(This piece was inspired by Dominica R. Convertino’s post on Politicallydc.com)
Hillary Clinton and her supporters would like to assume that if the former Secretary of State does end up with the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders’ base will fall in line and vote for Clinton to stop Trump. But they are wrong.
First off, it’s important to shut down the myth of Clinton’s inevitability as the eventual general election opponent to Donald Trump. The Democratic presidential primary is only halfway over, and Bernie Sanders has 42 percent of the pledged delegates thus far.
Even the New York Times — which has publicly endorsed Clinton’s campaign and whose public editor called out the paper for showing an obvious pro-Clinton bias in a recent stealth editing job — admits Sanders can still end up as the nominee, and they laid out a path for how he could do it. Writing off Sanders’ chances now and telling his supporters that they have no choice but to unite behind Clinton is premature.
Aside from that, many of Bernie Sanders’ supporters aren’t Democrats. Sanders himself has identified as an independent throughout his entire career, with the exception of the 2016 election. And he’ll be the first to tell you that he only ran as a Democrat so the media would perceive him as a serious challenger to Hillary Clinton. Likewise, his supporters are largely independents and young voters under the age of 35, and roughly half of those young voters identify as independents, despite their tendency to lean leftward in their politics.
In fact, between 2004 and 2014, the percentage of young voters who identified as independent rather than Democrat jumped from 38 percent to 50 percent. And in all of the states Bernie Sanders has won, and even the states he’s lost by considerable margins, like Virginia and Tennessee, he’s still managed to capture a wide majority of independents and voters under the age of 35. It’s unrealistic to expect these largely independent voters to switch to the Democratic Party and vote for an elite member of the Democratic establishment.
And, let’s be honest — the entire reason so many Bernie Sanders supporters are so ardently anti-Hillary Clinton might be because of her refusal to strongly oppose the corrupt campaign finance system Bernie rages against. Clinton’s top campaign donors include criminal Wall Street banks like Citibank and Goldman Sachs, and corporate-owned media companies like Time Warner and 21st Century Fox. While Sanders is raising millions of $27 donations from the grassroots, Clinton raised money from Wall Street on at least 31 different occasions between the start of her campaign and the end of February.
Asking the supporters of the anti-Wall Street candidate who rejects Super PACs to suddenly back a pro-Wall Street candidate who embraces the Super PAC system would be asking them to betray their core values. This is likely why a full third of Bernie Sanders’ supporters refuse to back Clinton if she’s the nominee.
Hillary Clinton is unable to bring in new blood to the Democratic Party like Bernie Sanders has done. In the last 11 primary contests, 7 states have gone to Clinton and 4 have gone to Sanders. As the below table shows, turnout for all of the states Clinton won is down significantly from 2008, the last time there was a contested Democratic presidential primary. Yet in three of the last four states Bernie Sanders won, turnout was up by as much as 49 percent:
The numbers speak for themselves: The Democratic Party is in for a shellacking if they end up nominating Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders has proven himself to be the one candidate capable of uniting the Democratic Party in his ability to bring in fresh faces, his consistently higher numbers when pitted against Republicans in hypothetical general election matchups, and a message that resonates with future generations.