Even the most optimistic Bernie supporter who won’t stop sending you memes even though you’ve asked him repeatedly not to clog your Facebook feed (you know who you are) has to admit it: Bernie Sanders has all but lost the Democratic nomination. Nate Silver at 538 put together his best model for how Bernie Sanders could come out of the convention the nominee, and his results strain even the most active imagination. While the mememakers and Redditors still insist that Bernie has a chance, the pundits, reporters, and insiders have reached a consensus: it doesn’t look good.
With defeat all but assured, you might be wondering why Bernie is still in the race. Think of him like the terrible football player who is just on the team to get girls or the kid who is in chess club just so they have something on their college application. It turns out that there are plenty of victories out there for Bernie Sanders that don’t actually require winning. Here’s a look at what’s in it Sen. Sanders even if it is virtually assured that he won’t become the next president.
He Isn’t Technically Done Yet
One of the easy things to forget in politics is that projections and polling are not the same thing as reality. Elections are kind of like a Tinder date: no matter how many sexts you receive, you don’t know what the real thing looks like until you see it in person. In this data driven era where we can call entire states with just 10% of the vote reporting, it is easy to forget that sometimes you have to actually wait for things to happen to know the result. Bernie needs to win over 57% of the remaining delegates to win the nomination. This is incredibly unlikely, but since there is still a mathematical possibility, no matter how remote, Bernie is staying in the race.
Of course, there have been many candidates in Bernie’s position who have dropped out of races before. But, there are some other reasons for him to stay in …
He’s On A Roll
Though the numbers don’t look good for Bernie, his recent performances have been commanding victories. Early on, the calendar was favorable for Hillary. Super Tuesday, the first big proving ground in primary season, is also known as the “SEC Primary,” and Hillary plays as well as Jeff Foxworthy and NASCAR down South.
Now that the primaries have shifted north and west Sanders is having his time in the sun, which is ironic since the residents of the states he’s winning never see the sun. Five of the last six primaries have gone to Bernie, as we all know that the Birkenstocks and craft beer vote is Bernie’s to lose.
With Wisconsin now in his victory column and Oregon still on the horizon, why should he get out now?
Pushing Hillary Left
When Republicans are putting up hard right wing candidates like Cruz and Trump, it is easy to focus on the similarities between Bernie and Hillary. Since neither of them want to bomb the Middle East until “the sand glows in the dark” or punish women who get abortions, it is understandable why you might take this view. There are some important differences between the two candidates and Bernie has been highlighting those differences on campaign finance reform, international trade and minimum wage in hopes of changing the conversation.
While it remains to be seen exactly what substantive changes will make it into the party platform, Hillary’s rhetoric has changed as a result of Sanders’ campaign. But, as your ex’s text messages will attest, words are not the same as actions. It is reasonable to assume that the more primaries he wins and the longer he stays in the race, the greater chance Sanders has at having some kind of impact on the Democratic platform.
The Cash Continues to Flow
Continuing to raise tens of millions of dollars a month, there is no shortage of cash flow for Sanders. Politico puts Sanders’ March fundraising total at $44 million. If donors are still willing to donate, then why not continue your campaign? As long a undergraduate students are willing to forgo their Thursday night burritos and bong rips in order to support Sanders, the least Bernie can do is keep fighting the good fight.
A number of pundits have made the argument that Bernie can buoy the chances of progressive candidates in smaller elections even if he doesn’t win the nomination. The Sanders campaign has pulled together an unprecedented grassroots fundraising effort that brings in tens of million dollars a month at an average donation of $27. If Bernie’s campaign model has some lasting impact, his network may help candidates like Maryland’s Donna Edwards, Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman, and Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard form a new progressive core to the Democratic party.
Maybe He’s Doing Hillary A Favor
Clinton’s campaign may not agree, but one argument presented by Sanders himself is that his staying in the race helps the Democratic candidate nominee, no matter what. Following a disastrous showing on March 15th, Bernie was feeling pressure to leave the race. He said, “To suggest we don’t fight this out to the end would be, I think, a very bad mistake. People want to become engaged in the political process by having vigorous primary and caucus process. I think we open up the possibility of having a large voter turnout in November … A low voter turnout, somebody like a Trump can win. High voter turnout, the Democratic candidate will win.”
Data tells us that high voter turnout elections lean towards Democrats. The counterarguments here are A. What resources is the battle with Bernie taking out of Hillary? and B. How many Sanders voters will stick around in November? One would hoped that Bernie’s coalition of hippies and hipsters and people who want to have sex with hippies and hipsters will show up to vote against Trump, but, admittedly, this remains to be seen.
What Does He Have to Lose?
One of the most compelling arguments for Bernie’s candidacy is an emotional one. If there were a candidate like Martin O’Malley or John Edwards (pre-messy career-ending affair) still in the race, they might feel pressure to bow out in hopes of preserving their future prospects. At 74 years-old, the Independent Senator doesn’t have much future in the Democratic Party establishment. Let’s be fair: launching a national progressive awakening is a far better way to spend your golden years than taking a third much younger wife who will bleed you of your life savings. So, as far as doomed quests older people take up, this one seems like a pretty good one.
When it’s all done, Bernie will head back to Vermont and play out the remainder of his political career. Why not make this one count?