Sanders Surprise

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on March 10, 2016

Sanders Surprise

Bernie Sanders acknowledges his supporters at a campaign rally in Miami on March 8, 2016.

The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at The Wall Street Journal written by the editor, James Taranto.

Sanders Surprise
Maybe they thought he was related to local sports hero Barry Sanders. OK, that’s implausible, but would you have believed us if we’d told you on Tuesday that Bernie Sanders was going to win the Michigan primary? Not if you checked the polls: The Real Clear Politics average, consisting of three surveys in the past week, put inevitable Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton up by 21.4 points; her narrowest margin in the trio of surveys was 13.

The actual result: Sanders 49.8%, Mrs. Clinton 48.3%. Close, but a cigar.

Mrs. Clinton, meanwhile, trounced Sanders in Mississippi, 82.6% to 16.5%—almost as wide a margin as his a week ago in the People’s Republic of Vermont. But that was entirely expected. Mrs. Clinton has been sweeping the South, where the Democratic electorate is heavily black. In Mississippi, exit polls found blacks made up 71% of the electorate and went for Mrs. Clinton 89% to 11%.

But in Michigan, only 23% of whose electorate is black, Sanders did better: 31% of the black vote vs. 65% for Mrs. Clinton. That could augur well for next week’s primaries in Illinois and Ohio. And FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver observed not long before midnight:

Although there are a lot of reasonably good Clinton states on March 15—according to both polls and demographics—we then have a stretch of states that look quite strong for Sanders. These include Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Alaska, Washington, Hawaii, Wisconsin and Wyoming, all of which vote from March 22 to April 9.

So if [Mrs.] Clinton underperforms her polls on March 15 in states such as Ohio as she did tonight in Michigan—and pollsters probably ought to be checking their turnout models carefully after tonight — she could have a really long few weeks ahead, even though Sanders’s delegate math remains highly challenging.

To the extent that Sanders remains a viable candidate, we’d say it is because of two factors of demography—one a strength of his, the other a weakness of Mrs. Clinton’s. The strength has been much remarked upon: Sanders’s overwhelming support, outside the South anyway, from young voters.

Michigan follows the pattern: Under-30 voters favored him 81% to 18%; over-65 voters backed her, 68% to 31%. Every way the pollsters break it down, there is a clear inverse correlation between age and Sanders support.

In January Peggy Noonan argued that Sanders’s appeal to the young is in large part ideological. For voters under 30, the events of 2008 would have played a significant part in informing their views of capitalism. Meanwhile they (and perhaps those up to a decade older) have little or no memory of the Cold War to turn them against socialism. And if Donald Trump loves the poorly educated, Bernie Sanders loves—or at least has put himself in a position to capitalize on—the miseducated:

Let’s say you’re 20 or 30, meaning you’ll be voting for a long time. What in your formative years would have taught you about the excellence of free markets, low taxes, “a friendly business climate”? A teacher in public high school? Maybe one—the faculty-lounge eccentric who boycotted the union meetings. And who in our colleges teaches the virtues of capitalism?

Mrs. Clinton’s weakness is one we’ve discussed before: Even among Democrats, she is on the distaff side of a gender gap. In Michigan she outpolled Sanders 51% to 46% among women, but he beat her 55% to 43% among men. That was enough to give him the victory even though women made up 56% of the Democratic electorate.

Part of this gap is likely an artifact of the age distribution: Women tend to live longer than men, and thus (at least in the general population) tend increasingly to outnumber men of their cohort as time passes. But Mrs. Clinton and her supporters have also made heavy-handed appeals to female solidarity.

The inevitable nominee herself achieved self-parody when she declared in a February debate: “Honestly, Sen. Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment.”

Honestly! Even Claire Underwood doesn’t try to portray herself as an outsider. Fiction has to be believable. Nonfiction only has to be true.

We’ve noted that such appeals seem to hold no interest for younger women, and we’ve argued that men of all ages are likely to find them off-putting. What’s more, while there is no doubt a subset of the female population that sees “the first woman president” as a major selling point, it’s not as if anyone is unaware of Mrs. Clinton’s sex. What does it accomplish to belabor the point?

Yet belabor it Mrs. Clinton and her supporters, including in the media, do. The latest kerfuffle arose in this past Sunday’s debate when, as Vox’s German Lopez describes it, Sanders “came off as a man shouting down a woman. And the live audience did not like it one bit.”

What happened? As Lopez acknowledges, she interrupted him, and he objected: “Excuse me, I’m talking.”

The Washington Post’s Janell Ross has a lengthy explainer of why Sanders was wrong to object to Mrs. Clinton’s womanterruption:

Why, at this late date and this many debates into the 2016 presidential election cycle, has Sanders made demonstrably little to no effort to alter the way he interacts with the woman he at least strongly suspected . . . would be running against him from the day he declared his campaign? He has almost certainly had the same advice and information that every male candidate gets about the need to be constantly mindful about coming across like a chauvinist or a bully when on a debate stage facing a female competition.

As Rich Lowry observes understatedly: “The debate flap demonstrates how feminism is caught between its dual insistence that women are indistinguishable from men and at the same time due special consideration because they’re uniquely vulnerable to slights, intended or unintended.”

We suppose the debate, which was held in Michigan, couldn’t actually have hurt Sanders that much, seeing as how he did manage to win there when everyone expected him to lose. It’s only a matter of time before somebody calls him piggish for upsetting Mrs. Clinton on International Women’s Day.

For more “Best of the Web” from The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto click here.