At the time that I am writing this, Donald Trump is looking to be the clear leader as the Republican candidate for the general election, while on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are still competing strongly for the lead. The general opinion seems to be that a lot of Democrats want Bernie Sanders, but feel that Hillary Clinton is the only one of the two who has a real chance of winning a general election.
This situation will probably largely sort itself out in a little over a week with the Super Tuesday elections, when we'll see if the Bernie Sanders idealists win out, or the Hillary Clinton "she knows how to play the game" / "it's time for a female president" crowd do.
I've been a Sanders supporter from the start, and I've found it interesting and amusing to watch the mental contortions of people during this election cycle, both on the Democratic and Republican sides, as they've constantly had their beliefs on how elections work be challenged, and then struggle to make sense of what they're seeing and make meaningful predictions for the future.
Go back about 8 or 9 months when candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump announced their intention to run for president. So many people were constantly saying that these were unelectable candidates, they weren't serious candidates, that it was a waste of time to pay attention to them.
I watched with disappointment as people like Bill Maher would say things like (paraphrasing) "I love Bernie Sanders, but he'll never be president", and then with amusement recently as he now endorses Sanders and criticizes all of those people who won't take him seriously as a candidate!
The right wing media has tried so desperately to make Donald Trump go away, and he just won't go away. He's a mostly self-funded billionaire candidate, and he can afford to stick around as long as he wants. He doesn't need to pander to the media, he knows how to manipulate the media, and they're completely unprepared for dealing with this.
Back in August, I wrote a blog post about how we're at a point where needing lots of money to pander to big media is no longer necessary for a candidate to get noticed. It's now Facebook, Twitter and Google that are largely determining what news people are seeing, and that's why Bernie Sanders became a viable candidate. His supporters have made him go viral despite all the money being thrown at the media in support of Hillary Clinton.
So here's the interesting thing: for all of the people who insisted that Trump and Sanders couldn't possibly become serious contenders for the presidency, you were wrong. Whatever your intuitions or arguments were, they've already been proven to be invalid in this election cycle to some degree. Given this information, do you now keep making predictions based on your previous intuitions, or do you step back and admit that if you were so wrong in your predictions about the election up to now, then maybe your future predictions are going to be just as unreliable?
For all of the people insisting that Bernie Sanders can't possibly win a general election, you may of course be totally right. But if you also insisted that he couldn't even get to this level of popularity, then you already have good evidence that you don't understand this election cycle. Having your predictions proven wrong and then being convinced your new predictions will be right is simply not being willing to adjust your views to new evidence.
Basically, if you were previously saying that there couldn't possibly be a Sanders vs Trump general election, then you should probably shut up about whether Sanders can win a general election. And if your main reason for preferring Clinton over Sanders is because you think only she has a chance at winning, then please, have the intellectual integrity to step back, notice just how wrong your and most other peoples intuitions have been about this election, and stop continuing to make bad predictions that will lead to bad decisions.
There is actually a real chance at a US election where people can vote for an idealistic candidate who genuinely wants to change things rather than just seeking power. He may not succeed with the things he wants to achieve, but the US political system is desperately in need of a shake up, and a shake up towards idealism rather than cynicism. People's confidence in anything useful actually getting done is at an all time low, and voting in more of the same type of people is probably just going to get more of the same type of results.