Bernie Sanders has exceeded expectations this campaign season. The Vermont senator is not far behind former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the delegate count — without factoring in the superdelegates, he trails her 1,716 to 1,433.
But Democratic Party insiders have to be worried: could Sanders cost Clinton the presidency?
Sanders Supporters Revolt At Nevada Convention
The main reason has to do with angst amongst Sanders’ most fervent supporters, which was highlighted at the Nevada state Democratic convention this Sunday, May 15. As The Washington Post reported, Sanders supporters were angered when 56 of Sanders’ delegates were not seated because they had not registered as Democrats by the May 1 deadline. Additionally, some “took issue with Roberta Lange,” the state party chairman, moderating the convention — apparently because they felt she was too pro-Clinton to be an objective moderator.
And when Clinton was able to add to her delegate lead at the convention, in spite of the fact that, as The Post noted, Sanders “out-organized Clinton,” getting 2,124 of his people there, as opposed to 1,722 for her, bedlam was the result. Law enforcement had to intervene, and turn the lights off so that Bernie Sanders’ supporters would leave.
Convention ended w/security shutting it down, Bernie folks rushed stage, yelling obscenities, throwing chairs. Unity Now! On to Philly 2/2
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) May 15, 2016
Calif Sen Barbara Boxer: If you boo me you're booing Bernie Sanders pic.twitter.com/mAAu6YNugZ
— Riley Snyder (@RileySnyder) May 14, 2016
After this episode, The Post noted that what likely worries the Clinton campaign isn’t so much that Sanders could win the delegates necessary for the nomination; her overwhelming lead among superdelegates broadens her lead significantly. Rather, “It’s the prospect of a scene like that in Las Vegas playing out before a national television audience in July in Philadelphia.”
The #NeverHillary Petition
An additional worry for Clinton is the #NeverHillary petition, a movement pushed by many ardent Sanders supporters which Inquisitr reported has now garnered more than 73,000 petitions. The website, wontvotehillary.com, contains a long list of the reasons why people should sign the petition, including claims that she is “hoarding 99 percent of funds raised for state parties, she allegedly refuses to ban fracking, her “3:00 A.M. ad” in 2008 had a “racist sub-message,” and so forth.
— Ted Hooley (@ed_hooley) May 17, 2016
— YoungPPL4Bernie (@YoungPPL4Bernie) May 16, 2016
The Atlantic notes that many Sanders supporters who “express unwavering dedication to Sanders on social media,” and “won’t vote for Clinton, no matter what.
“Many view the former secretary of state with her deep ties to the Democratic establishment as the polar opposite of Sanders and his rallying cry of political revolution. Throwing their weight behind her White House bid would feel like a betrayal of everything they believe.”
“She would cement in place everything we are fighting against,” one Sanders voter told The Atlantic.
For that reason, Clinton may be forced to pick a left-wing running mate like Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren to mollify Sanders’ supporters, as opposed to a moderate who would likely have greater appeal to the broader electorate. This would give Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, a big talking point in the Fall.
Such a scenario — risking alienating supporters of Bernie Sanders, versus reaching out to the broader electorate — could be problematic for the Clinton campaign, especially when Trump is perceived as very beatable. Clinton currently leads Trump by 5.7 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls.
Could Bernie Sanders go Third Party?
Trump recently tried to coax Sanders to run as a third party candidate with a tweet, when he played upon the Senator’s frustration over Clinton receiving far more superdelegates than he has.
Bernie Sanders is being treated very badly by the Dems. The system is rigged against him. He should run as an independent! Run Bernie, run.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2016
That is not likely, however, as such a move would almost definitely cost Clinton the election. In fact, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) told The Hill “Absolutely not,” when asked about the possibility. “Bernie went into this and said, ‘There’s no way I’m going to be Ralph Nader,'” he added, referring to the former consumer advocate who received nearly three percent of the vote as the Green Party candidate in 2000, and so likely swung the election to George W. Bush.
What is more likely is what Jesse Jackson did in 1988. As recalled by Politico, Jackson entered that convention with 38 percent of the delegates, and he sought to reshape the party platform. Sanders will likely have over 40 percent, “and more delegates means more influence at the convention.”
But while Sanders does not appear likely to stir up trouble, “a passive-aggressive ‘nondorsement'” could “stir hostile feelings among his supporters that the party establishment treated their campaign unfairly and views their revolution with disdain.”
Even if Sanders does not get the nomination, he has ensured that Clinton cannot ignore her party’s left flank, but doing so may cost her the political center.
What do you think? Could Bernie Sanders’ supporters stay home if Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic convention? Be sure to sound off in our comments section below.
[Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images]