Why Do So Many People Believe Bernie Sanders?

OK, now for the Democrats. It's really hard to get excited about the state of the race, isn't it?

The Clinton campaign's focus on gun control is absurd. Hillary has an NRA grade of F and Bernie gets a D-. That's what we're arguing about? For chrissake. How dispiriting can you get?

On health care, Bernie wants single-payer. Me too. And I'll bet Hillary does as well. She's just decided that it's not politically useful to say so. And since neither one of them is going to get it anytime soon, does it really matter much?

The same is true on nearly every other domestic issue. Bernie is off to Hillary's left—either genuinely or rhetorically—but in office they'd both be constrained to the same place. Neither one could accomplish even what Hillary wants, let alone what Bernie wants.

The one place where they have real differences and those differences might matter is national security. But for reasons of their own, neither of them really wants to talk much about that. Hillary doesn't want to highlight her relative hawkishness in a Democratic primary, and Bernie doesn't really want to highlight what his dovishness would mean in practice. Besides, it just gets in the way of the only message he really cares about: plutocracy and income inequality.

Bottom line: given the realities of American politics, they'd both be highly constrained in what they can accomplish in the White House. It doesn't matter what's in their hearts. What matters is (a) whether they can win in November and (b) what kind of deals they can broker with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

Anybody who's read my blog for a while can guess where I fall on this. I think Bernie has done a great job of pushing Hillary a bit to the left and demonstrating that she can expect continued pressure on that front. But the truth is that Hillary wins on both points A and B. She's not the most charismatic politician in the world, but as we all like to say, we're voting for president, not someone to have a beer with. What's more, I've long admired her tenacity; her ability to withstand decades of crude invective and political destruction derby; and her very obvious, lifelong commitment to using politics as a way of improving people's lives. There have been a million noxious compromises along the way, but that's how politics works in the real world. Plus I'd love to see a woman in the White House.

I like Bernie. I like what he says. If I believed he could do all the stuff he talks about, he'd have my vote. But I don't.