Democratic strategists imagined Joe Biden or perhaps Michael Bloomberg to win the party nomination, but after three ballots, their worst fear materialized little by little: a final victory for Bernie Sanders in the nomination race becomes every day a little more believable.
The senator from Vermont largely won, on Saturday, February 22, the Nevada caucuses, obtaining 46.8% of the votes when Joe Biden, second, totaled only 20.2%. An overwhelming success after a disputed first place in the Iowa caucuses and a dull victory in the New Hampshire primary.
"Bernie Sanders is now the big favorite, says Marie-Cécile Naves, researcher at Iris, specialist in the United States, contacted by France 24. If he confirms next Saturday in South Carolina, a state where there is a large African-American population, he will then be able to approach 'Super Tuesday' with full confidence. "
This southern state seemed to have won Joe Biden three weeks ago. Very popular with the black electorate, the former vice-president was counting on South Carolina to revive himself after the first complicated elections. But as the days go by, Bernie Sanders shows that his supporters are more and more diverse.
>> Read: "Democratic primaries: Joe Biden, a favorite on alert"
Made up mainly of young whites during its first presidential campaign in 2015-2016, its electoral base has since diversified to include many more black or Hispanic voters. His clear victory in Nevada, the first primary in the calendar organized in a state where minorities constitute a significant part of the electorate, has confirmed it: besides the over 65s, he seduces in all categories.
I've got news for the Republican establishment. I've got news for the Democratic establishment. They can't stop us.- Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 22, 2020
Proposals deemed too extreme
Normally, the Democratic Party would be delighted to see a candidate stand out so early in the electoral process, thereby avoiding an internal struggle that would necessarily leave its mark. Everyone in the party remembers the violence of the confrontation between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008 and the tensions, four years ago, between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Avoiding such a scenario would make it possible to approach the general election in the best conditions.
Problem, the program of one who claims to be "socialist" and who has made the fight against inequality his leitmotif is not in the traditional line of the party: increase in the minimum wage, universal social security, free universities, tax on fortune or "Green New Deal" are all proposals deemed too radical by the democratic establishment.
"We see this enormous anguish rising within the party where everyone is wondering: 'What are we going to do?'", Declared to the Associated Press Terry McAuliffe, former governor of Virginia and president of the committee national democrat.
>> See: "Democratic primaries in the United States: an ideological line to define for the party?"
Distanced, his competitors therefore planned to target Bernie Sanders, Tuesday evening, during the televised debate in South Carolina, with an argument that they hammer for several days: "Bernie Sanders has no chance of winning against Donald Trump. "
"Joe Biden campaigned on the argument of 'electability' and Pete Buttigieg now takes it on, as does Michael Bloomberg, notes the specialist from the United States. These moderate candidates try to scare voters tempted by Bernie Sanders by claiming that only a centrist can win in November. "
>> To read: "Pete Buttigieg, the surprise from the Midwest"
The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, strongly warned of the risk of choosing a socialist for whom capitalism is "the root of all evil". "Senator Sanders believes in an unyielding ideological revolution that forgets most Democrats, let alone most Americans," he said.
For his part, Joe Biden launched Monday an advertising spot aimed more particularly at the black electorate and affirming that it is impossible to trust Bernie Sanders. The reason ? Instead of supporting Barack Obama for his re-election in 2012, the latter wanted to force "the first African-American president" to a primary, recalls the advertisement.
Cascade of convictions after statements about Fidel Castro
Michael Bloomberg was more original by choosing to attack Bernie Sanders on the subject of firearms. His campaign clip, posted on Twitter on Monday, says the Vermont senator was elected to Congress in 1990 with the support of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful American arms lobby.
The NRA paved the road to Washington for Bernie Sanders.
He spent the next three decades making sure they got a return on their investment.
We deserve a president who is not beholden to the gun lobby. # NotMeNRA pic.twitter.com/HLYZe4J5PM
At 78, Bernie Sanders has also provoked a cascade of condemnations for having praised Sunday evening the "massive literacy program" launched by Fidel Castro in Cuba, while ensuring to condemn "the authoritarian nature of the regime".
Joe Biden castigated an "admiration" for elements of the Cuban dictatorship and Michael Bloomberg recalled the "dark legacy" left by the dictator. Pete Buttigieg condemned a candidate who "encourages people to look on the bright side of the Castro regime".
But the elected member of Vermont added Monday evening. "I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing," he said, assuring that he has long criticized "authoritarian regimes around the world". And he praised the efforts of China, another "authoritarian country", which "lifted more people out of extreme poverty than anywhere else in the world".
The situation of the Democratic Party recalls that of the Republican Party in 2016: to counter the rise of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or even Jeb Bush, whose programs were more in line with the party line, called on their competitors to rally to them without abandoning themselves. History seems to repeat itself with at least four centrist candidates, if we add Amy Klobuchar, whose divisions play the game of Bernie Sanders.
"The cards are being shuffled"
But beyond the bottleneck of centrist candidates, the very validity of the argument disputing to Bernie Sanders any chance of victory in November remains to be proven. "If the argument has long been perceived as admissible, the cards are being reshuffled, said Marie-Cécile Naves. Especially since four years ago, she was a centrist candidate and favorite of the 'establishment that lost to Donald Trump. "
Proof of a beginning of evolution of mentalities in the United States, the economist and columnist of the New York Times Paul Krugman recently defended Bernie Sanders in several editorials. According to him, the Democratic establishment is wrong to be afraid of such an appointment. He stresses that it is up to the Democratic Party to "do the job to improve its chances of being elected".
Former Democrat National Committee head Howard Dean also spoke up for Bernie Sanders. "He is certainly a divisive candidate, but there is also an extremely divisive candidate on the other side," he said on CNN on Sunday, while Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump shared an anti-elite speech that appealed. many Americans.
Several polls indicate in any case that Bernie Sanders can win. A very recent CBS News / YouGov poll sees him slightly ahead of Donald Trump nationally, and other polls predict him to win in key states like Michigan, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania.
And if there was proof that the billionaire president takes seriously any opposition to Bernie Sanders in the fall, just follow his personal attacks on Twitter. The American president regularly attacks the "socialism" of what he calls "Bernie the madman". He also recently mentioned a trip with his wife to Moscow in 1988, or his defense at the same time of the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.
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