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Nobody Knows Anything

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After discussing the oppo that might be dumped should Bernie be the nominee, Paul Waldman concludes:

There’s no doubt that Republicans would try to make that case, that Sanders is a crazy radical who would turn America into a communist hellscape where we will all have our property expropriated and be forced to stand on line in shapeless gray overcoats to get our monthly bread allotment.

The trouble is, we have no idea whether that kind of attack would work. Yes, on many issues Sanders is far from the median American voter, but so is President Trump; it’s not as though majorities are clamoring to overturn Roe v. Wade and give more tax cuts to corporations. Americans don’t vote on the basis of ideology, something most of them barely understand.

Sanders’s answer to the “electability” question is that his particular version of left populism will draw in voters who are not ideologically liberal, particularly the working-class whites who helped propel Trump to victory.

So will voters reject this crazy leftist, or will he manage to hold Democrats while pulling over just enough moderates and Republicans to bring the party he still refuses to join on to victory?

Here’s the truth: We have no idea.

We don’t know how any of this will factor in a general election. There hasn’t been a nominee like Sanders in modern history, nor has there been a president like Trump for a nominee like Sanders to run against. Polarization is more intense than ever, and that adds another factor that complicates our ability to make accurate predictions. We all have our suspicions, and we can tell a story any way we like that sounds plausible.

Right. Maybe Bernie’s ability to attract voters without strong Democratic ID will trump the likely perception that he’s to the left of the mainstream. Maybe vice versa. Maybe it will turn out that the election isn’t close enough for the marginal effect of candidate quality won’t matter at all! Nobody knows who the best nominee will be and nobody will ever know, so just vote for who you like best.

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