Joe Biden is ahead in the Democratic Party presidential race by 150 delegates and is well on his way to winning the 1,991 necessary to secure the nomination. And while the establishment rallies around Joe Biden, many Bernie Sanders supporters — the vanguard of the revolution — are refusing the call for unity.
This isn’t surprising. In 2016, fully 12 percent of Sanders voters ended up voting for Donald Trump. It’s estimated that another 5 percent of Sanders voters didn’t vote at all in the general election. Certainly, there were other factors to consider, but a good argument can be made — especially in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — that defections from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump cost Hillary Clinton those states and the election.
So what are Bernie Bros going to do in 2020 if Sanders, as expected, loses to Biden?
“If we lose to Trump then hopefully within the next four years maybe an AOC or Rashida Tlaib would be able to run,” [19-year-old student Ekene] Okonkwo said, referring to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and another progressive politician who has gained popularity in the last two years. “Maybe there would be a better chance to save the planet.”
Okonkwo is not alone in her unequivocal and uncompromising support for Sanders. She is part of a loosely connected but vocal group, sometimes uniting under hashtags like #BernieorBust or #NeverBiden who say they will not vote for Biden if he wins the nomination. While it’s nearly impossible to know how large the group is, hundreds of people have shared this sentiment, including progressive political candidates.
These voters sound more like Democratic no-shows for the election rather than possible Trump supporters. But, in the end, the effect is the same; lower Democratic Party turnout in critical swing states.
Biden aides say they can bring them back home, but it sounds like they’re whistling past the graveyard.
An aide to Biden insisted that his strength with other demographics would more than offset renegade Bros, but told the Post they recognized the challenge and were prepared for outreach.
“It is going to be our job to bring the party together and reach out to everyone and create a united front,” the aide said.
That “strength” is an illusion that will disappear on Election Day. And whether they acknowledge it or not, Biden is going to miss those voters in November.
It may be impossible to quantify their number, but not their influence. Those Democrats who will not yield to a moderate and vote for Biden if he wins the nomination are the same group who are sometimes blamed for Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 when disappointed Sanders fans sat out the general election.
And the past few weeks have been hard to swallow for Sanders fans. After a strong early showing in Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire his star faded on Super Tuesday. Supporters were left disappointed again this week when he lost to Biden in Michigan, where he edged out Hillary Clinton in 2016. This poor performance is partly due to an unexpectedly weak youth vote – despite Sanders’ vaunted ability to mobilise younger Americans.
Every four years Democrats predict a youth vote tsunami that will carry them to victory. And every four years young people fail to turn out. Bernie’s dependence on the youth vote to sweep him to victory was pathetic. In Michigan, just 8 percent of primary voters were age 18-24. Just 16 percent were age 18-29. You’re not going to build a youth revolt when young voters make up less than a fifth of the electorate.
Most of the younger Sanders voters won’t even vote in the general election. They aren’t Democrats and resist being tagged with that label. Despite all the anti-Trump hysteria, Sanders supporters don’t see a reason to vote for Biden if Bernie isn’t the nominee.