Feb 24, 2020

Bernie Sanders crushes the field in Nevada.

Bernie Sanders crushes the field in Nevada.

Plus, a reader from Pennsylvania asks me to make the case for Bernie 2020.

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Today’s read: 9 minutes.

Bernie. Bernie. Bernie. Sanders wins in Nevada, a reader asks me to make the case for Bernie, and the news you missed over the weekend. It’s a Bernie-heavy Tangle!

Bernie Sanders at a campaign event in 2015. Photo: Phil Roeder | Flickr


Harvey Weinstein has been convicted on two charges, criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree, and was acquitted on the top two charges of predatory sexual assault. The verdict “offered a measure of justice,” The New York Times reported. Weinstein will face up to 25 years in prison. These charges relate to six allegations of assault, though dozens have been made against the longtime Hollywood mogul and Democratic donor. This is a developing story. Click.

What D.C. is talking about.

Bernie Sanders. On Saturday, the self-proclaimed Democratic socialist silenced the doubters and delivered a decisive victory for his supporters in the Nevada caucuses. Unlike Iowa or New Hampshire, there was no ambiguity and the race wasn’t close. Sanders took him 47% of the precincts, more than Biden, Buttigieg and Warren combined. He also pulled off the victory despite the most powerful union in the state essentially giving him the “anti-endorsement” because of concerns over how his Medicare-for-All plan would impact its union health insurance. Perhaps most importantly, though, Sanders won by riding a coalition of diverse support that no other candidate has. White voters, Latino voters, young black voters, women and men all came to bat for him in Nevada. Even the union workers who many thought would abandon him ultimately showed up and turned out to support his vision for the future. He’s still struggling with older voters, and he still trails Biden with African American voters, but the long-promised Sanders coalition seems to be coalescing. If Nevada is a sign of the future, Sanders could have the nomination locked down 9 days from now after Super Tuesday.

What the left is saying.

It depends on who you talk to. Sanders supporters and progressive allies are saying the revolution is here — and this is proof the pundits and establishment class are totally clueless. Sanders had already taken home the most votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, two predominantly white, “working class” states. Now, in Nevada, he dominated with Latinos, young black voters, young voters, union workers and progressive white liberals. His performance in these three states proves he is building the coalition everyone keeps saying he can’t build.

More moderate Democrats are officially panicked. There’s already intra-party bickering going on via Twitter. It’s quickly shaping up to be a race between Michael Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders, which leaves regular moderate Democrats no good options. As Buttigieg put it during the debate, it makes the choice between a billionaire who wants to buy the party or a radical who wants to burn it down. While some are holding out hope that the race could change dramatically and only a small number of delegates have been earned, the reality of the polls and map are settling in. South Carolina Democrat Jim Clyburn said Bernie would be a “burden” on House Democrats who could lose re-election with him atop the ballot, and Clyburn is expected to endorse Biden any minute. Meanwhile, a new CBS poll showed Elizabeth Warren surging to second in the nation after the New Hampshire debate, but it might be too little too late.

What the right is saying.

Some conservatives are licking their lips. They think Democrats could run anybody but Sanders and win. Bloomberg, Biden, Buttigieg — maybe even Warren. And they’d probably have a shot to take Trump down. But Bernie? A socialist who wants to hand health care over to the government, ban fracking, tax every Wall Street move you can imagine and allow undocumented immigrants to receive free health insurance? There’s no common ground with a guy who doesn’t even believe in the promise of capitalism, a guy who has a laundry list of comments where he’s praising failed or authoritarian states like Russia or Cuba, and someone who wants to totally upend the very fabric of America. Trump himself seems to be gleefully egging Bernie’s nomination on, perhaps suspecting it ensures his victory in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. One Nevada GOP activist even caucused for Bernie, saying it would all but ensure Trump’s victory. As for this Latino support, we’ll see how far it goes when Floridians hear him praising Fidel Castro or the literacy programs born out of communism. On 60 Minutes last night, in a clip being shared widely on the right, Anderson Cooper asked Sanders his plan to pay for all of his bold promises. Sanders said it would cost around $30 trillion to pay for Medicare-for-All. “Do you have a price tag for all of these things?” Cooper asked. “No I don’t,” Sanders says, before explaining that he “can’t rattle off to you every nickel and every dime.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote that “Democrats now know how millions of Republicans felt in 2016” when Trump rose to the top, noting the field has helped Sanders by only “gently” challenging his “socialist agenda.” Some were less confident. Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, said Sanders was the biggest threat to Trump’s re-election. Joe Walsh, who tried and failed to primary Trump, said he would still vote for Sanders because he prefers socialism to authoritarianism.

My take.

When I wrote about Sanders’ path to the nomination in December, I drew up a scenario where he won two of the first four states to vote. Here is what I said then:

“Assuming Biden’s lead in South Carolina is rock solid, which it appears to be, all of this sets up a best-case scenario for Sanders that he leaves the first four states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) with three clear victories. In a more likely scenario, he picks up one of Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire, while splitting delegates elsewhere. And then what happens? What happens when the biggest and most enthusiastic base of any candidate springs into action with the power of belief behind them, and with good evidence to show the rest of the country that Sanders is legit? Plus, they don’t even have to make the electability argument: they can point to the countless polls consistently showing Sanders mopping the floor with Trump in a general election.”

I’m not in the business of making election predictions, but Sanders is looking the strongest he ever has. As much as it’s true that Super Tuesday could send this thing in a totally new direction, or even a decisive win for Biden in South Carolina (which votes on Saturday), the odds of Sanders having this thing locked up in two weeks are more likely than they’ve ever been. And regardless of what you think about his policies, supporters or the candidate himself, he’s where he is thanks to a pretty diverse coalition of voters rally around him. I’m struggling to see how he doesn’t become the nominee, barring a major change in the polls.

The anti-Tangle.

I’m not here to take shots at other news organizations or newsletters, but I’m compelled to mention this. One of the reasons I am committed to staying independent and ad-free is to avoid advertisements like this, which I saw in the Axios politics newsletter today. I’m a big fan of Axios, but the optics of publishing ads for a presidential candidate in your newsletter about politics are something I’ll never get behind, and my pledge is you’ll never see anything like this in Tangle:

Screenshot: Axios AM newsletter

Your questions, answered.

Reminder: Tangle is all about reader questions. To ask something, all you have to do is reply to this email and write in.

Q: I was hoping you could do me a favor and make a reasonable argument for Sanders because I just had a long text battle with a supporter. They had no luck convincing me that universal healthcare would/could work in this country when our healthcare system is already bogged down. The infrastructure simply can't handle this many additional patients. What's the case for Bernie and some of these bigger policies actually working?

- Rob, Harrisburg, PA

Tangle: Two weeks ago, someone wrote in and asked me why so many people hated Bernie Sanders. I broke down some of his flaws in that newsletter, and I encourage you to read it so you don’t dig in here and think I’m a basic Bernie fanboy. I should note, though, that I did write an op-ed endorsing Bernie Sanders in 2016 (I later threw my editorial support behind Clinton), so I want to be transparent that I have a track history of backing his run for president. I’ve also always had some very big concerns about Trump. Plenty of my views have changed since then, but I do still view a lot of what Sanders represents favorably.

That being said, I haven’t endorsed or thrown my support behind any candidate in the 2020 race. What I saw in Bernie in 2016 — and why I supported him — was not because I thought he’d deliver free college for every American or Medicare-for-All. It’s because I saw in him a candidate who fully recognized the dignity of America’s working class and the people who are truly suffering financially in today’s system. That does not make me a bleeding-heart liberal or a populist conservative — it just makes me someone who has seen that suffering up close and recognizes that our government is failing the vast majority of the country. And I genuinely believe Bernie Sanders will do what he can to try to fix that.

The case for Sanders is both that he’s a radical and the system needs a radical change. When I hear Bernie deliver his stump speech, that America’s wealthy are only getting wealthier while the poor are only getting poorer, I think of the neighborhoods in Brooklyn I walk through every day on my way to midtown Manhattan. I see that wealth disparity every morning. When I hear him talk about the Wall Street greed that destroyed the economy in 2008, I think about my own parents and how the housing crisis destroyed their chances of holding onto a home they’d worked most of their lives to buy (with no recourse and no repercussions for the people responsible). When I hear him describe a broken health care system, or a bloated federal budget for our military, I think about how my take-home pay is about 60% of my actual salary, thanks in large part to huge federal taxes and an expensive employer-provided health care plan that still doesn’t cover many of the treatments I need. And then I remember that I’m lucky compared to a lot of people because I have health insurance; and that I can change where my tax dollars are going with my vote.

Will Sanders pass Medicare-for-All through Congress? I very sincerely doubt it. In fact, your analysis here is a really smart point that doesn’t get enough attention: forget the cost of it, making health care accessible for everyone raises some serious concerns about how we’d meet the sudden demand as a country. Many politicians recognize that and Bernie doesn’t have a great answer. Even if Democrats were to expand their majority in the House and win the Senate, most Democrats still wouldn’t go for such a plan. But he may expand Medicare in states where health care is desperately sparse and to poor Americans who still can’t get on Obamacare. What about a tax plan to make college free? Again, extremely unlikely — even assuming a favorable make-up in Congress. But it’s easier to envision a world where he cancels some or all student debt and frees a generation that can’t afford houses, cars or a family from thousands of dollars of debt. And there’s plenty of evidence that a move like that would help improve the economy — I know for certain it’d positively change the lives of hundreds of my friends.

Sanders, like Trump and Obama, also has a wide latitude of executive privilege. This is not a good thing for our country. But it does mean that while many of his biggest promises would be stymied in Congress, he’s also smart enough to craft the executive orders he’d need to change the country on day one. A number of those potential orders were leaked in a Washington Post article a few months ago, and I saw a few I’d be glad to see implemented: he’d immediately end the construction of the border wall, a wasteful and ineffective policy initiative that requires stealing privately owned land and serves as a gross divisive symbol with our southern neighbor. He’d reinstate DACA, which is a smart and well-crafted immigration policy supported by both Republicans and Democrats that grants legal status to immigrants brought here as children (barring they meet certain stipulations). He’d immediately allow the U.S. to import prescription drugs from Canada, making many of the most commons drugs cheaper overnight. He’d cancel federal contracts for firms paying workers less than $15 an hour, a move that — even if you don’t support a rise in the minimum wage — would be a government incentive to pay workers better.

There are other day one policies, too, that I don’t necessarily support but many liberals do: directing the Justice Department to legalize marijuana or declaring climate change a national emergency while banning the exportation of crude oil.

I also know that for many of my readers who are liberals, 2020 is only about one thing: defeating Donald Trump. And if that’s your concern there’s a case for Bernie, too. While polls vary, there are plenty of reliable national surveys that show Bernie doing better against Trump than any other Democrat. Much has been made of Bernie’s weakness in Pennsylvania, your home state and one that’s crucial to the election, but the latest YouGov poll shows Sanders doing better there vs. Trump than any of his competitors. Quinnipiac has Sanders beating Trump in Michigan and Pennsylvania. CBS has Sanders beating Trump nationally. Anecdotally, I don’t know a single Democrat who won’t cast a ballot for Sanders in 2020 if he’s the nominee — and he could pick up plenty of independents with a smart Vice President choice.

And while Sanders is divisive among the liberals on Twitter, he’s actually not divisive at all amongst real-life Democrats. Consistently, polls show that Sanders’s favorability rating (71 percent!) is higher among Democratic voters than any of his competitors. His net favorability is 16 points higher than Joe Biden, who is considered the most electable of the bunch by a lot of the chattering class. It’s 40 points higher than Michael Bloomberg, who many moderate Democrats now see as the last chance to stop Sanders and beat Trump.

Ultimately, there’s a case for Bernie regardless of where you fall on the spectrum. If you’re a progressive liberal who believes he can work his magic, cause a revolution and pass his biggest goals, you’re looking at free health care, better wages and cancellation of college debt. If you’re a moderate liberal who thinks he’ll only be able to act on executive orders, you’re going to get a sudden burst of energy addressing climate change, Medicare expansion, a more just and empathetic immigration system, the legalization of marijuana and a push for $15 minimum wages. You may even get student debt canceled for some borrowers. If you’re just someone who wants to beat Trump, Sanders is proving he has the base of support to do it and — despite everything they say on television — he is just as strong (if not stronger) against Trump in national polls as all of his opponents. Even if you’re a Trump supporter, Bernie offers something: he’s got the “establishment is screwing you” mentality and plans to shock the system, but instead of placing blame on globalism and immigrants, he puts it on the wealthy and corporations.

News you missed.

  • Last week, President Trump was excoriated for replacing the Director of National Intelligence after one of his top officials briefed Congress on the threat of Russia’s 2020 interference. The official, Shelby Pierson, told lawmakers that Russia was interfering in 2020 with the goal of helping Trump win. Now, officials are saying Pierson “overstated” the threat and “omitted important nuance” during the briefing, giving credibility to Trump’s outrage about how it all went down. Click.
  • Greyhound announced it would stop allowing Border Patrol agents to sweep its busses without warrants in order to conduct routine immigration checks. The largest bus company in the U.S. announced the policy change after the Associated Press leaked a Border Patrol memo confirming that agents aren’t allowed to board a bus without the consent of the bus company. Previously, Greyhound had said they didn’t like the checks but couldn’t say no to the feds. Click.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban announced a plan to sign a peace deal at the end of this month. The deal depends on a reduction of violence continuing until the end of the month, but the deal could be signed as early as Saturday. The signing could fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to bring U.S. troops home, lead to a release of prisoners and a pathway toward the Taliban militants gaining legitimacy in the Afghan government. Click.
  • President Trump might be capitulating on the ever-elusive immigration reform, instead pivoting to a more narrow plan that would make business owners happy but renege his campaign promise of reducing overall immigration. Trump and his allies are considering legislation that would create new “categories of temporary worker visas or lengthen the allotted stays for those workers,” Politico reported. That comes after a report that Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s chief of staff, told a private gathering the U.S. was “desperate” for more immigrants to keep the economy growing. Click.

A story that matters.

Eastern Kentucky is underwater right now, but very few people are talking about it. The state is experiencing the highest floodwaters in 40 years after more than eight inches of rain hit the region in the first two weeks of February alone. Despite getting very little media attention, the floods are not unique to Kentucky — and could re-shape how many typically red voters view environmental threats like climate change. All this comes alongside a recent Axios focus group showing that some swing voters’ least favorite parts of Trump are his environmental rollbacks. An enthralling piece on how the floods have impacted Appalachia — and how urban people have simply shrugged at the disaster —was published in The Atlantic, and it’s worth your time. Click.

Stunning drone footage of the devastating floods in Eastern Kentucky. Source: YouTube


  • 20 million. The number of people who watched last week’s Democratic debate on NBC and MSNBC, setting an all-time record for viewership in the 25-54-year-old slot.
  • 13.5 million. The number of people who watched last week’s Democratic debate via streaming services online.
  • 19%. The percentage of voters who said Elizabeth Warren was their first choice for the nomination in a new CBS poll that came out after last week’s debate, a surge that puts her in second place behind just Bernie Sanders.
  • $409 million. The amount of money Michael Bloomberg spent on ads by the end of January, after just three months of campaigning, more than the top four other candidates combined.
  • 20 points. The drop in Mike Bloomberg’s net favorability after last week’s Democratic debate, according to Morning Consult.
  • 29%. The percentage of Nevada’s population that is Latino.
  • 79,000. The minimum number of coronavirus cases in Asia alone, according to a report this morning from The New York Times.
  • 35. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States.

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Have a nice day.

I went to the University of Pittsburgh, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find me ever complimenting Penn State. But sometimes those Nittany Lions are worth the love. This weekend is one of those times. Students from Penn State raised another $11.7 million to fight pediatric cancer in their annual THON event, a 46-hour dance marathon students organize and hold every year. That number is $1 million more than what they raised in 2019, and it takes hundreds of students dancing, leaning and standing for 46 hours straight. It’s the largest run student philanthropy in the world and it’s already raised $168 million since it began in 1977. Click.

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