Everyone’s reeling with so so many emotions right now: anger, despair, hostility. My news feed is yet again clogged with election statuses. According to the public consensus we’re all fucked. And we fucked ourselves. But it didn’t have to be that way. In fact, it may have turned out different. While this election saw the rise of a human monster in Donald Trump, it also saw the rise of a hero for the people: Bernie Sanders.
Most of us are aware of the leaked information revealing the Clinton campaign’s alleged “rigging” of the DNC. I only say “alleged” because all I know is what I heard on the news. But let’s put things into a different circumstance, hypothetically. Let’s say none of this crazy DNC shit all happened and, by the popular vote, Bernie Sanders landed the Democratic nomination for president. Would he still have stood a chance against Trump?
Sources say yes. And not just based on theories, but numbers. In key states that turned to Trump on election night, Bernie Sanders had a stronger following than Clinton. In five of these states: Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, Bernie Sanders netted victories against Hillary Clinton during the primaries. In Indiana Sanders came out at 5 points ahead, while Trump bested her in the double digits, at 20 points on election night. Michigan saw him win at a two-point margin, 50-48, West Virginia saw a Sanders win at 15 points, and Wisconsin gave him an astonishing victory over Clinton at 57-43.
From May 6 to June 5, RealClearPolitics placed Bernie Sanders at 49.7%, compared to 39.3% of popular support for Donald Trump. Many of the Trump upsets came from states with more popular support for Berne Sanders than Hillary Clinton.
Those are the numbers. At least some of them. But let’s get to the hypotheticals now. Bernie Sanders was immensely popular with a wider demographic that included not just restless college students, but the key demographic that elected Trump to power: poor, working class white (predominately) men. This was the anger that Donald Trump successfully tapped into and turned it against the system. Only Trump severely misdirected it by placing the blame on Muslims and other minorities. Sanders acknowledged the true root of the problem: corporate greed. Yes, there were moments where Trump criticized Wall Street and the corporate elite. But most of his message was tailored to appeal to a white (again predominately) male audience who saw themselves as underrepresented.
Sanders knew how to speak to this people. Some of them. Enough of them. And he knew how to do it by placing the blame where blame was due. Not with your Muslim neighbor, or Hispanic co-worker. But with the true root of all American evil: the 1%. Clinton was seen as far too cozy with places like Goldman Sachs. Her campaign finance certainly was. For the first time we had a grassroots man who aroused the public indignation with a message of hope rather than hate. And it reached another disenchanted audience: the youth. Many college students became politically active as a result of the Sanders campaign. In a sea of troubled waters they found a wellspring of hope in Bernie. A lot of us did. Even if we knew some of his proposals weren’t the most politically feasible.
This election was a matter of voting one’s heart and spirit. Unfortunately for many people, that meant trumping logic (no pun intended). But no one can deny that Bernie Sanders had much stronger popularity among the population that Trump snagged in his race for 270: the working class. He had the old and young, the black and white, the Christian and Muslim. In places where black tape barred a unified, demographical support for the Clinton campaign, Sanders transcended. Unfortunately he did not win the nomination. But he would have won the election.