Why did Bernie Sanders’ campaign fail?

Are you sure it failed? Certainly, Sanders has been precluded from being the nominee for a long time but it prevented the no-challenge Clinton coronation that everyone was afraid of. That is not to be sneezed at.

Beside, by out flanking her ideologically he has forced her into the unfortunate position of having as her best argument “I’m not Trump.”

But let’s examine some things that undermined the campaign.

  1. TOO NICE – Sanders was a remarkably civil, high-concept opponent. Not to sound cynical but that doesn’t really work in presidential politics.
  2. THE WORD SOCIALISM — There are two problems with using the word “socialism.” First is the obvious one. It’s just not true.

    Sanders is no socialist, nowhere near it. Nationalization of industry and abolishment of normal buying and selling are central and inseparable to the definition of socialism and both are conspicuously absent from Sander’s agenda. Sanders is a garden variety social democrat (which is a world of difference from “democratic socialist” a term with no accepted prior definition.) This left the unavoidable impression that Sanders was either uninformed or reaching for shock value. Neither is a good look on a presidential candidate.

    The second problem with “socialism” is that it invites false but hard to rebut comparisons to failed states such as Venezuela. What is happening in Venezuela is the inevitable result of the combination of price controls and artificially fixed currency exchange rates which encourage the normally economically irrational practice of buying things in order to export them out of the country. This has very little to do with socialism and the majority of Venezuelan industry is privately owned.

  3. WRONG PHRASING — I cannot say it enough, “income inequality” is a junk concept. To be sure, it’s a real and existential threat to the stability of our civilization in the long-term and when it entails rigging and economic fakery, which is more commonly than imagined, it is morally wrong but the problem lies in how it is termed. “Income inequality” sounds greedy and entitled. You get nowhere with that. Try talking about “dramatic collapse in upward mobility.”

    When you phrase it that way, many Sanders initiatives such as free at the point of use healthcare and higher education sound less like lazy-bum handouts and more like investments in that thing Donald Trump keeps talking about: Making America Great. The tack that Sanders and the left at large are taking is ideologically immoderate and renders cross-aisle support unlikely.

  4. IMPRACTICALITY — You don’t have to have a degree in politics to determine that there is zero chance in hell of Sanders implementing even a single plank of his platform as long as Republicans control the House and/or Senate. More likely than not they will retain the House and Senate. Sanders never articulated any idea as to how he was going to actually implement this. Rather, he embraced what is sometimes termed “whig history” – the idea of historical inevitability of progress towards certain ideas. That is to say, no action was required other than a vague “political revolution.” We all know what happened to the Whigs.
  5. TACTICAL ERROR — I admire the spirit of the comment about “your damn emails” but that was a mistake. We, voters, are obliged to consider the matter. Not necessarily because of alleged illegality per se but because of what pattern of secrecy, contempt for rules and disregard for appearances of propriety they evince.