Would Sanders Have Beaten Trump?

Brian Swift | November 9, 2016

Would Sanders Have Beaten Trump?

One of the questions beings asked this morning by many Democrats, and also a fair share of Republicans:

Would Bernie Sanders have defeated Donald Trump in the presidential election if he had been the Democratic candidate?

Way back in February of this past year, the title of an article by Harvard University Ph.D. student Nathan Robinson had predicted that “A Trump Nomination Means A Trump Presidency.”

“Here, a Clinton match-up is highly likely to be an unmitigated electoral disaster, whereas a Sanders candidacy stands a far better chance. Every one of Clinton’s (considerable) weaknesses plays to every one of Trump’s strengths, whereas every one of Trump’s (few) weaknesses plays to every one of Sanders’s strengths. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, running Clinton against Trump is a disastrous, suicidal proposition.”

Robinson went on to list some of the strikes against Clinton in a race with Trump:

“She is a dreadful campaigner.”

“He will paint her as a member of the corrupt political establishment.”  

“He is going to fill the press with the rape and harassment allegations against Bill Clinton and Hillary’s role in discrediting the victims.”

“Trump will capitalize on his reputation as a truth-teller, and be vicious about both Clinton’s sudden changes of position and her perceived dishonesty.”

“As H.A. Goodman put it, ‘Please name the last person to win the presidency alongside an ongoing FBI investigation, negative favorability ratings, questions about character linked to continual flip-flops, a dubious money trail of donors, and the genuine contempt of the rival political party.’”

According to Robinson, Sanders didn’t offer the same easy targets for Trump:

“Trump’s various unique methods of attack would instantly be made far less useful in a run against Sanders. All of the most personal charges (untrustworthiness, corruption, rank hypocrisy) are much more difficult to make stick. The rich history of dubious business dealings is nonexistent. None of the sleaze in which Trump traffics can be found clinging to Bernie. Trump’s standup routine just has much less obvious personal material to work with. Sanders is a fairly transparent guy; he likes the social safety net, he doesn’t like oligarchy, he’s a workaholic who sometimes takes a break to play basketball, and that’s pretty much all there is to it. Contrast that with the above-noted list of juicy Clinton tidbits.”

Robinson acknowledged that “there’s only one real way to attack Bernie Sanders, and we all know it: he’s a socialist fantasist.” But, he writes, “[Americans are] less jittery [about socialism] than they used to be, and Bernie does a good job portraying socialism as being about little more than paid family leave and sick days.”

Certainly, Sanders was much more ideologically interesting than Clinton, and didn’t have her political baggage. Plus, it’s noteworthy that during the Democratic primaries, Sanders scored upset victories in Michigan and Wisconsin—two swing states that will presumably go to Trump.  

What do you think? Is it likely that Sanders would have beaten Trump?