Imagine a Democratic nominee who’s a socialist and not even a member of the party.
Now imagine a Democratic nominee who’s a billionaire businessman who spent his way into contention.
It might be time to start preparing for mayhem.
Bernie Sanders is well positioned to sweep Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada—“a domino effect,” Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota predicted at a campaign event for the Vermont senator on Saturday. His aides believe that they’ll be able to bring in the skeptics, and that “the haters will shut up when we win,” as Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan put it on Friday night at another event for him, as she led booing of Hillary Clinton. They don’t just insist that Sanders will beat Donald Trump; they say he could scramble the electoral map. They say everyone who thinks he’d be easy pickings for Trump is falling for modern-day red-baiting, and missing Sanders’s high favorability ratings among Democrats.
“The elites who are freaking out are the 1 percent,” Ari Rabin-Havt, one of Sanders’s deputy campaign managers, told me in between canvassing stops in Iowa last week. “I might not be a math professor, but 99 is greater than 1.”
Over at Mike Bloomberg’s campaign headquarters, aides are just as excited about the Sanders surge. This was a hope. Now it’s their plan. If the next few weeks lead to the collapse of other leading campaigns—most crucially, Joe Biden’s, which is running short on money but occupying a similar ideological space as Bloomberg—and a Sanders-inspired freak-out, they believe the former New York City mayor will be the party’s nominee. Like many Democrats who aren’t supporting Sanders, they see a primary process that is setting up the party for a likely defeat.