Time to Retire the “He Can’t Beat Trump” Trope

Now that polls show Bernie Sanders the clear front-runner in this race, leading the pack by 8 points and ready to win New Hampshire, it’s time to clear up one of the main Corporate Media myths about him: that “he can’t beat Trump.”

First, pro-Israel fanatics like Alan Dershowitz and propagandists for the Corporate State don’t hate Sanders (and yes, they HATE Sanders) because he can’t beat Trump: they hate him because he threatens the classist and racist orders that they defend. “He can’t beat Trump” is simply the best way they have to scare people into not voting for him.

Second, the polls show us otherwise. In the run-up to the 2016 Convention, Sanders was leading Trump in matchup polls by 10-20%, while Hillary was leading Trump by 0-5% and even losing in some polls. The paid propagandists in our corporate media like Mathews told us then to ignore the polls, the DNC nominated the candidate who was doing worse against Trump and the polls turned out to be right. Once again, the 2020 polls show Sanders killing Trump and way ahead of all other Democratic candidates against him. So are we going to be stupid enough to listen to our paid pundits who so dislike Sanders and ignore the polls again?

Now they’ll tell us the polls don’t matter because once the race comes down to Sanders-Trump, Trump will eat Sanders alive in debates. Sanders, they tell us, has never had to face truly tough criticism or debate. Really? Sanders has been in tough political fights longer than most of us have been alive. He is almost universally hated by the Democratic establishment and their “friends” (Chuck Schumer’s term) in the Liberal Media. When has he not gotten curveball questions, vicious attacks from opponents and downright slanderous misrepresentations of his positions? With mainstream Democrats calling him a “sexist” and saying he’d be applauding executions in the former Soviet Union, what exactly can Trump do that hasn’t been done to him already? The fact is that he’s incredibly comfortable and cool-headed when faced with such attacks because he’s so used to it. So when Trump comes with simplistic put-downs of Sander’s policies, Sanders will be ready with actual clear, reasonable, fact-based answers – and a few zingers. When Sanders says he can’t wait to take on Trump, I don’t doubt him for a second.

One more thing the DNC-CNN-NYT crowd won’t tell you. Sanders is missing the one attribute that makes politicians vulnerable to attack by Trump: he’s not fake.

That’s right: Trump detonated the entire field of insincere RNC hacks because he has an uncanny ability to hone in on the least sincere part of a person and bring it to light. That’s one of the reasons why, even though he’s a pathological liar, so many people see him as a truth-teller: he actually is a truth-teller when it’s comes to other people’s insincerity. And fake is the one thing Bernie isn’t. Unlike Hillary, Warren, Bloomberg and Trump himself, Bernie has never changed his basic political views. Unlike Biden and others, he’s got no racist skeletons in his closet, but was arrested protesting for Civil Rights before he ever ran for office. Calling him a sexist didn’t work. He has no shady conflict of interest issues. He hasn’t worked for some of the most immoral companies on the planet. Whatever else you may think of him, Sanders is the real deal: he’s even derided in the Liberal Media for having the basically same message all his life. But consistency and integrity are things people respond instinctively, regardless of their politics. And in a time when Congress, both Parties and the “Mainstream Media” are so deeply disliked, someone who has let their career be defined by their ideals rather than their personal ambitions comes across as fresh and inspiring.

Finally, Sanders is a “radical,” they tell us, when only a “Centrist” can win. Funny, a centrist didn’t win in 2016. And in 2008 we all voted for a guy who promised “change,” even though he didn’t deliver. Does anyone seriously believe, with 40% of Americans near the Poverty Line, and most of the rest just one illness away from bankruptcy, with young people leaving college saddled with a lifetime of debt, few families able to afford a home without the debt of a mortgage, and many only getting by on credit card debt, that voters are looking for the status quo? If you do believe this, chances are you’re one of the comfortable few, maybe one of the top 10%, and you are not representative of most of the people in this country.

Liberal Media would have us believe that the country is evenly divided into Democrats and Republicans – well, in a way it is. According to Gallup, Democrats and Republicans are tied 27% of likely voters each. That leaves 45% of Independents and those are the people who will decide this election. They will not vote for a Democrat out of Party loyalty or even in many cases simply because they are not Trump. These are people who don’t want to be affiliated with either Party. This is a group that repeatedly repudiated the uninspired Party careerists like Gore (at the time, at least), Kerry, McCain, Romney, Jeb, Clinton and Biden. They will not have gone heavily for Sanders in polls and they elected Trump – many of the same people who voted for Trump said they would have voted for Sanders had he won the Nomination.

So as the DNC prepares us for another loss (and is probably already flailing around for someone to blame it on), please consider these points. please think about the fact that the pro-Democrat media bubble does not represent the majority of this country and that its narratives have failed us in the past. Sanders may well be the only Democratic candidate who can beat Trump. And the truth is that anti-Sanders Democrats aren’t afraid that he can’t win: they’re afraid that he CAN.

Peter Cohen holds a Ph.D. in Applied Anthropology from Columbia University and has worked in International Development in more than twenty countries. He has taught, lectured, organized and delivered training events, and authored publications ranging from articles on the historical spread of African religions through the Atlantic Slave Trade to guides to working with informal recyclers, as well as essays on politics and social change.