The numbers from Iowa and New Hampshire are telling Democrats something. There may be a Trump revolution, but there is no Bernie revolution. Republicans are breaking turnout records, Democrats are lagging behind previous cycles. 236,000 Iowans turned out for Democrats in 2008, 171,000 in 2016.
Mike Caulfield’s New Hampshire analysis tells the same story:
The Sanders theory of change is that by capturing marginalized non-voters he will create a wave election which will change the composition and nature of the legislature, and make these impossible policy plans (free college, single payer health care, etc) politically possible. The theory is by taking a moderate tack Obama reduced turnout, which did not give him the level of change he needed in the legislature to implement his agenda.
A good statistician, then, should ask what the fingerprint of such a revolution would look like in the poll numbers. The answer is pretty simple: regardless of the Clinton/Sanders split we should see new voters in the pool. The sum of Clinton and Sanders votes should be greater than the sum of Democratic votes in 2008. Because if the radicalism of Sanders isn’t generating new voters, that means we end up pretty much where right back where we were in 2009 — a new President with an ambitious agenda and a legislature that is rewarded for sitting on its hands.
Turnout on the Democratic side in New Hampshire was actually down over 35,000 votes, despite the fact that the New Hampshire population has grown since 2008. At the very least it’s a 13% reduction in turnout.
There is no denying that Bernie is raising crucial issues in 2016 and that his unabashed progressive policies move the national conversation in a positive direction. Democrats should be excited about our two candidates, who are light years ahead of the Republicans on policy and principle.
However, the dark side of the Democratic race is that Bernie’s campaign has gone from being about something to being against someone. The frontal assault on Hillary’s integrity is shameful. The ease with which women are being marginalized in 2016 and the venom with which they’re bullied online is disgusting. That’s not a revolution that helps progressives.
The reality is that Bernie is just as much a politician as he claims Hillary is, and like anyone who has held office for as long as he has, his record is dotted with bad judgments and questionable votes.
That doesn’t mean we should impugn his sincerity or character, nor should we attack him in personal terms and insinuate that he is corrupt. So why are Bernie and his supporters doing that to Hillary?
If we’re facing a Trump revolution, Democrats can’t afford to have Hillary’s character undermined. It’s long past time for these artful smears against her to end. It’s time to acknowledge that talk of “revolution’ is wishful thinking. Democrats need to get real about the challenge ahead. Especially with the alarming prospect of a President Trump looming ever larger.