When Jane Sanders was asked if her husband, Sen. Bernie Sanders could have beaten Donald Trump, she said “absolutely, but it doesn’t matter now.” Many other Democrats have expressed a similar opinion that if only the party had gone with Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump would have lost in a landslide. Well, maybe so, but there are so many variables that could have occurred over the course of the campaign, that there’s no way of ever truly knowing if Bernie could have trumped Trump.
Poll showed Sanders beating Trump
Gravis Marketing conducted a poll two days before the election. The survey showed that Bernie Sanders would have beaten Donald Trump by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent. Of course, given that Sen. Sanders did not actually run a campaign against Mr. Trump, there is no way of accurately predicting how an actual campaign would have affected the outcome of the election.
Trump and Sanders have common ground
There are some similarities between the positions and personalities of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. They are both outsiders and often came across as angry non-politicians who play by their own set of rules. They each inspired a deep passion among their supporters, and both men are charismatic speakers.
Neither has deep ties to a political party
Bernie Sanders has spent most of his political life as an Independent rather than a Democrat. In fact, he is the longest serving independent in U.S. Congressional history. Mr. Sanders changed his registration formally to a Democrat to run in the primaries, but he switched back to an independent shortly after he lost the nomination. Donald Trump has been a member of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party and the Independence Party at different times in his life.
Earlier this year The Atlantic put together a list of common policy positions shared by Mr. Trump and Sen. Sanders.
- Both oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
- Both support maintaining or expanding current levels of Social Security benefits.
- Both support some upper-income tax hikes.
- Both lament the pernicious role of money in politics.
- Both opposed the Iraq war
- Both have been known to worry that increased immigration could depress working-class wages.
- Both have supported single-payer health care.
Right-left populist alliance
Both men tapped into the populist insurgency that has captured the political imagination of the country. Some talked of Trump and Sanders creating a left-right populist alliance that would overlap both parties and create a new political order.
The people who turn up at Sanders and Trump rallies are wed, across the aisle, in bonds of populist unrest. They’re revolting against party elites, and especially against the all-in-the-family candidates anointed by the Democratic and the Republican leadership: Clinton and Bush, the wife and brother of past party leaders. — Jill Lepore, Harvard professor of history
“But, who knows.”
There are, of course, many unknowns as to how an actual campaign between Trump and Sanders would have played out. Bernie Sanders would not have had the baggage of private emails and the 25-year history that the Clinton’s brought to the table. However, Sanders is a 75-year-old self-proclaimed socialist, and there is no assurance that the country is ready for an aging progressive as president.
I hesitate to be a Monday morning quarterback. In my heart of hearts, I think there’s a good chance I could have defeated Trump, but who knows. — Sen Bernie Sanders
The answer to the question of whether Bernie Sanders could have beaten Donald Trump was best summed up by Mr. Sanders when he said, “but who knows,” and by his wife Jane when she said, “but it doesn’t matter now.”