Why Bernie Would Have a Better Chance Against Trump

BY MEGAN GRAMLICH U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaking with supporters at the Agriculture Center at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. (Gage Skidmore)

Last week, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, two of the last three Republican nominees, dropped out of the presidential race. This all but ensures that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. So which of the two potential Democratic nominees -- Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders -- is best equipped for the job? Although many think that Clinton is more electable, mostly due to the fact that she is a moderate, Sanders would actually have a better chance of beating Trump in the general election. In hypothetical general election matchups against Trump, Sanders has consistently done better than Clinton. In one poll conducted by CNN, Sanders beat Trump 55% to 43%, while Clinton beat Trump 52% to 44%. At least five polls (conducted by CNN, IBD, USA Today, Fox News, and NBC) show Sanders beating Trump by a wider margin than Clinton. These poll results likely result from Sanders’ strong youth support, cross-over appeal, and perception of honesty and trustworthiness, all of which make him a better candidate than Clinton to beat Trump.

In order for the Democrats to clinch the presidential bid, they must ensure a high young voter turnout. Sanders is much more likely to create this necessary enthusiasm to get young people to vote in the general election, as he has done in the primary elections. Sanders has been clearly dominating Clinton in the accumulation of youth support. While many young voters would surely vote for Clinton in the general election (if only to avoid a President Trump), the Democrats need a candidate that greatly excites young voters in order to actually get them out to the polls. In this regard, Sanders is clearly the better candidate. Further, NBC found (using their weekly tracking poll) that Sander’s support among voters under 30 crosses party lines. They concluded that “about 30 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners under 30 would vote for Sanders over Trump.” They also concluded that young Independents greatly favor Sanders over Clinton. Sanders may be to the left of Clinton politically, but clearly he has more cross-over appeal among young voters.

Sanders would secure more votes from Independents and Republicans of all ages in the general election. This may seem surprising to some since Sanders is further to the left and is a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist. However, Sanders argues that his message can reach working class Americans all across the political spectrum. Sanders is much more serious than Clinton about reversing the huge increase in income inequality, and he has clearly demonstrated that he is committed to his principles. For example, he doesn’t just say that he’s going to make sure that Citizens United gets reversed; he actually refuses to raise money through an affiliate Super Pac. Furthermore, Sanders is honest and consistently demonstrates that he is on the side of working-class people. While Clinton claims that she told Wall Street to “cut it out” when they were engaged in highly risky lending practices that caused the housing market to collapse, Bernie outright stated that “the business model of Wall Street is fraud.” Clinton claims that she will fix Wall Street, and yet collects millions of dollars in speaking fees from investors who clearly aren’t going to spend their money without expecting something in return. Not only does evidence support the fact that Clinton isn’t trustworthy, polls indicate that she isn’t perceived as being trustworthy by voters. A poll conducted by ABC news and the Washington Post found that only 37% of people find Clinton honest and trustworthy, which would likely hurt her in the general election. Sanders, however, would do a much a better job of  appealing to Independents and Republicans in the general election because the American people (regardless of political affiliation) overwhelmingly want someone who is both honest and sincere. This is why Sanders, who was considered to be a fringe candidate at the beginning of the election, has done so much better than expected. His shocking surge can be largely attributed to the fact that he is perceived as being honest, even by those who despise his politics.

Sanders would also benefit from the fact that many current Trump supporters would consider voting for him instead in the general election. Despite the fact that Trump is a racist, sexist, ego-maniac and Sanders is a good-hearted, hard-working politician, a lot of voters find both candidates appealing. This likely results from the fact that many voters want a Washington outsider because they believe establishment politics to be fundamentally corrupt. Of course they see Trump as an outsider because he has no experience in politics whatsoever (yet another reason why he is unqualified). And although Sanders has been in Congress for 25 years, he has been an Independent for most of his political career, and is thus an outsider to establishment politics. If Sanders were to secure the nomination, he would be able to capitalize on this cross-over appeal and steal some of Trump’s supporters. This, especially, is an important reason why Sanders should be the Democratic nominee.

The fact that Sanders has more cross-over appeal than Clinton is further supported by primary election results. Sanders does better in open primaries, suggesting that registered Independents and Republicans are voting him when they have the chance to do so. This also supports the fact that Clinton’s moderate politics do not make her more electable in the general election. If this were the case, then she would be attracting more support and votes from Independents and Republicans in the primaries.

In late April, U.S. News reported that Sanders would need 80% of the remaining vote in order to win a majority of pledged delegates. Sanders has won the Indiana and West Virginia primaries since then, earning 50.2% and 51.4%  of the vote respectively. Thus, Sanders would now need to win more than 80% of the remaining votes. Further, Sanders would still have to convince unpledged superdelegates to switch their support over to him. Some Superdelegates (including Bill Clinton) would switch over their vote to Sanders if he won the majority of unpledged delegates. However, Sanders still needs to convince superdelegates that he is the best nominee to beat Trump and that it would be a huge mistake to nominate a candidate (i.e. Clinton) who has a worse chance of beating Trump. Although superdelegates should believe that both these facts are true, they may still be unwilling to nominate someone as anti-establishment as Sanders.

Admittedly, it would take a miracle for Sanders to actually secure the nomination. Clinton has suggested that she thinks that Sanders should drop out of the race now. However, the citizens of the final eight states (including California), one territory, and Washington D.C., have every right to help decide who will be the Democratic nominee. And while the chances of Sanders actually winning the nomination are bleak, the absolute necessity of nominating someone who can beat Donald Trump makes it worth fighting for one of the biggest political upsets in U.S. history. A Clinton nomination might be inevitable, but it would be wrong for Sanders supporters to give up until it is actually set in stone. When the future of the nation is at stake, you can’t stop fighting until the very end.