OP-ED: Bernie Sanders’ big question: Should he stay or should he go?
Tuesday’s Democratic primaries delivered one devastating reality to the campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders: His revolution has not materialized. Again.
Does that mean he should drop out? Not necessarily. Sanders is still drawing votes and winning delegates, still delivering an important message, and still stands a long-shot chance of winning the nomination.
The emphasis there is on “long-shot.”
But it’s clear he does need to take a cold assessment of how this race is likely to play out. Losing Texas, Massachusetts and now Michigan to former Vice President Joe Biden, who enjoys the support of the traditional Democratic base, is problematic to say the least. Especially with the primary contests ahead.
On Tuesday the fight moves to Illinois and Ohio, where the results will likely resemble the Biden blowout in Michigan; Florida, where Biden enjoys a staggering lead in the polls; and Arizona, where Biden also holds a significant lead.
From Sanders’ perspective, the prospect of a zero-for-four showing next week is rather daunting, and it’s not the result of Democratic Party chicanery or the old guard establishment putting its thumb on the scale. His calls for a rising up of young voters have gone unheeded, just as they did four years ago. And the people voting in the Democratic contests this cycle have been consistent.
In New Hampshire, Sanders and fellow progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren combined for about 35% of the vote. Sanders’ support Tuesday in Michigan? About the same — 36%. Progressives did a little better in the Iowa caucuses and the South Carolina primary, but Sanders has a ceiling, and he keeps hitting it.
In other words, Democratic voters are speaking. Quite loudly.
If the ultimate goal is to remove President Trump, the longer Sanders hangs in the longer it will take for the Democratic Party to unite behind a single standard-bearer. Given the electoral map, it will take a unified and energized effort to turn toss-up states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona.
And Trump knows that. For weeks now he has been tweeting his personal analysis of the Democratic primaries, seeking to fan discontent and paranoia among Sanders supporters still feeling the burn from the 2016 nomination fight, in which party leaders favored Hillary Clinton.
Who needs Russian meddling when we have Trump? If there’s ever a “Hamilton”-style production of this era, Trump ought to be portrayed as a trolling troubadour.
If and when Sanders drops out, he will need to not only align behind Biden, but do so with enthusiasm — and play down his criticisms of their policy differences. He will need to work hard to move his supporters into the coalition to oust Trump and, perhaps just as critical, to flip the Senate — another long shot.
If they succeed, Sanders and his supporters will have their seats at the table to push his more progressive policies.
But if Trump wins reelection and Congress remains split, progressives will remain outsiders. And that does the cause no good.
— Scott Martelle, who joined the Los Angels Times editorial board in 2014, is a veteran journalist and author of six history books.