In early 2016, after it had become apparent that then-candidate Donald Trump was on a trajectory to capture the GOP’s nomination, many establishment Republicans went into a frenzy.
The so-called Never Trump movement was born and many establishment Republicans did what was once unthinkable — they supported Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency.
Four years later, with a lifelong, self-avowed “democratic socialist” as the clear front-runner to grab the Democratic Party’s nomination, traditional Democrats are finding themselves in a similar situation.
Should they cede the White House for four more years and live to fight another day? Could Bernie Sanders do so much damage to the Democratic Party that it might never recover?
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews sure thinks so. Like many Never Trumpers in 2016 with the populist New Yorker’s candidacy, the left-wing TV personality is wondering if many Democrats would rather see their opposition elected — or in this case, re-elected.
It has been no secret in recent weeks that establishment Democrats — including Matthews — are growing concerned as Sanders racks up delegates — especially after the big Sanders win in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday. But now, he and other Democrats are discussing whether their best play might be to let the Republicans win this one.
“I’m wondering whether the Democratic moderates want Bernie Sanders to be president,” the “Hardball” host said, as the Washington Examiner noted.
“That’s maybe too exciting a question to raise. They don’t like Trump at all. Do they want Bernie Sanders to take over the Democratic Party in perpetuity? I mean, he takes it over, he sets the direction of the future of the party,” he said.
“Maybe they’d rather wait four years and put in a Democrat that they like,” he added.
Matthews said establishment Democrats are concerned that in nominating Sanders, they could be “losing the future.”
He also warned that if establishment Democrats hope to stop Sanders by coalescing around a single moderate candidate, that time is now.
He specifically questioned the idea that Sanders “moderate” competitors — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former South Bend, Illinois, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — would unite around a Sanders alternative.
“If the four moderates, and we call them all ‘moderates’ because they’re not Bernie, we’re talking about Amy [Klobuchar], we’re talking about Buttigieg, we’re talking about Biden — we might be talking about Bloomberg as well,” he said.
“If they can’t agree now which one of them is going to be the nominee, they’re going to somehow agree at the second ballot of the convention?” he asked.
According to Matthews, the only hope for the establishment Democrats to stop Sanders might be a brokered convention. But, he worries even that might not be enough.
Are we witnessing the birth of the “Never Bernie” movement?
Up until now, there has been plenty of analysis regarding the unwillingness of moderate Democrats to embrace Sanders’ style of “socialism,” but there hasn’t been a lot of chatter suggesting that four more years of Trump might be more preferable to the establishment left than a President Sanders.
While there are a few Never Trump stalwarts still opposing the president on social media and on cable news, Trump has proven to be a solid conservative, and has stayed true to many of his campaign promises.
Trump also made no promises to radically transform the country and has a historically strong economy to run on.
He currently holds a 93 percent approval rating among Republicans, and a 43 percent approval rating among independents, according to recent Gallup poll numbers.
Sanders, meanwhile, has promised a complete government takeover of America’s health care system, promised to abolish the agencies that protect the country’s borders and has vowed to cancel all student loan debt, among other proposals.
Many of these proposals are so far-left, a great deal of Democrats want nothing to do with them.
Former campaign strategist and political commentator James Carville, who was instrumental in helping former President Bill Clinton get elected in 1992, told MSNBC in early February that Democrats need to “wake up and make sure that we talk about things that are relevant to people,” according to The Hill.
“[Sanders has] never been a Democrat. He’s an ideologue,” Carville later told Vox.
Earlier this month, Sanders attacked Carville over the Louisiana Democrat’s blistering criticisms of the Vermont senator’s campaign by calling him a “hack” on CNN.
“At least I’m not a communist,” Carville responded, according to The Hill.
When James Carville insults the Democratic Party’s clear front-runner by demeaning him as a “communist,” there is trouble brewing.
The question is: How committed are moderate Democrats in their opposition to Sanders? Only time will tell if we are witnessing the inception of a Never Bernie movement.
As the primary plays out, we will get a better sense for how devoted Democrats such as Matthews and Carville are to their resistance to Sanders. It is only February, after all.