Forget the blow up between Bernie Sanders and the DNC, his answers during the debate show why he won’t be the nominee.
Saturday’s presidential debate between the Democratic candidates was a bit of an interesting exercise. On one hand a televised debate on a Saturday night a week before Christmas during the biggest movie-opening weekend ever was never going to attract many viewers. But then just days before the debate started their was a huge blow up between Bernie Sander’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee after Sanders’ data manager exploited a glitch in the DNC’s voter file to try and look at Hillary Clinton’s list of supporters in a number of states.
The details are complicated, but suffice to say the Sanders staffer was fired and Bernie Sanders apologized to Hillary Clinton and his own supporters for the screw up during the debate. The debate then continued on as a pretty normal policy focused affair where the biggest headlines were probably made afterwards when Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton’s bathroom break at half time “disgusting.”
Trump’s juvenile and sexist comments aside, the debate still revealed an important point about why Bernie Sanders just isn’t going to be the Democratic nominee. Sanders is running as what political scientists like to call a “factional candidate” focused on mobilizing the Democratic Party’s most liberal wing (or faction) around issues like economics, health care, and electoral reform. Hence why Bernie has little to say about foreign policy or other issues that are very important to other groups inside the Democratic coalition that aren’t exactly “feeling the Bern” right now. Jonathan Bernstein put it this way:
Sanders did what he’s in the contest to do: Make the case for the most liberal wing of the Democratic party. For him, it really does come down to the rich vs. the rest. His most telling moment was turning a question about domestic terrorism and ethnic profiling back to income inequality, saying, “I believe we stand together to address the real issues facing this country, not allow them to divide us by race or where we come from.”
Sanders is knowledgeable in many areas, but the reason he’s not in sync with his party isn’t so much specific differences on policies as it is that he seems to be saying that other concerns—ISIS, race, immigration and so on—aren’t “real issues.”
Meanwhile Hillary seems very intent on building a broad based coalition, hence why she is dominating the endorsement side of the race.
To be sure, Sanders has largely succeeded in his goal of moving the Democratic Party to take a more liberal line when it comes the economic issues he cares about, so in that sense his campaign has been a success. The problem for him is that by doing that he’s alienated enough of the rest of the party that winning the actual nomination becomes close to impossible.
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Photo by John Locher/AP