Head to head polls show Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would beat Republic frontrunner Donald Trump in November by a wider margin than Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton would. A narrative that basically insinuates that Sanders is a better candidate against the GOP than Clinton is has recently followed these polls. And at this point in the cycle, these polls are probably accurate. Given the facts beneath the surface, however, they're meaningless.
Let’s start with the fact that Sanders barely gets any media attention — his own supporters complain about that. Most of the media is focused, or rather obsessed, with Trump. On top of that, and more importantly, the Republican Party and its extensive network of connected and deep-pocketed donors has not begun campaigning against Sanders. You can easily understand this by just looking at who Republican candidates are talking about during their debates.
At the GOP debate on Jan. 14, Clinton was mentioned 35 times. Sanders was mentioned once. Look at the transcripts of the GOP debates before that and you’ll see that the pattern continues. The GOP is not talking about Sanders, let alone attacking him.
They are talking about Hillary Clinton. The Republican candidates, along with their network of donors, party officials, politicians, think tanks and media outlets are running an expensive and organized campaign against Clinton. Their allies in Congress, like Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), have launched very public and unsuccessful investigations into Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, specifically her handling of Benghazi. They’ve obsessively questioned the way she communicated with her staff via email. They attack her for voting for Iraq, even though they pretty much all did. She is too close to Wall Street, even though they are the ones truly connected to Wall Street. She is too “out of touch” with the American people. She’s a robot. She’s power-hungry and too ambitious. She’s inconsistent and flip-flops. They are spending millions, maybe billions, spreading these messages through various forms to hurt her and her campaign. They have even successfully managed to get some of the Democratic Party’s base, those who support Sanders, to adopt these low and false narratives against Clinton. This agenda has actually sort of worked, and before there was speculation that she would run, she had a staggering 69 percent approval rating in 2013.
Republicans are on a full-fledged campaign against Clinton, not Sanders. They are already launching general-election-like attacks against her. She is therefore not only currently receiving assaults from Sanders in the primaries, but the entire GOP as well. She is the focus of both sides. Yet she is still able to stay ahead in her party and also beat the Republican frontrunner in a hypothetical general election poll.
I loved playing Mario Kart when I was younger, and I still do. Let’s look at it this way: Mario, Princess Peach and Bowser are racing. You are Peach. Bananas keep getting placed in front of you every couple of seconds, slowing you down. Yet you are still ahead of Mario and Bowser. You’re kickass.
Even with all the attacks being thrown against her on both sides, she is still able to win. Clinton is leading in the polls. She has accrued almost 2 million more total votes than Sanders has in the primaries so far, and over 500,000 more votes than Trump has in his primary contests. She remains strong and resilient.
That is the real test — how successfully a candidate gets through hardship. Clinton continues to survive the endless attacks against her. She continues to rise from the ashes. Bernie hasn’t faced those tests and based on the simple fact that he is losing to Clinton whilst receiving zero obstacles from the GOP. It doesn’t seem like he’d be able to pass.
Jeremy Atie is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science and Middle Eastern studies.
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