Despite Donald Trump’s many ham-fisted appeals to the former supporters of Bernie Sanders, there remain very few democratic socialists who wish to make an authoritarian demagogue their president. A recent Pew poll found that 90 percent of Democrats who had supported Sanders throughout the Party’s primary planned to vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump — when those are the only choices they’re provided.
To minimize the risk of a Trump presidency, Sanders doesn’t need to convince his admirers not to vote for a pseudo-fascist insult-comic. Rather, he must convince them not to vote for an left-wing environmentalist who’s not sure about vaccines or a “libertarian” candidate, who’s basically just a 420-friendly Republican: In the latest CNN/ORC poll, 25 percent of Sanders voters defected to either Green Party candidate Jill Stein or Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson.
In his endorsement of Clinton earlier this month — and at the Democratic National Convention Monday night — Sanders made an exhaustive case for why Clinton’s domestic policies are vastly preferable to Trump’s. But in both speeches, the Vermont senator neglected to make an explicit case for why his supporters shouldn’t defect to Stein, whose platform on climate change and inequality is considerably more robust. After spending most of the past year arguing that it “was far too late for Establishment politics,” Sanders still hadn’t explained why it was, for the moment, too late for anti-Establishment politics. Until Tuesday morning.
“I don’t know the leadership of the Green Party, but I respect what they’re trying to do,” Sanders told a crowd of delegates and reporters at a breakfast sponsored by Bloomberg Politics. “They’re focusing on very, very important issues. But I think right now — what is it, three, four months before an election — you’re going to end up having a choice. Either Hillary Clinton is going to become president, or Donald Trump.”
But from here to November, Sanders plans to explain, over and over, why voting for a center-left technocrat — who has publicly committed to the most progressive domestic policy agenda in a generation — would do more to promote radical change, in the long-term, than casting a protest vote for a candidate without the resources and support to defeat Donald Trump.
Sanders made this point most succinctly when addressing the California delegation’s breakfast Tuesday morning. After his call for Clinton’s election was met with a smattering of boos, Sanders replied, “It is easy to boo, but it is harder to look your kids in the face if we are living under a Trump presidency.”