As Bernie Sanders continues to prove himself a political force to be reckoned with, a lot of mainstream Democrats are getting worried. Frontrunner Hillary Clinton, despite entering the 2016 presidential campaign as an undisputed heavyweight champion, has been unable to put away the progressive challenger from Vermont. Though she still leads in the polls, damage is starting to accumulate. From the still-healing scars of her summertime e-mail scandal to more recent bruises from controversial Wall Street donations and neocon foreign policy insinuations, Clinton is no longer guaranteed to pack enough wallop to lay out the GOP next fall. And, of course, there still looms the very real chance that Bernie Sanders could clinch the nomination in a primary season upset similar to Barack Obama in 2008.
Clinton supporters, now sweating the strength of Bernie Sanders’ campaign, are apparently trying to shame Sanders’ supporters into backing the former Secretary of State instead. The line of reasoning is that the Democrats must go unified into the general election. United we stand, divided we fall, rah rah. The blogosphere is now filling up with pundits who insist that supporting Bernie Sanders is tantamount to voting Republican.
Since Hillary Clinton still has the better chance of clinching the nomination, they sneer, supporters of Bernie Sanders should get real and pledge loyalty to the Democratic mainstream. Supporters of Sanders and his policies are alleged to be childish rabble-rousers who would rather put a Republican in the Oval Office than be team players. With a twinge of desperation in their voices, these pro-Clinton pundits are encouraging Sanders’ supporters to give up “silly” notions of universal health care and tuition-free public higher education and return to the “realistic” Democratic fold.
With the first primary less than two months away, Democratic loyalists are eager to quell dissent within the ranks and present a unified front to the divided and bickering Republicans.
Alarmingly, their pro-Clinton arguments are entirely devoid of praise for Clinton’s policy proposals, political positions, or past record. The entire gist of the “return to the fold” argument is that the Democratic Party cannot be divided in the general election. The entire argument hangs on the premise that Clinton still commands more votes. Frankly, it is insulting that these pro-Clinton pundits cannot even give me a whisper of an argument as to why Clinton would make a more competitive candidate to pit against the GOP.
It almost seems like these pundits have no such argument. Their entire narrative is based on polls showing that Clinton has more supporters than Sanders. If their pro-Clinton narrative is so weak, shouldn’t the “unified front” pundits switch sides and focus on convincing tepid Clinton supporters to switch their allegiance to Bernie Sanders? If the best argument you have in favor of your candidate is that she is better than a candidate from the opposing party, you should probably consider supporting a new candidate.
Bernie Sanders is a candidate who is growing in popularity, not shrinking. Doesn’t it make sense for the Democratic Party to nominate a politician who is actually popular with voters? It still boggles my mind that the Democratic National Committee is comfortable resting their White House dreams on a candidate who actually has a net negative popularity rating. Voters don’t like Hillary Clinton. Many of those who still vote for her in polls only do so because they still adhere to the “unified front” belief.
The second that Bernie Sanders achieves critical mass, a considerable percentage of Hillary Clinton supporters will defect at once.
Sanders has a clean record, a reputation for integrity and consistency, and has won the deep, emotional support of countless voters. His support, which is high enough to make Clinton’s campaign sweat bullets, is likely even higher than reported in traditional polls: Many of Sanders’ dedicated supporters are Millenials, moderates, independents, and even Republicans – all important blocs of voters who are underrepresented in Democratic polls. Clinton’s supporters, by contrast, are likely to be highly overrepresented in these polls. They are traditional, registered Democrats with land-line telephones and subscriptions and memberships to periodicals and other polling institutions.
Support for Bernie Sanders runs deep, and pundits are wasting their breath trying to convince us to “return to the fold.” Rather, pundits who value Democratic Party unity should recognize the sea change and focus on convincing Clinton’s supporters, who are less devout, to consider supporting Bernie Sanders in the primaries. The winds of change are filling Sanders’ sails, while Clinton’s ship is sinking slowly in the water.