**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Taking Bernie Sanders seriously – Unemployment surges, estimated at 13 percent – Trump slumps in polls – Grassley leads charge for answers on fired I.G. – Imagine the tan lines!
TAKING BERNIE SANDERS SERIOUSLY
The already ossified conventional wisdom about Bernie Sanders goes like this: Sanders gave voice to the growing number of Democratic socialists in his party, and that in his back-to-back second-place finishes brought those ideas into the mainstream.
Sanders, this thinking goes, is like other runners up who in their defeats were harbingers of their parties’ futures.
Ronald Reagan in 1976 failed to unseat incumbent Gerald Ford, but had brought the conservative revolution in the GOP to the one-yard line. The conservative exile following Barry Goldwater’s 1964 drubbing fully ended with Reagan’s speech re-nominating Ford in San Diego.
In 1992, Pat Buchanan came up far short in his bid to unseat George H.W. Bush, but it foretold of the rise of the populist nationalists on the right that wouldn’t be fully realized until 2016 with Donald Trump.
How about Eugene McCarthy? That’s more fitting for Sanders, who launched his own political career from the springboard of the anti-Vietnam War protest movement. The Minnesota senator’s surprising success in 1968 – including stampeding a sitting president from the race – was an omen of the demise of Democratic moderation, especially on foreign policy, for more than two decades.
There’s some wisdom here. Sanders definitely captured the imagination of younger voters, especially young, college-educated whites. While his 2020 effort fell far short of his 2016 outing, this important slice of the Democratic electorate stuck with him.
Even as Sanders took a 28-point pasting in South Carolina this year, he won among white voters under 45 by a breezy 12 points. As that bloc of voters becomes more important to the party as age brings increased turnout propensity, it’s not unreasonable to think that Sanders would be seen as a prophet of the coming age.
And Sanders may four or eight years from now be the one putting the name of his heir apparent, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, into nomination at the Democratic National Convention with Vampire Weekend jamming on stage left.
But almost everything about that is still unknown.
First, how does this year go? If Joe Biden loses to Donald Trump this fall, you can bet on a massive liberal revolt among Democrats. Just as Mitt Romney’s 2012 defeat emboldened the nationalist right, an establishment Democratic loss this time would throw wide the curtains for the socialist left.
In fact, the socialists should be secretly rooting for Biden’s defeat.
The trouble with young voters is that they don’t vote at anything like the rate of their older counterparts. In the Michigan primary, Sanders’ last stand, 63 percent of the electorate was 45 or older.
But the problem is that as an age cohort increases in voter frequency, it tends to change ideologically. The issues that matter most and policy solutions that appeal to 25-year-olds are very different than those for voters their parents’ age.
Yes, more people currently in Sanders’ target demographic will be voting 10 years from now. But it’s unlikely their views will remain the same. Especially given the Republican Party’s increasing reliance on working-class white voters, it’s not unreasonable to think that the Democratic Party might grow to be more economically moderate as more affluent suburban voters join their ranks.
A great deal that went wrong with the Democratic nominating process this time around can be traced to a misunderstanding of the Sanders performance in 2016. Most candidates and pundits read out of Sanders’ big finish four years ago that the party was ready for small-s socialism.
The truth about 2016 was that Hillary Clinton is the dark matter of American politics. The density of the dislike among voters for her and her dynastic ambitions is so intense that it crushes even light itself.
State after state this time around revealed the truth. Even when Sanders won, he was mustering smaller pluralities than before. Once the field narrowed, Sanders was revealed to be what he was all along: A protest candidate. Only with Clinton gone, Democrats had much less to protest.
Given the spectacular failures of candidates who fully embraced Sanders’ core issue, single-payer health insurance, as well as the Green New Deal, you can bet there will be a great deal more trepidation about leftward lurches next time around. By the end, even Elizabeth Warren had waffled. Not only did Democratic voters reject Sanders, they rejected his core ideas.
It is certainly true that ideological polarization is continuing apace in both parties. The changes in recent history are breathtaking. Just look at where Biden was when he ran 12 years ago compared to now.
How much of that was Sanders? Some of it is obviously owed to his leadership. But much of it is a reflection of a political system in which parties have become hostages to activist voters and therefore prone to ideological extremism.
The reality is that Sanders’ legacy will be written by the events that come next. He may yet be remembered as the socialists’ Moses who led the far left into power. But just as likely, maybe even more so, is that he will meet the fate of most runners up and live on as a historical curiosity.
THE RULEBOOK: DON’T GET COCKY
“Though a wide ocean separates the United States from Europe, yet there are various considerations that warn us against an excess of confidence or security.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 24
TIME OUT: WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE
On this day in 1865 in the parlor of a Virginia farmer, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee and the main fighting force of the Confederacy. Grant recalled the moment 20 years later for his autobiography: “What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassable face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 45.8 percent
Average disapproval: 48.8 percent
Net Score: -3 percent
Change from one week ago: ↓ 3.6 points
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 46% approve – 49% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 45% approve – 51% disapprove; CNBC: 46% approve – 43% disapprove; CNN: 44% approve – 53% disapprove; Grinnell/Selzer: 48% approve – 48% disapprove.]
WANT MORE HALFTIME REPORT?
You can join Chris and Brianna every day on Fox Nation. It’ll be the same behind-the-scenes look at your favorite political note, only from their remote locations during this unprecedented time. Click here to sign up and watch!
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: WELCOME TO ‘NEXT WEEK’
This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt finally get to listener reviews, and what a joy they were. Thanks to everyone who submitted audio versions. It was so wonderful to hear from you in your own voice. Kudos to Dana who finally won her bet on Bernie, plus a discussion of election woes during a global pandemic, one op-ed’s proposal for a ‘unity cabinet,’ the Wisconsin primaries, and more. Plus, a quick visit from Dana’s husband, Peter McMahon. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
UNEMPLOYMENT SURGES, ESTIMATED AT 13 PERCENT
WaPo: “The surge of job losses continued last week with 6.6 million Americans applying for unemployment benefits, the Labor Department said Thursday. More than 17 million new jobless claims have been filed in the past four weeks, a rapid and unprecedented escalation in unemployment in the United States since the week that President Trump declared a national emergency due to the deadly coronavirus. The 17 million figure includes new reporting from the Labor Department that even more people filed for unemployment in the prior week, pushing the jobless claims up during the week ending March 28 to a record 6.9 million, up from 6.6 million. … Janet L. Yellen, one of the world’s top economists, said U.S. unemployment rate has jumped to at least 12 or 13 percent already, the worst level of joblessness the nation has seen since the Great Depression.”
Report: Trump to tap meadows for economic team leader – WaPo: “President Trump is preparing to announce as soon as this week a second, smaller coronavirus task force aimed specifically at combating the economic ramifications of the virus and focused on reopening the nation’s economy, according to four people familiar with the plans. The task force will be made up of a mix of private-sector and top administration officials, including chief of staff Mark Meadows — whose first official day on the job was last week — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and national economic adviser Larry Kudlow, a senior administration official said. Meadows is likely to lead the task force, though no official decision has been made, two senior administration officials said.”
Dems block GOP bid for borrowing another $250 billion, seek more – Fox News: “A $250 billion urgent request to shore up a depleting small business fund failed to pass the Senate Thursday after Democrats objected to the measure pushed by the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. With lawmakers home and social distancing, McConnell sought to pass the cash infusion swiftly Thursday by unanimous consent with a skeleton group of senators, but Democrats blocked the effort because they want add-ons to help businesses in disadvantaged communities and an additional $250 billion in funds for other priorities. The extra funding is being sought amid concerns that the original $350 billion program to help businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic could run dry in the near future in the face of an enormous demand.”
Trump considers giving casinos small business loans – Roll Call: “President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would consider concerns raised by small casinos and gambling businesses that can’t get access to emergency loans designed to cover payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘I will take a look at that strongly,’ the president said in response to a question in the White House briefing room. ‘Nobody’s told me about it.’ The issue raised by members of the Nevada congressional delegation, as well as Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and the gaming industry, relates to the Small Business Administration’s regulations for the Paycheck Protection Program loans. ‘Many of our casinos — including hotels — are small businesses, and they employ many tens of thousands of employees across our state, making up the backbone of Nevada’s economy,’ the Nevada congressional delegation wrote in a Wednesday letter to House and Senate leadership.”
Pergram: Prepare for six or seven ‘phases’ of stimulus – Fox News: “The House and Senate had not even completed approval of the third phase of the coronavirus legislative response late last month when lawmakers started jockeying for a phase four bill. The components of phase four are anybody’s guess. It’s likely to clock in at $2 trillion or more, with more money to assist health care providers, along with money for tests, treatment and care. Democrats may insist on vote-by-mail provisions for the November elections. This came on the heels of Tuesday’s Petri dish primary in Wisconsin. There was chatter about infrastructure – maybe even $1-2 trillion right there by itself. But infrastructure will likely have to wait for the phase six or seven bill. You heard that right. Phase six or seven.”
TRUMP SLUMPS IN POLLS
Politico: “On Wednesday, six separate pollsters released new surveys. In all six, Trump’s approval rating was below 50 percent, ranging between 40 percent and 45 percent. …those with trendlines from weeks earlier in the crisis showed an uptick in the percentage of those critical of Trump’s response. … In the new Monmouth poll, 46 percent of respondents said Trump was doing a good job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, while 49 percent said he was doing a bad job. Last month, 50 percent said Trump was doing a good job, compared to 45 percent who said he was doing a bad job. … A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday also showed a narrow majority disapproved of how Trump is handling the situation — 51 percent disapprove, compared to 46 percent who approve.”
WSJ Ed. Board to Trump: The daily show isn’t working – WSJ: “If Mr. Trump wants to make his briefings more helpful to the country, here’s our advice. Make them no more than 45 minutes, except on rare occasions. Let Mr. Pence lead them each day, focusing on one issue or problem. Mr. Pence can take the questions, and Mr. Trump can show up twice a week to reinforce the message.”
Biden keeps his edge over Trump in general election polls – Fox News: “With the Democratic primary battle now over and the White House race transitioning to a general election showdown, two new national polls show Joe Biden holding a single-digit advantage over President Trump. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee narrowly leads the Republican incumbent 48-44 percent among registered voters in a Monmouth University Polling Institute survey released on Thursday. And Biden leads Trump 48-41 percent in a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. … Both polls were conducted before [Sen. Bernie] Sanders ended his White House bid.”
CDC director ducks scrutiny with friendly interviews – Politico: “Since his agency bungled the coronavirus testing rollout, CDC Director Robert Redfield has rarely been seen at the White House podium or on national television. Normally the leader of the Centers for Disease Control would be the face of a global public health response. But his agency’s stumbles early in the pandemic … sidelined him. … Instead, he’s finding a home on local radio. But on these obscure shows, the conservative Christian scientist has found an unusual niche. He’s becoming the point man for President Donald Trump with a fervent crowd that has been deeply skeptical of the coronavirus outbreak, believing it a hoax, a Chinese weapon or a Deep State plot to tank the economy and destroy the Trump presidency. … Redfield has become somewhat of the MAGA crowd whisperer…”
GRASSLEY LEADS CHARGE FOR ANSWERS ON FIRED I.G.
Axios: “A bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent President Trump a letter on Wednesday asking for a ‘detailed written explanation’ on why he fired Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector general. ‘Congress intended that inspectors general only be removed when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing or failure to perform the duties of the office, and not for reasons unrelated to their performance, to help preserve IG independence,’ states the letter, signed by eight senators. It also notes the president ‘appears to have circumvented’ Congress and the required 30-day notice to the congressional intelligence committees by ‘placing the IG on 30 days of administrative leave and naming an acting replacement.’”
Biden hints at Harris pick – Fox News
Wisconsin results mired in controversy – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Kansas Republicans repeal governor’s order on larger groups for church services, funerals – Fox News
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., to sell stocks after coming under scrutiny – AP
Linda Tripp, a key figure in the Clinton impeachment, dies at age 70 – AP
“Even my hair — I don’t have much of it — that hurt.” – Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., talking to the WaPo’s Paul Kane about the aches and pains he suffered when he was sick with coronavirus.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Ohio is now allowing restaurants with liquor licenses to provide two packaged alcoholic drinks per takeout order. Prior to that I was aware of one national chain that was selling their branded beer and even bottles of wine near cost to serve their customers. Since we do have liquor stores within some grocery stores we have not had the abstinence concern of our neighbors to the east.” – Bill Sadlowski, Boardman, Ohio
[Ed. note: As I recall from my misspent youth, Ohio’s version of liquor prohibition meant that grocery stores could sell liquor, but only watered down — sort of a hooch version of low-alcohol beer. Distributors would bottle 40-proof simulations of the real stuff just for the Ohio market. I remember this once led to us toasting the arrival of one of my nieces with half-strength coconut-flavored rum. We would have been better off just drinking Coppertone…]
“Here in California where I live, in the county of Sacramento, the county board of supervisors decided it was too costly to have *live* polling places in the three surrounding zip codes of 95841,  and 95843, so they decreed in those zippers (and probably others too) the voters now have voting by mail only. And, as California now has ‘top two’, for instance, when candidates running for public office say, two democrats out poll any other candidates, republicans included, it doesn’t leave much to the imagination who is going to win. And, voting by mail gives the liberals something to crow about as to ‘how nice it was to have such a large turnout.’ So, it’s easy to see anything other than a liberal viewpoint is going to get strangled one way or the other.” – Gary Smith, Sacramento, Calif.
[Ed. note: You sound like you’re a Republican, Mr. Smith. And while there are certainly lots of folks who argue that larger turnout elections are better for Democrats, there’s not really evidence to support that premise. A new book co-authored by my friend and colleague Daron Shaw, who is part of FNC’s polling team in addition to teaching political science at the University of Texas (horns down, obvi.), argues persuasively that there is no clear partisan skew when it comes to turnout size. Now, there are legitimate questions to be asked about the security of ballots in a mail-in system. We just saw a congressional race in North Carolina thrown out because of that kind of chicanery, so we know it’s real, even if we can’t really know how widespread abuses are. Whatever the scale might be, I don’t think it could possibly be enough to account for the ongoing rout of the GOP in California. The zip codes you mention are all on I-80 on the north side of the city, and while one, 95843, which stretches up to Antelope, was fairly tight in 2016 (Clinton beat Trump 565 to 532) the other two zips were blowouts. It’s hard to imagine anything, even fraud, that would make Sacramento’s northside competitive any time soon.]
“I have a vivid memory of listening to one of the 1968 World Series games as I drove to our Utah farm to do some chores in our old green GMC pickup. And I loved Al Kaline. I remember very little from 1968, but that memory is stuck in my mind as though it were yesterday.” – Ted Smith, Herriman, Utah
[Ed. note: I’ll tell you what, Mr. Smith, if you could pick one memory from that year, yours sounds like a pretty good one to keep!]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
IMAGINE THE TAN LINES!
Fox News: “Face masks are apparently more important than pants when it comes to health and safety. A group of sunbathing nudists in the Czech Republic were recently told they needed to cover up, just not in the way that most would expect. While they were completely free to remain nude, local ordinances required that they keep their mouths covered due to the global coronavirus outbreak. Authorities in Lazne Bohdanec found about 75 people to be in violation of government orders in relation to the pandemic, the New York Post reports. According to the outlet, groups of ‘opportunistic nudists’ were among those found to be in violation of the rules. A police spokesperson confirmed to local outlets that people sunbathing in the area were violating not just the rules regarding facemasks, but also a rule prohibiting the gathering of large crowds.”
AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I gaze at [my son Daniel’s] body, so perfectly formed, so perfectly innocent. It has yet to be written on. I look at his knee and wonder where will be the little mark that records his first too-hard slide into second base.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on June 28, 1985.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.