Has Bernie’s “Army” Gone AWOL?


Well, God-DAYUMN! Ain’t this a pisser, being able to spend a day writing about something other than El Pendejo Presidente and his workbench of misfit toys? Although, since it’s not a news day without news about Trump, I did hear a report that His Lowness plans to sign an executive order making his bust the only one to be carved into America’s newest national monument, Mount Rushmoron.

Well, last night’s Iowa caucuses were everything you wanted in a cluster fuck, and less, weren’t they? But later in the night last night, while we were all perched on the edges of our seats, awaiting caucus results like Trump standing next to the door awaiting for the Grub hub guy with his KFC bucket, Lawrence O’Donnell mentioned something that I had been tinkering on the edges of, and written about previously, but with a larger scope that gave me that vaunted moment of clarity.

Back in 2016, on the Democratic side of the primaries, the monster story of the year was the stunning emergence of little known Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as a powerhouse candidate against prohibitive favorite Hillary Clinton. It was almost magical, and if a script writer tried to push it for a movie, he’d tell the producer, It’s like Rocky, only with Medicare recipients!

And the most mythical thing about it was the emergence of the Bernie Bro’s, this vast, monolithic army of supporters, loyal only to Bernie. To hear the story, making that $24 donation to Bernie was akin to taking the marriage vows. And when Bernie finally lost, his faithful Bro’s never deserted him, spending the next four years like the tragic heroine in a teen angst novel, standing outside the prison in the drenching rain, while her misunderstood boyfriend served time for jaywalking. On I-5.

A few months ago, I wrote twice on the subject, once in passing, and once in detail. IN 2016, Bernie captured nearly 50% of the Democratic primary vote, running as the only hard left progressive in the race. And threats and recriminations flew back and forth that his faithful followers caused Hillary the election by refusing to come together to support her. And yet, in 2020, a challenge from Elizabeth Warren as another far left progressive, has left Bernie struggling to top 30% in most polls, and Warren even eclipsed him in the polls briefly. Where is his vaunted army?

But Lawrence O’Donnell put in a much wider, and for me a much more enlightening perspective last night. He used Iowa as the example, since they were covering that particular caucus, but you could use pretty much any state’s numbers in the equation. Here’s how his logic went.

In 2016, Clinton won the Iowa caucuses with 49%, with Sanders nipping at her heels with 48%. With his legendary base of undying support,and with 24 other candidates in the race, why wasn’t Sanders sitting from day one at the top of the polls in Iowa, in the high 40’s with everybody else sniffing around for scraps? After all, he already had his campaign ground network from 2016, along with the name recognition that got him within a point of Clinton. And yet, in the polling, when he leads the field, he only does so in the mid to high 20’s, and seldom outside of the margin of error. What the hell happened to that other 20-25% from 2016 in Iowa?

And it’s not just Iowa, you can apply the same logic nationally as well. Again, in 2016 Bernie polled in the high 40’s nationally, allowing him the luxury to stay in the race to the last primaries, no matter how destructive that was. And remember, these are freakin’ die hard supporters we’re talking about here, Bernie or Bust! So with 24 other candidates in the race, how come the first poll didn’t show Sanders riding high with 45-48% of the vote, easily lapping Biden, and leaving the rest in the dust? Instead, Joe Biden shot to the top of the pack in polling before he even announced, and Sanders has struggled to top and maintain 40% in the polls nationally. This puts the legend of Bernie’s unilaterally faithful supporters and practical polling in direct conflict.

Personally, I think it’s a combination of two factors. There is no doubt that Sanders has a large, and loyal base, who will ride off to battle with him every time. But in 2016, I believe that Sanders also had a large support block of voters who couldn’t tolerate the idea of Hillary Clinton as President. Sanders supporters took a bad rap in 2016 for failing to rally around Clinton, but personally, I’m not so sure that a good percentage of his supporters didn’t follow his lead and rally around Hillary. I think it more likely that it was the “Never Hillary” part of Sanders base that refused to go along for the ride.

If you follow the logic of my previous paragraph to it’s conclusion, back in 2016 Bernie Sanders had a large, loyal block of primary supporters, but also a sizable block of anti Hillary voters, enough to get him to 48% or so in most national and primary state polls. In 2020, without Clinton on the ballot, most if not all of those anti Clinton supporters Bernie had in 2016 as the only game in town have migrated to other candidates they find more palatable. If you follow that, it means that Sanders actual base support army is between 24-30%. Not a bad start at all, and it certainly makes him a power player going forward, but nowhere near the number he needs to cake walk to the nomination. There are miles to go before we sleep, my friends.

To know the future, look to the past.before the insanity of the 2020 election, relive the insanity of the 2016 GOP primary campaign, and the general election, to see how we got to where we are. Copies of  President Evil, and the sequel, President Evil II, A Clodwork Orange  are available as e-books on Amazon, at the links above. Catch up before the upcoming release of the third book in the trilogy, President Evil III: All The Presidents Fen

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9 Comments on "Has Bernie’s “Army” Gone AWOL?"

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My guess is that Bernie has hit his ceiling and he’s done after South Carolina. Yeah, 24 to 30% isn’t a bad start but it’s a lousy finish.

p j evans

That seems to be the general view: that his base is as big as it can get, and that his people don’t have a clue how to attract more voters (like suburban women and non-whites).

Not only don’t they know how to attract more voters, they work overtime to alienate them. Half his base is gone endnote coming back. And he and his staff and team of surrogates constantly insult Democrats who have made other choices. Rashida Tlaib did it again Friday. She wasn’t booing Hillary, who isn’t running. She was booing Hillary’s voters. Bernie’s national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray trolls Twitter looking for people who don’t support Bernie to attack. “AOC” said she (and by implication Bernie) don’t belong in the same party as Joe Biden ie anyone who supports him. It goes… Read more »
Denis Elliott
I agree the bulk of Bernie supporters wound up voting for Clinton in the end but keep in mind that where Bernie was strongest, in the so-called “blue wall” states three of them went for Trump & by agonizingly small margins. And that turnout was down. Now, to be sure some of that was GOP voter suppression that gets more sophisticated each time, combined with a staggering amount of coordinated Russian propaganda aimed at would-be Clinton voters & the Comey October Surprise was just the excuse some Bernie folks needed to either vote for Trump or stay home. However, even… Read more »

I disagree about the polls thing. That’s an old myth that was never proven — and while you might have run into one guy who said that, MOST Trump supporters are proud, loud & not just happy to admit their support — they want to rub your face in it. Just as Trump has empowered racists, misogynists, xenophobes, anti-Semites, Islamophobes and more to come out of the closet and shout in the streets, so Trump supporters are not cagy about their support. Proof: the final, actual polls of PEOPLE in 2016 were almost dead on the money.

I’m not so sure about the polls thing being just a myth. When people are interviewed (whether face-to-face or even over the phone), we’d like to think they’re being absolutely honest with their opinions, but the simple fact is they’re free to lie, something that’s been described as the person being questioned telling the pollster what he thinks the pollster wants to hear or what he thinks is supposed to be the “correct” answer. We saw evidence of that back in 1992 with Colorado’s Amendment 2 (basically, it would keep a local government from treating gays as a “protected class”).… Read more »
Denis, about this: “Alas, I fear those same people who were so resentful of what the perceived as a Clinton “coronation” last time are demanding a fucking coronation for Bernie THIS time!” I think you’re pretty much on the money with that. I remember how some Obama hardliners were talking up how much they hoped Michelle would throw her hat in the ring and run in 2016 (and there are many who still hope she’ll do a last-minute entry this year or announce a run for 2024) even though they were also the ones who complained in 2008 the loudest… Read more »
Victor Tiffany

Bernie or Busters are still with Sanders, but Warren is in the race on behalf of the establishment to divide the left. THAT is what happened to the rest of Sanders’ supporters, those who were #NeverHillary and others.

Bernie got 43% of the vote in 2016, not close to 50%. An I haven’t seen a poll this year where he’s gotten even close to 40%. He lost about half his followers. Anecdotally, I can tell you where they went: Warren. The non-bro Bernie supporters — the ones who quickly jumped aboard the Clinton train after the primary — got as sick as the rest of us with the fanaticism and divisiveness of the hardcore bros. And with more candidates, they just took a closer look at Bernie and saw a cranky old man with ideas they loved that… Read more »