Bernie Sanders Won The Indiana Primary, But Should He Still Stay In The Race?

Well, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the projected winner of the Indiana primary in a close race. But still, following a string of primary losses, and with an insurmountable superdelegate deficit and modest polling in future primaries, it’s increasingly looking like his campaign’s tagline, “A Future To Believe In,” is something it actually lacks, at least in terms of winning the nomination. This is so much so that Clinton supporters and many Democrats are pressuring Sanders to drop out of the race outright, escalating their rhetoric just ahead of Tuesday’s Indiana primary.

On the other side of the aisle, after Donald Trump’s resounding Indiana victory, Texas senator and top candidate of the #StopTrump movement Ted Cruz dropped out of the race. Now the presumptive nominee, Trump has begun attacking Clinton like she’s already won, and frankly, Clinton’s inevitability isn’t exactly bringing out the best among Democratic leaders, either.

The prevalent perspective is that, should Sanders force a brokered convention or continue his sharp, apparently divisive criticisms of Clinton, that the party will struggle to unite to win a general election.

The New York Times argues that by staying in the race and keeping his supporters from moving on to rally around Clinton, Sanders could potentially cost the Democratic party the presidency. Paul Krugman even argues that Sanders’ harsh criticisms of Clinton have at this point cost his campaign its “ethical moorings,” although personally, I’m not too sure how Sanders’ bringing attention to Clinton’s track record and current policy shortcomings could be considered unethical considering this is a presidential campaign.

To the point: Those who are demanding that Sanders drop out ASAP justify this view with the spooky threat that if he doesn’t, he’ll be inadvertently contributing to a Trump presidency by further dividing up the Democratic party.

This fear and scapegoating isn’t necessarily unfounded when you consider how not too long ago, when polled by the Wall Street Journal, 33 percent of Berners responded that if Bernie isn’t the nominee, they don’t intend on voting. This could spell some serious trouble when you consider how poor voter turnout has frequently contributed to Republican victories.

Hillary Clinton Bernie Sanders nomination
CREDIT: The Hill/Twitter

At the end of the day, as someone who, for a great many reasons, would love more than anything to check off Sanders’ name on a general election ballot, I understand that in reality I’m not going to see his name there come November. And by not voting for the candidate who most closely reflects my values in an election as high-stakes as this one, I’ll be contributing to a Trump presidency, aka modern dystopia. After all, let’s remember that our political system isn’t just bogged down and rendered inefficient by Republican senators refusing to do their jobs, but by anyone, no matter their party affiliation, who refuses to compromise.

In the same vein, I can actually understand and deeply empathize with supporters of what is now being called the “Bernie or Bust” movement. There are some pretty irreconcilable differences between Sanders and Clinton, especially when it comes to foreign policy, and Clinton’s previous, hawkish stances and decisions are a bit scary when you consider the unilateral power to declare war which she would have as POTUS. To offer some examples, consider the regime changes and violence in Latin America and the Middle East sanctioned by her as Secretary of State.

Frankly, there’s some other things about Clinton that rub the wrong way, no matter how you look at it: Her stances on the minimum wage and universal healthcare, and some seemingly petty but also not-so-petty things (her condescending language toward African American youth, or just youth in general.)

All in all, you might say there’s some pretty irreconcilable differences between Sanders and Clinton, despite their running within the same party, and of course, there’s the justified salt of many Sanders supporters and all lovers of democracy regarding superdelegates, elected officials of their respective parties who can vote however they want, who have overwhelmingly supported Clinton even when Sanders won primaries in their states by large margins. Added with their resentment of big money and special interests in politics/the overall political establishment’s perceived corruption, by abstaining from voting within the system, they hope to contribute to overturning it.

I agree with the idea of reforming this system, but at least in an election in which the alternative is a bigoted, quasi-fascist, not voting probably isn’t the best approach.

And at any rate, mind you, Sanders actually has a lot left to stay in the race for. In fact, Democrats who truly want progress would love nothing more than for Sanders to attend the nominating convention and help actively shape the party’s platform. They would also understand that his sharp criticisms of Clinton are a good thing for progressives everywhere: He’s pushing Clinton farther to the left and making her work harder to appeal to and better the lives of low-income communities and people of color, in the process.

By helping to shape the party’s overall platform at the convention, I have little doubt Sanders will passionately fight for the human rights and economic equity he’s been campaigning for all year long: universal healthcare (your daily reminder that Obamacare is great and all, but about 33 million Americans still don’t have health insurance), tuition free public college, paid family leave, and a $15 minimum wage.

Bernie sanders nomination
CREDIT: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

And to all the intersectional feminists out there (which would be, in a perfect world, all feminists), even those who support Clinton, take a moment to just consider how evolved Sanders has always been since as early as the 1960s on issues such as LGBT rights, civil rights, reproductive rights, and, ah, the paramount issue of, female sexuality as a whole. By maintaining and advocating for these views long before it was politically advantageous to do so, he’s demonstrated a genuine devotion to progress. I’d love to see that devotion to progress better reflected in the current Democratic party platform, which arguably leans a touch conservative on some economic issues, and I’m confident Sanders would, as always, do his utmost to deliver.

Less important, but it’s also worth noting Sanders supports federal marijuana legalization where Clinton still isn’t sure yet, and while this might seem like a fairly petty, inconsequential difference, I have two words and those are mass incarceration. (And an additional 11 words: All the education and public health initiatives funded by taxed marijuana).

Ultimately, nominee or no, Sanders could still influence the party and the course of our nation’s future substantially by staying in the race right up till the end. And even if he doesn’t, he’s already mobilized and inspired left-leaning youth who will go on to shape future, brought attention to crucial previously unknown issues, and pushed Hillary left in some ways, and if that doesn’t count as influencing the party and the course of our nation’s future, then frankly, I don’t know what does.