Bernie Sanders’s Fox News town hall Monday night was the uncomfortable mashup you might expect. If Fox envisioned this as a clash of the ideological titans with Vermont senator representing “democratic socialism” and the Fox hosts representing capitalism, however, they may have underestimated how popular Sanders — and the Sanders platform — would be with the town hall audience.
After Sanders answered an audience question about why government-provided versus private-sector health care by outlining his health care proposal, Baier decided to poll the audience about it, by asking people if they’d prefer it to their current, private-sector-provided health insurance. (That frame evokes Barack Obama’s famous promise that “If you like your health care, you can keep it” — something conservatives and Fox News frequently point to as a symbol of Obamacare’s broken promises.)
The poll ... did not go the way Baier appears to have thought it would.
Bret Baier just polled the Bernie Town Hall audience who would be willing to switch to #MedicareForAll. It backfired spectacularly. pic.twitter.com/dQJ9gfQ137— jordan (@JordanUhl) April 15, 2019
It’s apparent that Fox didn’t stack the town hall with conservatives or people who hated Bernie Sanders; while the first questioner was a student organizer with the conservative youth organization Turning Point USA, the second was a progressive organizer who’d campaigned for Clinton.
MacCallum and Baier asked Sanders the questions that, in general, you’d expect Fox News to ask — like asking about whether the success of his book wasn’t proof that capitalism worked. It seems unlikely that they anticipated such a very enthusiastic response from a studio audience to the idea of government-run health care.
Maybe this proves the central point of Sanders’s campaign rhetoric: that the American people writ large, not just progressive Democrats, really want the government to guarantee them a certain standard of living. Maybe it just proves that Sanders is a good politician who’s skilled at presenting his preferred policies in a way that sounds good to people. Either way, it’s a good illustration of why he’s a 2020 frontrunner.