Here’s an unpopular opinion: Bernie Sanders should drop out of the presidential race. And no, this is not because I disagree with his proposed revolution (though I am an unabashed Hillary Clinton supporter). Rather, the Sanders campaign was once a refreshing endeavor to galvanize the nation and to shape the dominant politician’s view. Now, it is a bitter foe that is greatly dividing the Democratic Party and ultimately hurting its chances for success in future elections.
Sanders has already proved to be a surprisingly formidable candidate in his ideological crusade. Rooted by fears that have been present since America’s founding, that overtly ambitious individuals will run a damaging elite class, Sanders has raised awareness of the income inequality and government corruption which greatly affects Americans. As a politician, he has independently changed the dominating conversation in today’s political sphere, and by the power of his exuberant crowds and overwhelming support from millennial voters, he has forced Clinton and other candidates to address these issues and take more left-leaning stances. What is more, his candidacy seemed to be gaining unstoppable momentum at one point, winning seven of the eight contests leading into the New York primary.
However, influenced by the vital importance of the New York primary to the continued success of his campaign, Sanders altered his campaign tactics to something much more problematic. Instead of preaching democratic-socialist ideals and presenting himself as the face of a revolution as usual, he began to center around increasingly anti-Clinton rhetoric. In a complete turnaround, Sanders managed to suggest that Clinton–who easily has the most experience of any presidential candidate in U.S. history- was ill-qualified to be president. He continued to state that she was simply another candidate bought by Wall Street without showing how that affected her voting record, and even offered the dubious allegation that she is violating campaign finance reform law. By switching from focusing on ideas to focusing on the opponent, Sander's campaign lost its rejuvenating quality.
Even with such attacks, Clinton handedly won the New York primary with 57 percent of the vote. According to NBC News, Sanders must now win 59 percent of the remaining pledged delegates. So far, he has only won 45 percent, and the polls indicate that Clinton maintains a comfortable lead in the upcoming primary contests. Even with this insurmountable journey needed to take the nomination, Sanders continues his prolific campaigning, with his most recent stops being in the ever-critical Pennsylvania.
The CNN New York exit polls reflect stark disunity within the party. By a slim margin, the general consensus was that Democrats who voted on Apr. 19 believed that the energizing competition between Clinton and Sanders was a positive aspect for the Democratic party. However, 51 percent of the 30 percent who believed that the campaign had divided the party are Sanders supporters. 61 percent of Clinton supporters, on the other hand, believe that they have been energized by this campaign. Lastly, of the 32 percent of Democratic voters who said they were scared of the prospect of a Clinton presidency, 85 percent were Sanders supporters.
Further, a recent Gallup poll states that there is much less enthusiasm for voters in the upcoming 2016 election. 65 percent of Trump supporters report being enthusiastic, while only 54 percent of Clinton supporters and 44 percent of Sanders supporters are looking forward to voting in the presidential election. Though voter enthusiasm does not necessarily correlate with voter turnout, it is still a viable indicator, come the convention cycle, when the main concern for the party is convincing the losing candidate’s supporters to rally behind the ultimate nominee. This enthusiasm for Sanders, as indicated by his overflow rallies, could indicate great party dissension when Clinton most likely becomes the party nominee.
This phenomenon cannot be ignored. Dissent among supporters for secondary candidates has negatively affected the primary party nominee in the past, such as in the 1980 election of President Jimmy Carter against Senator Ted Kennedy and President George H. W. Bush against Pat Buchanan in 1992. In an ironic twist, Sanders’ concern for government being ruled by factions of political elite who are damaging the overall spirit of democracy is leading to disillusionment with the democratic system and ultimately a decrease in individuals' desire to participate in the electoral process.
Bernie Sanders has accomplished the most that he can with his political revolution, which cannot possibly be manifested to its full extent. He must end his increasingly negative campaign attacks as it only additionally erodes Democratic party enthusiasm, and even further discourages independent voters from turning out this upcoming election. If he truly cares about the Democratic Party and values the meaning of his affiliation, he would step aside, giving Clinton the time necessary to energize and unite the party in the face of a likely Trump nomination.
Michelle Fowler PO '19 is from Bellevue, WA and intends to major in the social sciences.