There is no shortage of people who dislike Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Fortunately for Trump and Clinton, there is no shortage of voters who like them either. Although it’s been pretty clear for several weeks, it is now almost inevitable that Trump and Clinton will face off in the general election.
Never-Trump conservatives and Bernie-or-Bust liberals have been telling themselves for months that they could thwart the inevitable one way or another. First, the Republicans were going to unite around a non-Trump candidate; then, they were going to deny Trump the nomination at a brokered convention. Trump’s popularity was supposed to have a cap of 30 or 40 percent.
In the Democratic race, Bernie fans decried the superdelegates as undemocratic and vowed to win a majority of pledged delegates; then, they complained that the pledged delegates were allocated unfairly and that they would win the popular vote; but now it seems Hillary will win the most pledged delegates and win the popular vote, so in a Twilight Zone-esque turnaround, the new plan for team Sanders is to convince the superdelegates to sway the election for him.
Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee, and Bernie Sanders is not going to be the Democratic nominee. Period. However, this doesn’t mean that the Never-Trump-ers or the Bernie-or-Bust-ers are finished. In fact, those voters (or non-voters) may actually have the greatest influence in the general election.
When Trump secures the nomination in the coming months (maybe even weeks), we will get to see just how much these Never-Trump-ers really dislike Trump. There will certainly be some Republicans who didn’t want Trump to be their standard-bearer but will “suck it up,” as Speaker Boehner so eloquently put it on Wednesday night, because they “want to win.” (I have no doubt that we will see more and more mainstream Republicans justifying their support for Trump with reasoning that sounds something like: I don’t like Trump as a person, but we can’t afford to lose the Supreme Court to the Democrats.) However, there will also be some Republicans who simply cannot bring themselves to vote for the demagogue. The question then becomes: Will those people vote for Clinton?
Abstaining is not the grand gesture many like to believe it is. It is a strategic decision that so many make without thinking about the ramifications. One cannot call himself or herself truly Never-Trump if he or she cannot bring himself or herself to vote for anyone but Trump, including the Democratic nominee. This is the reason why Kasich and Cruz’s “cooperation” failed so miserably. They didn’t ask their supporters to vote for the opponent in the states they would not compete in, because to do so with such an ideological disparity between them, would be to admit that anyone is better than Trump.
The turnout of supposed Never-Trump Republicans will have a huge impact on Trump’s electability in November, but what about the turnout on the other side of the aisle?
Bernie Sanders is not going to be the Democratic nominee. As Glenn Thrush of POLITICO put it, “the result was mostly baked in after Clinton’s five-state sweep on March 15, and the door more or less slammed shut after [Sanders’] 16-point defeat in New York.” Nevertheless, even after the four-out-of-five-state loss on Tuesday, the Sanders campaign stated the following:
“The people in every state in this country should have the right to determine who they want as president and what the agenda of the Democratic Party should be. That’s why we are in this race until the last vote is cast. That is why this campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform … ”
It is true that there remains a mathematical possibility for Hillary Clinton to go to Philadelphia with a majority of pledged delegates yet not enough to secure the nomination. If it gets to that point, Sanders hopes to be able to convince superdelegates that he would have a better shot at beating Trump than she would. One piece of evidence he could point to in order to bolster his claim to being more electable would be the number of Bernie-or-Bust-ers he has inspired.
Bernie Sanders supporters are currently split on whether or not they will support Clinton in the general election. According to a McClatchy national poll, 25 percent of Sanders supporters would not vote for Clinton, and a Suffolk/USA Today poll revealed that 13 percent say they’d vote for Trump over Clinton! It is obvious why the Clinton campaign hopes Sanders will not continue to campaign against her. The issues he has brought up over the last year do matter, but does any good come from accumulating more and more Bernie-or-Bust-ers when we all know the superdelegates are going to stick with Clinton?
When Never-Trump-ers and Bernie-or-Bust-ers fail to see the difference between a war-crazed New York millionaire and a wall-crazed New York billionaire, they will have little enthusiasm to turnout in November. They won’t be making a statement about their values. They’ll be doing their part to put Donald J. Trump in the White House.
Contact Ruairi Arrieta-Kenna at [email protected]