The U.S. American primary for the election of a new president in November 2016 has so far been a winding road of absurdities and utter failure to grasp reality, on both sides of the political spectre. True, the turmoil of Donald Trump’s campaign has been in sharp focus of the media, but it rather cloaked the view on the awkward dynamic on the Democratic side. Still, Hillary Clinton is favoured to become her party’s nominee, and the poll results still claim that she’ll be the next president-elect in November. Accordingly, many on the Democrats side urge Bernie Sanders to “shut down” his campaign as there seems no viable way for him to gain the nomination of his party in Philadelphia, July 25–28. Consistent with this line of thought is the urge by many Democrats to their party to “unite”, viz., that supporters of Mr. Sanders “unite” behind and support Mrs. Clinton.
What this reasoning blocks out is that there is already only a slight chance left for Mrs. Clinton to win the election in November at all. And this regardless of whether Donald Trump or somebody else will be the Republican nominee. The reason for this is that the Sanders supporters will not vote for Mrs. Clinton but will abstain from the election. Voter turnout will thus favour Republicans, so that not only will there be a Republican president-elect in November 2016, but also a Republican Congress. (In the Senate the Republicans will lose at most one or two seats, and the House will stay Republican.)
The reasons for this predicament of the Democrats are more or less twofold. On the one hand, there is the damage that the Sanders campaign has inflicted upon Mrs. Clinton. It is not that Mr. Sanders has pushed her to the left by insisting on the topics he holds dear. It is far more the harm done while pushing her to the left. If it were only a matter of topics, then Mrs. Clinton would have time enough to pull her party back to the political centre after catching the nomination. But Sanders’ impact is not on this level. Far more it consists in that by advocating his topics he (at the same time) branded Mrs. Clinton as a hardcore establishment representative, thus making her ineligible for his supporters. When it comes to the election, for most Sanders supporters there will simply be no difference between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump (or somebody else). Both will be seen as abhorrent establishment. So they have nobody to vote for and thus will not show up to vote for her.
Of course, on the Republican side many voters will also not show up should Mr. Trump (or somebody else) be the nominee. But there is an important difference. Voters of the Republican party are primarily older voters, voters who are capable and willing to vote either against something or vote for a second-best option while holding their nose. The Sanders supporters on the other hand are primarily younger voters, and those will not vote so much against something but want to vote in favour of something. Recall the debacle of Al Gore running against George W. Bush. Mr. Gore simply couldn’t get enough “decisive” votes — the “popular vote” isn’t sufficient, the structural votes are important — to beat Mr. Bush, and he couldn’t get them because a vast amount of young voters then voted for Ralph Nader and not for the second best-option Al Gore.
If we keep in mind that younger voters tend to vote in favour of something or abstain from voting at all whereas older voters often vote for the second best or against something, then the damage done by the Sanders campaign to Mrs. Clinton’s prospects to become the next president of the United States is obvious. For Sanders supporters, Mrs. Clinton is not an option. So they will not show up to vote for her. In fact, it is pretty much irrelevant when Sanders will drop out of the race for the nomination. The damage is already done, enough for younger voters to see no incentive to turn out in November 2016.
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