Bernie Sanders is Toast

He's repelling the people he needs to mount a comeback.

It’s not exactly going out on a limb to say that Bernie Sanders, briefly the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, is in serious trouble. He’s now behind in the delegate count and all of the conventional candidates have lined up behind rival Joe Biden. And, as I noted earlier today, the FiveThirtyEight forecast gives Biden an 87 percent chance of clinching before the convention.

But Sanders isn’t that far behind, Biden isn’t that good a campaigner, and there’s still plenty of time for the momentum to shift.

It’s not going to.

Elizabeth Warren, widely seen as his rival for the Progressive “lane,” has not only declined to endorse him but is continuing to condemn him for not doing more to rein in his online trolls. This, in turn, has led me to re-evaluate some previous postings in a new light.

First off, my recent Warren-centric posts “Women Are Not a Voting Bloc” and “Women Are Not a Voting Bloc II,” while written to demonstrate that women didn’t exactly rally around Warren or Amy Klobuchar, also showed something else: Sanders has done far worse among women than men across the contests thus far.

Second, Warren’s complaints about the online harrassment—and John Aravosis’ supporting tweet thread about Sanders and his top staffers’ appearances on the Chapo Trap House podcast—has led me to rethink at least two older posts.

In “Joe Rogan, Bernie Sanders, and the Intellectual Dark Web,” I largely dismiss the argument, mostly coming from Warren supporters, that Sanders’ appearance on that show and happily accepting Rogan’s endorsement were problematic. My limited defense of Rogan still strikes me as reasonable. But I now see Sanders’ participation as something other than a one-off.

Similarly, I now offer a more firm Yes in answer to my recent question “Should We Blame Bernie for His Trolls?” While I still have no evidence that he’s actively encouraging them, the fact that Sanders and his senior staffers are supporting things as vile as Chapo Trap House makes his calls for civility ring hollow.

Zack Beauchamp connects the dots nicely:

You can understand why Warren seems to think Sanders’s disavowals ring a bit hollow. Sanders sat down for an interview with Chapo Trap House, the “dirtbag left” podcast whose hosts repeatedly serve up some of the most vicious and personal attacks on Warren. Sanders speechwriter David Sirota has appeared on their show while working on the campaign, as has national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray. From Warren’s point of view, it might seem like Sanders is speaking out of both sides of his mouth: vaguely disavowing online anger in public statements while his campaign reaches out and appeals directly to the people purveying it.

The purported aim of all the pro-Sanders trolling, the snake emojis directed at Warren on Twitter, and the vitriolic attacks on the Nevada Culinary Union is to shame or bully the targets into getting behind Sanders. Judging by this interview, it seems to have had the opposite effect on Warren.

Online anger and abuse may not filter down to the ordinary voter directly, but it shapes the way Democratic Party elites see the Sanders campaign. If they see it as a font of negativity and anger or a source of direct attacks on them and people they admire, they’re less likely to see it as something they’re comfortable lining up behind. And these sorts of endorsements can matter in primaries; support from Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) seems to have really helped buoy Joe Biden in their respective states.

Which brings me to my final point: Sanders has demonstrated no aptitude for expanding his tent. He can’t even deal with liberal outlets like MSNBC.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Sen. Sanders’s theory of the election failed to materialize. He’d long claimed that he would attract significant numbers of new voters to support him. Rahm Emanuel and James Carville, among others, have expressed great skepticism of that. Carville went as far as to call it “science denial”.

  2. An Interested Party says:

    Sanders has demonstrated no aptitude for expanding his tent.

    One of a number of similarities he shares with Trump…

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    Eleven more days and even the Bernie Bros will be able to understand.

  4. EddieinCA says:

    Michael Reynolds says:
    Friday, March 6, 2020 at 17:04
    Eleven more days and even the Bernie Bros will be able to understand.

    I hope you’re right. But something tells me that a good percentage of them are going to spend the next 5 months trolling Dem voters and threatening to vote Trump.

  5. EddieInCA says:
    The National Organization for Women (NOW) has urged Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren not to endorse Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Democratic race.

    Announcing that she would be ending her presidential campaign on Thursday, following disappointing Super Tuesday results, Warren said she would not be rushing to a decision on whether to endorse one of her former rivals.

    While the Massachusetts senator ran a progressive campaign that paralleled Sanders in more ways than one, Warren said she wanted to “take a deep breath” and “spend a little time” deliberating over whether to throw her support behind him, according to The Associated Press.

    Her silence comes as moderate Democratic contenders who have dropped out of the race, including former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have promptly thrown their weight behind fellow moderate former Vice President Joe Biden.

    While many progressives will look to Warren to add weight to Sanders’ campaign, NOW appears to have sided clearly with Biden in what is quickly looking to become a two-man race.

    In an interview with Associated Press, NOW President Toni Van Pelt urged Warren not too “rush into” anything.

    “She has a lot of leverage right now. We do trust her to make the right decisions on how to proceed. But we’d like her not to rush this,” Van Pelt said.

    “We think that our constituents, our members, will not necessarily think of Sanders as the best choice,” the NOW chief continued.

    After all, she said, “we wouldn’t have the Violence Against Women Act if it wasn’t for Biden’s leadership.”

    Indeed, Biden was instrumental in seeing VAWA, which has been credited with being a main driver behind a significant decline in the rate of domestic violence in the U.S., brought into effect, having introduced the Act in 1990.

  6. Joe says:

    My working theory for the resurrection of Biden is that the Democratic electorate, wearied of the daily Trump tirades, has concluded that Sanders will bring them only a different type of tirade, but a tirade nonetheless. In each candidate, this impression is both exemplified and bolstered by his core followers. Biden promises a relief from the constant confrontation. I, for one, look forward after Biden’s election to going whole weeks without seeing his name in the news or on my FB page. I think that pining for peace is the source of the new Biden wave and I am optimistic it will carry him to the White House.

  7. Jay L Gischer says:

    I didn’t listen to the podcast of Chapo Trap House you linked, but man, that NYTimes piece. I have such mixed feelings about it.

    For instance, I endorse their anger. And the things they are angry about seem solid. The game is rigged in favor of the connected and the political. We just appointed Justice Brett “Political Brown Noser” Kavanaugh. I can’t think of an appointment I have less respect for than him, but he had the juice. Santa Clara County, my home county, has reduced hours at its main courthouse, due to budget issues. This is the richest state in the nation and one of the worlds’s biggest economies, and we can’t keep the courthouse open all day? Does this affect rich people adversely? I’m thinking no.

    At the same time, I don’t endorse the violence or the bullying or the name-calling. If you think that’s the only way to express anger, think again. You are wrong.

    And then, we find that many of these very angry “outsider” types are actually the children of media insiders who just haven’t managed to get inside themselves. They are college grads with big loans to pay off. That’s bad, but hardly the backbone of a “workers” movement. Do you know what a working person looks like, sounds like, talks like? Do you hold them in as much scorn as you hold everything else?

    Oh, and look at all those bucks you are raking in. Yeah, I bet that really makes you angry….

    The piece quotes Bernie as saying:

    the only way we make the kinds of transformation this country absolutely requires is when millions of people are prepared to stand up and fight back

    And you know what, I endorse that. I agree.

    There’s a word for someone who says something like this:

    “I won’t vote for anyone but Bernie in the general…”

    That word is selfish. Entitled also works. Myopic. The only people fighting are the people who look and act exactly like them.

    No thanks.

  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    They aren’t all trolls. The ones who are were lost long ago. very much like with Trump these are aimless men looking for a father figure to worship. Cult46.

    I recently started noticing just how many movies are driven by ‘daddy issue’ plots. Over and over again it’s some guy needing to get Dad’s approval, or get revenge on Dad, or outshine Dad. It’s boring. Given that the writers are mostly millennials I’m a bit surprised by this. It was the millennials who got the advantage of all the Dad shaming of 80’s and 90’s movies and TV.

    I spent 100 times, maybe 1000 times, as much time with my kids as my father did with me. But somehow I don’t feel the need to impress my father. He’s a good dude, a retired soldier, a man with style and brains. But he’s himself, I’m me, why would I care what he thinks about me? Let alone go al Ad Astra and chase him out into space to get some validation. Somehow, I don’t recall a John Wayne movie where the Duke was looking to get hugs from Dad.

  9. Sleeping Dog says:


    threatening to vote Trump

    Compared to 16, Bernie has had a significant decrease in the number of blue collar whites voting for him. The supposition being that those voters went to Tiny in the 16 general and are now lost to Dems. So the Bernie Bros can join them. Good Riddance.


    Bernie Sanders is Toast

    Yup, stick a fork in him, he’s done.

  10. Sleeping Dog says:


    …wearied of the daily Trump tirades, has concluded that Sanders…

    That is part of the reason, along with the fear that Bernie will lose to Tiny and even if he wins, will squander the next 4 years.

    It occurred to me Bernie is such a set in his ways old codger, that if Nancy got M4A Who Want It through the House and Schumer passed it under Reconciliation in the Senate (assuming a Dem majority), Bernie would veto it because it wasn’t pure M4A.

  11. Jay L Gischer says:

    In the last election cycle, during 2016, there were a fair number of suspicious “Bernie Bros” in my stream. None of them were people I’d ever heard of before, and they behaved very badly. This was in contrast to the people I knew who supported Bernie. They were enthusiastic, but still well behaved. I started wondering if these sea lions were, in fact, Bernie supporters, or some third party just looking to stir up trouble among Democrats. And subsequent investigations have borne out that yes, in fact, some of them were in fact, Russian employees, and I’m sure others were employed by some wealthy Republican somewhere.

    But this stuff puts a name and a face on some of the vileness. Snake emojis don’t bother me too much (am I missing something?), but some of this other stuff I would find disqualifying. Particularly violent speech.

  12. Scott F. says:

    Second, Warren’s complaints about the online harrassment—and John Aravosis’ supporting tweet thread about Sanders and his top staffers’ appearances on the Chapo Trap House podcast—has led me to rethink at least two older posts.

    It’s almost like Senator Professor Warren (as Charlie Pierce calls her) has a knack for explaining her positions in a way that can change minds when given the chance. And she is make her case not from any kind of victim position, but completely on brand as a crusader against the corrupting influences of money and power.

    I find it interesting that EW found both Bloomberg’s and Sander’s weak under-bellies and has managed to hit them both where it hurts. Would be useful skill to teach the eventual nominee, doncha think?

  13. James Joyner says:

    @Scott F.: As I’ve said multiple times now, she would easily have been my favorite candidate in this field were her policy positions less extreme. I’d have preferred a younger Biden easily but he’s past his prime.

  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    As long as I don’t sound like a needy old man desperate to be re-admitted to the adult conversation after joining a cult.

    Remember, washing your hands is an act of heresy now. Trump’s got the virus under control.

  15. EddieInCA says:
  16. An Interested Party says:

    You sound like Kurtz trying to convince people he’s an intellectual.

    Or you trying to convince people that you’re supposedly so rich and allegedly such a fabulous businessman…

  17. Teve says:

    The actual, factual cult in my hometown lasted over 30 years before exploding in a succession of molestation accusations.

  18. Teve says:

    @Jay L Gischer: yeah i bet a lot of it is fake.

  19. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner: My sarcasm was directed toward the Electorate more generally and not you. Sorry if my flippancy made that unclear.

  20. Kurtz says:


    I’m not trying to convince anybody, pal. I know who I am. I know that I’ve read. And I know what I think about what I’ve read, after I have considered it.

    The difference between you and me is that I don’t need validation in the form of money. Nor agreement nor my favored candidate or party winning elections.

    Another difference: I can actually form an argument, and explain how and why I came about my positions. Something you don’t (can’t?) do.

    The difference between you and Michael is that he actually produces something. Michael also can justify his positions and explain how he came about them. I may disagree with some of his points, but I can respect them. Same with others around here, like Dr. Joyner or Andy.

    You? You gave up engineering, a discipline that requires brains, creativity, and the desire to build something for M&A, a profession that transfers value from shareholders to managers, is riddled with perverse incentive structures, and is a toxic combination of economic rent and moral hazard.

    You gave up production for wealth and tell yourself that it was because M&A is more interesting because it is about people. Nah, you could have done that by taking up poker. You took the coward’s path, because the last thing you wanted to confront is that you’re just not that talented and not that smart.

    I am nowhere near the guy on the right, but you’re certainly the guy on the left.

    It’s pretty fitting that you don’t accept challenges, even basic ones that don’t require an adversarial approach. Nor friendly invitations to at least show you have the least bit of courage.


  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’m bored with you. Bye bye.

  22. Robert C says:

    Is that the same Nate Silver who forecasted a Clinton win?
    Sanders is polling ahead in Penn, Wis, Mich. Those are the three states that Dems need to flip. What red states is Biden going to flip? What Blue states will Bernie lose? Open your eyes! Biden is selling the same crap that caused historically blue Penn, Wisc, and Mich to flip red. Biden is the SOS to these states. Sad.

  23. An Interested Party says:

    Open your eyes!

    You would do well to do the same…at this point, it is obvious that Biden has a better shot, with moderates and with black voters supporting him in overwhelming numbers, as opposed to their support for Bernie…it’s an incredible blind spot that someone doesn’t realize that the socialist tag will hurt Bernie and the Democrats down ballot in the fall…

  24. PJ says:

    @Robert C:

    Sanders is polling ahead in Penn, Wis, Mich.

    You might want to update yourself.

    Michigan? There has only been one poll since the South Carolina primary. Biden got 29%, and Sanders got 23%. It also included Bloomberg 11%, Buttigeg 6%, Klobuchar 3%, all who have since withdrawn and endorsed Biden. Warren got 7% and has not yet endorsed a candidate, but considering her recent comments, I can’t see her endorsing Sanders.

    Wisconsin is a month away. More than two weeks since the last poll, lots of Joementum and endorsements since that one.

    The Pennsylvania primary is three weeks after primary in Wisconsin. Hasn’t been polled in ages. The big question is if Sanders has withdrawn or not by then…

    But keep dreaming.

  25. EddieInCA says:

    @Robert C:

    Robert C says:
    Saturday, March 7, 2020 at 00:20

    Is that the same Nate Silver who forecasted a Clinton win?

    If you wanted to be honest, you’d point out that Nate Silver was one of the first people out there telling the public that Donald Trump had a real chance to win the presidency in 2016. He took alot of flak at the time for saying it.

    Whether you like or dislike Silver, his work and methodology is transparent. He seems, more than most, to just stick to the math.

    You might want to do the same. Here’s some math for you. Biden leads in delegates. Bernie doesn’t have a path – at this point – to overtake him. Hence, the MATH tells us Bernie is toast.

    Women? Bernie hasn’t improved his 2016 numbers.
    Latinos? Yep. He’s gained a few. Good for him. But his Castro comments are gonna kill him in NY and Florida.
    White Working Class? His numbers lack those from 2016
    African Americans? Meh. Crappy crappy numbers.

    Don’t fight math. You’ll lose every time.

  26. David Kelsey says:

    When Bernie embraced the Rogan endorsement, I tried to explain to fellow #NotMeUs supporters why it was a mistake. I was met with resistance, hostility, and rationalization. I knew then that Bernie would lose the black vote and his frontrunner status along with it (although I didn’t expect his support with rural and suburban whites to also crater).

    Why? Black voters are Democratic partisans do not expect 100% error-free wokeness from white liberal allies. But not embracing and defending those who either say/do racist things or who enable those who do is a minimum requirement to win the trust of black voters. Rogan is both.

    Watching Hillary on Hulu, I’m reminded how popular she was and remains with core Democratic groups, namely single women, gays, and people of color. Bernie and camp don’t seem to get that the type of Hillary-hating liberal/liberaltarian white guy that dominates the media and the fanbases of guys like Bernie and Rogan don’t represent majority Democratic opinion or its base. Those voters despise the casual, trolling racism/sexism of that Rogan-Bernie-style bro.

    It would have been one thing if Rogan heartily challenged the racism of the white supremacists he has on his show. He never has, and has sometimes echoed them. Racist or not, that makes him suspect and someone a Democratic candidate should not tout.

    But Bernie and his fanboys doubled down on the Rogan endorsement. Just like they doubled down on bis Castro statements. And that’s why Super Tuesday looked like it did and why Michigan and Florida polls look like they do. It’s a stubborn echo chamber movement that insists on alienating wide swaths of the Democratic electorate. And when the new and youth voters you were promising don’t show up to replace them, you lose. It’s sad.

  27. Lounsbury says:

    @Robert C:

    Is that the same Nate Silver who forecasted a Clinton win?

    The same Nate Silver who gave Mrs Clinton an approximately 1/3 chance of losing, which if you actually are not Math Illiterate (and statistically innumerate) was spot on to the results, where the end loss could have easily changed with some minor changes in turn-out in a few key geographies, in the end random variation.

    The fact you sneer about this says nothing about Silver and merely indicates you are bad at understanding math and statistics. Not atypical of the average product of the educational systems, but voila, hard for the average chimpanzee to understand, maths.

  28. Kurtz says:


    I really want to get a poker game together with the people who criticize Silver with that 30% line of reasoning.

  29. Kurtz says:


    And the 538 writers almost always do pieces that highlight what they get wrong and how they plan on addressing any errors.

    I’ve also found that people don’t understand how basic concepts like MOE work either.

  30. grumpy realist says:

    @David Kelsey: I suspect that the BernieBros overlap considerably with the YangNeets.

  31. CherylJosie says:

    MSNBC isn’t liberal. It’s corporate establishment Democratic and center-right. There’s a world of difference.

    MSNBC has purged its network of progressives and now Cenk Uygur is a frequent guest on CNN rather than the anchor of his own show on MSNBC.

    Political leaning isn’t dictated by party preference. Many Democrats are conservatives who protect wealth over people.