So Bernie Sanders proves a viable presidential candidate and all of a sudden the stock market crashes and Americans are emptying store shelves of canned goods, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. Come on people, he’s not that scary!

Or is there something I’ve missed? 😉

Ohhhh, that . . .

Actually, I feel like I was early to the coronavirus party, having recently spent a week in the hospital with a besieged respiratory tract. Even if I were more of an extrovert, that party would have been no fun, so once the imminent plague arrives I’ll forearm-bump rather than shake hands — when I’m out among people at all. Wonderful as some of the doctors and nurses were, I have no wish to revisit them.

But let me return to that first prospect of doom, the electoral success of Bernie Sanders. The California primary is two days away, and I have to decide whether to vote for him, one of the other 78 year-olds (Biden and Bloomberg), or one of the younger but lesser contenders: Buttigieg, Warren, Klobuchar, or Gabbard (yes, she’s still in the race).

I want a candidate who will both campaign and govern well. I’m convinced Sanders is an able campaigner and am confident he can beat Trump in November. I also think he’ll govern more effectively than his detractors fear. So I’m voting for him.

Let’s start with campaigning. Sanders invented the small-donor national campaign in 2016 and has taken it to new heights in 2020, raising more than any other Democrat except the two self-financing billionaires (Bloomberg and Steyer). He’s raked in over $45 million just this past month! On the trail he’s indefatigable: he recovered from a heart attack faster than I did from pneumonia, despite my considerable age advantage. And unlike the other Democratic candidates, Sanders inspires passion among his supporters.

The data I’ve seen suggest that unless the party poobahs undermine him in the fall, Sanders is as capable as any Democrat of beating Trump. Nationally, he has bested Trump in 67 of 72 polls over the last year. Surveys of the three critical states — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — conducted in mid-February by the University of Wisconsin Elections Research Center show Sanders ahead of Trump by seven points in Michigan and by two points in both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. No other Democrat exceeded those numbers.

Sanders’s refusal to apologize for his democratic socialism will help him govern effectively. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were moderates, and because they started from reasonable positions, their best ideas (I’m thinking specifically of Obama’s health care proposal) were weakened by compromise. In contrast to what Columbia University law professor Tim Wu recently dubbed “liberal suckerdom,” Sanders will start from a more aggressive position (which my hero Daniel Kahneman calls anchoring) and negotiate harder, likely producing better results for the people who elected him.

Will the democratic socialist Sanders turn America into Venezuela? That’s one of the more longstanding — and unfair — accusations making the rounds. Sanders is no authoritarian, especially compared to the current president. And his Congressional voting record indicates he has a pragmatic streak (votes against gun control included) and will know when to bow to political reality. He’s strident and grumpy, but that doesn’t make him a dictator-to-be.

I’m still bothered by his age and health. If he wins the nomination, he’ll need a running mate who also can govern well, as his vice president may need to step in at any moment. Names? How about Stacey Abrams? Or, if Abrams says no, Tammy Duckworth? (I am not giving up hope.) I could even live with the staff-abusing Amy Klobuchar.

Big caveat: these are my best thoughts before the California primary. As the campaign evolves, I reserve the right to change my mind and regret my vote. And if Sanders doesn’t win the nomination, so be it. I’ll vote for the Democrat even if it’s the doddering Biden or the arrogant Bloomberg.

The Votomatic, circa 2000.

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