Conclusion: Why it still matters
We don’t know 100% for sure that Bernie Sanders would have beaten Donald Trump in the 2016 General Election, because we aren’t fortune-tellers. But we have plenty of evidence to be sure enough.
The goal is not “absolute proof” — it rarely is. The goal is to have the more solid argument, and better evidence on our side. The odds and evidence have consistently been in high favor of Sanders, and supports those who say Bernie would have won against Trump in 2016.
We know Sanders polled much higher than Clinton against Donald Trump, especially in important swing states (as seen in chapter 1). He had a positive net favorability among the broad electorate, which is generally predictive of general election victories — as opposed to Clinton and Trump, who were both heavily disliked among the broad electorate (as seen in chapter 2). And in net favorability and the polls, we saw that Bernie Sanders had a major advantage over Clinton among Independent voters — who are the largest voting bloc — but were strongly disenfranchised in the Democratic primary elections.
Sanders trended up in popularity when attacked, rather than down like Hillary Clinton. He was also not under FBI investigation, which was simply a ticking time-bomb for Clinton, no matter the final verdict. While under investigation, Trump successfully used it against her. And if the investigation declared wrongdoing, it would have been even worse.
Including but not limited to the FBI investigation, Trump’s strengths played well against Clinton’s weaknesses, while Trump’s strengths would have fallen short against Bernie Sanders. Sanders, as shown in the previous chapter 5, would have flipped around any arguments against him that were based in policy, character, or “corruption.” Trump could not avoid confronting Sanders directly in a general election, like he did in the primary elections and like he did all through 2017. And he would have been taken down in front of a much larger audience.
Sanders was also better and more credible on the issues — a closer match to the majority of American’s preferences — than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. And in the debates, we would have seen much more discussion on the issues, forced by Sanders, and this would have exposed Trump’s vague ideas and lack of real solutions. Instead of what happened in the Clinton vs Trump debates, which was a personality contest and back-and-forth on who was more corrupt — with Sanders involved in the general election debates, we would have seen a relentless debate on the issues, exposing the sham of Trump. Sanders would have gained support and Trump would have lost support, because people wanted real solutions and someone who was telling the truth. The contrast between Sanders’ and Trump’s “populism” would have been quite clear to most viewers. Sanders would have been the real populist, and Trump, the phony.
To actually lose to Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders would have needed to fall farther in support than Hillary Clinton — in a matter of months — and then, fail to turn out a massive amount of his enthusiastic supporters on election day. This is merely a desperate wish among those who still cling to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment. It is not evidence or a good argument against Bernie Sanders’ hypothetical victory against Donald Trump in 2016. The “counter-argument” is simply denial — that Bernie Sanders indeed could have won against Donald Trump, when Hillary Clinton, the liberal hero, lost.
If the report were not already convincing enough, let us look at a poll that was conducted on November 6th, two days before the general election. A Gravis national poll at this time showed that Sanders was leading Trump by 12%. The “margin of error” was 2.4%. That leaves Sanders quite safely within the zone of victory.
The same poll asked about Clinton vs Trump, and showed Clinton winning by only 2% — within the margin of error.
This poll turned out to be very close to the final election results, which were within the margin of error of this poll for all candidates, including Clinton, Trump, and the 3rd party candidates. Clinton actually did win the popular vote by 2 percent, just as this poll predicted — it’s just that she lost the important swing states, and thus, the electoral college and the presidency. A 12% lead by Sanders, however, would not have him losing the important swing states — especially if, as showed in chapter one, Sanders was polling far better than Clinton in those important swing states.
Let’s look just a bit more closely at the data in this poll. Predictably, Sanders would capture the vast majority of the Democratic vote — 91%, which is about the same percentage that voted for Clinton against Trump. As stated before, Sanders would win the solid “blue” states, just like Clinton.
But where Sanders excelled greatly was the Independent vote — the largest voter bloc, at 40% of voter affiliation in November 2016 — even larger than registered Democrats (30% of U.S. voter affiliation) and Republicans (27% of U.S. voter affiliation).
Bernie Sanders led Trump by 10 points among Independents:
…while Trump had a major advantage over Clinton among Independent voters:
If you take Trump’s +17% against Clinton in the Independent vote, and -10% against Sanders in the Independent vote, that would mean — against Donald Trump in the general election — Sanders had a 27% greater advantage than Hillary Clinton among Independent voters, the largest voting bloc which would decide the election.
Sanders also captured 16% of Republican voters, more, of course, than Hillary Clinton:
And to bury some other myths, let’s look at the demographics. Contrary to the “Bernie Bro” myth, 60% of Sanders’ support was from women:
Which was more than Clinton’s support from women versus Trump:
The poll also ran contrary to the narrative (once again) that “people of color don’t like Bernie Sanders, the old white man.” More of Sanders’ support would come from non-whites than from whites:
Remarkably, against the mainstream narrative — in this national, reputable poll two days before the general election — Sanders did better than Clinton against Trump not only among women, but every racial demographic.
Just compare Sanders’ graphs to Clinton’s, and you will see it is true. Sanders had +20% among women, while Clinton had +8%. Sanders had +76% among African-Americans, while Clinton had +65%. Against Trump, Sanders also does better than Clinton with Asian, Hispanic, “other,” and white/caucasian voters.
You can do the math if you’d like to verify mine. It’s simple arithmetic, and the graphs I’ve shown here are copied directly from the Gravis poll that I linked.
To recap, the evidence is strongly on the side that Bernie Sanders would have won the general election against Donald Trump in 2016. The “attacks” only brought Sanders up, not down — there were few skeletons in his closet, and they were weak ones. As shown in the report, the people who would have “attacked” Bernie Sanders (Republicans and mainstream media) were highly unfavorable among the broad electorate — which is a major reason why “attacks” on Sanders consistently brought him up, rather than down.
And if you were to argue that Sanders’ voters would have stayed home on election day — another wild and wishful assertion — the evidence again does not support that argument, including the young voters who in the 2016 primary elections voted for Sanders in greater numbers than Trump and Clinton combined.
In January 2018, when this report is being concluded, Sanders has retained a high favorability rating among the U.S. electorate — while the mass media, Donald Trump, the Democratic Party, and Hillary Clinton continue to be highly unfavorable.
Why does it still matter that Bernie Sanders would have beaten Donald Trump in a 2016 general election? It’s over. It’s done. We should get over it, right?
Well, do we advocate for studying history and current events? Are we interested in discovering the truth and learning from our mistakes?
If so, then that’s why it still matters.
It matters because some who still need to learn the lessons of 2016 appear not to have learned them. And until those lessons are learned, the corruption will continue, and we will get more Trumps, more Paul Ryans, more Mitch McConnells, and more shitty corporate Democrats. Our political and economic system will continue to be rigged, and U.S. society will fall into further strife and disarray.
The rest of the world, as well, will continue to pay the price for our actions. Just as they have been — and just like they’re getting tired of doing.
Lesson #1: Be honest and critical.
This goes for everyone, from the voters to the people in power. Hillary Clinton and her campaign clearly failed this test in 2015 and 2016. Hillary Clinton continues to blame everyone and everything, aside from herself, for why she lost to someone who should have never won. But even despite all her declared enemies who brought her down, and despite her being uninspiring and a corporate-friendly candidate, she still would not have lost if she were not so stubborn and arrogant during the entirety of her campaign.
Hillary Clinton pissed off a lot of Sanders supporters during the campaign, and even though Sanders and his supporters offered basic solutions and potential compromises for improving her campaign (and her potential administration), Hillary Clinton was still not willing to budge enough to get enough swing voters to the polls.
Lots of people, especially some Sanders voters (on which Hillary depended to beat Trump) simply could not trust her or believe in her. And as previously examined, they had good reason to believe that Clinton was, at best, a “lesser of evils.” She was not someone who would be helpful to the many who were struggling.
People vote in greater numbers when they are inspired — not merely out of a flat sense of “duty” to “stop the other guy.”
Instead of joking that the kiddoes must “pokemon-go-to-the-polls,” Hillary Clinton could have made it more clear that she will be a progressive fighter in the white house. But she did not. During the general election, she chose to avoid substantive issues and policy commitments in both the televised debates and elsewhere. She picked milquetoast Tim Kaine rather than a real progressive for vice president. If she just picked Elizabeth Warren, for example — a moderate concession to progressives, independents, and swing voters — that alone may have won Hillary the election.
A leak of her likely cabinet shows that it would have been much like Obama’s cabinet: dominated by corporate and Wall Street lackeys — and at best, “incrementalists.” It would have been a night-and-day difference between a Sanders cabinet and a Clinton cabinet. The Clinton cabinet would have been closer to Trump’s swampy cabinet than it would have been to a Sanders cabinet of diverse activist-types.
When it came time to draft the Democratic Party platform, which is not even binding, the larger “Clinton” faction of the DNC platform committee voted down some basic progressive policies that would unquestionably benefit the vast majority of Americans and people around the world. These policies were proposed and supported by the smaller Sanders contingent on the platform committee, but despite them being common sense solutions, were voted down by Hillary’s team. And that was just in principle — the party platform is not even binding (Democratic politicians do not have to pursue them), and these sensible solutions, like a ban on fracking or rejection of the Trans Pacific Partnership (an even more significantly corporate-friendly trade deal than NAFTA), could not even get a concession in writing.
As shown in chapter 4, Hillary Clinton was not going to actually fight for universal healthcare, a “living wage,” or strong unionization and worker’s rights. She almost surely would have continued and expanded our war machine, and deported potentially millions of undocumented immigrants — just like the Obama administration did while Hillary was Secretary of State, and just like Trump said he would do.
Hillary Clinton very likely would have been another Obama, at best: Hope and change in rhetoric, bombs and transfer-of-wealth-to-the-top in reality.
Some of those who supported Clinton through the primary also seemed to have problems with intellectual honesty. Instead of noticing these potential issues — or even considering them as possibility — some of Hillary’s most vocal supporters were consistent in turning a blind eye to her legitimate problems, often dismissing all critiques as merely “sexist.”
Because of Hillary’s continued blame game, and all of her real problems examined in chapter 4, she continues to struggle in public opinion. Even after six months of Trump’s atrocities in the white house, a poll showed that Hillary is even more disliked among the broad electorate than Donald Trump — who already had “historically low favorables” pre-inauguration, and has declined in net favorability since then.
Losing candidates typically gain favorability after the general election. But not Hillary Clinton — even with Trump in office.
More than a year after Trump was elected, many Clinton supporters still maintain on social media that it was everyone’s fault but Hillary’s (and those who voted for her). Anyone outside of that group is to blame for Trump — as well as everything we will experience under Trump.
Even though Sanders supporters were screaming for a year or more that a vote for Hillary in the primary was more likely to bring a Trump presidency, this blame game continues. Yet one reason the Sanders supporters liked Sanders is because he was more likely to beat Trump — and Sanders supporters did not want Trump.
Hillary Clinton, and those loyal to her, also continue to blame Sanders himself for Hillary’s loss. Even though Sanders endorsed Clinton after the primary election, and campaigned with her persistently around the country “to stop Trump” and hold Clinton accountable — and this certainly upset many of Bernie’s biggest supporters, including many delegates who invested dearly in his campaign to beat Clinton — after she lost, she claimed that Sanders did not really help her, and mainly just hurt her. Those who remain loyal to Hillary Clinton continue to make the same argument.
It seems then, to Clinton and her remaining defenders, that the problem is how Sanders only endorsed reluctantly rather than beaming from ear-to-ear.
And Sanders, as he traveled around the country for Hillary’s campaign — working harder than anyone else to “stop Trump” — not only should have endorsed Clinton merrily and enthusiastically. To Hillary Clinton and her loyal, remaining minority of support, the biggest crime of all seems to be that Sanders had the gall to run against Clinton in the first place.
We should have simply given it to Hillary. Bernie Sanders shouldn’t have shored up the real issues that were already there — within the fabric of our political, economic, and social system.
He should not have forced cognitive dissonance upon those who wished to ignore the structural, systemic problems, and who would rather maintain their current comfortable lifestyle.
Bernie Sanders simply shouldn’t have rocked the boat. He should have let it be — let politics be politics. No big change, please. We are comfortable with Hillary.
It is time to be honest about our government and society. We can no longer endure such a corrupt and destructive system. Sorry about the discomfort, but as MLK Jr. said: real peace is not just the absence of tension, but the presence of justice. This is what Bernie Sanders brought to the table, at just the right time on a national level.
For those who cannot accept that, it’s time to be more honest and critical. Not just of ourselves, but the world around us. But especially of power — those who wield it, and especially, those who wish for it.
For the rest of us — honest and critical we must remain. But not just that. We must grow our commitment to honesty — and learn who, what, when and how to criticize.
Lesson #2: The corporate media and mercenary pundits have lost their credibility.
As I detailed in a previous report, the media colluded with Clinton’s campaign against Bernie Sanders — for the sake of their own corporate interests, but also because the Clinton campaign had insider-access to influence mainstream U.S. journalism.
The mainstream media either failed to show Sanders at all, or they failed to take him seriously as a candidate. They also, for the most part, put the important issues aside.
When people finally did hear about Bernie Sanders, the media told us that he couldn’t possibly win and that his ideas are extreme. The mainstream media did not mention that most of Bernie’s policy ideas were more popular among the American public than Clinton’s or Trump’s ideas, or that they already exist through the rest of the world.
The media told us that Hillary Clinton was “pragmatic” and “experienced,” that she was the more level-headed and sensible candidate, that she was the candidate who knew how politics works. But there was little analysis into what those words actually entailed. What is “pragmatic” depends a lot on context and perspective, and the media presented only a very small window of context and perspective. “Experience,” too, requires elaboration that was rarely discussed in the mainstream news. What does that “experience” entail? In what ways is that experience significant or insignificant? Are there other factors that call the “experience” into question? Just as Sanders said, experience can be important, but “judgment” is at least as important. Where was the mainstream media’s discussion of political “judgment”?
Mainstream U.S. journalists consistently failed to challenge the validity of this narrative — that Sanders was “utopian” and could not win — and Clinton was “pragmatic,” experienced, and could not be defeated.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign wouldn’t have been possible without social media and independent journalism, and that reveals something big about the mainstream media. The corporate media tried to make Sanders invisible for as long as they could, and when his visibility became inevitable — through such strong grassroots support and enthusiasm — the mainstream media began to dishonestly smear Sanders, his ideas, and his supporters. Or if the media were not the ones doing the smear jobs, they were simply allowing others to do the smears, in front of millions — without challenging those smears.
Anti-Sanders narratives were allowed to continue, even if they were clearly not true. The narratives were not challenged to find the real truth — or figure out who the candidates really are, what is their real history, and what they stand for. Yet this is what journalists are supposed to do.
Imagine, for example, if the content of this Bernie Sanders ad was aired nationwide, and not just on Youtube and smaller media outlets. It would have put a major dent in the narrative that Clinton was “the right choice for people of color.”
Or this one. Or virtually any of the acclaimed Sanders ads. Trump got all his free airtime, even when he says nothing of substance. So imagine if the media, instead, actually covered the candidates who were talking about the important issues, and especially candidates who had a credible history in fighting for them?
If we were truly a democratic nation, with a responsible media structure, the truth would be investigated by the media, not covered up. And the media would make it a priority to do so, not just something that sometimes happens when it is profitable.
The mainstream media did not only favor Clinton heavily over Sanders. They boosted Trump — because he was entertainment. That means ratings, and ratings means profit.
The U.S. mainstream media, probably more than anything else, made Donald Trump’s victory possible. In a quest for profit, ratings, and entertainment value, the media covered Trump far more than Sanders, and even more than Hillary Clinton.
And they failed to challenge him. They covered Trump like the elections were a reality TV show. Of course, that was perfect for Trump, because that’s what he was all about. He knew how to play that game. And he properly sold enough of the country on his big lies.
Just a few weeks ago, in late 2017, President Donald Trump said that “he thought the news media would help him get reelected.” Well, they got him elected in the first place. Why wouldn’t they do it again?
And it’s not just the mainstream media networks that have lost credibility, or their pundit anchors. Neither can we trust the career pundits who are funded by, for example, a Hillary Clinton SuperPAC.
Although some “mercenary pundits” have some real belief in their cause — maybe even completely genuine in their support (and their punditry) — a famous Upton Sinclair quote remains relevant. “It is difficult to get a man [or woman] to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
Anyone with ties to the political and media establishment should warrant instant suspicion, and met with immediate skepticism. That doesn’t mean they’re always wrong. It means we can not depend on them. With these mercenary pundits, especially, we will have to verify what they’re saying for ourselves, and through better-trusted independent journalists.
These pundits are not reliable sources of information or leadership. And they are not likely to be convinced of anything other than what they’ve already been saying. Let us continue to expose their lies and bad motives.
It is typically clear who are the”mercenary” pundits, who have sacrificed their integrity and credibility — using their platform in service to Hillary Clinton and the neoliberal agenda. Or Trump, or anyone else who is wealthy and powerful.
If it is not clear, you have some detective work to do.
Media and journalism in the United States is a disgrace. If we want democratic politics and economics, if we want a democratic society, an informed electorate, and a prosperous world, we will have to confront the corrupted media machine.
We must build independent media and support independent journalists, and use social media wisely and responsibly. We must ultimately shift to social media that is under democratic control, rather than corporate and entrepreneurial control.
We will have to re-create the structure for mass media in this country. At a minimum, we must reinstate something similar to the fairness doctrine (abolished under Reagan), repeal the Telecommunications Act which consolidated corporate media (signed by Bill Clinton), and establish a new framework for media that allows for a greater spectrum of views to be presented (and diverse people to be represented). This would be made possible in large part due to public funding of media, rather than our current model that relies on private, wealthy corporations for mass news and journalism.
It is probably also a good idea to abolish the 24/7 news cycle. Ultimately, Journalism should be for news and ideas, not profit and entertainment. It may sound like common sense, to most of us, but that’s why our present situation is so sad. We’re at the point where so many policies and institutions in the United States are backwards — unreasonable, tyrannical, and inhumane.
Lesson #3: The Democratic Party must be fundamentally reformed or replaced entirely.
The political revolution is here. Whether you like it or not, it’s here. Whether you want it or not — it’s here.
And that’s a good thing. It’s what we need.
We will have to fight both inside and outside of the electoral system. We will have to fight both inside and outside of the Democratic Party. This is a movement for real democracy, and options within the Democratic Party — and at the ballot box — will be limited. At least until — if — the party can be taken over.
If the Democratic Party cannot be completely, fundamentally reformed into a party of the working class, of progressives, of the left, of young people, of the oppressed and marginalized — we will ultimately require an entirely new political party. In fact, there are some who are building it right now.
Whatever path you choose, inside, outside, or both, it is important to be careful about making enemies, and also, who is your ally.
If Bernie Sanders runs for president in 2020, then that’s great. If not, we should be just as prepared for that possibility — and in that case there will likely be a familiar Sanders ally to step in his place (someone like Nina Turner, for example).
But it is not all about the presidential race. The president and their administration is important, but there is much other work to do. There is work that must be done now — and after — a real progressive is hypothetically elected in 2020.
We should be prepared for the Democratic Party to block any genuine progressive candidate — Bernie Sanders, or whoever else it may be. It is likely a matter of degree, not either/or, whether the DNC will tip the scales again in 2020 for the more “establishment” candidate. They will try — it’s just a matter of how much they will be allowed to do so, and how much they can get away with.
We should be prepared for the DNC and Democratic Party leadership to sabotage local and regional elections and ballot initiatives, as well, in whatever ways possible. They’ve already been doing it, even after Trump won the white house.
We should be prepared, period. Prepare for the worst, and hope and work for the best. The old way is dying. A new world is rising, and the fight for control over our own government — and our own destiny — will not be an easy one. By the end of this century, we will see one of two big possibilities. We may see a mass dystopia, not dissimilar to what we see in dystopian movies and novels. Or, we could see a more utopian world, especially in comparison to our world today.
Donald Trump and the currently-extreme cadre of Republicans may be just a small glimpse of what is yet to come. Or, we could make it the final gasp.
Only time will tell, and it will depend on how we act. Pick a side, and make it the right one.
And never forget, because it’s almost certainly true: Bernie would have won.
About that, we can be quite confident. It should never stop being repeated, because it is a phrase that holds many lessons. And these lessons, for many, still have not been learned.
Until they are, we will be the worse for it.
So we will repeat the phrase, and beat the lies.
And these lessons from 2016 can help guide our way forward.
January 21, 2018