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Bernie Sanders Reaches Frontrunner Status in CNN Poll

According to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has dramatically improved his standing in the 2020 Democratic primary race, as for the first time in CNN’s history of polling this race he has eclipsed Joe Biden. According to the poll, 27% of registered Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents support Sanders, whereas 24% prefer Biden. Though Sanders’ support is impressive, particularly considering his radically progressive policy agenda, the difference between Sanders and Biden is within the margin of error, meaning that this poll shows no clear frontrunner at the moment. That being said, Sanders and Biden are clearly in the lead compared to the other candidates; Warren ranked in 3rd place at 14% whereas Buttigieg is at 11%, with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg receiving 5% support. Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar each received 4% support among those included in the poll.

It’s important to note that while Sanders has made significant progress in the race so far, it’s still early in the primary season, as the first votes have not yet been cast. While Biden has consistently remained among the most popular choices for the Democratic candidate, last year he was briefly overtaken by Elizabeth Warren, though Warren has since fallen behind in the polls amid criticism of her Medicare-for-All plan and a personal dispute with Sanders over whether he told her a woman could not be elected president in a meeting between the two in 2018.

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As the primary process continues, the Democratic candidates have intensified their criticisms of one another; a recent Sanders ad questions Biden’s record on protecting Social Security, and Biden rebuked these claims with an attack ad of his own, accusing the Sanders campaign of lying about his record. These attacks have led Democrats to fear that the political damage that the candidates are inflicting on one another will hurt whoever ends up as the Democratic nominee, and these fears are magnified by the intense focus Democrats have on defeating Donald Trump in 2020. 

One of the key factors that influences voter turnout is enthusiasm, and fortunately for Sanders, 38% of Democratic voters say they would be enthusiastic about voting for Sanders in the general election if he wins the nomination, even though enthusiasm towards all of the other candidates has decreased in recent months. Sanders is also seen as the candidate who most often agrees with voters on the issues they consider to be the most important, and he also is considered to be the candidate who best understands the issues facing the American voter.

The current election cycle is a unique one in American history, as it represents an opportunity for Democrats to radically shift the direction of the country

However, at the forefront of most voters’ minds is the issue of electability, as Democrats across the board are most interested in nominating the candidate who stands the best chance of defeating Donald Trump in the general election. According to the poll, Joe Biden is still considered to be the most electable candidate by a significant margin; 45% of Democrats say that Biden has the best chance of defeating Trump, whereas just 24% say the same of Sanders. That being said, Sanders has made progress in this field as well, as increasing numbers of Democrats feel that he can defeat Trump, and indeed Sanders consistently ranks more favorably than Trump by several percentage points among voters generally, as do several of the other Democratic candidates. Unfortunately for the Democrats, Republican voters report being more enthusiastic about voting in the general election than Democratic voters do, a likely result of political fatigue after Democrats witness headline after headline of what they consider to be profoundly negative news generated by the White House and Congress.

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When it comes to the issue of which candidate has the best chance of uniting the Democratic party, though, Biden substantially outperforms Sanders; 41% of voters name Biden as having the best shot of uniting the party whereas just 16% say the same of Sanders. This is unsurprising considering Sanders’ record as an independent senator and a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist,” and considering his ambitious policy proposals, Sanders will have to get Democrats on his side one way or another in order to pass promised legislation such as Medicare-for-All, which is sure to be an uphill battle for him if he wins the presidency. 

That being said, the current election cycle is a unique one in American history, as it represents an opportunity for Democrats to radically shift the direction of the country, as the party is likely to embrace a radical set of policies in order to energize voters to defeat Trump in November. At this stage in the process, no one can say with certainty what will happen several months from now; however, recent polls give renewed enthusiasm to Sanders supporters, many of whom are still bitter about how the Democratic primary unfolded in 2016 amid accusations that the DNC was biased towards Hillary Clinton.

Impeachment

House Panel Votes to Approve Articles of Impeachment

While President Trump has not yet officially been impeached, that historic outcome has become even more likely as the House of Representatives prepares for a full vote on both of the articles that have been presented by the House Judiciary Committee. The full votes on both articles will be held sometime next week, probably Wednesday, and are likely to pass along party lines. Republican members of Congress have shown absolutely no cracks in their resistance to impeachment, as every Republican representative has voted against the process since it began several weeks ago and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he expects no Republican senators to vote to remove President Trump from office.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Jerry Nadler, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff presented the Articles of Impeachment during a press conference on Tuesday, with formal charges including Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. Democrats opted to keep the focus of impeachment narrow in order to build the strongest possible case in a short period of time; although the Mueller Report outlined several instances of potential obstruction of justice, which has been presented as an article in previous impeachments, the articles that the House Panel just approved involved only the misconduct that become evident in connection to a whistleblower complaint from a few months ago. Considering the President’s misconduct to be a national security emergency, Democrats are undergoing the impeachment process as quickly as they possibly can, choosing not to wait for the courts to decide whether the White House is legally obligated to produce documents and witnesses in accordance with numerous congressional subpoenas.

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While the outcome in the Democrat-led House of Representatives has been highly predictable throughout the impeachment process, the upcoming trial in the Senate, which is led by Republican Mitch McConnell, is less clear. However, McConnell has shed some light on what the Senate trial will look like during a recent interview with Fox News, during which the Senate Majority Leader indicated that the Senate would follow the White House’s lead in defining the parameters of the trial. 

It’s long been predicted that, regardless of how long the Senate trial goes on and how it is defined, Republicans would vote along party lines to protect the President. Now, McConnell has reaffirmed the congressional body’s fealty to the president, as he has taken the historically unprecedented step of allowing the defendant of a high-stakes trial to define the terms of the trial that will determine whether he is found guilty of committing high crimes and misdemeanors. McConnell said that there is ‘zero chance’ Trump is removed by impeachment, and given the Republicans’ unyielding loyalty to the current Commander in Chief, there is little reason to doubt him.

While President Trump will probably not be removed from office after the Senate trial, impeachment is nonetheless likely to have a lasting political impact, as the general election that will determine the next President of the United States will be held in less than a year. Though one can make a fairly confident prediction that Trump will remain the President through 2020, virtually nobody can speak with certainty at this point about the likelihood of his winning reelection next year. Both Democrats and Republicans have said that they hope impeachment will have a positive effect on their political power; Democrats argue that the public process of impeachment helps to inform the electorate about the President’s many abuses of power and thus of the urgency of removing him from office, whereas Republicans see the outcome of impeachment as a victory for the President, who is sure to portray his acquittal in the Senate as a vindication of his position that Article II of the Constitution, which defines the parameters of the executive branch of the federal government, gives him the power to do whatever he wants.

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Perhaps the biggest takeaway of the likely outcome of impeachment will be that Trump’s claim to absolute executive power, unburdened by the Constitution’s centuries-old system of checks and balances, will be correct. At this moment in history, as Democrats have taken pains to point out time and time again, impeachment and the upcoming general election are the only two remaining constitutional checks preventing the President from consolidating his power and transforming the country’s government into a monarchy or dictatorship. 

If Trump is acquitted by the Senate, as he probably will be, Congress will establish a precedent that it is OK for the President to cheat in American elections by coordinating with foreign powers to interfere in the democratic process around which the country’s entire government is built. Though the upcoming presidential election is likely to be compromised as a result of efforts by the President and Republicans to undermine democracy, it will determine whether or not the United States will remain a republic or descend into an authoritarian state, as the president’s last three years of attacks against the institutions of democratic governance have been remarkably effective and are certain to continue to their completion if he is given another term in office.