Bernie Sanders is currently under enormous pressure to endorse the Democratic presumptive candidate, Hillary Clinton. He has been reminded by Ms Clinton herself that she had stood down and made an unambiguous endorsement of Barack Obama on 7 June, 2008 when the latter snapped up more delegates than her at the end of the primaries.
No scope with the Democrats
Sanders has clearly lost the Democratic race. He can still refuse to throw in the towel (as he has done so far), he can technically plod on to carry the battle to the Philadelphia convention (on July 25) where a formal declaration of the party candidate will be made. But such a move may not do him much good for two reasons.
First, Sanders cannot, in his wildest dreams, think that he would be able to swing the support of an overwhelming majority of the party officials in the next few weeks, if he could not do so in the last several months. These officials are largely inclined towards the status quo (which is tilted in favour of the rich and the powerful) and they would prefer to hitch their stars to a pro-establishment wagon like that of a Clinton rather than to that of a Sanders who has run a concerted campaign to rock the establishment.
Why shouldn't it be possible that even an independent Sanders, more than a Democratic Clinton, is better placed to defeat the Republican Trump?
Second, if there is no iota of doubt that his real chance to represent the Democratic Party has ended, then Sanders should accept the reality gracefully and rally round Hillary Clinton, especially when the monstrosity of a Donald Trump presidency is threatening the American political horizon.
A Trump phenomenon should not be underestimated; a maverick like him was supposed to have been blown away in the course of the Republican primary marathon -- but he actually consolidated his position over time and finally edged out every other contender. He will be again turning out to be a real menace in the Presidential stakes. The larger unity of the Democrats would be necessary to stop the Trump juggernaut in the November polls.
And that unity must be demonstrated now and must not be delayed till 25 July, especially because Trump, as the presumptive nominee, has largely shifted the focus from an intra-Republican to anti-Democratic campaign. He will have the crucial advantage of six weeks over Hillary Clinton if the intra-Democratic slanging match goes on till the Democratic Party convention.
Sanders would then be dubbed as a spoiler and would lose all the goodwill he has generated over the last year if he does not see the writing on the wall and act swiftly. He would be squarely blamed if Trump succeeds in upstaging Clinton and making it to the White House.
A lone ranger?
Sanders' obvious options are clearly limited. But what if he goes for an unconventional option and runs as an independent candidate? That would be an unprecedented action in US presidential history -- someone who lost the major party nomination contesting as an independent candidate. But that would affix the spoiler tag more firmly on him and, some would contend, would help pave a clear path for a Trump presidency.
The Green Party's presumptive nominee, Jill Stein, has said she is ready to appeal to the party to change the rules to make Sanders the presidential nominee...
But, then, why shouldn't it be possible that even an independent Sanders, more than a Democratic Clinton, is better placed to defeat the Republican Trump?
Just analyze the facts. Most of the opinion polls during the last six months have suggested that Sanders as the Democratic candidate, more than Clinton, had a greater chance to defeat Trump in the November election. Hillary Clinton carries a lot of baggage and she has to do a lot of explaining about her controversial tie-up with Wall Street, drug companies and fossil fuel industry. The FBI is investigating her private e-mail shenanigans (and her opponents say that she may be formally indicted by the FBI before the November polls; that would make the Trump presidency a certainty).
So Clinton is clearly not a sure bet against Trump. Sanders as Democratic nominee would have been the more formidable candidate, but then, as it stands, Sanders does not have the numbers to be the Democratic nominee. But it is also possible that Sanders, as an independent candidate, would be an equally formidable opponent to Trump.
In the face of it, that may sound improbable. No independent candidate in American presidential history has ever made big ripples. At the most, some would say, Sanders would replicate the phenomenon of Ralph Nader, the energetic liberal activist, who entered the presidential race four times and was, in some opinion, responsible for the loss of Al Gore to George Bush Jr. in a close contest in 2000.
Parallels between Nader and Sanders
Sanders and Nader have been largely championing similar causes for decades. Sanders, of course, is more left-wing with his emphasis on universal healthcare, affordable college education, better wages for workers, breaking up the big banks, higher taxation of the rich and the corporates. As players on the margins on American politics, Sanders was the more successful of the two, having been elected as mayor, congressman and senator in the last three decades. But despite this success, Sanders was peripheral in national politics until he decided to throw his hat in the presidential ring last year.
Sanders has set in motion a revolutionary thought process and millions who have lived by it for several months will not overnight forsake that dream...
Ralph Nader had also tossed his hat in the same race two decades ago when he contested as a Green Party nominee. The Green Party of the US advocates left-of-the-centre policies and many of their programmes would overlap with the exhortations that Ralph Nader and Bernie Sanders make on their respective platforms. The Green Party had invited Ralph Nader to contest on their platform. But neither the Green Party nor Nader was able to carry their message to the average Americans -- they did not attract instant name recognition in many parts of the USA and they did not succeed in building a national organisational apparatus necessary for electoral success.
But there is a difference in the case of Bernie Sanders. He was an outsider to national politics until last year. But during the last six months, he emerged as a major contender for the Democratic ticket, and, in the process, he has become a recognizable face across the country; more so, he has succeeded in creating a national platform to convey his message to larger sections of the American society.
The Green Party's presumptive nominee, Jill Stein, has gone record to say that she is ready to appeal to the party to change the rules to make Sanders the presidential nominee if he chooses to join their platform. It is true that in June 2016 the Sanders phenomenon has become much bigger than the Green Party; but there may be technical difficulties at this stage in getting Sanders' name in the presidential ballot in all the states as an independent candidate for the November election. So Sanders should readily embrace the Green Party offer. It is a win-win situation for both.
It must be remembered that Sanders is just not another candidate who has lost the intra-party battle; it is not that Sanders's Democratic supporters would invariably back the party nominee, Hillary Clinton. In reality, Sanders has set in motion a revolutionary thought process and millions who have lived by it for several months will not overnight forsake that dream and make their compromise with the reality of an unfair America. Some may just sit back; a few may reluctantly back Hillary to prevent a Trump catastrophe.
A Sanders platform, even as a Green Party candidate, would galvanize his core supporters to take the battle to another level.
A Sanders platform, even as a Green Party candidate, would galvanize his core supporters to take the battle to another level. That would seriously undermine a Hillary Clinton candidature, and also queer the pitch for a Trump presidency.
Let us take a look at the statistics. According to the Pew Research Centre, about 32% of the American electorate are affiliated with the Democratic Party, and 23% with the Republican Party. That means about 45% of American voters are unaffiliated. Of these unaffiliated Americans, as many as 45% have shown their preference for Bernie Sanders as they wish to see a fairer and more humane America.
In this backdrop, an independent or Green Party Sanders platform would make the November polls truly triangular. Even if Sanders manages to get the support of just 10% of the registered Democratic voters (out of the 32%), combined with even half of his projected support base among non-party voters (constituting 45% of the electorate), he would emerge the most powerful of the three candidates.
When Sanders's campaign message gathers momentum, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would appear indistinguishable in terms of their compromised policy prescriptions to institutionalize inequality. That would provide the average American voters, for once, the opportunity of a lifetime to elect a leader who is committed to create a fair society -- after all, Sanders's 35-year-old political record is a testimony of his valiant struggle to achieve that goal.
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