[The odds are long for Bernie these days. Should he keep his campaign going, or drop out and unify the party? The CFR’s Tom Berger looks at both angles, and you can read the second post in the series here.]
I must confess that I am, at best, an energetic but cautious Bernie Sanders supporter, though I am also the first to say that I would be perfectly happy with Secretary Clinton as the Democratic nominee and as president. I feel strongly that Mrs. Clinton would make an extremely effective president, even if she occasionally makes a lousy candidate; I have no doubts about her “prose” in governing, while her “poetry” of campaigning in this primary race could use some TLC.
However, I think that Senator Sanders has done both himself, the Democratic Party, and Secretary Clinton a great service. President Obama was the first to say that he would never have won the general election had he not had as formidable a candidate as Secretary Clinton to serve as a counterpoint. Senator Sanders’ candidacy has also certainly poked some holes in the many issues within the primary process. The media was not prepared for another Democratic insurgency, which reflected clear bias, and the party was certainly not expecting the response to his message. Unlike a lot of primary battles, I don’t necessarily think that he’s pushed Mrs. Clinton to the left, but I do think that he has kept her from wandering to more centrist principles that are normally reserved for the general election. If the Republican nominee is the bewildering Mr. Trump, I don’t think either of them would have much to worry about in supplying an effective alternative.
But there’s more at work here. Obviously, both Senator Sanders and Mr. Trump appeal to the outside fringes of American opinion, and I find that an interesting contrast. At the beginning of the primary season, I ruminated that it would be interesting to see a match-up betwixt Governor Scott Walker and Senator Sanders; whatever you think of either of their views, here were two people whose principles had remained largely unshaken throughout their adult lives. It promised the idea of an interesting litmus test for the country, which seems centrist as a whole.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The energy he creates is good for the country.[/pullquote]
There are many encouraging Senator Sanders to drop out at this point. The electoral math leading to his nomination is extremely tricky and challenging. However, I would argue that his presence and the energy he creates is good for the Democratic Party and, ultimately, good for the country. Though intellectuals on both sides of the aisle rightly stress that Secretary Clinton must find a way to energize Bernie supporters in order to win, he is still energizing a whole generation and demographic that seems alien and difficult to approach for the current delegate leader. Democrats have an obligation to keep those potential voters engaged as long as humanly possible. I don’t rule out Senator Sanders as an interesting and potentially powerful nominee. But if Secretary Clinton is the party’s chosen, it behooves her to keep his supporters’ interest as long as possible.