It’s admittedly tough times for supporters of Bernie Sanders. While the Vermont senator has accomplished an enormous feat—successfully running against the most establishment-backed candidate possibly of all time—the mathematical path to nomination has become slimmer and slimmer.
The loss in New York did not help, and the results of five primaries on April 26 (PA, MD, CT, RI, and DE) could shape his message going forward, which Sanders advisor Tad Devine alluded to in an interview with the New York Times.
Sanders supporters are understandably frustrated. They feel caught in a lose-lose situation: Hillary Clinton stands for the establishment corruption they are adamantly against. Donald Trump is racist, xenophobic bigot. How can they vote under these circumstances?
This is why many are pushing Sanders for an Independent run, although he said as early as July 2015 that he would not do so and split the Democratic vote, leaving room for a Republican to sweep the general election.
According to Sanders’s wife, Jane Sanders, this mindset has not changed, yet the push remains strong.
Sanders supporters possess completely valid reasons for being unwilling to vote for Clinton in the general election. The fear-mongering from Clinton’s campaign, essentially claiming that refusing to vote for Clinton is a vote for Trump, has ramped up in the past few weeks in an effort to “unify” the party.
Far from unifying, it is alienating Sanders supporters.
When asked during an MSNBC Town Hall whether she would adopt any of Sanders’s policy positions in order to win over his voters, Clinton declared that she needed to do nothing to appeal his supporters and refused to even consider including his policy positions in her platform, instead touting her large lead in delegates and votes.
This attitude is precisely what drives Sanders voters away, and logically, it’s not a wise move for Clinton—in order for Democrats to win a general election, independent voters and high turnout are necessary. Sanders generates both of these.
However, for Sanders, an Independent run is unwise in a multitude of circumstances. In a 3-way race between Clinton, Trump, and Sanders, Sanders would indeed split the Democratic vote and Trump would ascend easily to the presidency.
Many offer that if Republicans manage to oust Trump during a brokered convention and nominate a candidate such as Cruz instead, there is a very likely chance that Trump would run as an Independent. In this 3-way race, Sanders entering and making it a 4-way race could actually lead to a plurality of votes for him, as he contains a support base of both Democrats and Independents.
Unfortunately, regardless of plurality, in a 4-way race none of the candidates is likely to reach the 270 electoral college votes needed to secure the presidency, and under these circumstances, the House of Representatives selects the president—and our House is currently Republican-controlled.
In both scenarios of a Sanders Independent run, a Republican would ultimately prevail.
This is logistically why a Sanders Independent run feels unlikely, although it is something his supporters have been vying for since New York.
The anger and hope for an outcome outside the two-party system is justifiable. The Bernie or Bust phenomenon boils down to ideology: the neoliberal, corporatist ideology and corruption of Clinton is fundamentally at odds with the progressive, anti-establishment ideology Sanders supporters passionately endorse.
Clinton is not entitled to the votes of Sanders supporters, nor should they feel obligated to give them to her. She is required to earn each vote she receives, and if she does not do enough to capture these voters, so be it—that is a consequence purely of her campaign platform and inability to reach a wide swath of voters outside the core Democratic electorate.
Sanders voters need not buy into the Trump hysteria. They should have the freedom to vote—whether for Clinton, the Green Party, or even a write-in for Sanders—without fear of admonishment from Clinton supporters.
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