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Bernie Sanders is No Barack Obama—Iowa is a Ceiling, Not a Floor

In a state where 43 percent of Democrats identify as socialist, Sanders should be doing particularly well.

Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) may end up winning the Iowa caucus tonight. The last poll released before the caucus had him up by three, and the RealClearPolitics average of polls has him behind by 4 points, within the margin of error of the polls being averaged.

Some Sanders supporters are likening a potential Sanders win over Clinton to Barack Obama's 2008 win over Clinton in Iowa. Sanders himself made the point while campaigning in the state yesterday.

"Eight years ago a young United States senator came here to campaign," Sanders said at a rally. "What people were saying is, Iowa is a virtually all-white state and this black guy doesn't have a chance. But what the people of Iowa did is say, 'Hey, we're going to judge this guy not by the color of his skin but by his ideas and character.' And you allowed Barack Obama to win the caucus."

Sanders' electability question, such as it is, however, isn't based on the color of his skin but by his ideas. Obama talked a big rhetorical campaign, but he didn't run particularly to the left of Clinton in 2008. Sanders is running to the left even of Obama. Whatever transformation Obama's supporters, and detractors, may believe he unleashed on the country, Sanders wants to transform that transformation too.

For Sanders, Iowa offers no meaningful test of electability. Iowa was 97 percent white—one of the main points of Clinton boosters was that a black man like Obama was unelectable—so Obama's Iowa victory turned that shaky "conventional wisdom" into a counterfactual.

Not so for Sanders. In fact, the opposite is the case. If Sanders can't win in Iowa, there's a strong case he's not electable anywhere. A full 43 percent of Democrat caucusers in Iowa self-identify as "socialists." That's his floor. Just four percent of eligible Iowans voted for Obama in the 2008 caucuses—so political fervor is helpful too. Between the large pool of friendly voters and the fervor of Sanders supporters, if the democratic socialist can't win in what's effectively a two-person race in Iowa, it's unlikely he'll do better anywhere else.

Even if the worst were to happen with Clinton's e-mail scandals, O'Malley might be more justified in having optimism in that case than Sanders. Sanders is out of the mainstream—his meteoric rise in 2015 and his performance now says more about the ideological poverty and isolation in mainstream American "base" politics and the depths to which Clinton is disliked even among her own party members than his own electability.

Photo Credit: BernieSanders.com

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  • josh||

    i think he comes up short, but probably wins new hampshire. he needs both to have a chance though...and he has such a small chance to begin with. hopefully he does lose, because i'm so tired of sanders supporters.

  • Frankjasper1||

    Please no sanders please no sanders

  • ||

    It would be epic fun, admit it.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    When every option is the worst option, there's nothing to do but sit back and laugh.

  • ||

    I think Mencken said something like that. Or Heinlein did, it's hard to keep that shit straight at my age.

  • josh||

    since when did ritualistic suicide not become a viable option?

  • Akira||

    You know who else committed suicide?

  • waffles||

    I would create a clear choice for the electorate. We're all doomed anyway.

  • kinnath||

    A friend of mine posted on FB, the current room count is 93 Sanders & 42 Clinton.

    Clinton is fucked.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    So am I. And Obama supporters. Getting rid of the candidate won't get rid of the supporters.

  • Jerryskids||

    A full 43 percent of Democrat caucusers in Iowa self-identify as "socialists."

    This is the spot I would attempt to add a witty and/or trenchant comment, but how the hell do you follow up on that?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    And Iowa has a better record picking Democrats for the nomination, which should say something about where the party is at this point.

  • GroundTruth||

    If the middle of the country is infected with this crap to the extent of 43 %, we are indeed in trouble.

  • DenverJ||

    My boy was conceived in Iowa, I spent a couple of winters there. Miserable place. Also, the first place I ever ran into true racism.
    I don't know about socialist, but some strange people. Lots of meth. Seemed like a lot of child molesters, too. And a lot of stinky, stinky pig farms.
    As much as I disliked Oklahoma, I would rather life in OK for the rest of my life then spend another winter in Iowa.

  • Hugh Akston||

    So am I justified in referring to Bernie as BlueTrump?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    That has the makings of a dank meme.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That's bad right? Dank is bad? Nobody wants to hang out in a dank pit no more.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Dank good, schwag bad.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

  • Winston||

    Or is Trump RedBernie (um....)?

  • Dixon Sider Woodchipper||

    Sounds like a pejorative for some sort of STD...

  • TheZeitgeist||

    So am I justified in referring to Bernie as BlueTrump?

    One could reverse and rework the meme, and say Donald is RedSocialist. People would be confused, but many are confused about Donald to begin with.

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    I'm already referring to Sanders as the Trump of the Democrats.

  • ||

    Based on their acceptance of corn subsidies at the expense of everybody else, shouldn't at least 43% of all Iowans identify as socialist?

  • EscherEnigma||

    Eh. You have to remember/realize that political affiliation doesn't have as strong of a correlation to actions or ideology as you would expect.

    Especially when you get away from the think tanks and "intellectuals", a lot of the "base" is made up of people who are *culturally* a conservative, a liberal, a fried-peacock, whatever. But when you look at their actions and (what passes for) their idealogy, they're a lot more fractured. It's why you get things like men in their 30s coasting around in medicaid/care-provided power chairs with signs saying "Keep Govt out of my Medicaid/care", or Alaskans whining about welfare† while picking up their check every year just for living in Alaska‡.

    It explains things like Trump's rise, why just about every Republican candidate has flip-flopped on immigration, and why people accepting subsidies never think of themselves as recipients of govt. welfare.
    ________
    †To be fair, I'm sure there are just as good examples of hypocrisy on the left. I just don't pay as much attention to the left as the right.
    ‡To be fair, that's a simplification. To be unfair, it's fucking *Alaska*. The only way to get people to live there is to pay 'em.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    men in their 30s coasting around in medicaid/care-provided power chairs with signs saying "Keep Govt out of my Medicaid/care",

    Wait, what?

  • EscherEnigma||

    Sure, the 60+ ones are more frequent, but you find the younger ones too.

  • TheZeitgeist||

    Yeah, I haven't seen that guy either. And I live within couple miles of a Wal Mart; I've seen a lot of the power-chair set these past couple years.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Most of the people who use those things can actually walk just fine on their own, they're just too lazy. Walmart would probably lower the obesity rate of the country by 5% just by getting rid of the damn things.

  • Je Suis Reason (Fmr. AuH20)||

    Yup. I think it's a combination of two factors:

    1) Survival requires a compromise between ideals and reality. High minded ideals are fine; food on the table is better. Even beyond survival, yeah, it's nice to have a flat screen tv or be able to afford to see movies or whatever. In a choice between that and ideals, it's pretty human to choose comfort.

    2) People are stupid, unreflective fucks. Seriously, most people aren't interested in thinking about thinking- really examining why they think something or believe something. They don't engage in self examination on a whole host of issues. It's pretty hard to be accountable to a set of ideals if you never examine yourself to see if you are holding to those ideals. Self examination doesn't always feel good, and it requires some mild effort brain power wise, and a ton of people blanche at the idea of doing either of those things, let alone both.

  • DenverJ||

    To be unfair, it's fucking *Alaska*. The only way to get people to live there is to pay 'em.

    My understanding is that, because Alaska receives so much money from natural resources, that citizens receive some money instead of paying a state income tax.
    But I'm often wrong.

  • Trigger Warning||

    This post needs a rewrite, Ed. It sounds like Tim Russert on amphetamines.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "For Sanders, Iowa offers no meaningful test of electability"

  • Ken Shultz||

    The squirrels ate my entire post except for that!

  • Ken Shultz||

    Point was that it isn't just about Sanders electability.

    If Iowa shows that Hillary can't even win in Iowa, what does that say about Hillary's electability?

    Hillary benefits tremendously from the assumption that she's more electable than Sanders. If she loses that facade by losing in Iowa and New Hampshire, Democrat primary voters may be less likely to overlook her ethical lapses, war mongering, etc.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    I'm not completely sure I buy this. If Sanders wins Iowa, he's a favorite to win New Hampshire. That means going into the rest of the primaries, Clinton is a two-time loser (both in this election and in cycles). And Sanders becomes the guy with the clearest claim of legitimacy. At that point, if the party rallies behind someone else, he's got a real claim that they've stolen the election and defied "the will of the people".

  • Winston||

    It puts a huge dent in Hillary's Inevitability.

  • Ken Shultz||

    People will be talking about why she lost.

    Is it the ethical lapses?

    The lying?

    The war mongering?

    And that's not the kind of conversations she wants progressive pundits having on TV.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It won't be sexism coming from the left!

    She can't accuse Democratic primary voters of being sexist ahead of Super Tuesday.

    I cringe at the thought of President Bernie, but I would love to see Hillary completely rejected, again, as a political entity by her own party.

    I want to see her capitulate again. I want to see her ashamed of herself for embarrassing herself and thinking that anyone wants her. I want that, and I want a bacon cheeseburger.

  • josh||

    yes, but what do you want on that burger?

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    The chosen reason is the vast right-wing Kochspiracy elected Sanders.

  • Sevo||

    "Is it the ethical lapses?
    The lying?
    The war mongering?

    The mother stabbing?
    The father raping?
    The kid eating?
    The shorting the staff on tips?
    Did I leave anything out?

  • DenverJ||

    Yeah, she's ugly, too.

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    At Alice's restaurant?

  • Je Suis Reason (Fmr. AuH20)||

    The other issue: Hilary's whole appeal rests on the idea that she is the most electable candidate. Her deal with Democratic voters is, "Look, I'm not the most liberal, or the most principled. Maybe I'm kinda corrupt. Whatever- I'll use that to get shit done. I'll go after the Republicans. I'll let you say you voted for a woman president. I'll be to the left of whoever the Republicans put up on a few issues like gun control. Most importantly, I'll win, so whether you like me or not, I'm all you got. If you don't want Ronald Reagan crossed with George Wallace crossed with Voldermort (LOL! Like, my staffer wrote that for me to show in touch I am!), you better pick me. I win."

    Well, now the question will be asked, "If she can't beat Bernie Sanders, how the fuck is she going to beat the Republican?"

    Bernie could coup de grace her campaign in South Carolina at that point. Or, he could skip it entirely- let her pour resources in because she HAS to win and win big there, while he gets a jump on the next batch of primaries (like, make enough of an effort in SC that you don't get negative press out of it because of the race issue that will be in play there, but don't really invest too much. Show up at a few black churches, be there day of the primary, that kind of thing).

    And in either case... Clinton is done. No one LIKES her, they think she's their best shot of winning. Iowa could change that tonight.

  • Frankjasper1||

    Anyone else concerned regarding sanders becoming president? I am....i find it ironic his supporters call him robin hood when he clings to this idea that high taxes and government goodies are the way to go

  • Restoras||

    I Agree with Spencer

  • ||

    can you imagine listening to a state of the union address with this guy?

    Much shouting.

  • Frankjasper1||

    But i think he is one of those i am so convinced i know what is best is what is the most dangerous....intentions matter to him results be damned.

  • EscherEnigma||

    That's the main reason I'm not too worried about Sanders *or* Trump.

  • NYer||

    That's about the only good thing you can say about Sanders. He's not a foreign policy hawk and the Republican Congress will kill most of his ideas. And looking at Hillary, Trump, Christie, and Rubio I'm not even sure Sanders would be the worst candidate when it comes to executive power. Well, now I need a drink.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Call me cynical, but I'm less worried by the crook than the true believer. Clinton will do some damage. But, the thing is, I think she's crooked enough not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. As long as she and hers get their "piece of the action", they'll refrain from doing anything that would jeopardize the system putting out enough to ensure their ongoing graft. Sanders, on the other hand, I could see actually blowing up the whole economy to get his little workers paradise.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    You know, writing that, I couldn't help but imagine Clinton with an Edward G. Robinson voice saying "Myah! I just want a piece of the action, sheee. Just to dip my beak! Myah! Myah!..."

  • DesigNate||

    You can hardly blame them. For years (decades?) people have been bastardizing Robin Hood with the whole "Rob from the rich to give to the poor" schtick. Never mind that the "rich" were the government and the ridiculous taxation that Nottingham was imposing on the people.

  • Winston||

    And wasn't he originally just a plain thief with no high-minded ideals?

  • DenverJ||

    No. Richard the Lion Hearted wanted nothing more than to keep Crusading , which cost money. He once said "I'd sell London if I could find a buyer." He was the one who ordered high taxation in order to support his war, but John was the poor sap there people blamed.
    Robin Hood was originally a tale of a landowner, minor nobility, who was screwed by the Sheriff of Nottingham, a very lucrative post that was in charge of taxing.
    Robin Hood was always a character who stole from the tax gatherer in order to feed the poor.

  • MacDaddy81||

    To be fair, John was a douchebag, too.

  • Frankjasper1||

    Haha the disney fox one told me all i needed to know.

  • Frankjasper1||

    Meaning that i knew the govt was a bunch of crooks

  • ||

    "For years (decades?) people have been bastardizing Robin Hood with the whole "Rob from the rich to give to the poor" schtick."

    You watch it yourself there Bub, you are getting close to shouting fire in a crowded theater.

    *Didnt the idiot-in-chief once compare himself to Robin Hood? I believe he did. The shit that comes out of his mouth...he truly is the ultimate useful idiot.

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    VOTE BECAUSE VAGINA!!!111!!111@!!111!11!11!!!!

  • Restoras||

    Bernie Sanders is No Barack Obama—Iowa is a Ceiling, Not a Floor

    Famous last words?

  • Frankjasper1||

    I find it comical bernie compares himself to Barack

    Barack - was young, black, a great speaker, campaigned as left of center

    Bernie - is an old white male who appears to be a senile uncle ranting

    they arent the same

  • ||

    People keep telling me that Obama is a great speaker. The tune is fine, but the lyrics... I always ask, "Can you quote some of these great speeches?" Confused looks ensue.

  • Frankjasper1||

    I dont think he is a great speaker...maybe i should say orator. He says a lot of burfle that sounds "nice" and appeals to idiots. I mean like his tone and such

  • ||

    Yeah, that the tune. He does that. But the words... just... so... cliche-packed and forgettable.

  • Frankjasper1||

    Right. But people don't really like to engage in critical thought

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    "There are those who say"…

  • Raven Nation||

    From a sociological perspective I find it interesting that two old, white guys (albeit with vastly different agendas) have captured the attention of a lot of college-age people in the last two elections.

  • Charles Easterly||

    "... two old, white guys ...."

    I think you made the other one up, RN.

    /sarc

  • Raven Nation||

    That's great!

  • Winston||

    Welch writing an article calling Hillary a stealth libertarian?

  • Jason Bayz||

    The libertarian electoral triumph is a couple of election cycles away.

    And it always will be.

  • straffinrun||

    What the hell was with the "Palin says polls are for skiers and strippers" post Reason had up for about 30 seconds? Took it down quick, didn't ya? Afraid of the comments?

  • ||

    She said that back in 2011...why put an article up now? I missed it.

  • Stilgar||

    @Ed Krayewski

    1) Iowa is White alone, not Hispanic or Latino,2014: 87.1%
    2) If you are going to quote a figure for 'self-reported socialist' for one state, please show them all as otherwise it is a completely meaningless stat

    expect better from Reason authors

  • Hugh Akston||

    That figure comes from a poll of Iowans ahead of the Iowa Democratic caucus taking place in the state of Iowa. The number of self-identified socialists in other states don't matter for this story.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    White people are the worst.

  • Charles Easterly||

    White people are the worst.

    You know who else was the worst, don't you CJ?

  • DenverJ||

    Hikki?

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    Vaginas?

  • DenverJ||

    No, vaginas are the best :)

  • ThomasD||

    Hillary is either going to be indicted, or she is not going to be indicted.

    If she is not indicted the rule of law is over Not because of what has been done, but because she is untouchable, and there is nothing to stop what she will do.

    So ask yourself, at this point, what difference does a caucus make?

  • Frankjasper1||

    Is it just me or do the commenters at politico (George soros gives to Hilldog article) not realize how stupid they are? Does anyone understand what drives commenters at overtly partisan sites? I saw one saying the nation was destroyed due to wars and trickle down

    I like this site cause it isn't a team red vs team blue type deal for the most part.

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    I like this site cause it isn't a team red vs team blue type deal for the most part.

    That's what you get at third party sites…

  • Frankjasper1||

    It really is amazing...our democracy is being destroyed, bush destroyed the nation but yet obama is a great legislature and executive

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    The Bushpigs didn't destroy the nation. They just made it very very sick.

  • The Last American Hero||

    And The Lightworker doubled down on stupid, giving us 7 more years of runaway spending for a recession that ended 6 months after his inauguration. You always leave that part out.

  • DenverJ||

    That's because PB, like most statist fucks, is a dishonest statist fuck.

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    This.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    He cut the deficit 2/3rds.

    Of course deficits keep piling up alike always.

  • DenverJ||

    Yeah, it's weird. We keep spending more than we have, so we have to borrow, and yet, somehow, the deficit keeps raising. It's a mystery, for sure.

  • wareagle||

    seems one could just as easily say the GOP Congress cut the deficit since spending, theoretically, originates in the House. And everyone can ignore the debt that no one has cut.

  • SimonD||

    Do you mean like in 1995? Hmm, funny how that works, isn't it.

    Don't forget spending really exploded in 2007 when Speaker Pelosi (I still get stomach cramps from saying those two words together) took over.

    Spending is the one thing that Team Red seems significantly better than Team Blue.

  • ||

    Well Frank, I have been assured that we are all closet Republicans who take our orders from talk radio. But then it isnt the first time I was the last to find out about stuff I have done.

  • ||

    "...am the last to find out..."

    Ugh.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    The huge liberal business community wants no part of Bernie Sanders and they fully support Obama (think free trade TPP and Silicon Valley).

  • Frankjasper1||

    Thank god. What do you make of his supporters? They all seem like entitled mooches

  • Winston||

    Why are taking shriek seriously?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Go back to Free Republic where you belong.

  • SilentCal||

    Why don't you pay him a hundred grand to go do that?

    Oh wait, I know why...

  • DenverJ||

    Was PB the one who lost the bet? Oh that's great.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    I lost $20.

    Not the first bet I have lost.

  • DenverJ||

    Well, assuming you are telling the truth, which would be a first, then that's not the bet i was thinking of.

  • SilentCal||

    So you lied to Playa when you said you would actually invest the money? Way to show me!

    "Look guys, I didn't get rejected for this job, I just didn't have the balls to actually apply, suck it bitches!"

  • Sevo||

    SilentCal|2.1.16 @ 9:12PM|#
    "So you lied to Playa when you said you would actually invest the money? Way to show me!"

    Turd is that slimy 'con-man' who pockets your tip money off the bar when you look the other way and then acts like it wasn't there.
    Smart people keep their hands on their wallets when he's within smelling distance, and that's not real close; honesty isn't one of his qualities.

  • ant1sthenes||

    The conservative business community doesn't seem to happy about Trump or Cruz, but oh well.

  • AFSlade||

    No. You got annihilated and it was supposed to be a C-note to Reason. Didn't you go from $100,000.00 to zero? I'll find the links.

  • AFSlade||

    Never mind. Wrong place and some folks already caught that one.

  • cogitus interruptus||

    This post is completely wrong. Bernie's free shit promises will play well with Democrats everywhere, even where people don't self-identify as ideological socialists.

    Clinton's campaign has been based on inevitability, but the first two states she has to face actual voters in are going to be a squeaker of a win in the popular vote in IA, with Bernie getting more delegates actually, and a Sanders landslide in NH. Once that inevitability peels away, Clinton is very vulnerable.

  • PCWebbJr||

    You couldn't be more wrong.

  • crufus||

    It looks like Paul will be the cutoff candidate.

    Anyone who got fewer votes than Paul has a mandate for getting out of the race now.

    Christie can go back to doing whatever it is that he does in NJ.

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