Why Bernie Sanders Is Our Best Chance to Beat Trump
Hand-wringing over party unity misses the point. No one cares about your precious parties.
As Hillary Clinton joylessly stumbles her way to the Democratic nomination, calls have increased for Bernie Sanders to either drop out of the race altogether or, at least, to stop fighting so darn hard. We're told that Bernie should drop out for the good of the party. Bernie should drop out so that Hillary can make her general election "pivot" (which presumably means she can be free of the burden of pretending to be a liberal). Bernie should drop out so that Hillary can focus on Trump. According to this logic, Bernie and his band of loyalists need to get pragmatic, face the music, have a reality check. Hogwash. Doesn't anyone see what I see? Bernie Sanders is our best chance to beat Donald Trump and to prove to the young voters backing him that the Democratic party actually stands for something.
Error in thinking #1: Sanders supporters care about the existing system.
Not all Sanders voters are young but many are, so let's consider the world as it appears to a 24-year-old. Perhaps you are deeply in debt from a college degree that still left you with few job prospects. Perhaps you were told in many ways large and small that you are not clever or connected enough to make it into the vaunted ranks of the "creative class" so you are doomed to a life of poorly paid service sector hell in which you will never be able to properly afford a family, a house or a vacation. Perhaps you were one of the lucky few who are ascending that creative class, new economy ladder, but find it deeply disturbing that the kids you went to high school with have been so casually cast aside and relegated to a life of gut-clenching instability. And again, you're 24-years-old so you've got a long time to live and struggle with this corrupt, fickle, Gilded Age, bubble prone system — unless, that is, you are one of the many who will suffer a shortened lifespan like so many others who don't make it in this system. Now from this vantage point, how much might you care about Harry Reid or Debbie Wasserman Schultz or some other Democratic partisan pearl clutcher's pleas for party unity? These young voters are expected to back down for the sake of a party they tell pollsters they don't identify with, in the service of nominating a presidential candidate who promises to maintain a system that has conspired to screw them at every turn.
Error in thinking #2: Uniting around Clinton is the best shot to beat Trump.
The very same people who condescendingly exhort Sanders followers to "do the math" on the nomination process seem to have left their own calculators at home when it comes to figuring out who can actually win this fall. So for the math-obsessed, here are some numbers for you. According to RealClearPolitics, Sanders beats Trump in polls by an average of 13 points while Clinton's average lead over Trump has dwindled to five points with one outlier poll from CNN doing a lot of the heavy lifting to give her even that much of a lead. The two most recent polls, NBC and Gravis, give her a lead of only three points and two points respectively. This in a week that was supposedly terrible for Trump with embarrassing stories about his butler's racist rants, his penchant for pretending to be his own publicist, and his lecherous ways with women.
According to the math, Sanders is a much better bet for November, which makes sense when you think about it. Consider, for example, that he has cleaned Clinton's clock with independents. Come November, these independent voters will have their every mood and microclimate measured by a Democratic party desperate to win them over. For now, however, they either don't enter the calculus, or they are used to grant greater legitimacy to Clinton voters who are the "real" Democrats. Here's a reality check folks: Independents win elections. They like Bernie and they hate Hillary. That's to say nothing of the fact that a majority of voters find Clinton untrustworthy, a reality I'm confident will not be helped by her general election "pivot" to yet another version of the real HRC. Will she pick Warren as her veep and double down on her newfound progressivism, or will she pick Tim Kaine and shift to the center to help assuage the fears of white men? The very fact that her team is so publicly mulling these choices reveals that they have no clue that their biggest problem isn't making the proper electoral calculations, but rather that their entire campaign is based on electoral calculations.
We are told that these voters who like Bernie now would all come to their senses by the general election when they notice Sanders is a *cue scary music* SOCIALIST!!! A fact that could not have possibly escaped anyone's notice since Hillary Democrats have made common cause with Republicans by hurling this supposed epithet at Sanders every chance they get. I guess they haven't noticed that after watching our vaunted capitalistic system enter a free fall from which it could only be saved (we were told) by throwing a bunch of money at the bankers while somehow forgetting to help any of the individuals whose lives were destroyed, well, socialism doesn't sound quite so scary anymore. In fact, millennials tell pollsters that it sounds quite a bit better to them than the system we call "capitalism" which is really just socialism for bankers, billionaires and multinationals.
So remind me again who has the best shot and who all patriotic Democrats must rally around for the good of saving the Republic from Trump?
Error in thinking #3: Winning is the only goal that matters.
Let's pretend for a moment that I'm completely wrong about Hillary being a dreadful choice for November and that the moment voters discover Sanders is a socialist they will run into the loving arms of Donald Trump. Let's pretend Hillary Clinton is a winner. Is this really what the Democratic party has been reduced to? Not fighting for the poor? Not standing up for the working people of this country? Not fighting with every breath to push the money and corruption out of a system that only works for a glossy few?
Of course, we know that for much of the party establishment the answer is yes. Bill Clinton provided a master class in how to sacrifice your principles to the gods of electoral success. A tactic, by the way, that may have found some success at the presidential level, but which has led the Democratic party to historic, crushing defeats in most of the country. For reference, just examine the largest number of state legislatures in our nation's history in Republican hands or the way inequality has soared unchecked as Democrats decided that winning national elections mattered more than fighting for the middle class or the working class or the poor.
Make no mistake, the values that we say we stand for will be compromised by a Clinton nomination. After all, who will really believe we're the party of the people when we unite behind the queen of the global glitterati? Who will buy that we'll fight to get money out of politics when we back the most prolific political fundraiser in history? Who will take seriously that we'll get tough on Wall Street when our nominee got paid big bucks to stroke their fragile egos?
So to the Bern-baby-Bern crowd I say, keep fighting. Your fight is worthy. Your cause is just. Your passionate existence irritates the Democratic powers that be because you remind them of all that they are supposed to stand for.
Krystal Ball is a former MSNBC host and Democratic congressional candidate. She currently writes political coverage at The51million.com.