Democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders is the newest candidate to elbow out room for himself in the Democratic presidential primary, which is starting to resemble an unofficial season of Game of Thrones. It’s overflowing with ruthless characters who will stop at nothing to vanquish their enemies for the chance to plop themselves down on the world’s most uncomfortable throne. To make sure we all have a true Game Of Thrones experience, I’m about to ruin the ending by putting it on the internet.
Spoiler alert: Bernie Sanders is going to win. Not because he’s the best candidate — not even close.
He’s going to win because the dynamics of the race are clearing a wide-open path for him.
If I had a deck of political tarot cards for divining the outcome of elections, the most important one would be the Name Recognition Card. Name recognition is even more important than campaign money. Why?
Because campaign money exists to purchase name recognition. While Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and others travel around the country creating name recognition and building a following, Sanders has been there and done that. There’s an army of Sandernistas out there who fell in love with his message during the last Democratic primary. At this time in 2015, Sanders was at 3 percent in the Real Clear Politics average, while Hillary Clinton was soaring over him at 64 percent.
By April of 2016, Clinton’s 61 point lead had collapsed into a one point lead. Bernie stumped his way very close to the top. He packed stadiums, corralled endorsements from pop culture bigwigs, and built a massive social media following, which gives him a tremendous head start over candidates who haven’t created their name recognition yet.
Skeptics keep telling me about Sanders’s ceiling. “Yeah, he brings in big crowds, but his Democratic socialism isn’t for everyone. He’ll never win over the Democratic establishment.” He doesn’t need to! Clown car dynamics are fully in play, which means that no Democrat is going to wrangle a majority of support from primary voters. This is a race to build the largest plurality. Check your rearview mirror, and you’ll find that the 2016 GOP primary is closer than it appears.
Trump won the 2016 GOP primary race, but he never — not for one single day of that primary — hit 50 percent in the polls. He did, however, put a stranglehold on a strong plurality fueled by a very enthusiastic group of Republican voters. If lesser candidates had been willing to drop out much earlier, then Trump would almost certainly have come up short. But Democrats will find out soon enough that getting presidential candidates to drop out for the good of the party is like telling Gollum to forget about the one ring.
The Democratic-socialist movement may not be “establishment,” but they own the Democratic party’s social media game. Guess which senator has the most Twitter followers? That’s right, it’s Bernie Sanders with over eight million. That’s why every Democratic primary candidate is racing to the left right now. That’s why Cory Booker is comparing the fantasyland Green New Deal to “fighting Nazis” or “going to the moon” when it’s sci-fi/fantasy nature makes it much more comparable to fighting Nazis on the moon.
That’s why Kamala Harris is casually saying we should “eliminate” private insurance.
Unfortunately, it’s more productive in today’s Democratic Party to spout terrible ideas and excite radicals than it is to have substantive ideas and be labelled “establishment.” Candidates will soon discover that Bernie owns the radical crowd, and that all they’re accomplishing is the watering down of the anti-Bernie Democratic majority. Sanders owns a third of the political-spectrum pie, while a dozen candidates are splitting up the rest.
In a Biden vs. Bernie race, Biden would win with a majority. In a Biden-and-the-field vs. Bernie race, Bernie wins with a plurality. And if it seems unthinkable that a guy who believes bread lines are a good thing and that Cubans love Castro because he gave them free healthcare could win the nomination of a major political party, you better prepare yourself. Winter is coming.
Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) is assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.