Could Sanders Be the Democrats’ Trump?

In 2016, a crowded Republican field yielded an unlikely nominee. Could history repeat itself in 2020?

Lilly Kofler, U.S. Director of Behavioral Science at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, takes to POLITICO to argue “Too Many Democrats Are Running in 2020, According to Science.”

The first Democratic presidential debate is scheduled to take place over two nights and three TV networks this June. But even with this unprecedented capacity, the stage isn’t big enough to handle the dozen-plus candidates seeking the party’s nomination, so they must surmount a variety of hurdles involving polls and fundraising to make the cut. This isn’t a primary; it’s Lollapalooza. And like a music festival where you can have a hard time choosing among all the bands with competing time slots, a surplus of candidates will give Democratic voters what behavioral scientists like me call “choice overload.” Simply put, having too many choices can make it harder to make a decision, and this is likely to have a profound—profoundly negative—effect on the 2020 campaign.

It might seem like a good thing to have a cereal aisle’s worth of candidates to choose from, but behavioral science predicts that too many options will, counterintuitively, result in lower satisfaction among Democratic voters—and possibly lead to lower enthusiasm and lower turnout. We saw a demonstration of this so-called “cereal aisle effect” in the Chicago mayoral race, where a crowded, diverse, and qualified field of 14 candidates without prohibitive frontrunners coincided with almost the lowest turnout in city history at 33.4 percent.

This presents an unfortunate reality for the 1 percenters in the field—in this case not the super-rich but the senators, governors and other accomplished candidates who are polling below the margin of error. Some pundits say there’s no downside to a presidential campaign, but the gains to a candidate’s national reputation could come at a cost to the entire field. An abundance of marginal candidates will make it harder for Democratic primary voters to comfortably evaluate the candidates with realistic chances of winning—and paradoxically that will reduce enthusiasm for the party’s eventual nominee. Picture a dinner party with too many people sitting around the table: The fact that each guest is a valued friend doesn’t make the experience any less uncomfortable.

[…]

In a crowded environment, smart candidates embrace simplicity and limit the number of attributes they highlight. You have a 10-point national security plan? Great. Put it on your website but just tell voters, in a couple short sentences, what America’s role in the world is. Your tax plan will save the middle class a bajillion dollars? Awesome. Tell me how much I’ll save, or even better, tell me how much I stand to lose montly if I vote for someone else. The pain of losing money is greater than the joy of saving it, especially when you ask me to think about the impact to my finances this month, rather than my annual bottom line.

I’m immediately reminded of the 2016 Republican primary mess. Wikipedia reminds us:

A total of 17 major candidates entered the race starting March 23, 2015, when Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was the first to formally announce his candidacy: he was followed by former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson of Florida, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, businesswoman Carly Fiorina of Virginia, former Governor Jim Gilmore of Virginia, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, outgoing Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Governor John Kasich of Ohio, former Governor George Pataki of New York, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, former Governor Rick Perry of Texas, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, businessman Donald Trump of New York and Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. This was the largest presidential primary field for any political party in American history.

In terms of experience and name recognition, it was arguably more impressive than the current Democratic field. From a resume standpoint, all but Carson and Trump were traditionally qualified for the presidency. From a Republican standpoint, almost any of them would have been ideologically acceptable as well. We all know what happened: the one candidate whose message stood out from the pack became the surprise frontrunner and easily won the nomination.

Could the same thing happen in 2020? Two columnists are arguing that it could.

Dana Milbank contends that “Bernie Sanders has emerged as the Donald Trump of the left.”

Fundraising and polls show that many Democrats think the best answer to an angry old white guy with crazy hair, New York accent and flair for demagoguery is, well, another angry old white guy with crazy hair, New York accent and flair for demagoguery. It’s not difficult to picture a scenario in which Bernie captures the Democratic presidential nomination with the same formula that worked for Trump with Republicans in 2016.

On paper, the independent from Vermont doesn’t make sense: Democrats are a party of youth, and he’s 77; they are majority-female, and he’s a man; they represent the emerging multicultural America, and he is white. Statistically, he is the worst option against Trump: An NBC News poll this week found that there are more voters with concerns about Sanders (58 percent) than there are for former vice president Joe Biden (48 percent), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (53 percent), Sen. Kamala D. Harris or former representative Beto O’Rourke (41 percent each).

Yet Sanders has both money and movement. His campaign on Tuesday announced a haul of $18.2 million in the first quarter from 525,000 individual contributors. The other major populist, early favorite Warren (Mass.), has floundered in both money and popularity. And undeclared front-runner Biden now looks vulnerable to accusations he inappropriately touched women, kicked off by a prominent Sanders 2016 backer who served on the board of the Sanders political group.

Meanwhile, Sanders himself remains untouchable, in a Trumpian way. Claims of mistreatment by male staffers from women who worked on his 2016 campaign? Yawn. His resistance to releasing his tax returns? Whatever. The idea that Democrats need a unifying figure to lure disaffected Trump voters in key states? Never mind.

Sanders isn’t Trump in the race-baiting, lender-cheating, fact-avoiding, porn-actress-paying, Putin-loving sense. But their styles are similar: shouting and unsmiling, anti-establishment and anti-media, absolutely convinced of their own correctness, attacking boogeymen (the “1 percent” and CEOs in Sanders’s case, instead of immigrants and minorities), offering impractical promises with vague details, lacking nuance and nostalgic for the past.

Sanders’s supporters hope he’ll fight Trump’s fire with fire, refusing to be conciliatory (the way Biden and O’Rourke are), or to be goaded by Trump the way Warren was into taking a DNA test. Maybe answering belligerence with belligerence will work; Trump-era predictions are worthless. Either way, the support for Sanders shows that the angry, unbending politics of Trumpism are bigger than Trump.

[…]

He simplified and blamed: “The crisis that we are facing today is not complicated. . . . We have a government that ignores the needs of the working people . . . yet works overtime for wealthy campaign contributors and the 1 percent.” He mocked those who questioned ideas such as Medicare-for-all (“the establishment went crazy, media went nuts, still is”), and he celebrated his prescience. He channeled rage at the “vulgarity” of a “grotesque” and “corrupt” system, the “absolute hypocrisy” of Republicans, corporations that “lie” and billionaires who “buy elections.” Of the wealthy, he said, “Many of them are bandits,” and he said if Republicans “don’t have the guts to participate in a free and fair election, they should get the hell out of politics.”

Like Trump, he railed against companies moving jobs to China or Mexico, and he harked back to simpler times: “Forty, 50 years ago, it was possible for one worker to work 40 hours a week and earn enough money to take care of the whole family.”

[…]

It’s less hateful, perhaps, to blame billionaires than immigrants or certain “globalists” for America’s troubles, but the scapegoating is similar. So is Sanders’s “socialist” label (worn as defiantly as Trump wears the isolationist “America First”), and his Democratic credentials are as suspect as Trump’s Republican bona fides were. Most Republicans opposed Trump, but the large field of candidates prevented a clean matchup.

A similar crowd could likewise prevent Democrats from presenting a clear alternative to Sanders’s tempting — if Trumpian — message that a nefarious elite is to blame for America’s problems. Universal health care, higher education and child care are within reach, Sanders said to cheers, if only “we stand up and tell this 1 percent that we will no longer tolerate their greed.” In real life, it’s not so simple. But in our new politics, maybe it is.

Phillip Klein joins in with “Let’s face it: Bernie Sanders could be the next president.”

Before going any further, it’s worth dispensing with the plausibility issue — the idea that Sanders simply can’t win because it would be too absurd. Given that nearly every professional analyst said the same thing about the possibility of Trump winning, it’s worth shelving such assumptions about what’s “realistic” in modern politics and just look at the possibility on its merits.

The argument for how Sanders could win the primary is pretty straightforward. At this point in the 2016 cycle, Sanders was 55 points behind front-runner Hillary Clinton and surged enough to make what was supposed to be a coronation into an actual race. One might be tempted to dismiss his performance as a matter of him emerging from a weak field as the main choice of those who wanted to fight the Clinton machine. And yet, four years later, in a much more crowded field of younger and more diverse candidates, Sanders is still one of the top two candidates.

Right now, in the RealClearPolitics average, he’s in second place, at 22.8%, trailing only Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading with an average of 28.8%. The next closest candidate is Sen. Kamala Harris, who doesn’t even break into double digits. He’s been nearly tied with Biden in Iowa and has led in several polls of New Hampshire. Given that Biden has already been forced to apologize several times for various aspects of his record as well as pushed to answer accusations of inappropriate contact with women, he has to at the minimum be seen as a very vulnerable front-runner.

Even as many rivals have come around to Sanders’ positions on issues such as healthcare, and there is more competition for the far Left, he’s still maintained a loyal following. His strong fundraising operation from last time has spilled into this campaign, as he’s announced having raised $18 million in the first quarter. He will have plenty of money to play with, and unlike last time, he won’t have to expend it trying to build up his name recognition.

Sanders’ biggest vulnerability last time was with older (generally more centrist) Democratic voters and minority groups. If he loses the nomination again, these voters will most likely be his undoing. That said, there will also be more candidates competing for minority voters this time, when the race ultimately boiled down to a binary choice. That could work to the advantage of Sanders. In the 2016 primaries, Trump showed how beneficial it could be in a crowded field to have a passionate group of core supporters to propel a candidacy, even if the rest of the party is slow to warm up to somebody posing a challenge to the establishment.

The argument is plausible enough: a crowded field makes it really hard for anyone to break through. Sanders is already a front-runner and his brand and message distinguish him from the crowd. Plus, his bluntness and lack of polish and nuance may well be seen as refreshing in the age of Trump.

Now, I don’t think the Democrats will nominate Sanders. I don’t think Milbank or Klein really believe it, either. Democrats aren’t Republicans and they may well be less susceptible to a populist demagogue. Historically, they’ve tended to nominate detail-oriented policy wonks; Sanders is anything but.

Still, I thought until very late in the game in 2016 that there was simply no way that the nominating electorate who picked guys named “George Bush” four times, Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney would go for Trump. And that it was inconceivable that the voters would chose him over Hillary Clinton in the general. And here we are.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Bernie Sanders, Campaign 2020
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. SKI says:

    Ugh. Framing is lazy and stupid.

    What exactly makes Sanders, who I don’t like and don’t support, a “Trump” exactly?
    What does being “Trump” in this context mean? And is that really what people think of when they think of Trump?

    No, just no. Clickbait is clickbait and bad.

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  2. steve says:

    I think a lot depends upon the nominating rules. One of the things that helped Trump was that he always had an unshakable base. At first that was about 25%-30% of the GOP vote. With the GOP winner take all for a lot of states, that let him get a lead. Even in states without winner take all, the other votes were so fractured he still won the most votes. If the primary had consisted of just him and one or two other candidates, I doubt he would have won.

    This may also hold for Sanders. He seems to have a base group who are devoted to him. It seems to me to be a bit smaller than what Trump had, but close. I dont think that the Dems have any winner take all states, but the extreme fracturing may let him get a significant lead and people love a bandwagon. The old super delegate rules could have helped prevent this, but I believe they are gone of modified.

    Steve

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  3. SKI says:

    James, your sub-title indicates that you think being a Trump is being an “an unlikely nominee”.

    First, Sanders isn’t an unlikely nominee. He was #2 last cycle and is a long-serving US Senator. A closer analogue form the GOP to Sanders would be Reagan – relatively ideologically extreme compared to the rest of the party who had run before and had high name recognition.

    Second, no one’s first, second or third thought about Trump is that he was merely “unlikely”.

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  4. SKI says:

    @steve: Trump won because he *is* where a majority of the party is. You seem to be presuming that there was some trick involved. We need to afce reality – most of the GOP want their leaders to hurt people who aren’t “us” (precise definition of “us” changing with time, situation and sub-group).

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  5. An Interested Party says:

    This comparison seems quite forced…I realize people have stories to sell, but really…also, as mentioned, Democrats aren’t Republicans, and Sanders isn’t even a Democrat…he won’t win the nomination…

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  6. Moosebreath says:

    Missing from the analyses cited are the large amount of damaging history about Bernie which is out there. Hillary had no reason to use it, as she had a nearly insurmountable lead and wanted to keep good relations with Bernie’s supporters for the general election. However, if Bernie is still a front-runner by the fall, I expect stories will start appearing about his wife’s financial misdeeds, his history with Russia, etc.

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  7. @steve: You beat me to it: any “analysis” of this type has to include the way in which the delegate allocation rules are quite different than the GOP rules.

    Journalists who report on the primaries are remarkably lazy on this stuff (and, to be fair, the readers don’t seem to care in the main). It is just easier to think it all works the same, both between parties and over time (neither of which is true).

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  8. @Moosebreath:

    Missing from the analyses cited are the large amount of damaging history about Bernie which is out there.

    If you are playing lazy “history will repeat itself” narratives, this fits, doesn’t it? After all, the same was said about Trump…

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  9. James Joyner says:

    @steve: @Steven L. Taylor: I concur that the rules matter and none of the pieces I cite delves into that issue. And it’s really just wild conjecture at this stage of the nomination, in that there’s no Hillary Clinton this time around.

    Still, I think the combination of Kofler’s points about the nature of voter decisionmaking in an extremely large field and the points Milbank and Klein make about the Trump comparison converge in an interesting way. Sanders stands out from the rest of the field in a way no one else really does. Granting that Hickenlooper and a handful of others are easily weeded out, there are a lot of largely undifferentiated candidates below Biden and Sanders. If Biden is forced to abandon his campaign over the “handsy” brouhaha, I think Sanders gets a lot of his voters from the get-go.

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  10. Kit says:

    It might seem like a good thing to have a cereal aisle’s worth of candidates to choose from, but behavioral science predicts that too many options will, counterintuitively, result in lower satisfaction among Democratic voters

    Lower satisfaction? Republicans still seemed thrilled with their choice after two years. No buyer’s remorse on that score.

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    @Moosebreath:

    However, if Bernie is still a front-runner by the fall, I expect stories will start appearing about his wife’s financial misdeeds, his history with Russia, etc.

    If not by fall, certainly in the general. Sanders is very vulnerable to the GOP character assassination machine. Possibly more so than Hillary was. He’ll be painted as a corrupt commie codger. We have to nominate someone who can defeat Trump, and, much as I might otherwise like him, I don’t think Bernie can.

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  12. @SKI:

    Trump won because he *is* where a majority of the party is. You seem to be presuming that there was some trick involved.

    No, he is pointing out the rules for winning delegates in the GOP favored a candidate who could win moderate pluralities in a crowded field. Indeed, Trump only won 44.95% of the GOP primary votes cast.

    He likely would not have been the nominee had the GOP used rules more like what the Dems use.

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  13. @Steven L. Taylor: BTW: This is not a defense of the GOP as a party, either for nominating him nor electing him nor embracing him once in office. And yes, a chunk of the GOP electorate likes what he has to say. But the rules helped get him nominated and the rules helped get him elected. If our institutions weren’t so weird, he never would have been president.

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  14. Kathy says:

    And that it was inconceivable that the voters would chose him over Hillary Clinton in the general.

    The voters did not choose El Cheeto over Clinton in the general election. The Electoral College did.

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  15. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    James, your sub-title indicates that you think being a Trump is being an “an unlikely nominee”.

    The headline and excerpt are short frames for the post; they’re not the post. The post draws several parallels between Trump and Sanders, in terms of their style, populist appeal, being seemingly outside the mainstream, etc.

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  16. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    If not by fall, certainly in the general.

    Oh, great:

    “Your financial malfeasance and collusion with Russia is worse than my financial malfeasance and collusion with Russia!”

    “No! Your financial malfeasance and collusion with Russia is worse than my financial malfeasance and collusion with Russia!”

    “I am rubber and you’re glue!”

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  17. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy:

    The voters did not choose El Cheeto over Clinton in the general election. The Electoral College did.

    The Electoral College is the way we translate the will of the voters in our system. I don’t like it, but that’s been the case since the second founding of the Republic in 1789.

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  18. James Pearce says:

    Now, I don’t think the Democrats will nominate Sanders.

    Democrats will nominate whoever wins the primaries.

    If Biden doesn’t end up running, Sanders wins a lot of primaries.

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  19. SKI says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    No, he is pointing out the rules for winning delegates in the GOP favored a candidate who could win moderate pluralities in a crowded field. Indeed, Trump only won 44.95% of the GOP primary votes cast.

    Which is true.

    He likely would not have been the nominee had the GOP used rules more like what the Dems use.

    I don’t think this is correct and I haven’t seen any evidence or played out scenario that indicates who would have beaten him. Have you?

    Let us say they use proportional allocation and the race is closer and more folks stay in longer. He is still (a) in the lead and (b) has the media narrative of winning most of the states. How does he get denied the nomination?

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  20. SKI says:

    @James Joyner: Except it, with apparent increasing frequency, doesn’t do a good job of accurately translating that will…

    One of these days we need to grapple (again) with the lingering issue of whether we are a single country or a collection of states. It could (again) get ugly…

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  21. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    The headline and excerpt are short frames for the post; they’re not the post. The post draws several parallels between Trump and Sanders, in terms of their style, populist appeal, being seemingly outside the mainstream, etc.

    With all due respect, that is like saying someone is comparable to Mussolini because they are really focused on getting trains to run more efficiently. Yeah, they both have that characteristic but that isn’t the substance of who they are.

    Trump isn’t “vague”. He lies.
    He isn’t a “populist”. He is a demagogue.

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  22. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    Except it, with apparent increasing frequency, doesn’t do a good job of accurately translating that will…

    One of these days we need to grapple (again) with the lingering issue of whether we are a single country or a collection of states. It could (again) get ugly…

    Steven and I have written numerous posts over the years pointing to the flaws of the EC and urging change. Realistically, though, it’s next to impossible to amend the Constitution and there just isn’t the urgent demand for change to overcome that inertia. One would think that 2000, and especially 2016, would have provided it. But nope.

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  23. SKI says:

    @James Pearce: Same conventional thinking was opined about HRC in 2008…

    Early name recognition is not destiny to win early states.

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  24. SKI says:

    @James Joyner: The frustration is building. If it keeps happening…
    And yes, I know you and especially Steve, have posted on this before and are not pro-E.C. I’m more pointing out that an overly unfair system cannot be sustained indefinitely based on the fact that it wasn’t believed to be unfair in the past.

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  25. Jay L Gischer says:

    In 2016, I read a piece that said that Trump and Sanders were both the result of ‘disintermediation’, a process often driven by the existence of the internet. I concurred, but many other people who align with me as Democratic, thought that it was an insult to Sanders to compare him to Trump in any way. Which makes me feel sad and misunderstood.

    So, on that level I agree with the thesis in the OP. However, it is also worthy of note that Sanders is nowhere near the level of outsider that Trump was in 2016. As has been pointed out, Sanders finished a strong second, and is a sitting senator.

    I’m not all that enthusiastic for him, but I do appreciate the need for clarity of message. I just wonder if he’ll be able to govern. Also, I think he’s too old. Nevertheless, I would be happy to vote for him in the general.

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  26. Teve says:

    Spring 2020: Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies and is immediately replaced by a nominee fired by Liberty University for being “Too Christian Supremacist”.
    Fall 2020: Trump wins reelection despite being down 10 million votes, because electoral college.
    Spring 2021: millions of women march in the streets, Trump declares national emergency powers.
    Summer 2021: using Social Media data sold to Steve Bannon and medical records obtained by national emergency powers, list compiled of tens of millions of women who had abortions given to state GOP legislators who remove them from voting rolls, state government jobs, assistance programs.
    Fall 2021: bank accounts of LIEbral Media outlets frozen pending investigation of treasonous activities, presidential oversight committee installed at Facebook.

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  27. @SKI:

    I don’t think this is correct and I haven’t seen any evidence or played out scenario that indicates who would have beaten him. Have you?

    Let us say they use proportional allocation and the race is closer and more folks stay in longer. He is still (a) in the lead and (b) has the media narrative of winning most of the states. How does he get denied the nomination?

    I will take a step back from the word “likely” in my original comment. The dynamics of the race would have been quite different under different rules. It would have affected the question of both lead and media narrative. I honestly can’t say what the counterfactual would have looked like.

    But, the winner-take-all GOP rules make purposefully give early plurality winner a huge advantage. That affects media, fundraising, and who stays in.

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  28. James Pearce says:

    @SKI:

    Same conventional thinking was opined about HRC in 2008…

    I’m basing this on polls.

    Biden has a pretty significant lead. Sanders is solidly in second. All the others have much smaller numbers, with Kamala Harris a distant third. There’s no reason to think things will stay that way forever, but the way things are now, the bottom tier are fighting for Biden/Bernie scraps.

    In 2008, Obama was not fighting for Hillary’s scraps.

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  29. Hal_10000 says:

    He’ll be painted as a corrupt commie codger

    Well … he kinda is. Or was at least. I kinda like Bernie. He’s very wrong on many things but you know what he thinks and he’s an optimist. But he has a LOT of baggage. Reporters talked about oppo research files that were inches thick. Trump has tons of baggage too but, right now, he has the advantage of both incumbency and a healthy economy.

    I’m out of the prediction business after Trump. The winner-take-all of the GOP primary made Trump possible. The Dem primary doesn’t have that feature but if the vote gets split enough ways, you’re looking at a brokered convention.

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  30. Teve says:

    We’ve had a baby boomer president since 1992. It’s time for that generation to move on down the road.

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  31. Neil J Hudelson says:

    [moved to Open Forum – ed.]

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  32. Kylopod says:

    @SKI:

    Trump won because he *is* where a majority of the party is.

    Again, this is not borne out by any serious analysis of what happened in 2016. I am repetitious about this point because so few get it. There is simply no evidence that a majority of the GOP primary electorate in 2016 chose Trump. He didn’t win a majority of the vote; his final tally was 44.9%, the lowest ever for a Republican nominee in the modern era, and the only one besides John McCain not to break 50%. In fact he failed to break 50% in a single state until very late in the cycle–the New York primary in late April. At that point his remaining opponents (Cruz and Kasich) were both mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination except through a contested convention. That’s extraordinarily unusual for a party nominee. As mentioned, because of the winner-take-all format in most Republican primaries, he was able to rack up an overwhelming delegate lead through minority-wins alone. For example, he won just 33% of the vote in SC but won 100% of SC’s delegates. If the primaries had allocated delegates proportionally like Democratic primaries do, it’s very likely it would have ended up in a contested convention.

    A Feb. 2016 poll indicated that when Republican primary voters were asked to choose between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio in a two-person race, Rubio beat Trump by double digits. Yes, it’s just a single poll, but the 2016 primary polls were in general quite accurate (if anything they tended to overestimate Trump slightly) and there’s no reason to doubt this one as it doesn’t contradict anything that happened. It wasn’t a one-on-one race between Trump and someone else, it was a many-candidate field in which the opposition to Trump was fractured among several candidates.

    You can choose to believe Trump would have easily vanquished his Republican rival in a two-way race because that’s who the Republicans wanted, but all you’re doing is grasping at a preconception that was never tested. The idea that Trump was some invincible behemoth in the race was based entirely on his position in a many-candidate field where he didn’t need a majority of the vote to remain dominant. The popular image of him just swatting away all his opponents like flies was only possible because the size of the field enabled him to stay dominant just by keeping 30% of the vote in his column. The aforementioned poll that showed either Rubio or Cruz beating him handily in a two-way race should give pause to any assumption that he won because the Republican electorate preferred him. One of the consequences of plurality-based election systems is that a candidate only supported by a minority of the electorate can win (a situation that can be resolved with runoffs or ranked-choice voting–but I digress).

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  33. MarkedMan says:

    To me, Bernie most closely resembles Trump in that they both have an unusually high percentage of extremist supporters and those supporters seem to be driven mostly by spite and contempt. Extremist Trump supporters seem to be about 20% (totally winging it here) and Bernie Brahs are more like 5-10% of his total. But the crazies are usually just a small fraction one percent for normal candidates. (Again, just pulling numbers based on feel)

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  34. SKI says:

    @James Pearce:

    I’m basing this on polls.

    Biden has a pretty significant lead. Sanders is solidly in second. All the others have much smaller numbers, with Kamala Harris a distant third. There’s no reason to think things will stay that way forever, but the way things are now, the bottom tier are fighting for Biden/Bernie scraps.

    In 2008, Obama was not fighting for Hillary’s scraps.

    Poll at the same time in the 2008 cycle:

    Party supporters in the United States express a preference for Hillary Rodham Clinton as their presidential candidate in 2008, according to a poll by RT Strategies for the Cook Political Report. 41 per cent of respondents would support the New York senator in a 2008 primary.

    Former North Carolina senator John Edwards is second with 19 per cent, followed by Illinois senator Barack Obama with 17 per cent, Delaware senator Joe Biden with four per cent, and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson with three per cent.

    Another

    USA Today/Gallup Poll (with Gore) April 2–5, 2007 Hillary Clinton 38%, Barack Obama 19%, John Edwards 15%, Al Gore 14%, Wes Clark 3%, Bill Richardson 2%, Joe Biden 1%, Mike Gravel 1%, Chris Dodd 0%, Al Sharpton 0%, Dennis Kucinich 0%, Someone else 2%, None (vol.) 1%, Unsure 5%

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  35. SKI says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Fair enough. I think he wins anyway given the direction of the GOP primary voters and their demonstrated actions but it would have been different for sure.

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  36. SKI says:

    @MarkedMan:If you make up numbers to fit your gut instinct, they can prove anything. Just ask Trump.

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  37. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan: … and, as if on cue, and angry, bitter Bernie Brah fueled by contempt posts just below me, perfectly demonstrating my point…

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  38. MarkedMan says:

    @SKI: Fair enough. I admit up front that I’m going completely with my gut.

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  39. James Pearce says:

    @SKI: But Biden/Bernie are not cruising on “early name recognition,” though.

    (Neither was Obama for that matter. Clinton’s 38% though? Definitely “early name recognition.”)

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  40. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:
    I think that analysis is wrong. Trump is where the GOP has long been, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect in 2016 polls because these Republicans needed permission to stop pretending and release their inner bigot. They didn’t know Trump would be able to go on stroking their erogenous zones. They didn’t know they could get away with wallowing in the gutter. Once Trump gave them permission to be the nasty, narrow, stupid people they were, they fell into line enthusiastically, tossing out all previous beliefs to join his cult of personality.

    He has near-universal support in the party now, after two years. He is exactly where the party is, because he was enough of a cynic to grasp that Republicans talked about noble things but all they really believed in was greed and fear.

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  41. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    You’re drinking earlier and earlier in the day.

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  42. Kylopod says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I think that analysis is wrong. Trump is where the GOP has long been, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect in 2016 polls because these Republicans needed permission to stop pretending and release their inner bigot.

    Then why was Romney able to put away the field of right-wing challengers (including Trump himself briefly) in 2012?

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  43. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    Ben, you’re just making yourself into an object of pity. You don’t give a damn about issues of race, just like you don’t give a damn about women. You’re a Trump Cultist, er, sorry, Bernie Cultist, tossing out whatever random noise you think might attract attention.

    You weren’t always this pathetic. I don’t know what sent you on this downward spiral, but the results are not attractive.

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  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:
    In 1932 the German electorate soundly rejected Hitler. Eight years later they were bayonetting children in front of their mothers. Did the German people undergo some transformation? Or did Hitler just find their level?

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  45. EddieinCA says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    It might be better to bash the poor so the guys calling the shots don’t take any heat? Milbank is indeed a right-wing asshole. Should fit right in with most of the commentors here.

    1. Most of the commenters here are left or Center-Left. The Front Pagers tend to be Center-Right.
    2. On what planet can Dana Milbank be considered Right Wing? Seriously? He’s definitely center-left if not fully left.

    People like you are why I would find it very hard to pull the lever for Bernie.

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  46. Kylopod says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    In 1932 the German electorate soundly rejected Hitler. Eight years later they were bayonetting children in front of their mothers.

    What do you mean by “they”? There was never an open and fair election in which the Nazi Party won a majority of the vote. They didn’t even win a majority in 1933 after they were terrorizing the populace and messing with the votes.

    And how does this relate to what we were talking about?

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  47. @Ben Wolf: There was a point in time I thought you might bring a different perspective to these conversations. Instead, you just bring scorn. What’s the point?

    It is hard to distinguish you from Guarneri (and even MBunge).

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  48. Kylopod says:

    Testing: MBunge, Jenos. Oprah, Uma….

    (Please disregard this comment if it goes through, I’m just testing whether those names are still being Voldemorted so we can’t even utter them without having our comments thrown out.)

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  49. @Ben Wolf: That is not at all a response to what I wrote.

    And why in the world am I responsible for what Milbank wrote? I did not write this post and, TBH, I skimmed the long block quotes in the OP and do not even know what Milbank said that has you so incensed.

    Again, and perhaps for the last time: you clearly have a perspective that differs from most commenters here, although you have never really done a very good job of articulating it (the most detail I can recall would be your position on deficits). Of late you have gotten, well, obnoxious in your hit-and-run scorn. You are a left-ward Guarneri–you just show up to post snide non sequiturs and to demonstrate that you think everyone here is an idiot.

    It is an odd way to spend one’s time. It is derailing of the conversation. If you want to participate, participate. If not, please find somewhere else to share your scorn.

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  50. Gustopher says:

    It’s more likely that there will be a contested convention than that Bernie will win.

    No winner-take-all state’s, and a large, undifferentiated field, and a large number of states moving their primaries up to be relevant… Hickenlooper will get weeded out, but we won’t be down to two or three candidates by the time California votes.

    The contested convention is every political writer’s dream, and every year the primary calendar changes to make it more likely. It could happen this time.

    And I don’t think a contested convention will nominate Bernie, even if he has a plurality of delegates. And after the first vote, the Superdelegates come in. Bernie could be the kingmaker in that scenario, but not the king. And BernieBros will squeal bloody murder.

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  51. @Gustopher:

    It’s more likely that there will be a contested convention than that Bernie will win.

    I would flip that. I think that a brokered convention is the least likely outcome.

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  52. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:
    Yes, I know they didn’t vote for Hitler, but they served him. There was no serious German resistance to Hitler outside of a scattering of churchmen and whatever communists survived.
    The point is that evil existed and merely needed to be uncorked. People aren’t talked into evil, they’re given permission. The vile, amoral, cruel Trump regime has the full and enthusiastic support of people who four years earlier voted for Romney and claim to love Jesus. Did those voters become hateful? Or were they already hateful and primed to go off as soon as someone lit the fuse?

    Trump didn’t create the 46%, the 46% summoned Trump. He’s not the problem, they are. Whether they supported him 4 years earlier, or even a few months earlier, is irrelevant. They support him now. Now that he is demonstrably worse than even liberal Democrats expected. The nastier he gets, the more solid their support. He is their creature, the golem they summoned.

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  53. @Ben Wolf: Thanks for playing.

    Adios.

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  54. Let the record reflect that an attempt at engagement was made (not for the first time) and it was met with attacks.

    Life’s too short, so Mr. Wolf has been dis-invited from the party.

    Back to the conversation…

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  55. Jm says:

    @Moosebreath: this is so true and almost never acknowledged.

    It’s hilarious listening to Berners who think Hillary was a ruthless and didn’t play fair. What on Earth do they think the general election against Trump will be like? Because if they think the 2016 Dem primary was a rough ride, they will be eaten alive in a 2020 general election. They are babes in the woods.

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  56. Kylopod says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    There was no serious German resistance to Hitler outside of a scattering of churchmen and whatever communists survived.

    It is not in most people’s nature to resist a totalitarian regime–particularly one that hunted down and persecuted its dissenters with the brutality of the Third Reich.

    Trump didn’t create the 46%, the 46% summoned Trump.

    But that’s getting far afield from my original point. My argument was that he did not win the GOP nomination because a majority of GOP voters supported him, he won because he appealed to a significant minority of the party, and that was enough to push him through in an unusually crowded field.

    Once he became the nominee, he got the votes of most ordinary Republican voters, even ones who hadn’t supported him in the primaries, for the simple reason that they’ll vote for anyone with an R after their name. I can’t say with full confidence that most Dems wouldn’t do the same if someone truly vile ended up on the Democratic ticket. What I can say is that I think it’s extremely unlikely the Dems will end up with such a nominee, and whatever my reservations about Bernie, I don’t think he’s in that category. (Michael Avenatti might be, and thankfully he’s not running.)

    Is Trump a symptom of something sick and twisted about today’s Republicans that existed long before he entered the scene? Absolutely. But that doesn’t change the fact that his rise to the nomination depended on factors other than the majority of the party supporting him.

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  57. SKI says:

    @James Pearce:

    But Biden/Bernie are not cruising on “early name recognition,” though.

    What on earth do you use to differentiate them from Clinton? To determine that she was “cruising on name recognition” but they aren’t?

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  58. Todd says:

    This scenario would be more of a concern if the California and Texas primaries hadn’t been moved so much earlier. I think it’s very likely that Bernie Sanders will (again) refuse to bow out of the race until someone else is actually nominated. But despite the current size of the Democratic field, it’s almost certain that by mid-March of next year we will be down to either two or three candidate: Bernie, Harris and either Biden, Beto, or (and I’m just coming around to this addition) Buttigieg.

    I still think Harris is most likely to be the eventual nominee … and I say this as someone who has recently given money to Beto and been impressed by what I’ve seen of Buttigieg.

    I remain confident that Bernie Sanders will not be the Democratic nominee. There are just too many people like me who nominally supported him last time, but couldn’t even imagine checking the box next to his name in the 2020 primaries.

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  59. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I think they’re both unlikely.

    But moving California and Texas so much earlier, with proportional delegate allocation, and a dozen candidates, makes a contested convention more likely than it has been in the past generation. Still, unlikely, but less unlikely.

    But, Bernie isn’t going to win the nomination outright. He is toxic to about half the base, and more than half the establishment.

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  60. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: When moving things to the open forum, like Neil J Hudelson‘s comment, maybe add a link to the open forum?

    (Open forums aren’t showing up in my RSS feed, or I am incompetent and am just reading past them)

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  61. @Gustopher: I agree that neither is likely. I just think that the very nature of the delegate allocation process means that a brokered convention is almost certainly not going to happen (although the odds are higher in the Dem case than the Rep case).

    I think Bernie has nowhere to go but down from his current polling numbers, but I was wrong about the GOP in 2016, so I probably should refrain from too many overly confident statements 😉

    I am certain that polling at this point doesn’t tell us as much as some are trying to get it to do.

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  62. Moosebreath says:

    @SKI:

    “What on earth do you use to differentiate them from Clinton? To determine that she was “cruising on name recognition” but they aren’t?”

    Their lack of women’s parts, I suspect.

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  63. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    Again, this is not borne out by any serious analysis of what happened in 2016.

    I find your argument compelling. In fact, ti was what I thought was happening at the time. And the reason why I thought Dennison couldn’t possibly win the general election.

    What happened then is another matter, not related to what we’re discussing here. So I’ll skip it.

    The point is that after winning the election, trump became a hell of a lot more popular with Republicans. His approval with them is reported in the 80%-90% range. Evidently Republican voters had a change of heart, or maybe there are fewer Republican voters overall. Both options would explain things.

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  64. James Pearce says:

    @SKI:

    To determine that she was “cruising on name recognition” but they aren’t?

    Neither Joe Biden nor Bernie Sanders have ever been married to a former president.

    @Moosebreath:

    Their lack of women’s parts, I suspect.

    That may have something to do with why they’re not married to Bill Clinton, it’s true.

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  65. SKI says:

    @James Pearce: I don’t think you actually know what the terms “name recognition” mean. It definitely isn’t limited to spouses, especially spouses that have won Senate seats themselves.

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  66. Teve says:

    @Gustopher:

    No winner-take-all state’s, and a large, undifferentiated field, and a large number of states moving their primaries up to be relevant… Hickenlooper will get weeded out, but we won’t be down to two or three candidates by the time California votes.

    there was a stand-up comedian who said in the 90s, “what’s with the NBA? They play 82 games, eliminate the Clippers, and start all over in the playoffs.”

    ReplyReply
  67. @SKI: Indeed. Clearly, having been VP (and a Senator for forever) gives Biden name recognition. And Sanders, as the second place Dem from last time (in a very visible election) also provides name recognition.

    ReplyReply
  68. SKI says:

    For everyone freaking out over the large field, yes it is large but it is pretty common to have 10+ candidates at this point in the cycle. Many will drop out before we even get to Iowa. Most of the rest will be gone shortly thereafter.

    Online, small dollar fundraising will give some of them longer legs than they would have had in prior cycles but they will still fall away fairly quickly.

    In April 2007, in addition to the question of whether the former VP (Gore) would run again, we had the following candidates being polled: Clinton, Obama, Gore, Edwards, Richardson, Kucinich, Biden, Dodd, Vilsack, Bayh, Clark, Kerry and Warner.

    Last week, the same pollster had the following candidates in their poll: Biden, Sanders, Harris, O’Rourke, Warren, Booker, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Yang, Castro, Hickenlooper, Gillibrand, Inslee.

    Both have 13 names being polled. Put another way… chill, folks.

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  69. James Pearce says:

    @SKI:

    It definitely isn’t limited to spouses, especially spouses that have won Senate seats themselves.

    How do you think Hillary won that Senate seat? Was it her years of service in New York politics? Or was it her last name?

    Because to me “name recognition” isn’t “Oh, I recognize that name.” It’s to be recognized by your name. Like Hillary Clinton.

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  70. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    The point is that after winning the election, trump became a hell of a lot more popular with Republicans. His approval with them is reported in the 80%-90% range. Evidently Republican voters had a change of heart, or maybe there are fewer Republican voters overall. Both options would explain things.

    The thing is, I think that to some extent any Republican president in the current situation, presiding over a good economy (for the time being, anyway), would be popular within his own party. Would a more standard pre-Trump Republican like Romney or Rubio be doing any worse if they were president now? I think it’s possible they’d be doing even better. Yes, Trump stirs the loins of the talk-radio set, but he also turns off many traditional Republicans. Possibly his high intra-party numbers are partly due to the fact that Republicans who dislike him are increasingly not identifying as Republicans in these polls. But I think if you delved into the numbers even among self-identifying Republicans, you’d find differences in level of approval. Occasionally there have been polls that distinguish between those who “strongly approve” versus “somewhat approve” of Trump. People who “somewhat approve” aren’t the hardcore MAGA cultists. They may just feel things are going okay and they may feel some party loyalty despite some hesitation over Trump specifically. If the economy goes bust, I think we will quickly find that Trump’s floor is lower than many people assume.

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  71. SKI says:

    @James Pearce:

    Because to me “name recognition” isn’t “Oh, I recognize that name.” It’s to be recognized by your name. Like Hillary Clinton

    Ah, the Humpty Dumpty defense. It doesn’t matter how everyone else uses a phrase, particularly the experts in the field, it only matters how you do.

    In the social science of polling, “name recognition” means something. It means the public being aware of your name.

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  72. James Pearce says:

    @SKI:

    It doesn’t matter how everyone else uses a phrase, particularly the experts in the field, it only matters how you do.

    You’re not even really disagreeing with me….

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  73. PJ says:

    Sanders won’t have Clinton to run against in 2020. And the same is true for Trump.

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  74. MarkedMan says:

    @PJ: That’s one way of looking at it. Another is that Hillary Clinton was a perfectly ordinary candidate until she was Swift Boated. As was John Kerry. As was Al Gore. As will be whoever looks to have a real shot at the Dem nod.

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  75. An Interested Party says:

    As will be whoever looks to have a real shot at the Dem nod.

    Success will be determined by who is more like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama than who is like Al Gore/John Kerry/Hillary Clinton…

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  76. MarkedMan says:

    @An Interested Party: Sure. But in the sense that they are able to effectively get past all the negativity, not that they won’t have negatives.

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  77. Martin says:

    A couple of comments:
    1. On name recognition. It wasn’t just that. There was a huge media and DNC wave created for HRC because it was “her turn” as noted in this post-mortem in The Guardian by Thomas Frank, a liberal American. He chides Dems for the anointing mindset and claims that she was the only candidate that Trump could beat.

    2. On Trump derangement syndrome:
    I didn’t vote for the guy and don’t particularly like his style or beliefs, but he hasn’t actually ruined the country. 2+ years of hysteria is unwarranted, way beyond the inverse of the simple bumper sticker “Bush lost, get over it”.

    The claims of Republican party meanness voiced here without evidence are contradicted by some polls. Google the report “Race, Religion, and Immigration in 2016: How the Debate over American Identity Shaped the Election and What It Means for a Trump Presidency” by John Sides (June 2017). Figure 6: Views of the Consequences of a Majority-Minority Nation shows that >50% of Republicans who supported Trump in the PRIMARIES answered yes to this question: “Is the US enriched by different cultures?” Of course 89% of Dems also agreed, but this is evidence that most core Trump supporters are not bigots, crazies, or fascists.

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