Bernie Sanders wins New Hampshire. Then, he’s done.
That has been the bible on Campaign 2016. But as novelist and screenwriter William Goldman famously observed about Hollywood and what sells, “Nobody knows anything.” In the age of Donald Trump, the same is true of politics.
Consider what Sanders accomplished. At 74, he captivated the young and starry-eyed. His call for revolution topped Hillary Clinton’s argument that “progressive” means incremental. His ideological purity beat her assorted evolutions. He was true to self. She remained true to the same old strategy of inevitability.
Sanders deserves to savor victory. He earned it, without Trump-like attacks. He didn’t harp on Clinton’s e-mails or demand release of her Wall Street speeches. Clinton’s response to questions about the fees she accepted for those talks—“That’s what they offered” — was a personal fail.
With success, however, comes more scrutiny. The Daily Beast reported that Sanders “has railed against big defense corporations at rallies” but “supported a $1.2 trillion stealth fighter.” While Sanders declares that dialing for dollars “affects your entire being,” the Vermont senator is “a prolific fundraiser himself and has regularly benefited from the Democratic party apparatus,” reported CNN. More fruits of opposition research to come.
In the end, the chief argument against Sanders will be electability: He’s too old, too idealistic, and too out of step with American capitalism to win the presidency.
In New Hampshire, that didn’t matter.
And now, it’s on to Nevada and South Carolina, supposedly friendlier territory for Clinton.
She definitely needs friends — and not the kind that tell young women to vote for her because she’s a girl. Sure, the snark over shouting when it comes from Clinton versus Sanders or Trump is sexist. But no whining allowed. Deal with it.
Gender and ties to the Democratic establishment aren’t Clinton’s real problems. The voters’ lack of trust in her is the drag on her campaign. It hurt her in Iowa and New Hampshire and is guaranteed to travel with her. That’s what she needs to confront.
The Sanders campaign, meanwhile, proves that age really is more than a number. It’s an attitude: An old socialist can project youthful idealism, with all its exuberance and refusal to yield to reality. In New Hampshire, it made him a winner.
Clinton can only bet that in the fight ahead, it turns him into a loser.
Joan Vennochi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Bernie Sanders’ age.