Bernie’s revolution was not in vain 📊 March 8, 2020

Sanders pushed the Democratic party—and the public—to the left on key issues

Welcome! I’m G. Elliott Morris, a data journalist at The Economist and blogger of polls, elections, and political science. Happy Sunday! This is my weekly email where I write about politics using data and share links to what I’ve been reading and writing. 

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Bernie’s revolution was not in vain

Sanders pushed the Democratic party—and the public—to the left on key issues

The Democratic presidential primary may go under one name, but it has actually been two parallel contests from the start. One, a contest of ideas. The other, a search for a leader. Throughout the primary, these parallel processes have been in constant tension. Policies versus electability, progressivism versus beating Donald Trump. It is useful to think of the Democratic nomination as being awarded to the winner of the leadership contest. But what of the contest of ideas?

After last week’s Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses, former vice-president Joe Biden looks poised to secure the Democrats’ nomination, barring another historic surprise this year. His delegate lead—growing by the day as results in California look more favorable to him than election-night results did—is nearing triple digits. In fact, if you discard the results from California, as it voted later in the calendar last time around, Sanders’s delegate deficit is nearly as large as it was versus Hillary Clinton at this point in 2016.

But Joe Biden has not won the Democrats’ contest of ideas. Bernie Sanders has. Over the past 4 years, the party has drifted dramatically to the left. This is true across issue attitudes and identity. In 2015, for example, 33% of Democrats interviewed in a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll supported a single Medicare for All-style government healthcare plan. By 2019, Pew measured support for single-payer care at 44%, a sizable uptick. Democrats are more pro-immigration, racially liberal and liberal in self-identified political ideology as they were during their last presidential primary.

Bernie Sanders has played a large role in moving the party’s constituency left. For one, he has championed these issues since entering the national political stage some 5 years ago. Many Democrats who support progressive policies have turned to Mr Sanders to carry their banner. But Sanders has also played a role in pushing progressive politics. Our Revolution, his nationwide organization of liberal activists, has sponsored ballot initiatives and diverted fundraising and volunteer capacity to other progressive candidates.

But Sanders hasn’t only pushed Democratic voters left. He has also nudged his fellow candidates toward progressivism. The slate of 2020 Democrats is the most progressive of our time. Even the moderate candidates—Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg most notably—are to the left of the party’s previous presidential candidates.

Democrats might not have in Joe Biden an uncompromising progressive activist committed to bringing about the revolutionary change that Bernie Sanders calls for. But they do have in Biden a candidate who supports universal health coverage, an Equality Act for LGBTQ Americans, an enormous increase in public school funding, justice for Dreamers, an end to cash bail and the death penalty, a $15 minimum wage and paid sick leave, increasing the tax on capital gains, higher taxes on the wealthy, and even a national gun buyback program.

That doesn’t sound too “moderate” to me. Progressives have Bernie Sanders to thank for that.


Posts for subscribers


Links and Other Stuff

COVID-19 and the economy

Morning Consult has some polling out on the state of consumer and investor confidence as the 2019 coronavirus rocks the world economy. They report a 4-point drop in the index of consumer sentiment (ICS) since a high in February:

Forecasters’ folly

Betting (and actually making money) on politics is usually pretty hard. Not in 2020, apparently. Had you bet on Joe Biden to win the nomination in early January, before bettors sent his stock plummeting after a bad showing in Iowa, you could have made a pretty penny selling his stock yesterday as it hit 83 cents. The only inference required to make such a bet was that Biden would do well in South Carolina on February 29—a rather likely prospect from all along.


What I'm Reading and Working On

I wrote two pieces this week: one on which Democratic candidate has the best shot to beat Donald Trump in November, and another on where Elizabeth Warren’s voters will go now that she has dropped out.

I’ll be writing about Tuesday’s primaries and caucuses in Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Washington this week as well as thinking about young Democrats and their faith in the system.


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