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Opinion Democratic voters are rallying around Sanders. Why can’t elites?

A Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) supporter at a campaign rally in San Antonio on Saturday. (Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters)

Lloyd Blankfein has got a problem with Bernie Sanders.

“I might find it harder to vote for Bernie than for Trump,” Blankfein, the 65-year-old former chief executive of Goldman Sachs, told the Financial Times last week. Asked about Trump’s “autocratic” leanings, Blankfein didn’t answer, pointing instead to Trump’s economic accomplishments.

Blankfein is hardly alone in his reluctance. Politico reports Wall Street is in a collective “freakout” about the septuagenarian socialist’s ascendance to Democratic Party front-runner following his overwhelming victory in the Nevada caucuses this past weekend.

But Blankfein’s beef with Sanders is petty and personal: He doesn’t like it when Sanders bashes billionaires like himself, or when he proposes things like a wealth tax. Like many in the financial sector, Blankfein so hates to see billionaires criticized that he would apparently consider voting for President Trump instead — a man who has mistreated so many people and groups, and who has challenged our democracy in frightening ways.

I could go on against Blankfein’s morally challenged tripe. But instead, I think he should hear from Gloria Pharr, Linda Overbey and Michael Collins. I first interviewed these Nevada voters last spring, and I spoke with the three of them again over the weekend.

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None of them caucused for the Vermont senator last week. But unlike the self-interested Blankfein, they all told me that they will vote for Sanders if he becomes the Democratic Party nominee: no ifs, ands or buts.

Pharr, a retired corporate executive whom I met at a Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) rally last year, ultimately went with Tom Steyer. But she told me her number one priority is replacing Trump. “I don’t care who the candidate is, honestly. I just want Trump gone,” she said.

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Trump, Pharr believes, is not simply a man of bad character and little integrity, but one who is unconcerned about the rights of minorities and cares less about the environment than about “big companies making money." As a result? “I am fully on board if Bernie wins the nomination,” Pharr told me.

I encountered Overbey, a former Hollywood set designer and now a self-described “union painter” in Las Vegas at the same rally. She thrilled to Warren’s vision but ultimately concluded a woman was just not going to get elected, and switched her support to former vice president Joe Biden.

But Overbey says she will pull a lever for Sanders if he’s the party’s pick. She’s still not a huge fan, she tells me — Sanders “just goes on and on and to me it’s a fantasy.” But he’s better than Trump. “Trump is tearing us apart,” she said. “I want to get back to some normalcy.”

I initially spoke with Collins, a registered nurse who works with renal transplant patients, at a candidates’ forum on wages and labor issues. He’s a longtime labor and health-care activist — he proudly tells me he got arrested in 2017 protesting the attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Collins also supported Warren in the Nevada caucus. But he said he’s on board with Sanders if he’s the party’s nominee. Yes, he’s aware that if Medicare-for-all becomes the law of the land, union negotiated health insurance could be a thing of the past — in fact, he went with Warren because he felt that was less likely to happen under her proposed health-care reforms.

But Collins — unlike, say, Blankfein — gets that you can’t have it all, and tossing Trump from the White House is his highest priority. “The thing that will make [Sanders unelectable] is if people don’t get behind our candidate 100 percent,” he said.

Overbey, Pharr and Collins are not billionaires, but they’ve managed to figure out something that the finance sector big shots have missed: They understand the 2020 election is about more than just themselves. If they can put aside their personal preferences to save the United States from Trump, surely Blankfein and the rest of our billionaire class should be able to do the same.

Read more:

Paul Waldman: Democrats, stop freaking out about Bernie Sanders

John W. Rowe: Are people in their 70s healthy enough to run the country? Yes.

Ruth Marcus: There is no sugarcoating the Nevada results. It was a Sanders blowout.