Here’s how the respected Politico website reported the results of last Saturday’s Nevada caucuses: “Moderate Democrats watched in horror as Bernie Sanders soared to a landslide victory.”
Moderate and/or establishment Democrats have good reason to panic after 78-year-old Vermont Sen. Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist” (whatever that means), demolished his nearest rival, 77-year-old former Vice President Joe Biden, by a two-to-one (47-20) margin in Nevada followed by the also-rans: former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 15 percent of the caucus vote, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 10 percent, “green” billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent $1,500 per vote (really), with 5 percent, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 4 percent.
Full disclosure: I caucused for Klobuchar, who will probably quit the race after the upcoming Super Tuesday (March 3) primaries. I thought she was a viable, moderate alternative to Sanders, but she lost badly.
Biden, the early front-runner, tried to put a happy face on his dismal Nevada showing. “We’re alive, we’re coming back and we’re going to win,” he told a small crowd in Las Vegas last Saturday as he looked forward to today’s South Carolina primary, which is advertised as his electoral “firewall.” If he loses to Sanders today, he’s finished before Super Tuesday.
A major factor in Sanders’ Nevada sweep was the powerful Culinary Union, which assures that thousands of mostly Hispanic casino workers – housekeepers, porters and bartenders – will show up at the polls on Election Day. Many of these new Nevadans don’t know where the state capital is and some of them don’t speak English, but they’ll decide our elections from now on because 30 percent of Nevada’s 21st century population is Hispanic. Obviously, the Silver State’s increasingly diverse demographics are much different than when I first moved here in 1962.
Here’s the good news: When Sanders becomes president everything will be “free” – child care, healthcare and public colleges. But who will pay the bill for all of that free stuff? Acerbic political commentator P.J. O’Rourke answered that question this way: “If you think healthcare is expensive now, just wait until the government gives it to you for free.”
A knowledgeable Democratic friend of mine who also supported Klobuchar told me that “Bernie has made a lot of expensive promises, none of which he can keep without 50 percent of the House, 60 percent of the Senate and five Supreme Court justices.” Good thinking.
The amazing thing about Sanders’ strong run for the White House is that he isn’t even a registered Democrat. A lifelong socialist who honeymooned in Russia and admires Cuba (“Fidel Castro established a literacy program”), he’s listed on the Senate roster as an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.
The conservative Wall Street Journal opined that “Sanders still flunks Cuban Literacy 101.” Nobody “won” Tuesday’s South Carolina debate but front-runner Sanders was on the defensive and he flunked Cuba 101 all over again.
Nevertheless, a recent Quinnipiac Poll found that 54 percent of young Democrats between the ages of 18 and 34 support Sanders, and 50 percent of adults under the age of 38 last year told Harris pollsters they’d “prefer living in a socialist country,” like Cuba or Venezuela. I wonder what they’re teaching in high school civics classes these days.
Here’s a scary question: What if we’re forced to choose between Sanders and President Trump in November, a choice between a cranky old socialist and a hateful, super-rich megalomaniac? That’s why I’ll be rooting for another old white guy, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, 78, on Super Tuesday. You Go, Mike!
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.