Whether Bernie would have beaten Trump is not really up for debate. The only people who doubt he would have won are the ones that believe, incredibly, that Hillary Clinton was indeed “the most qualified candidate ever to run for President.” They completely ignore her colossal unpopularity, the fact that 84% considered her to be untruthful and dishonest, and the fact that her popularity and favourability ratings never got higher than where they were when she started running. This should not have been a surprise. After all, when she ran for the Senate in NY, her campaign spent $3 million and yet her favourability never rose.
For those of us who believe in data and polling, it was obvious that Hillary was a loser. She was massively disliked and distrusted, and had been for literally decades. In a 2008 Primary debate, Chris Dodd even went so far as to state the obvious fact:
During an October 2007 debate, Sen. Chris Dodd was asked about Sen. Hillary Clinton’s electability, which has been a persistent question in her bid for the White House.
“Whether it’s fair or not fair, the fact of the matter is that my colleague from New York, Senator Clinton, there are 50 percent of the American public that say they’re not going to vote for her,” Dodd said. “We as a party certainly have to take that into consideration.”
Well, it is unfortunate that the Party did NOT take that into consideration. In fact, they did the opposite. They bet the farm on Hillary and used all sorts of shenanigans to try to force her into office. First they rigged the primary election to ensure that they would nominate someone whom everyone knew to be the least popular politician in presidential history. Then they used the so-called “pied piper strategy” to ensure that she ran against someone who (allegedly/hopefully) was even less popular than she was.
MY POINT WITH ALL THIS is that the Democrats could have run a ham sandwich for President, and the ham sandwich would have won. Hillary was quite literally the only candidate who stood even a ghost of a chance of losing against Trump. On the other hand, the polls consistently showed Bernie to beat Trump by 10+ points, and there is no reason to think that would have changed substanbtially.
To believe that Bernie would have lost to Trump is to believe that Hillary was somehow NOT the uniquely unpopular and flawed candidate that she was. Even her most ardent supporters spend half their time arguing how she was the most qualified candidate in history, and spend the other half arguing how she was the most vilified and smeared candidate in history. On one hand she had amassed decades of experience, on the other hand she had endured decades of merciless attacks from the media and the so-called “vast right wing conspiracy.” This made her uniquely positioned to lose. To say that the GOP would have been able to do to Bernie what they did to Hillary is to assert that they could somehow condense those 30 years of attacks into a 3 month campaign. It’s magical thinking and it’s simply not credible.
Had Bernie won he would have faced opposition in his first two years, but 2018 would be a TRUE progressive wave. As it is, Bernie lost yet his ideas and policies (Medicare for All, etc.) are now mainstream Democratic dogma in many cases. Imagine how much more popular those policies would be if he had the POTUS’s bully pulpit. The second half of his first term would have ushered in that transformative “revolution” that he has talked about. Even if he had met stiff opposition in Congress, at the very least he would have been able to transform the Democratic Party into a more democratic organisation.
I truly believe that a President Sanders would have been able to at least start to reverse the neoliberal decline that you and I both see happening.