We’ve heard the same tired lines about the Democratic primary for months: “Well, no matter who wins the primary” as if there’s any doubt Hillary will “they’ll need each other’s fans.” And now that we’ve seen Bernie’s chances of winning winnow down to zero, the more specific “Hillary will need to appeal to his fans to win in November.” It’s been said by so many pundits that we take it as “conventional wisdom,” and like most conventional pundit wisdom, it’s false.
Hillary actually doesn’t need Bernie’s fans to win. “But, but, but how can you possibly say such a foolish thing?” Anyone—but especially Bernie fans who think the world revolves around their precious votes—might ask. Besides the fact that many are first-time voters and we were somehow able to have elections before them—I know, it sounds shocking, but it’s true—there are a few other things to consider…
Because Hillary has won every single purple state. A lot of people keep pointing out Bernie does slightly better against Trump in direct-match-up polls yet fail to realize that those polls are meaningless in an electoral college system. It doesn’t really matter if Bernie can win Minnesota or Vermont by 10 more points since there’s virtually no chance Hillary will lose those states. What does matter is that Hillary has stomped him in every state that does matter. She’s won big victories in the big three purple states of Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, and an equally sizeable victory in the soft-red North Carolina. Plus, narrower victories in all the smaller purple…esque states like Nevada, Iowa, and Missouri. It’s not possible to become president and lose Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, and right now Hillary has been proven more popular in those states.
She’s also won a lot more of the popular vote. I also don’t trust “direct-match-up polls” that say Bernie would beat Trump by a wider margin seven months from now when it’s become increasingly clear he’s not as popular as Hillary now. I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom that Hillary is just this hateable old crone and Bernie is much more widely admired, but the vote does not reflect that. Hillary has scored way over 2 million more votes than Bernie has, and has more votes than any other candidate this election cycle including Republicans. This idea that she “needs” his votes to win is a bit insulting to the actual most popular candidate in this race, that few media pundits will even acknowledge is popular.
There’s no real evidence that Bernie fans are that big a group or have even voted before. Bernie’s fans are passionate loud-mouths but I’m skeptical that they are really all that big. Even if you make excuses for Bernie’s poor popular vote showing, why does Hillary have 5 times as many social media followers? That should be right in Bernie’s wheelhouse since we’ve been told that his fans are so young and “hip,” yet we’re not seeing real evidence that he’s created this mass, popular movement around him. His campaign has raised over 200 million dollars to get less votes than Hillary and Trump. I’m not seeing that as the actual people’s candidate, and we’re seeing increasingly that the majority of people have taken a pass on it.
And as far as relying on Bernie voters to win in November? I think it’s a lot smarter strategy to rely on the groups Hillary does a lot better with: minority voters, women, policy wonks, and even Southern, blue collar Democrats. The first three groups are ones Trump polls horribly with and the last group is one Democrats will need to snatch away from him a lot more than they really need Bernie’s collegiate-age, white male millennial audience that can safely sit at home without really compromising Hillary’s win. Politicians don’t usually build entire campaigns praying that millennials will show up. They are the least dependable voting group in America, and no politician factors large participation from them into a winning strategy.
We’ve all seen the Bernie fans threatening that they’ll “sit this one out” if he’s not chosen as the nominee, which I guess means they will sit this one out since Hillary is going to be the nominee. And even though a lot of Democrats seem to be worried about this threat, they really shouldn’t be. In 2008, some Hillary fans were saying the same about supporting Obama, and they came around. And the 2008 Hillary fans were a lot more likely to actually vote and were much more significant than Bernie’s ever could be. The media keeps saying that they have seemingly “come out of nowhere” and it’s safe to say they could equally go back to nowhere and it wouldn’t make a big difference.
It’s also hard to make the case that their absence from the polls could hurt congressional Democrats. Right now, they seem to believe Bernie and Elizabeth Warren are the only two Democrats worth saving even though Warren was a Republican until 1996 (the same time Hillary was licking her wounds from trying to pass healthcare reform in the White House) and Bernie became a Democrat last year. His fans seem more worried about the evils of Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and superdelegates (who they insist are evil…yet should vote for Bernie even if Hillary gets the popular vote) than they do Republican congressman, many of whom they can’t even name. There’s no guarantee they would even vote for a Democratic congressional candidate, and they may even vote against one solely for spite. Their numbers are too small to hurt Hillary, but a vengeful minority of quasi-liberals who view the DNC as evil could absolutely hurt Democratic congressional candidates.