BURLINGTON, VERMONT — In a Facebook post this week, the campaign for 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced it was approaching a rather impressive historical milestone, especially in the post-Citizens United world.
According to Sanders’ team, they have amassed nearly one million individual campaign contributions. Senator Sanders is running on a platform in which he openly opposes what he calls “the billionaire class” and their agenda. Throughout the summer, since announcing his candidacy, the self-described Democratic Socialist has been crisscrossing the country, speaking to thousands of people even in deep red states and in front of a conservative religious college audience, all the while rising in the polls week after week. It would appear that there is indeed some real grassroots momentum behind his campaign, but does that have the pundits or other politicians convinced that Sanders should be taken seriously?
Gerald Richardson of Unbiased and United For States Rights, a right-wing think tank and Facebook page says “No, Bernie Sanders shouldn’t be taken seriously,” just because he seems to have so much popular support. “How many of these million people will actually end up voting for Sanders in the primary, much less the general election,” Richardson asked rhetorically, “I mean, do working class people have extra motivation to actually make it to the polls after giving up some of their truly hard-earned money to a presidential candidate? Highly suspect, if you ask me.”
“I just think at the end of the day he’s a socialist and that will cause all the good, clean, capitalism loving Americans who have been silent in 2008 and 2012 out of the word work,” said Greg Kuhnter, President of Free Market Liberty, another right-wing think tank. Kuhnter said that while “it’s true that America has tons of socialist programs that are decades old” Sanders’ brand of socialism is different. “I mean, sure he’s proposing that we basically just go back to the way things were before Reagan took office, and sure we have plenty of historical evidence that shows our tax code was written in a way that allowed our economy to be quite robust and grow at historical levels for decades, but socialism man! I don’t want to sound like cislord shit-scum Koch brother whore — all libtards talk like that — and burst you hippies bubbles, but grassroots campaigns don’t do anything anytmore, just ask the Tea Party,” Kuhnter added.
State Rep. Tom Thompaulsen (R) told The Political Garbage Chute that he “can’t see any way” in which Sanders wins. “Unless,” Thompaulsen said a moment later, “for some reason all the thousands of people who are showing up to see him come out and vote for him, or if the fact that one million private citizens have donated to his campaign means there are millions more just like them who will vote for him, of course.” Then, after a beat, “but what are the chances of that happening, really?”
“If either Hillary or Jeb were getting this kind of attention, bringing in these kinds of crowds, or pulling in these kinds of donation numbers,” Thompaulsen admitted, “they’d be all but ordained as the winners at this point, no doubt.” However, Thompaulsen said Sanders supporters should realize that “only candidates that the party power structure believes can win will win” and that it’s “naive to think in a country where votes are counted to see who wins elections, someone could count on lots of votes just because they’re popular.”
With the first Democratic Party debate still weeks out, there is no telling where Sanders will be in the polls by the time he and Hillary Clinton — and perhaps Joe Biden or Martin O’Malley — faceoff. But, Kuhnter says, it’s almost irrelevant. “Polls, campaign donations, rally crowds…they’re all wonderful at showing you how much popular support a candidate has, but do they really show you how likely it is for them to win a popular election,” Kuhnter asked rhetorically, “I think not.”