Sanders’ South Carolina Collapse May Mean Nothing for Pundits

Sanders - South CarolinaBefore the South Carolina primary, Real Clear Politics had him pegged at losing by 27.5 percentage points. Then the election took place and he lost by a staggering 47.5 percentage points. It doesn’t mean that his campaign is finished — there are other states where he stands to do better. But it looks very, very bad for him.

This should not come as a surprise. Early this month, I wrote, Could Sanders Win? Why Is Clinton Whining?! That article was the result of my research after New Hampshire. What I found was that Nevada was the only state Sanders had any chance at all and then Clinton totally dominated. So I wondered why people were freaking out.

Even granting that campaigns can get out of hand, Sanders never saw any movement in South Carolina. So the hysteria of Paul Krugman and Jonathan Chait seemed more like a reflection of the kind of people that they hang out with. What did they know of the voters of South Carolina? All they knew was that there they had upper class liberal friends who were very keen on Sanders. So the pundits freaked out because they feared it was the leading edge. These educated and affluent liberals were the tastemakers who all us poor nobodies would follow.

But in the name of protecting Clinton (who never needed his protection), he’s made the whole idea of universal healthcare seem like a pipe dream that could never happen here in America.

But I saw something in a recent Krugman post that made me think something else has been going on, How to Read Primary Results. He said, “Oh, and hold the Hillary-hatred and all that, OK?” He wanted to talk about something more general and didn’t want the Hillary-Sanders war to get in the middle of it. But it is telling that it is the Hillary-haters who were called out by name.

Is this really what this has been all about? I’ll admit, I know a lot of people who just don’t like Hillary Clinton. And by and large, it isn’t for real reasons. It’s more visceral than that. But you know how it goes: pretty much everything starts visceral and then gets lots of intellectual justifications to drop on top of it. But isn’t that the case with Bernie Sanders too?

And let’s face it: there might have been a whole lot more anti-Hillary nitwits on Twitter and Facebook. But if you turned on the cable news shows, you were much more likely to hear an anti-Bernie nitwit. I’m not suggesting that the people who so hated Sanders did so for the same reason. I think the hatred of Sanders was mostly like the early hatred of Trump by the Republican establishment: they just didn’t think that Sanders could win.

South Carolina Is Only the Beginning

The whole thing now strikes me as an exercise in nonsense. What Krugman did to Sanders’ universal healthcare proposal, he could have done to Obama’s plan. You will note that Obama, in the end, didn’t get the plan he campaigned on. But in the name of protecting Clinton (who never needed his protection), he’s made the whole idea of universal healthcare seem like a pipe dream that could never happen here in America.

After New Hampshire, I predicted what would happen — based on nothing but the polls. South Carolina went big for Clinton. On Super Tuesday, Sanders will win Vermont. He might squeak out a victory in Massachusetts, but I suspect that he will lose there too. But maybe we will still need more anti-Sanders articles, because you know: there will still be a lot of people on Facebook saying mean things about Clinton.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

36 thoughts on “Sanders’ South Carolina Collapse May Mean Nothing for Pundits

  1. Sigh

    So you have media blackouts on Sanders with liberal pundits also freaking out about him. Then you have other news sources constantly degrading Clinton. And despite the fact that there was a primary yesterday with some amazingly surprising results, during the results coming in, MSNBC has a special on Trump.

    This year’s media has been gawdawful.

  2. A few weeks ago, Krugman wrote a column about Sanders that was based on policy, and it made me worried. Basically, the issue was that Sanders was making promises he couldn’t possibly deliver. Not just “how will you get this through Congress,” but “my plan will be so good for the economy it’ll be practically free.” He actually projected 5.3% economic growth? Krugman compared this to Republicans claiming their upper class tax cuts will boost the economy and pay for themselves, and I’m inclined to agree. I value honesty in politics, and I really don’t want our side to become the mirror of their side, fudging facts and distorting the truth because we think it’s good for the people.

    Anyway, Colorado has its caucus in two days, so I’ve got until then to decide. I’d say I’m 60-40 for Sanders, but I’ll happily vote for either in the general. It’s fortunately “whom do I like more,” not “whom do I like less.” I’d say Clinton has about as many flaws as the average politician, but the amount of media attention she gets and a sustained hate campaign by the right over the last two decades makes her seem much worse in the public mind.

    • I don’t know if you want to hear a reason to support Clinton over Sanders but I am going to be impolite and do it anyway. :D

      This is the difference to me for her and him. Her speech after her loss in included this:
      “I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people, but I will repeat again what I have said this week. Even if they are not supporting me now, I support them.”

      He, um, didn’t say the same type of thing. She is 100% not perfect and has plenty of flaws but she is always trying to be better and improve as a person and a politician. Policies come and go but the character of the woman is one who responds when you tell her she is wrong and why by trying to fix herself to better suit your needs.

      • Well, it’s a caucus, so plenty of people will have a chance to persuade me. One thing I will say is that I like Hillary Clinton a lot more now than in 2008. Back then, she had the attitude of “I’m going to be the nominee, so hurry up and vote for me.” Now, she’s a lot more humble, doing the work to earn votes rather than simply expecting them. That, plus her time as Secretary of State, makes me a lot more comfortable with her.

        • Exactly, although I was kind of out of it since I was busy with work so I supported her but didn’t pay much attention to the arguments.

    • I suspect if we switched to a Medicare-for-all system, raised the minimum wage, and increased spending on the poor, we’d see fairly big growth. But, since none of those things will happen anytime soon, it is a bit of a fanciful claim.

      • If we raised the income tax on businesses and people to 70% for the top marginal rate, everyone in the nation would get a job and a 20% raise.

        (I made up that last number.)

        • Making numbers up? Maybe you belong to the wrong party . . .

          The funny thing about pro-worker policies is they’re often successful. There are tons of examples. Where’s the example of cutting taxes on the rich and deregulating corporations ever working? Nowhere (OK, cases like Ireland where you had huge growth for a few years, then the economy imploded.)

          It’s amazing that candidates can still pimp this tax-cutting nonsense and get away with it, but they do. It’s been bashed into our brains that the rich are our benefactors and betters. What’s the #1 thing you hear people say about Trump? “He’s a successful businessman.” Which he’s not, and who should care if he was? I wouldn’t want J.P. Morgan as president. (One of the Koch brothers actually ran on the Libertarian ticket for VP in 1980.)

          Maybe in 2020 we’ll have Apple, Google, Mobil, JP Morgan, etc, running for the office. They’re legally persons, after all. Cut out the middleman!

        • Pretty much. And generally you only get huge growth when there is a massive contraction like in the 1930s.

      • Given the current state with <2% inflation, it most definitely would. I think of conservative economics like the medical treatment Mozart got. He was likely bled to death. But the doctors who did it just knew they were right. I hear from the last Republican debate that if we just balance the budget by cutting spending, all will be well. Bring on the leaches!

    • Tell me about it! I heard this morning that Sanders is still in the running for Super Tuesday. Are people crazy?!

    • I don’t read articles with stupid headlines like that. I’m curious to see what tomorrow brings. But not in the Democratic primaries.

      • It makes me want to know by what margin would she have to win by to get it considered to be a win by the media. I mean CNN was being sensible but too many other outlets were like “Yeah but it was just fifty points, not like a real win.”

        • I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for this complaint. In an election where Clinton was supposed to win big, she won bigger. It’s not front page news. It’s not even dog bites man. Clinton started this campaign totally dominant with no one big even willing to run against her. It just doesn’t matter. After Sanders lost Nevada, the Democratic nomination was over and reporters rightly lost interest.

  3. Actually, I’ve been requesting specific, fact-based, positive reasons to support Clinton over Sanders for months. I would not view it as impolite; I want my views criticized.

    But I still have yet to see any such reason. Someone’s idiosyncratic interpretations of offhand remarks doesn’t cut it.

    In my opinion, Clinton is not only not 100% perfect, but just more of the same. Right-winger, against America. I don’t oppose her because she is imperfect and pro-feminist; I oppose her because she is not good and not authentically pro-feminist. Feminism without egalitarianism is not worth a shit.

    I don’t expect to change everyones’ minds but I hope that some of HC’s more open-minded supporters will at least understand that people have defensible, serious reasons to be against her. I’m against the failed lie/promise of neo-liberalism, and the American machine of murder. Clinton supports those things. Ergo…

    • Well, I certainly haven’t tried to get you to vote for Clinton over Sanders. I’m going to vote for Sanders. And I’ve given quite a lot to his campaign given my relative poverty. But I will be disappointed if you claim there is no difference between Clinton and Marco Rubio in the general election. I hope I don’t have to make the argument.

      • There was a different person claiming to make a case for Clinton.

        Well, I can’t vote for anybody in US elections, being Canadian and all. Yes, I prefer Clinton over any of the Republican frontrunners, and probably would over a random Republican I know nothing about.

        It’s hard to know how nutty Rube or Dumper would actually be in office; I’m hoping we won’t find out. They both advance very scary rhetoric, and as I’ve noted, Clinton is not a zealot. So if the ‘times’ change (as with the gay marriage issue and Obama), she likely could exercise a little flexibility. The clown car party have so much invested in the nutty rhetoric that Rube would likely not be able to do this, even if he’s a total charlatan.

        • I can’t remember the name of the guy, but back about two years ago, he wrote an article for The Atlantic (I think). Maybe his last name was Reed? But his argument was that liberals had to take over the Democratic party again. He said we had put up with too many elections where we voted for some centrist because the Republican would destroy the country if elected. And instead, what happens is that we end up with the same George W Bush kind of president: bad but not unprecedented and certainly not someone we should be so afraid of that we should accept just another neoliberal.

          In Clinton’s case, I don’t think the news is so bad. I don’t think she is Bill. I think she might be a very good president on domestic policy. On foreign policy, well, it’s not so good — but is it ever? Regardless, we hear in the US seem to be stuck with Clinton or someone terrible.

  4. For years now, liberal pundits have been asking “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” aka “why do those silly people keep voting against their economic interests?” In future, they may have to change that to “What’s the Matter With South Carolina?”

    • It’s worth noting that according to exit polls in the South Carolina primary, only 46 percent of black voters identified as liberal.

      • Now you’ve done it: you made me read what I wrote. I don’t see my honest but highly sympathetic Sanders articles as anything that should be taken as an attack. I seem to spend a lot of time explaining to people how Sanders doesn’t really matter. He was just the guy who focused attention on the fact that roughly 40% of Democrats are really liberal and that we have not been properly listened to by the party establishment for decades. But as a man, he has been great for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party, and America.

        I’ve spent most of my life voting for losing candidates. Sanders has done about twice as well as I thought he would. I’m not going to mope about because he isn’t going to be the Democratic nominee. I never thought he would be. But that didn’t stop me from supporting him in every way more than any presidential candidate during my life. (I actually worked for Dukakis, but that was after he won the nomination.)

        • I, too, seem to be the kiss of death for candidates when I volunteer. I actually considered working for the Conservative to try to take votes from the Liberal, helping to ensure my NDP guy could win. I didn’t and he didn’t.

          The Conservatives are basically dead in the water in Toronto now. It’s the centrist Liberals vs. the (very) nominally left-wing NDP.

          • Sadly, I don’t think it works that way. My mother always said, “Don’t tempt the gods.” If we started working the dark side, the gods would make sure our luck changed!

  5. And I find it interesting that Sanders seems to be taking the reliably Democratic-voting states, Clinton the Republican-voting states. My only hope is that Sanders can at least affect C’s platform and maybe help energize the congressional races. There’s some good people out there.

    • Well, Colorado is not that dependable. And Oklahoma is distinctly red, but apparently has a very liberal Democratic Party. Clinton beat Sanders in Massachusetts. And I think that state is telling. The truth is that Democrats are divided on the two candidates. This is why I don’t see myself as much of a partisan. Yes, Sanders is my man. But I’m okay with Clinton. As I’ve said many times about Obama: I don’t love him but he’s about the best president America can currently hope for. If Sanders can’t win Massachusetts in a Democratic Party, the nation isn’t ready for him. But it isn’t all or nothing. Certainly the Republicans need to think about what they’ve allowed to happen to their party. But so do the Democrats. Strong dollar, balanced budgets, ending welfare — these are not things that people are Democrats for.

      • Two things to think about, Frank. First, Massachusetts was actually pretty close — only a 1.4% lead. Second, Sanders did win Massachusetts — western Massachusetts that is, the poor side of the tracks. The geographic division was quite distinct. Surely the pundits would have predicted that Bernie the Socialist would do better in the wealthier, presumably more educated half of the state. Make of that what you will, but I think it’s pretty rash to predict what the nation is “ready for”. The conventional wisdom has been failing all over the place lately.

        • I accept that. Let me add something that really angers me. I keep hearing that Sanders doesn’t appeal to African Americans. But neither did Obama at first. I think that if Sanders gained more traction, that too would change. It makes more sense for relatively affluent whites to support Sanders first because a vote for him is taking a chance. I have a Latina friend who loved Obama in 2008 but just could not believe America would ever elect a black president. I was much more hopeful on that score. But I understand that people who live in segregated, impoverished areas would think that.

          Just the same, I’ve been saying for a year that the Democratic Party base was none too happy in 2008 to have to choose between Obama and Clinton. And that gave Clinton a huge advantage in this primary. And you have to accept that there are a lot of people who really do like Clinton. There are still a lot of New Democrats in the party. I think roughly 60% of Americans are economic populists. But they aren’t confined to the Democratic Party.

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