The Democratic primaries have begun in full force in the United States. And the old familiar candidate Bernie Sanders is there again.
A “Bernie” design on your fingernail, why not? Of the 600 people who came to Stevens High School in Claremont on Sunday afternoon to listen to Sen. Bernie Sanders, the majority has been long convinced that he should be the next president of the United States. A sign in the yard, a badge on the lapel, a sticker on the car? Check. And so Alayna Josz, a professional nail stylist, transforms fingers into a propaganda medium.
It is one of the ways in which Josz, 31, is trying to support Sanders. “I heard him for the first time in 2015, in a YouTube video. I was alone in my room and I had never heard anyone talk like him. I raised my fist, I was almost in tears.”*
His Lead is Diminishing
The enormous enthusiasm that Sanders evoked in many Democrats gained him a resounding victory four years ago at the influential New Hampshire primary, beating Hillary Clinton. But ultimately, he lost against her in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. He seemed to be winning again in New Hampshire on Tuesday. But his lead will not be as big, because in 2016 there were two serious candidates, now there are at least six.**
In Claremont, it is not the grumpy, sometimes outright angry, orator whom Americans saw in the TV debates in recent months, who comes to the stage. Sanders is confident about certain achievements and optimistic about what comes next. “Nelson Mandela said: ‘Everything is impossible – until it happens.’ In 2016, we were told that a minimum wage of $15 an hour was radical. Now, seven states have passed $15 minimum wage laws.”
If Bernie could achieve that without becoming president, how much is possible when he does? The audience greets his plans with loud applause: equal pay for men and women, forgiveness of student loans and free university tuition. And of course: health care for all, without exclusions or sky-high deductibles.
Warren Drops in Polls
With those leftist ambitions, which he unabashedly calls “socialist,” Sanders does not stand alone this time. He faces competition from his equally assertive fellow senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren. But she has dropped in the polls in the last few weeks. Nationally, Warren gets only 14% against Sanders’ 22%; in New Hampshire, the difference is even slightly bigger.
Meanwhile, three other candidates are fighting for the more moderate voters. Between them, former Vice President Joe Biden scores best in the national polls. At 27%, he scores better than any other candidate. But you would not think so if you follow the American media. Biden is judged harshly for his meager fourth place in the state of Iowa last week, and he is in an even more worrisome fifth position in New Hampshire. He is counting on recovery at the primaries in Nevada on Feb. 22 and South Carolina on Feb. 29, when many Latino and black Democratic voters will make themselves heard for the first time. But he runs the risk of being painted as the loser so often by then that those voters will no longer have faith in him.
The road ahead is thus open for Pete Buttigieg, the charismatic former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, or maybe for Amy Klobuchar, the senator from Minnesota, to challenge Sanders, or for one of the two billionaires who present themselves as the pragmatic alternative for all those politicians: Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg.
Josz fears that endgame. In 2016, the Democratic Party elite lent a hand to Clinton: “People who then worked for Hillary now support Pete Buttigieg. For me, that is a clear sign that we will get the same corruption.”
*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, this quote could not be independently verified.
** Editor’s note: Sen. Bernie Sanders was declared the winner of the 2020 New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11.