On paper, Bernie Sanders candidacy is a boon to the party. He isn’t going to win the party’s nod and after a brief scare forced the establishment wing to consolidate around good ole’ Joe Biden. Sanders refused to personally attack the former VP and urges his supporters to support Biden if (in reality, when) he becomes the Democratic nominee. Further, Sanders gives voice to the ascendant, socialistic wing of the party and makes them feel more powerful in the party.
But in reality, the truth is vastly different. Despite a brutal string of losses last week and this week, Sanders is pressing on with his campaign. As he does so, he continues to expose the flaws which scare the hell out of the Democratic Party over good ole’ Joe.
The first and most obvious is despite saying he will support whoever the Democratic nominee is, by pressing on, Bernie is making it less and less likely his supporters will eventually support said nominee. Case in point, look at the exit polls from Michigan. In the key state. 9 -10 Biden supporters said they would be fine if another Democrat won the nomination. Fully a third of Sanders supporters said they would not. Worse, while only 8-10 Sanders supporters would not commit to supporting the Democratic nominee that contrasts with over 9-10 Biden supporters. Plus, if I do just some back of the envelope math here, Sanders won 576,916 votes as of Wednesday afternoon. Take 20% of that away (115,383) or heck even 15% (86,537) and assume not a single one votes for Trump, and this is a serious vote deficit to overcome.
Every slight Sanders endures, every rally he holds, every call for revolution he makes, reinforces further in his supporters minds why a vote for Joe is just a vote for the “same shit, different day.” Bernie might not resort to personal attacks on Joe or his son Hunter, but he does not need to. Every policy difference he emphasizes with Biden rolled up in the mantra of “revolution” sours his supporters on his adopted party.
Secondly, and this is what every whisper abut the former VP is about in Democratic circles, is his mental state. Biden’s campaign has gone to great lengths to shepherd the former VP from scrutiny, limiting campaign appearances and cringing every time he holds a debate. The number of gaffes the candidate has had on the campaign are enough for a YouTube highlight reel.
Short of the debate leading up to the South Carolina primary at the end of last month, Joe Biden has looked listless, tired, and been unable to form much of an agenda for his White House run. Bernie staying in the race means more debates and it also means more chances for Biden to show his failing mental faculties. I mean, when the senior Democrat from South Carolina’s House delegation, James Clyburn, calls for the DNC to cancel regularly scheduled debates, especially considering it would be one-on-one (the DNC really does not like Tulsi Gabbard) what else can you conclude?
It also deserves to be said at these debates Bernie would continue to hammer Biden on being an establishment rat. Considering many of Sanders younger supporters are of the “okay Boomers” variety having messed everything up it is even less likely they turn out for a guy who who has messed up the system for 40+ years.
The saving grace for Democrats is their base is as energized as Republicans and their core supporters are college educated white women, upper class suburbanites and blacks, who consistently vote. Bernie’s core supporters are exactly those less likely to vote in the first place. But, it does beg the question, if Democrats know they need record turnout to beat the President, or at least believe they do, shouldn’t they be trying harder to talk a Sanders candidacy down?
Anecdotally, right now, I can tell you my Facebook feed has about nine in ten Biden supporters talking down to Sanders supporters and telling us how bad his candidacy is. Uh huh. You don’t think this is making his supporters less likely to vote for Trump or simply sit out the election?
Despite Bernie’s flailing candidacy it is obvious he is building a movement which will succeed him. It is a movement in its infancy which will likely outlive him and it is obviously generational (just look at voting splits among younger and older Hispanics and blacks). Bernie, deep down his core, believes fueling this movement is more important than defeating Trump, despite protestations to the contrary. Republicans should worry about the longtime repercussions of this movement, but short-term, they should be smiling like Trump. Trump doesn’t need third-party candidacies like he had last time, he just needs Bernie to keep running all the way to the convention.