's campaign has caught your eye. Fill us in, please.
BB: Thanks, Joan. Bernie is the voice of the progressive future at a time when a progressive populist wave has vast public support and will be the wave of the American political future---if Democrats embrace it, as Bernie proposes. It is no coincidence that Bernie Sanders is breaking all records for small donor support. He recently announced that in the 4th Quarter of 2015, his campaign raised $33 million, far more than Ted Cruz or Ben Carson, and almost as much as Hillary Clinton---without relying on mega-wealthy donors or special interest Super Pacs. This is an extraordinary achievement for a Democratic Party that urgently needs the high ideals, progressive agenda and enthusiasm that Bernie creates for workers, small donors and voters.....
JB: Bernie's fundraising success with small donors in, indeed, extraordinary. That accomplishment is matched with good numbers in recent polling. What can you tell us about that?
BB: In one recent Quinnipiac poll Bernie was leading Trump by 13 points. In most polls, he is within striking range of Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucus, ahead of her in New Hampshire, and running close to all Republicans in general election match-up polls. It is often said by insider pundits that Bernie Sanders is not electable but the polls refute this. He is very electable. Also, I recently took a look at polling about favorability. Bernie is viewed more favorably by voters than unfavorably, which other candidates cannot claim, and while he is not as well known as some of the others, the more people know him the polling shows that his net favorable ratings stay the in place.
I also believe that Bernie will do better on election day than his polling numbers indicate because enthusiasm for him is higher than enthusiasm for other candidates. This suggests two things to me. First there is a better chance than pundits think that Bernie wins both the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, in which case all hell will break loose on the Democratic side as his fundraising will soar even higher and he will finally receive the major media coverage that he has earned but not yet received. At the same time, if Hillary Clinton is ultimately nominated Bernie Sanders could well be the most important Democrat in America because he has the credibility to inspire Democratic voters to vote in the general election for all Democrats, from the presidency to local office.
The Democrats often suffer from an enthusiasm gap which could be deadly on election day, as it was in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections. The credibility and inspiration of Bernie Sanders and his devoted supporters will be critical on election day whether Bernie or Hillary is nominated. I view the Sanders campaign as more than a presidential campaign, which it certainly is. I view it as a major and potentially historic movement for progressive reform and social change that I hope continues, builds and expands for a long time. I view this as similar to the Occupy Wall Street movement which I strongly supported and still do, but which many Democratic insiders to their discredit viewed with disdain.
Those of us who hold these views are the majority of Americans, and the more we act like it across the political spectrum and even beyond electoral politics as well, the better.
JB: I can certainly feel your enthusiasm, Brent, but Bernie's various successes feel like the hypothetical tree falling in the forest with no-one there to witness. If the public is unaware that Bernie is doing so well because of the virtual media blackout, then how can he gain traction on a national scale? Also, how can we know that the Quinnipiac poll you cite is not just an aberration or an outlier?
BB: There is a virtual media blackout of Bernie, but it is getting better in the last two weeks as the real voting comes closer. If Bernie wins Iowa or New Hampshire, and potentially both, there will be lots of witnesses to the proverbial tree falling in the forest because the media will have to give major coverage to any Sanders victory which will get his message out to the television audience even more. And, if Bernie wins Iowa especially and goes into New Hampshire with a head of steam, the media will suddenly play the race as big time contest because they will have no choice. It is also possible that Hillary wins Iowa and New Hampshire, in which case for practical purposes she will be the nominee early.
Joan, I think pundits play too much attention to cable television and not enough to social media, where Bernie is the king. Social media is becoming as powerful today as television was becoming in 1960 with the Kennedy-Nixon race. There is evidence of this in Bernie's fantastic small donor fundraising and his very large crowds. If this continues into the Iowa caucus he will do better than pundits think and this is where the breakthrough to the major media comes. I am very confident that Bernie's social media advantage will also translate into a higher than expected turnout in the Iowa caucus for him---we will know in a few weeks if this is enough.
The Quinnipiac poll of Bernie against Trump may turn out to be an outlier, maybe not---but almost all polls show Bernie as well Hillary are both competitive with all Republicans. My basic point is that the data prove that those who say Bernie would not be competitive in a general election are wrong. He would be very competitive. If God forced me to state an opinion, I would estimate today that Hillary would be a slight favorite against any Republican, and Bernie would be even money, even before his name recognition goes much higher, which it will if he wins Iowa or New Hampshire or both.
And readers might google "Sanders approval" and "Trump approval" and check out the Huffington pollster approval charts and those results show Sanders has the best approval/disapproval ratio of himself, Clinton and Trump and towers over Trump, whose negative rating among general election voters is near 60% which is a pig ugly disapproval number that the major media ignores!
JB: So, we wait and see, biting our fingernails all the while. Anything else before we wrap this up?