It amazes me to think that only a few years ago, I thought Jonathan Chait was an insightful analyst — even when I disagreed with him. I no longer think that. He’s just sliding along on his reputation at this point. Yesterday, he wrote, How Can Hillary Clinton Win the Bernie Sanders Vote? Always loving the counter-intuitive take, the subtitle is, “By moving to the… right? That’s what the data says.” Oh my! Such shallow thinking.
Chait presented some data that showed that the Sanders holdouts — the ones saying they will never vote for Clinton — are actually more conservative than Hillary Clinton supporters. I have little doubt. It’s been well known that Sanders did best in open primaries. So he was pulling from independents. And his populist message certainly did appeal to conservatives, even though that was not the core of his support. But these are supporters who Clinton is most certainly not going to get — even if she does move to the right as Chait suggests.
At the same time, there is an opportunity cost. Clinton could lose support from the vast majority of Sanders supporters who do now plan to vote for her if she decided to make a sharp right turn. (Of course, she won’t do that. I don’t understand why so many people seem to think that politicians have no actual beliefs — as if they would all join the Nazi Party if it would get them elected.) So no: Clinton can’t win “the Bernie Sanders vote” by moving to the right.
This gets at something that has bugged me for months. Most Sanders supporters are like me: they don’t hate Hillary Clinton; they just like Bernie Sanders more. But despite this, Sanders supporters are painted with a broad brush using obnoxious Twitter trolls as the model. It bugs me especially because I like Hillary Clinton. There aren’t that many Democrats that I would have voted over her. Certainly Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown would top her. But she’s vastly superior to my own Democratic Representative, Mike Thompson.
It was interesting watching the coverage of last night’s primary. My biggest concern about Hillary Clinton is that she seems soft on the TPP. I’m afraid she will “evolve” on the issue. I don’t think there’s a strong probability there. Politicians reflect their times and I don’t think that Bill Clinton would support NAFTA if it came up today. So I’m not too worried. Just the same, listening to Donald Trump talk so forcefully against the TPP last night would have inspired me if I didn’t know he was a pathological liar.
The main thing is that there is no “Bernie Sanders vote.” There are millions of Bernie Sanders voters. And there are millions of Sanders and Clinton voters who want to see the Democratic Party become more liberal. I don’t think that’s true of Jonathan Chait, however. As Eric Loomis likes to point out: Chait thinks that Chait is the most liberal a reasonable person can be. And he clearly thinks the Democratic Party shifting to the left is a bad thing. So he has cause to cheer on Clinton to turn right to appeal to the “Bernie Sanders vote.”