Tough and Brave Sanders Should End His Campaign. He can’t win but Trump or Cruz Can.

New York is abuzz with primary fever. The Empire State will hold its primaries for both party nominations on April 19th. In the Democratic race Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will battle it out for 291 delegates, distributed proportionally. In her adopted home state, Clinton has a large, but not insurmountable, poll lead especially with suburban voters, in New York city and among the state’s minority voters. 95 delegates are up for grabs in the GOP field. Donald Trump leads in the polls. A win will edge him closer to avoiding a brokered convention where his outsider status will count against him.

At their Cleveland convention the GOP will elect either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz as their presidential nominee. There are enough unbound delegates to mean that Trump does not need the full 1,237 delegates to win. But Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, is running him a close (ish) second. If Trump falls short by 200 delegates, a brokered convention favours Cruz: after the first round, delegates are free to switch allegiance. Cruz is already ensuring those who attend the convention are his supporters. Even if they are mandated to vote for Trump on the first round, they might vote Cruz in future ballots. Democracy, huh?

Both - in different ways - are extreme candidates. Both - in a judgement that goes beyond policy - are unsuited to the presidency. Ideas that Kasich, Ryan or “Any Other” will somehow end up as the party’s choice are largely imaginary. It is either Trump or Cruz. The choice is a little like either having to gnaw off your genitalia or boil them.

Sanders cannot win the nomination against Clinton

That both Sanders and Clinton currently lead Trump (and Cruz) in polls does not mean that 2016 is a year when those who want to see another Democrat in the White House can take risks. Unlike his rival, Sanders has so far largely escaped scrutiny because nobody expects him to be the Democratic nominee come the convention. The possibility - however remote - of a Trump or Cruz presidency should focus minds on how best to defeat them.

Sanders cannot win the nomination against Clinton. She holds a 200 delegate lead. If one includes superdelegates, her lead extends to 700. To win he would need to win 60% of the remaining delegates. He would have to reverse his deficit with non-white voters and women. Despite his recent string of wins, he trails in delegate-rich California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Comparisons with Obama’s 2008 insurgent campaign are spurious: the then Illinois senator built a formidable coalition which encompassed new and young voters as well as minority voters. That coalition defeated first Clinton, then McCain. In 2012 it defeated Mitt Romney. Sanders’ base is largely white and middle class. November’s national election could see three possible things happen to the presidency, and none of them involve the Vermont Senator sitting in the Oval Office.

That’s why, after New York, Bernie Sanders should withdraw from the race. He has to end his campaign, endorse Hillary Clinton  and then go out and convince his supporters that the former Secretary of State is the best choice to lead the country. In 2008 many people called for Hillary Clinton to withdraw from the race. She did not. She faced a lot of criticism. Yet what she did do was change the nature of her campaign. After the earlier - and at times, difficult to justify - negativity, her campaign toned down its criticism. Only she knows why she stayed in the race. Maybe it was desperation, maybe it was arrogance. However, she eventually endorsed Obama and helped to win the election.


If anything, Sanders seems to be doing the opposite. He has recently questioned Clinton’s qualifications for high office, suggested she apologise for her Iraq war vote and sharply criticised Bill Clinton to black voters. Sanders is still fighting. He is still tough. Perhaps it is admirable. Perhaps it is vainglory. Certainly it is howling at the wind. Currently 33% of Sanders voters say they will never vote for Clinton. He needs to tell them why they are wrong. That is real bravery. With Sanders' support, Clinton can reunite the Democrats, win the presidency and make inroads into the GOP’s Congressional majorities. 2016 could build on the - painfully slow - progressive agenda of the last eight years. 

Of course, Clinton could be indicted over her "damn emails" and the party turn to Sanders as the runner up. Yet it is an unlikely scenario. Deus ex machina are largely confined to the imaginations of Greek dramatists. The danger is that he damages Clinton so badly that he makes a November win difficult, if not impossible. The Democratic party has an electoral college advantage, but voters will not begin to focus on the candidates until convention season.  

Three outcomes. None of them involve President Sanders. He has inspired many: whether he has shifted politics decisively to the left or not remains to be seen. The danger is that by remaining in the race he actually shifts politics to the right.

More about the author

About the author

Educated at Durham University and UCL, Graham is Disclaimer's editor and a regular contributor. He has written for numerous publications including Tribune, Out Magazine and Vice. He has also contributed to two books of political counterfactuals for Biteback Media, Prime Minister Boris (2011) and Prime Minister Corbyn (2016).

A democratic republican lefty, he struggles daily with the conflict between his ingrained senses of idealism and pragmatism.

Follow Graham on Twitter.

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