Why do Democrats love Bernie Sanders? OK, it’s not just because he’s “cute” (as some younger voters are calling him). In point of fact, could someone tell me when 74-year-old bald Jewish men became America’s symbol of “cute”? Larry David pulls it off, but I’m not so sure about Bernie Sanders.
It is also not the case that the only reason, or even the primary reason, that people are voting for Sanders is because of some grave, if not fatal, flaw in Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
That’s not fair to Clinton, and it’s certainly not fair to Sanders.
My sense is that most of the people who are voting for Bernie Sanders are doing so for the reasons voters usually do: They think he understands their problems; and he gives voices to their concerns. And this is taking place in the context of a nominating process that, on the Democratic side (sorry, my Republican winner-take-all friends, who used to mock us for the tedious aspect of our process), is absolutely and intentionally structured to advantage insurgent candidates and make it more, not less, difficult for the winner to win.
Can I say it? Sanders is more liberal than Clinton. Sanders’ assault on Wall Street would, depending on who you talk to, either destroy the American economy or at least change it radically. Clinton is not a radical. She has also spent too much time in Washington trying to actually get things done to run around with “pie in the sky” promises of free college for everyone, along with a chicken in every pot. We can’t afford to send every student to college for free. Some of them don’t belong there. Many of them have taken loans that they can and should pay back for the sake of the next generation.
He is also a very likable guy: from all appearances a smart, well-meaning and decent man, who actually believes in what he says. And unbridled by the need to do it, or even show how he would, he speaks with great sincerity of the land of opportunity he hopes to keep building. I’m glad he’s in the Senate, and I can imagine a 30-year-younger version of myself (slightly deluded into believing that women had achieved equality) being attracted to a candidate who doesn’t have to choose his words carefully or think three steps ahead about diplomatic consequences because no one in the kremlin is really paying attention — not like they are paying attention to Clinton and, God help us, Donald Trump.
So the fact that Sanders is doing well in processes that are as skewed to the left (as the Republican processes are skewed to the right) should not cause waves of panic among the Clinton faithful. Sure, it is right to ask whether his success should cause Hillary-ites to carefully examine weaknesses in her campaign. But it is just plain wrong to assume that because a well-meaning socialist could defeat Clinton in a low-turnout caucus filled with true believers she is vulnerable to Trump or Ted Cruz in a general election.