The 2020 Case for an Unreconstructed Bernie Sanders

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Media Outlet: Vanity Fair

Lee Drutman's VOTER study was referenced in a Vanity Fair article about Bernie Sanders' chances in 2020.

We’ll never stop debating what happened in 2016. But if we look at the numbers, we can see that Trump was playing to pent-up demand. Nearly a third of Americans, it turns out, are conservative on social issues but liberal on economic ones. Until Trump came along, they didn’t have an obvious candidate. (A report released by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group this summer, authored by New America fellow Lee Drutman, makes the numbers clear, particularly in Chart 2.) They were populists forced to choose between what they saw as lousy economic policy from Republicans and lousy social policy from Democrats. They might be the type who were, say, fine with Obamacare but unhappy with new gun laws or school-bathroom regulations.
Donald Trump played to this neglected group of Americans and implicitly offered to revive the New Deal from the right, defying the economic and foreign-policy orthodoxies of the Republican Party and moving left on a few social issues. It was an unprecedented feat of political audacity. What we’re likely to see by 2020, however, is that Trump was too in sync with the donor class to fulfill his promises in practice. He has been willing to throw poorer Americans to the wolves on consumer protections and health care and workplace rights. This week, the White House moved one step closer to advancing a multi-trillion dollar tax cut, even as it undid Obama-era consumer protections against credit card giants. It also declared an opioid crisis but suggested no funding for doing anything about it. Many of his supporters, especially those who voted for Barack Obama in 2012, may be up for grabs once more.

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Lee Drutman is a senior fellow in the program on political reform at New America. He is the author of The Business of America is Lobbying (Oxford University Press, 2015).