Jeb Bush V. Bernie Sanders in 2016: Who Wins?

On a related note, do Democrats in leadership really know better than voters?

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona. March 5, 2020. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

In the Democratic Party, NBC sniffily informs us, unlike in the Republican Party, the adults are in charge.

Democratic Party has its act together in a way the GOP in 2016 didn’t: Unlike the GOP, the Democratic Party remains an independent power source and counterweight to some of its adherents’ most extreme inclinations.” — Aaron Keyak, for NBC

The article goes on to suggest that if Republicans in 2016 had been quite as savvy as Democrats are being today in making certain Joe Biden gets the nod over Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush would have been the Republican nominee and Donald Trump would, even now, being starring in yet another season of The Apprentice.

Leaving aside all the breathless condescension for a moment- that the feckless, childish will of the voters must be tempered by their moral and intellectual betters who must save the voters from themselves- let’s think through this thesis.

Let’s play a game. Let’s go back in time to 2016 and imagine instead that the opposite of what happened in each party’s presidential primary actually happened. Jeb Bush v. Bernie Sanders.

Let’s imagine a match-up of Jeb Bush (Republican- Texas)- political legacy of the Bush family, best-loved son of late former-President George H.W. Bush, experienced politician, establishment-preferred candidate- versus populist folk hero Bernie Sanders (Independent- Vermont).

If Republicans in 2016 would have been foolish enough to buck the will of the voters and push the contest to Jeb Bush, Bush would have lost to Bernie Sanders in 2016.

In 2016 Republican voters were obviously deeply hungry for change and ready to back an outsider promising to get in there and shake things up.

Republican Party leaders, unsurprisingly, felt the exact opposite.

NBC is right about one thing: Republican Party leaders did not want Trump. Big-time Republican donors didn’t want Trump. The Koch Brothers still don’t like Donald Trump.

It was the Republican primary voters who voted for Donald Trump, reality television star, to be the nominee- not Republican Party leadership.

A contest between Jeb Bush and Bernie Sanders would have resulted in a landslide victory of epic proportions- for Bernie Sanders.

Disgruntled working-class Republicans who wanted Trump and were denied him by party leaders anxious to over-rule the immature aspirations of the voter- for their own good and the good of the party, of course- would have voted for Bernie Sanders.

Republicans, moderates, independents and others, would have joined the many Democratic voters on the other side, who were- and still are- obviously also tired of the same-old status quo.

Only the Democratic Party leadership is looking at Trump and thinking about how much better they had it when a nice, affable guy like Obama was in charge and what is his Vice President doing, lately, anyway?

For Democratic voters, they may not like Trump, but Obama left a great deal of the “Hope and Change” promises unfulfilled. Obama kept the U.S. at war, he failed to enact criminal justice reform, he adopted and increased the Bush administration’s drone bombings, he deported more people than Donald Trump, and he failed to do anything to bring federal law in line with changing state laws on marijuana.

In backing Biden, leadership Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seem to be saying “see how much worse it is when you don’t let us just do things the way we’ve always done it- or not done it? This is worse, see? Vote us back in, or else you get more Donald Trump.”

Democratic voters don’t just want Donald Trump to go away and everything just return to “normal”.

If normal was working for everyone, there wouldn’t be any Donald Trump. And there wouldn’t be any Bernie Sanders, either.

Because there is an underlying flaw in NBC- and a great many others in the Democratic Party- thinking that Democratic Party leaders like Rep. Jim Clyburn, James Carville and former House Speaker Harry Reid are better at choosing the best candidate than Democratic voters.

The Republican Party leadership was, ahem, right to trust their Republican primary voters who elected to name Donald Trump the nominee. He won.


Which is why Sanders would have trounced Jeb Bush in 2016. A Bush grandson, Pierce Bush, just lost on Super Tuesday last week- in a Republican Primary, in Texas. In spite of the backing of party leadership, more money, and a famous political name, Bush came in third.

As to who would’ve won between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in 2016- two outsiders in a competition of ideals, one of them being Donald Trump…well, we will never know.

But one thing is certain: Democratic voters need to take their party back from the condescending party elite who think they know so much better than everyone else, no matter how often, or how catastrophically, they are wrong.

If Joe Biden is the best that the “adults” in the Democratic Party can come up with, they should consider putting the kids in charge.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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