Although I’ve long been as certain as I am about anything that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, I have never wanted Bernie Sanders to drop out. Part of this is just an intuition that I’ve had that these hard-fought battles really don’t hurt candidates in the general election. So I was pleased to see some backup on this from political scientist Julia Azari over at FiveThirtyEight, Sanders Shouldn’t Drop Out For Clinton’s Sake. The take away from the article is that it doesn’t look like hard-fought primary fights affect the general election.
But this, I think, is key, “You could cherry-pick studies to argue that contentious primary races hurt a nominee, but even those effects are small.” So this idea that Sanders ought to drop out of the race for the good of the Democrats’ general election chances don’t really hold up. I don’t blame Clinton supporters for calling for him to step down. (To her credit, Clinton has not called for him to drop out, as far as I know.) This is always what supporters who are winning say. But the idea that Sanders is doing something wrong is sub-mental (ie, tribal). And I think we really should allow this process to continue, even though I don’t personally like the conflict.
On the other hand, if Sanders really does want to litigate this at the DNC, I might change my mind — especially given that he is likely to lose California by a good deal. But I don’t really think that’s what’s going on. I think Sanders is just positioning himself to get as much out of this campaign as possible. And as one who thinks that the Democratic Party has moved much too far to the right (and thus deserves a good deal of blame for the Republicans moving into crazy-land), I want to see some changes. And the fact of the matter is that there are only about five percentage points separating Clinton and Sanders. And I don’t think that’s nearly a fair assessment of the Democratic Party base, because Clinton has a long history and a lot of good will among the base.
What was most interesting in Azari’s article was here discussion of a recent study that found that hard-fought primary battles don’t divide parties, but rather the other way around. Hard-fought primary battles are the result of divided parties. And I think that’s clearly the case in the Democratic Party. The party has moved steadily rightward and it is due for a correction. (And I’ve written before about how the right turn of the party was not necessary, so I won’t go into that.)
But there are some practical issues here. Clinton didn’t drop out this early in 2008. She stayed in the race until after the final primary. And I mean no disrespect, but we should remember that Sanders has done better as time has gone on, and the opposite was happening to Clinton in 2008. So if she didn’t drop out then, why should Sanders drop out now?
What I most dislike about this idea is that I think it does represent a kind of aristocratic impulse in people. Ultimately, people do want a coronation — if they think they happen to be winning. And this is something that really bothers me about us as a species. I think that liberals are a good deal more rational than conservatives in the modern political context. Yet we are all motivated by these primitive instincts. It’s sad.
But it is way too early for Sanders to drop out.