Will The Jane Sanders Scandal Hurt Bernie's 2020 Chances?

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It’s still way too early, but Democrats are already itching to predict which superstar will claim the monumental task of reclaiming the White House from the brutal buffoonery of Donald J. Trump. As one might expect, everything revolves around the presence (or absence) of one man:  U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT). There still appears to be some bad blood over 2016, for the mainstream media appears eager to push Sanders out of the 2020 running by leaving him out of polls. While some pundits might argue that Sanders’ advanced age make him virtually ineligible for 2020 consideration, the polls do include similarly-aged Joe Biden.

The situation appears pretty clear: Establishment Democrats are still upset over Hillary Clinton’s unexpected loss in November, and are assigning a big portion of blame to Bernie Sanders. 

But there’s a good chance that the septuagenarian progressive may launch a 2020 bid, for he has publicly refused to rule it out. And pollster Nate Silver, who famously predicted that Trump actually had a chance in November, to the mockery of his fellows, thinks that Sanders is the de facto Democratic frontrunner for 2020. Sanders may not be universally popular, Silver clarifies, but he is in the lead, and his actions will determine which other liberals decide to throw their hats into the 2020 ring. He also notes that Sanders is the most popular U.S. Senator in the country and leads every 2020 poll in which he is included.

Age aside, Sanders does seem poised to clinch the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination if he seeks it, but a cloud of scandal may rain on his parade. Sanders’ wife, Jane, is under investigation for alleged bank fraud in a land purchase deal for the Vermont college which she operated as president. Supposedly, Jane Sanders overstated the college’s financial position to leverage the $6.5 million loan. She resigned in 2011 after the loan-funded expansion of the college failed, and the institution closed down last year.

Some Democrats are itching to use the growing scandal to force Bernie Sanders out of 2020 contention, arguing that it hurts his progressive credibility. Grumbling has also occurred about Sanders’ recent purchase of a $575,000 home on Lake Champlain, and some liberals are worried that Republicans could use the house and the investigation into Jane Sanders to tarnish Bernie’s clean reputation. But before establishment Dems try to give the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist the old heave-ho, they should consider a few things:

First, it will look mighty hypocritical to try to tie Bernie Sanders to his wife’s banking dilemma.  In 2016, Democrats were outraged that conservatives continually tried to attack Hillary Clinton by referring to Bill’s scandals. “He’s not running,” they would huff. While voters might have indeed been turned off by the idea of Bill Clinton, admitted philanderer and alleged sexual assaulter, as First Gentleman, the Democratic Party certainly didn’t try to push Hillary aside. Heck, they didn’t even try to push her aside over the worsening Internet server scandal. Frankly, after Hillary Clinton remained the choice of establishment Democrats despite all the scandals, it would be laughably hypocritical to tell Bernie to buzz off over a third house and his wife’s banking brouhaha.

Second, the house thing could be a toxic issue that would ensnare other 2020 contenders. While a $575,000 third home may indeed weaken Bernie Sanders’ socialist street cred, other potential 2020 presidential candidates have more luxurious real estate. Fellow progressive icon Elizabeth Warren has a home worth about $2 million, and her post as a Harvard professor earned her $430,000 for “2010 and part of 2011.” Cory Booker does a lot better, with a net worth considerably lower than the average in Congress, but his donations from Big Pharma have already tarnished his image as a progressive.

And, with a congressional income of $174,000 and an age of 75, Sanders’ $575,000 home is not outlandish. It would be the equivalent of someone earning $58,000 per year purchasing a $191,500 home. At age 75, and still working, Sanders has built up a nice nest egg. It is conceivable that, given his age, he spent a good portion of his savings on the home, into which he might permanently retire someday. It’s not quite “roughing it,” as we might expect a socialist to do, but he’s certainly no Trump (or Clinton) with a genuine mansion.

Ironically, Sanders’ supporters in 2016 we accused of holding Hillary Clinton to an excessively rigid “purity test.” If establishment Democrats attempt to sideline Bernie Sanders in 2020 by arguing that his vacation home and wife’s bank scandal render him “impure,” they may discover that none of the 2020 lineup passes muster. Like it or not, Sanders remains the Democratic Party’s best hope of wresting the White House away from Trump and co. thus far. He has the campaign experience and proven popularity to go the distance, and nobody else is guaranteed the same level of grassroots support, especially from younger voters.

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