“I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”
Will Rogers, circa 1928
Watching the Democratic debate in Las Vegas this week I was reminded of this famous saying from Will Rogers. I thought one of the most interesting questions was when Chuck Todd asked all the candidates at the end of the debate if the candidate with the most delegates at the end of the primaries should be the party’s nominee. All of the candidates except Sanders hedged their answers but said no. Sanders said yes.
Their answers suggest that they are anticipating that Sanders will emerge from the primaries and caucuses with a plurality of delegates, but not the majority needed to clinch the nomination. If that is the way the primaries play out, it will be a real problem for the Democrats, regardless of the outcome of their convention.
If Sanders goes on to win the nomination, I think he will likely lose to Trump notwithstanding the current national polls that show him leading Trump. First, the margin in most polls is fairly narrow. Also, Trump does better in the swing states, creating the potential that he could win the electoral college again without winning the popular vote.
I think as Sanders’ absurd economic proposals draw greater scrutiny in the campaign, he will lose support. While proclaiming to be a “democratic socialist” (whatever that is) may be acceptable to a fraction of the Democratic base, it is not going to sell to a majority of Americans. He is the Democratic candidate most likely to turn off moderate Democrats and independents and energize the Republican base.
On the other hand, if Sanders goes to the convention with the most delegates but is once again denied the nomination, it is hard to imagine that will not irreparably fracture the Democratic party. Sanders’ supporters are, by far, the most strident part of the Democratic base. There have been numerous recent media reports about the on-line Sanders “swarm” who attack anyone critical of Sanders. Getting his supporters excited and unified behind another candidate is going to be problematic.
In an election milieu where barely half of Americans even bother to vote, turnout decides close elections and turnout is driven by enthusiasm. If the Democrats emerge from their convention divided, they will have a tough row to hoe in November.