Nate Silver: Bernie Sanders would be ‘losing’ even when he is winning

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Nate Silver provides this chart to support his argument that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders — hailing from the state with the highest percentage of white liberals — could win the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary yet still lose the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination. If the 50 states all voted and caucused on the same day, Silver would have a solid point, but as the states will caucus and vote over a bit more than a four-month period, Silver’s argument misses the factor of momentum (or, as I might put it, the movement of the lemmings from one candidate to another) over time. Silver’s argument demonstrates, however, that Bernie Sanders is an uber-underdog.

Far be it for me to question Prognosticator King Nate Silver (Prognosticator Queen? Like I am, he is gay…), but a recent post of his on his website fivethirtyeight.com bears this headline: “Bernie Sanders Could Win Iowa and New Hampshire. Then Lose Everywhere Else.”

The emphasis there, I think, I hope, is on the word “could.” Lots of different scenarios could play out from this early point in the game, but I find it unlikely that Sanders would win both Iowa and New Hampshire and yet not win the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination.

The crux of Silver’s argument apparently is that “Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa and Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire are really liberal and really white, and that’s the core of Sanders’ support.”

The chart above is posted with Silver’s article, and assuming that its statistics are correct, yes, it’s no shock that Bernie Sanders is polling well right now in Iowa and in New Hampshire, the first two states to pick their 2016 Democratic Party presidential candidate, in early February.

Silver notes that “Sanders has so far made very little traction with non-white Democrats,” suggesting that this could cost Sanders the eventual win.

I don’t know about that.

I do know that Billary Clinton, for whatever reason or reasons, is big here in California, so I couldn’t see Sanders winning California — if California voted early. But California isn’t voting early in 2016; in 2016, California’s presidential primary election will be in June.

Billary beat Barack Obama here in California in 2008, but that year the presidential primary was held here in February, on “Super Tuesday.” It was a big chunk of delegates early on for Billary, but Obama still eventually beat her and won the nomination, of course.

Given that California doesn’t weigh in until June 2016, when it most likely will be (but might not be) a moot point anyway, yes, Billary could still win California’s primary, even if Bernie already had sewn up the party’s presidential nomination (and Billary had conceded), I suppose, but at the same time, in the world of presidential politics, June 2016 is a long, long time away, and so of course it’s possible that Sanders could win California’s primary in June 2016, especially if he already had swept most of the states in the earlier voting.

Not just California, but many other states, probably especially red and purple states, might remain steadfastly loyal to Billary in 2016, even to the bitter end, but as this was not an insurmountable obstacle for Obama in 2008, I don’t see that it would be an insurmountable obstacle for Sanders in 2016.

As I have intimated above, perhaps the biggest flaw in Nate Silvers’ argument is that to me his chart of the states and their makeup of white liberals seems to suggest that all of these states are going to be voting close together, when, in fact, the 2016 presidential primary elections and caucuses stretch from February 1 through June 7 (yes, California is the last to vote, along with four other states on that date.)

If all 50 states held their primary elections and caucuses on one day, or even within one month or maybe even two, then yes, I’d probably expect Billary to win, but that won’t be the case; that won’t be how the game is played. (But nor do I see the 2016 contest being drawn out until June, as it anomalously was in 2008. My best guess is that it will be done by April at the latest. [John Kerry wrapped up his 2004 win in March, and Al Gore also had wrapped up his 2000 win in March.])

All of that said, no one really knows what might happen if Bernie Sanders were to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. It seems to me that Billary probably would implode spectacularly. Yes, it is true that only two states aren’t representative of the entire nation, but coming in at first place in Iowa gives a candidate a huge boost, as it did for Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008. All three of those candidates, of course, went on to win their party’s presidential nomination. (The last time that the Democratic first-place winner of Iowa didn’t go on to win the party’s presidential nomination was Tom Harkin back in 1992.)

Yet we’re so sure that for some reason or reasons it would be different for Bernie Sanders were he to win first place in Iowa. (He is nothing if not an underdog.)

I could see an Iowa win giving Sanders such momentum that of course he wins New Hampshire, and from there it easily might be All She Wrote for Billary. Billary can come back from losing Iowa — her husband did in 1992, after all (and while she lost Iowa to Obama in 2008, she did win the popular vote in the 2008 New Hampshire primary [but tied with Obama for the delegate count]) — but were she to lose New Hampshire in February, too, um, yeah…

Of course, as many have noted, the better that Bernie were to perform in February, the more that the panicked Clintonistas (who pretty much are synonymous with the center-right Democratic Party establishment) would attack him. It is an unknown as to whether the Clinton Machine could destroy Sanders. It certainly didn’t destroy the upstart Barack Obama during the long, drawn-out presidential primary season of 2008 (again, Billary didn’t finally concede to Obama until June 2008).

And you never know how an attack is going to play out for you. It might work and you might win; or, it might generate sympathy for your victim and hurt you, either giving your victim the win or giving you a very tarnished win, a pyrrhic victory.

I mean, Bernie Sanders comes across as the humble, rumpled college professor whom you like, the professor who at first appears to be fairly eccentric but whom, once you listen to what he has to say, is quite sane and quite wise and quite big-hearted, you realize. Sanders also (probably wisely) fairly steadfastly sticks to his philosophy of not savaging his political rivals, but of sticking to the issues.

By attacking Bernie, Billary can’t come out of it not looking like an even bigger harpy with a dynastic, coronate-me-already mindset than she already does. So Team Billary savaging Bernie is far from an assured winning strategy.

And again, I’m quite surprised that in his piece, Nate Silver doesn’t talk about what I might call The Lemming Effect of Iowa and New Hampshire. It wasn’t that long ago that John Kerry rose from the political dead in early 2004, beating Howard Dean to win Iowa and New Hampshire, shocking pretty much Everyone in the Political Universe, even his long-time supporters (such as myself), and once he won Iowa and New Hamsphire, the vast majority of the rest of the primary and caucus states quickly fell to him like dominoes. (Howard Dean won only his home state of Vermont. John Edwards, who would go on to be Kerry’s running mate, won only two states.)

Again, it speaks to Bernie Sanders’ status as the uber-underdog, methinks, that one might posit that while the rest of the states fell like dominoes after John Kerry won both Iowa and New Hampshire in 2004, this wouldn’t happen for Bernie Sanders.

And look at where John Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts sits on Silver’s chart: It is listed at No. 4, but apparently tying with Iowa as the third-most white and liberal state. By Silver’s own argument, it seems to me, John Kerry, because he came from such a white and such a liberal state, shouldn’t have done nearly as well as he actually did.

I’m not especially picking on Silver, and I think that the moral of the story is that presidential politics can be much like a Plinko game: the chip, once dropped, can fall in one of many directions, and predicting where it finally will land can be very difficult. Especially before the chip has even been dropped — before Iowans have caucused and New Hampshirites have voted — we can only speculate what might happen. Only after the chip has dropped and gained momentum will prognosticating be easier and more accurate.

Still, I find it fun to discuss what might happen. Again, my best guess is that if Bernie Sanders wins Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s all over for Billary Clinton. She probably would win significantly more states’ primaries and caucuses in 2016 than did, say, John Edwards in 2004, but losing both Iowa and New Hampshire would be, I believe, such a blow to her right out of the gate that she’d never be able to recover.

I just don’t see that Billary has the charisma to recover from something like that. Few Billary supporters will admit it, but most of them don’t actually like her all that much, don’t find her to be warm and fuzzy and likable. (Certainly, those voters in three important swing states find Billary to be neither honest nor trustworthy, and almost 60 percent of all Americans don’t find Billary to be honest or trustworthy, and when Obama famously once remarked to Billary during a 2008 primary season debate, “You’re likable enough,” he was being quite charitable.)

No, most of Billary’s supporters support her because they delusionally believe that a candidate whose unfavorability ratings consistently exceed her favorability ratings in national polls is a strong candidate. They delusionally believe that as unlikable as Billary is, she’s the only Democratic candidate who can keep the White House in the party’s hands come November 2016.

But how strong can Billary be when so many of her so-called supporters have to hold their noses in order to support her, and support her primarily or even only because they believe that she’s the only candidate who can prevent the Repugnicans from taking back the White House?

That’s not a very strong base of support, and so were Bernie to win Iowa and New Hampshire, again, I think that most likely we’d see a sea change; we’d see the Lemmings for Billary rush to Team Bernie. After all, Billary never exactly excited them anyway; at best, they found Billary likable enough. Or at least that’s what they told themselves and/or others.

P.S. Again, let me be clear: I could see Bernie Sanders winning the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination but losing the 2016 presidential election, as the American electorate can be stunningly anti-intellectual and pro-dipshit, as we saw with how Americans just allowed the mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging George W. Bush to blatantly steal the 2000 presidential election. (Al Gore, widely perceived in an anti-intellectual nation as a wooden egghead, didn’t inspire the in-the-streets revolution that a stolen presidential election should have.)

One could argue, I suppose, that New Englanders, being whiter and more liberal than the nation as a whole, or at least being perceived as such, tend to do poorly in presidential elections, and point to Michael Dukakis’ loss in 1988 and John Kerry’s loss in 2004. (Both are from Massachusetts, of course, as is U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whom I’d most likely be supporting right now if she were a presidential candidate.)

But Bernie Sanders is well positioned to win the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination, it seems to me, and I’d be willing to risk losing the 2016 presidential election with Sanders as the Democratic Party’s candidate, as the Democratic Party’s long slide to the right (first under Bill Clinton and then under Barack Obama) has to be reversed (and not continued and worsened under a President Billary).

As I’ve noted, if Bernie Sanders ends up being something like the Barry Goldwater of the left, that’s perfectly fine by me. Better to win the long game than to lose the long game, and a President Billary would mean losing the long game.

P.P.S. As I’ve noted many times before, I always go for the most progressive presidential candidate possible, regardless of his or her demographics. Being a Californian, I also highly value diversity — note that Nate Silver’s chart puts white liberals like me at only about a quarter of California’s population in 2008 — and so it would be great if Bernie Sanders weren’t yet another older white man and if he came from a more diverse state (Vermont is in the top few whitest states in the nation, if it isn’t at No. 1).

But Bernie’s demographics are his demographics. His being an actual progressive trumps Billary’s being a woman but being a Democrat in name only who no doubt as president would continue to kiss plutocratic ass and sell out the working class and the remnants of the middle class, as her triangulating husband did in the 1990s.

And, of course, our first non-white president has done little to nothing to significantly socioeconomically boost non-white Americans.

A white-male progressive certainly could do, and probably would do, more good for more people than would a DINO president who is not white or who is a woman.

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