Bernie Sanders Is Now Hurting Democrats' Chances

| by Nicholas Roberts
Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of VermontDemocratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont

In mid-April, it seemed increasingly clear to politically minded audiences that Donald Trump's candidacy was the end of the Republican Party as it was currently constituted, as he did not command anywhere near the full support of party elites and still faced challenges from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

On the Democratic side, the competitive race between Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in several states belied the fact that a good amount of supporters of each candidate really had no ideological problem with the other --  85 percent of Sanders supporters polled after the New York primary indicated they would be fine with a President Hillary Clinton.

Fast forward a month: Donald Trump has effectively taken over the Republican Party and has all but ended the chance for a contested convention. This does not mean that Republican elites who dislike Trump may still not try to derail his candidacy if they figure he is too much of a liability to the GOP's House and Senate dominance, but this group is in a visibly far weaker position than it appeared to be.

But on the Democratic side, rancor has been on the upswing and may threaten the Democrats' chances of retaining the White House in November. Sanders risks becoming a Ralph Nader-esque candidate if he ultimately does not give a ringing endorsement of Clinton and of the Democratic Party in general.

The latest episode comes from the Nevada Democratic Convention, in which pro-Sanders activists allegedly stormed the stage, threw chairs and screamed obscenities after an apparent effort to change convention rules failed to gain traction, according to MSNBC.  If the worrying scenes and aftermath of the Nevada Convention in any way portend what is to come at the National Convention in Philadelphia, then the chances of Trump presidency will greatly increase.

The aftermath of the Nevada Convention is especially worrying for Democrats because it has reopened old rifts between the center and the left that the party once thought would be over. If Sanders continues his campaign until the convention -- and then proceeds to either gave a perfunctory non-dorsement of Clinton in the general election -- the left-wing coalition that Sanders has assembled could shatter and translate into support for Trump, Green Party candidate Jill Stein or Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, according to Bill Scher of Politico.  

Sanders may have no hope of winning, but he has certainly managed to become something of a kingmaker in this election cycle.

As Scher notes, Sanders is better off using the template established by Jesse Jackson's antiestablishment Democratic campaign in 1988 rather than looking to Ralph Nader in 2000 as an example.  While Jackson lost the primary race against eventual candidate Michael Dukakis and exercised a decidedly progressive influence on Dukakis' campaign that was said to have cost him the 1988 election, Jackon nevertheless became a highly visible presence within the Democratic Party apparatus and continued to influence it during the Clinton years. Ralph Nader, on the other hand, earned the eternal scorn of Democratic party elders and led to the further marginalization of the left by the center within the party.

President Barack Obama won the 2008 and 2012 elections by gaining the support of both moderates and progressives. Clinton will need to do the same after she -- most likely -- becomes the Democratic nominee, but Sanders' continued insurgency will inevitably delay Clinton's campaign against the Republican nominee and leave the party itself more open to an ever greater rift between left and center.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: Politico, Vox, MSNBC / Photo credit: Phil Roeder/Flickr

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