Why Bernie Sanders Won’t Give Up – The Atlantic
The idea that support for Sanders could translate into something more lasting than a presidential campaign appears to already be on the minds of some Democratic operatives. National Journal reports, “Some Democrats [have] suggested Sanders could be even more influential after the convention by creating an advocacy group modeled on Democracy for America.” Still, it could be quite a challenge for the Sanders campaign to retool, especially if it lacks deep ties to the Democratic establishment that could prove useful in providing institutional knowledge and support for such an effort. The idea of a formal organization promoting the senator’s fiery brand of progressive politics or Sanders as a political powerbroker for the Democratic Party also seems at odds with, and potentially damaging to, the popular image of Sanders as an outsider.
In the meantime, Sanders faces plenty of risk by remaining in the race. His influence beyond the election depends, in part, on how much goodwill he can amass and maintain. If the campaign pursues any strategy, issue, or even tone that rubs supporters the wrong way, it could erode any advantage to sticking out the primary election. In recent weeks, the campaign has been more forceful in drawing a contrast with Clinton, which could prove grating to Sanders supporters who are more interested in his positive “A Future to Believe In” message than in seeing him go after Clinton. That could hurt Sanders’s brand and Clinton’s general-election prospects by lending an air of legitimacy to similar Republican attacks against her.
The Sanders campaign will have to be careful as it works to justify its continued presence in the race. The campaign has suggested lately that Clinton’s delegate lead isn’t set in stone. It has indicated that Sanders may be able to win over superdelegates—the influential Democratic Party leaders and elected officials who can sway the tally—by pointing to his popularity and electability. The campaign has also suggested that pledged delegates—allocated to a candidate on the basis of primary or caucus results—might flip. “We’re not out trying to convince anybody to do anything at the moment,” Sanders senior strategist Tad Devine told reporters on Wednesday, though he added that a “delegate lead with pledged delegates can become very soft if you don’t continue to win.” That could be a risky argument for the campaign given how much Sanders’s progressive supporters remain intent on upholding the popular vote. Many progressives also deeply distrust the superdelegate system, viewing it as evidence of the undue influence of party elites on primary elections.
For all that, Sanders’s continued presence in the race could ultimately help Democrats in the general election, even if he doesn’t make it there himself. Sanders has increasingly taken aim at Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on the campaign trail. Sanders’s attacks on Trump could help persuade his supporters not to stay home if Trump eventually squares off against Clinton. Even Team Sanders, for all its optimism, admits that the campaign faces long odds. “I think it is what it has always been, which is an uphill fight,” Weaver said. “It has always been an uphill fight, and it continues to be.” Still, as long as supporters remain loyal and money continues to flood in, the campaign is poised to press on.