While Democratic Party leaders discuss the prospects of unity after a grueling primary race, many supporters of Bernie Sanders are adamant that they will entertain no such plans and that their governing philosophy is summed up best as “Bernie Sanders or Bust.”
On Wednesday, the results of a poll conducted by Bloomberg revealed that a growing number of Sanders supporters are embracing the “Bernie or Bust” movement — a contingent of backers of the Vermont senator who insist that they will, under no circumstances, vote for Hillary Clinton.
According to the survey, only 55 percent of Sanders supporters said they would vote for Hillary Clinton.
This represents a sharp decline in Bernie Sanders supporters who say they will, if grudgingly, support Clinton in the general election, as well as a sharp increase in adherents to the “Bernie or Bust” approach.
Democratic strategists have, for months, worried that the “Bernie or Bust” movement would gain momentum, citing as cause for concern Clinton’s historically low approval ratings, particularly among young voters, many of whom view her as dishonest and untrustworthy.
As the Washington Post reported early this week, her low approval ratings have been reflected in voting trends.
“More young people voted for Bernie Sanders than Trump and Clinton combined,” wrote Aaron Blake. “And it wasn’t close.”
For months, Sanders has been aggressive in his condemnations of “establishment politics and establishment economics,” both of which, he says, have contributed to growing inequality, slow economic growth, and the collapse of the middle class.
Sanders has also been quite clear in his belief that Hillary Clinton is a representative of this very same establishment.
During a speech in April, Bernie Sanders said that Clinton is “a very good candidate” if you believe that America’s problems can be solved by politics as usual.
Significant numbers have rejected the status quo in 2016, opting for the Sanders campaign’s call for drastic and ambitious changes to the political system.
Bernie Sanders has also lambasted Clinton for receiving substantial speaking fees and campaign contributions from some of America’s largest financial institutions, fueling the wide perception that Clinton is beholden to the interests of the wealthy and is therefore not capable of responding to the needs of the population.
So while Clinton is polling well against Trump after a disastrous week for the billionaire real estate mogul, worries that she will be unable to appeal to younger, more progressive voters continue to linger. And as the general election draws nearer, voters are increasingly exasperated by their choices.
“You’re choosing between fascism and oligarchy,” Perry Mitchell told Bloomberg.
Many are, in contemplating the upcoming choice between Clinton and Trump, grappling with the arguments of those who advocate voting for the lesser of two evils.
Some reject that approach altogether, arguing that one should vote for independent parties in an effort to bring legitimacy to potential alternatives to the two-party system.
Matt Taibbi of the Rolling Stone seems to agree, arguing in a recent column that those who embrace lesser of two evils politics are contributing to the problem, not helping to solve it. In particular, Taibbi criticizes the Democrats, who seem to have developed a sense of entitlement when it comes to their voting bloc.
“This is why the thinking within the Democratic Party has gotten so flabby over the years,” Taibbi writes. “It increasingly seems to rejoice in its voters’ lack of real choices, and relies on a political formula that requires little input from anyone outside the Beltway.”
Democrats, Taibbi notes, have become increasingly lazy in fighting for the needs of their constituents because they believe they will receive more votes than Republicans (and Trump in particular) by default.
The “Bernie or Bust” movement arose in response to the Democratic Party’s complacency, and those who insist that they will not vote for Hillary Clinton are objecting to the notion that they owe Democrats their vote.
It is now clear that “Bernie or Bust” can no longer be dismissed as a fringe movement that represents only small number of Sanders supporters.
Hillary Clinton is, therefore, faced with a choice: Should she move left in an effort to convince some that she is more progressive than her critics suggest, or should she remain in the center and hope that the looming threat of Trump is enough to stir up sufficient support for a general election victory?
Whichever path she chooses, she must accept the now undeniable fact that she cannot rely on the support of those who rejected her candidacy in favor of Bernie Sanders on principled grounds.
“Clinton cannot afford to take Sanders supporters for granted,” concludes Clare Foran of The Atlantic. “The question now is what Clinton is willing to do to win over skeptics who have stood by Sanders, and whether Sanders will turn the support he has won into political gain.”