This narrative began with a Forbes article about a recent Emerson poll with an incredibly small sample size saying that 26% of Bernie voters would vote for Trump over Elizabeth Warren (that same poll pegged Bernie as the leader for the Democratic nomination). Given that the MSNBC propaganda complex is devoted to the “all Bernie supporters are sexist” narrative, this took off like a rocketship. While there is no reason to doubt the basic findings, any analysis that does not note the incredibly small sample size underlying that percentage is devoted more to the narrative than the facts underlying the situation. Plus, there is a gigantic group of voters left out of this narrative.
If you dig into past Emerson polls* on all the candidates, the narrative around Bernie supporters being uniquely intransigent completely and utterly collapses.
*Here are Emerson’s March archives and April archives providing the data laid out below by this Twitter account.
The crucial context missing from these polls is that they include Independents, who can vote in every Democratic primary except for 14 of them (plus, some of those percentages, like the 100% of Gillibrand voters defecting to Trump, scream small sample distortion). In the poll Forbes used to extrapolate that 26% figure, 30.6% of the sample were Independents. Given that according to Gallup, a third of Independents approve of Trump, none of these figures should really be that surprising, and yet here we are, because a narrative pushed by the Democratic establishment has superseded the facts of the situation. If there is any narrative here (which I’m skeptical of given the small sample sizes and how early it is in the primary), it’s that the more conservative Democrats consistently have more voters defecting to Trump.
That’s not to say that Bernie’s supporters are immune from this criticism. Frankly, any percentage over zero is unacceptable, and it’s hard not to see sexism as one of the central forces at the base of this depressing reality, but the fact that Amy Klobuchar’s supporters are also defecting en masse to Trump proves that this is as much about ideology as it is the inherent sexism at the base of American politics.
There is an incoherent narrative that has taken root on the left, which fully reveals how loosely much of the opposition to Bernie is rooted in logic. The Democratic establishment has preached “bipartisanship” and being a “big tent party” for decades, but the fact that Bernie Sanders can recruit Trump voters is seen as a negative, and supposedly proof that he and Trump are two sides of the same coin (Biden can win Trump voters too, and yet you never see him get smeared with that trope).
In reality, “bipartisanship” means fealty to the economics of the capitalist class, regardless of what kind of actual bipartisan support it has among voters. There is no clearer proof of this than the politics around Medicare for All. It is a truly bipartisan policy, supported by large majorities of Democrats and a slim majority of Republicans, and yet, only 33% of Senate Democrats support the policy. Criticizing Bernie is perfectly fine and also necessary given that he is the current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, but these context-free attacks wind up saying more about those making them than they do about Bernie.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.