Is Sanders the Better Candidate to Defeat Trump?

Robert McChesney analyses the Indiana primary outcomes and the election trajectory for the candidates and the voters

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SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. On Tuesday night in Indiana’s Republican primary, Donald Trump won all 51 delegates, clinching the Republican nomination, while driving Senator Ted Cruz and John Kasich out of the race. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders won the primary over Hillary Clinton with 43 delegates, giving his campaign the momentum to stay in the race. Let’s take a look at what Trump and Sanders had to say upon their victory last night.

DONALD TRUMP: All my life, I’ve been in competitions. Different competitions, whether it’s sports or business or now, for ten months, politics. And I have to tell you that I have met some of the most incredible competitors that I have ever competed against. Right here on the Republican Party, you know we started off with that 17 number. So again I want to congratulate Ted Cruz. He is a tough, smart competitor. I want to thank my wife and my family, it’s an incredible family.

BERNIE SANDERS: So we feel great about tonight, not only winning here in Indiana and accumulating some more delegates but also gaining the momentum we need to take us to the finish line. What is most important is that we do not allow someone like a Donald Trump to become President of the United States. And I think that according to every poll that I have been in last month, Bernie Sanders defeats Donald Trump in national polls by greater margins than does Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders beats Donald Trump by greater margins than Hillary Clinton in battleground state after battleground state after battleground state. In other words, I think the objective evidence is that I am the strongest candidate to prevent Trump from becoming president.

PERIES: According to every poll, Bernie Sanders has a great chance of defeating Trump than Secretary Clinton in all battleground states. Joining us now to discuss this is Robert McChesney. He’s the author along with John Nichols of the new book People, Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy. So good to have you with us, Bob.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: My pleasure to be here.

PERIES: Bob, let me get your take on Indiana’s primary results on the Democratic side first.

MCCHESNEY: Well, I think this is the first race of the primary season where I thought Bernie Sanders absolutely needed to win to continue to have a roadmap to win the nomination, and I think that for that reason it was an extraordinary victory. He came into this race with the entirety of the corporate news media, NPR, completely written him out, the race was over, Hillary Clinton was the presumptive nominee, and this had a great demoralizing effect on Sanders supporters. They activism was done appreciably in the last week or two, so this is really sort of the darkest moment for the campaign, its greatest test, and the fact he won, and won handily in Indiana, I think, now the schedule for sanders going forward looks very favorable. This was a decisive day for him, it was a crucial day, and this was an enourmous victory. And even though I never sensed this at MSNBC or CNN, or the New York Times or the Washington Post, I suspect inside of Hillary Clinton’s inner circles, there’s a great deal of teeth gnashing going on right now.

PERIES: And now Bernie Sanders is moving forward, and every poll, as I mentioned earlier, says that he a greater chance of winning the presidency against a Trump candidacy. What do you make of that?

MCCHESNEY: I think it’s for obvious reasons. This is not an accident. Bernie Sanders is by far the popular candidate, Republican or Democrat or Independent voters. Hillary Clinton’s not popular among Independent voters at all. And so when you have a general election who are a plurality of all American voters, there are more Independents than there are Republicans or Democrats, Bernie Sanders does really well. He wins against everyone. He has for months now. And he does much better than Hillary Clinton. And that’s why if you look at the primary season so far on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton basically—her wins have been [unclear] to a certain extent. They’ve either been in states with extraordinarily low voter turnout, like across the deep South and in Ohio, where the turnout’s forty to fifty percent less than it was in 2008, the last time there’s been a competitive race.

Or they’ve been in states that have been closed primaries, like Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, where basically people had to be Democrats and in some states, like New York, they literally had to change their registration six months prior to the primary. These are the states she’s won. When there have been open primaries where people register the same day they can vote, where Independents can participate, Bernie Sanders has done really, really well. And this is sort of what he’s looking at the rest of the primary season, and I think what we’re seeing is Hillary Clinton’s basic weakness as a candidate being underlined. Again, she’s just not that popular with voters. She’s scrambles in the Democratic side, but when it gets to general election, she has a lot of core weaknesses some of which have yet to be exploited. Bernie Sanders has run a pretty, actually generous campaign toward her. He hasn’t really touched some of the issues that Donald Trumps and the super PACs that they’re lining up with no difficulty driving a truck through those holes.

PERIES: Now what do you make of the Donald Trump victory in Indiana, a largely working class state, with a lot of unions. In that state, how does Donald Trump seal his nomination with Indiana?

MCCHESNEY: Donald Trump has been the dominant candidate on the Republican side the entire season, with only a few exceptions, Wisconsin being one of them a month ago, and then a few of the deep South states, or southwest states, like Texas and Oklahoma and up in Minnesota. But aside from that, Trump has basically run the board and run the board mostly with landslide victories. So the victory in Indiana should have been no surprise.

I think he has a great deal of appeal for a variety of reasons, and it only would have been a shock had he lost yesterday. He is the presumptive nominee. He has been the most popular candidate. There has been a lot of speculation about why that is and his appeal, but I do think what we can say with some authority is that Trump is probably the most difficult candidate for any Democrat to beat, especially Hillary Clinton because Ted Cruz, even John Kasich but Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or one of the traditional [Republicans] probably was looking at the same electoral map that Mitt Romney or John McCain looked at, which meant basically they were going to win the southern states, they were going to win some of the interior western states, then they’d have to fight and claw for North Carolina, for Florida there’s an outside chance, for Virginia and for Ohio. They’d have to win basically every close state to get to 270 in the electoral college. It would have been probably almost impossible.

Donald Trump changes that. He’ll win all the deep southern states. His racist stuff has locked that voting base in. He’s going to win the southern states, he’ll win the interior westerns, he’ll win the hard core Republican states but because he is very strong, at least rhetorically, in two areas where Hillary Clinton is extremely weak, he’s going to have opportunities to go into a number of states in the North that Ted Cruz wouldn’t have had a prayer in, that Mitt Romney had no hope in: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa.

These states are fair game because Donald Trump is running against trade deals, he’s running against runaway jobs. Hillary Clinton is the champion of these corporate trade deals, these corporate giveaways. Donald Trump is running against money in politics and the corruption of the super PAC system and buying elections. Hillary Clinton is the champion of that system. Despite her rhetoric, she’s gaming the system for herself. So she’s especially weak in the areas where Trump can exploit because he’s especially strong rhetorically and he can go in and those are crucial working class votes. And not just white voters, mind you. There’s evidence talking to friends on mine in the labor movement, he will do better with black working class voters than one might think, running on those exact issues.

PERIES: And finally, Bob what does this tell us about American social, political understanding of Trump’s character and his shady past. You know, this morning on Democracy Now they were talking about his association and perhaps affiliation with the mob in New Jersey. Now there’s so much about Donald Trump that is unconventional, to put it mildly. How does a candidate like that succeed in this political climate in the United States of America?

MCCHESNEY: You know, it’s not just Donald Trump that’s getting horse manure coverage by the corporate news media and NPR, it’s also Hillary Clinton. Her record has not been examined either. Let’s be clear about this. Hillary Clinton went on a corporate shakedown speaking tour unprecedented in American history. In the two years after leaving the state department and before formally announcing her candidacy, she put $21 million in her personal bank account [by] giving 90 talks to the largest corporations of America, all of whom knew she was about to run for president. Unprecedented in American history. And this has gotten virtually no attention, just a couple of the Goldman Sachs talks but then it’s just talking about the transcripts. This is basically elementary journalism and it’s only being done on the margins, by The Intercept, TruthOut, TruthDig. You see some stuff but it’s more or less off-limits.

And so both candidates basically aren’t given any serious coverage or analysis, and what this means is that it’s reduced basically […] Hillary Clinton will run a bunch of negative ads with her super PAC attacking Donald Trump for his record. Donald Trump will do the same thing to Hilalry Clinton, and they’re the ones who will raise these issues. But then each candidate can dismiss them basically as political propaganda but their opponent. We don’t have that many journalists actually covering these stories and giving the hard digging, and that’s something that’s just a major loss. It’s one of the reasons both candidates have been so successful because journalism in this country basically doesn’t really exist.

PERIES: Bob, we hope to unpack those stories and looking forward to having you back. Thank you so much for joining us today.

MCCHESNEY: My pleasure.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.