I have seen estimates and polls with a wide range of numbers as to how many of those of us who voted for Sanders will vote for Clinton. The latest is a poll from Bloomberg which shows that only 55 percent will vote for Clinton:
June 14th Bloomberg Politics national poll of likely voters in November’s election found that barely half of those who favored Sanders — 55 percent — plan to vote for Clinton. Instead, 22 percent say they’ll vote for Trump, while 18 percent favor Libertarian Gary Johnson. “I’m a registered Democrat, but I cannot bring myself to vote for another establishment politician like Hillary,” says Laura Armes, a 43-year-old homemaker from Beeville, Texas, who participated in the Bloomberg poll and plans to vote for Trump. “I don’t agree with a lot of what Trump says. But he won’t owe anybody. What you see is what you get.”
Conversations with two dozen Sanders supporters revealed a lingering distrust of Clinton as too establishment-friendly, hawkish or untrustworthy. As some Sanders fans see it, the primary was not a simple preference for purity over pragmatism, but a moral choice between an honest figure and someone whom they consider fundamentally corrupted by the ways of Washington. Sanders has fed these perceptions throughout his campaign, which is one reason he’s having a hard time coming around to an endorsement.
Voters like Armes, who says she’ll “definitely” vote in November, highlight the difficulty Clinton faces in unifying her party. Clinton’s paltry support among Sanders voters could still grow, as his disheartened fans process the hard-fought primary campaign. But the Bloomberg poll found that only 5 percent of Sanders supporters who don’t currently back Clinton would consider doing so in the future.
Eric Brooks, 52, a community organizer in San Francisco, won’t be among them. “I will absolutely never vote for Clinton,” says Brooks, a Sanders supporter who participated in the Bloomberg poll. Although Brooks indicated in the poll that he’ll support Johnson, that is not his intention. “I’d be okay voting for Johnson as a protest vote,” says Brooks. “But as a Green Party member, I’m going to vote for [Green Party candidate] Jill Stein. If you care about the climate, like I do, it makes a lot of sense strategically to vote for Stein, because she could get five percent, which has implications for the Green Party getting federal funding.”
One flaw is that the poll didn’t include presumptive Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who was mentioned by one of those interviewed. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson is left as the third party alternative. As Hit and Run points out, “Read any profile of the Libertarian nominee, and chances are you’ll get to a part where he points out that the ISideWith site says Sanders is the rival candidate he agrees with the most.” While there is tremendous overlap between Sanders and Johnson on social and foreign policy, Stein would be closer on economic policy.
It is not surprising at this point that about half of Sanders supporters are more reluctant to consider voting for Clinton. Most likely the majority of those who typically vote Democratic will wind up voting for Clinton, even if they have to hold their nose. Sanders supporters who voted in Democratic primaries this year but don’t typically vote Democratic will be less likely to stick with the party. Plus it is an oversimplification to call everyone who opposes Clinton a Sanders supporter as if this is the only thing which defines us. I voted for Sanders this year for the same reasons I voted for Obama against Clinton eight years ago–and these are essentially the same reasons I opposed George Bush.
There is little doubt that some of those who now say they will not vote for Clinton will change their minds before the election, but those who have not voted Democratic in the past are far less likely to. There is a much larger ideological gap between many Sanders supporters and Clinton than is normally seen in a nomination battle. Nominating Clinton as opposed to Sanders is a monumental loss to the Democratic Party long term as they lose the opportunity to bring in many independent and younger voters.
There is the possibility that it might not matter short term. While Clinton will have problems with more liberal and many independent voters, she does benefit from running against Donald Trump, who so far has run a rather inept general election campaign. Plus Clinton could make up for the loss of these voters by bringing in more Republican votes. As long as a Republican doesn’t consider abortion a litmus test, and isn’t a tea party extremist, a neoconservative DLC Democrat such as Clinton is rather close to traditional Republican beliefs.
If Trump continues to self-destruct as he has the past couple of weeks, Hillary Clinton could very well be come the top choice of Republicans. Just today, Brent Scowcroft former adviser to both Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush endorsed Clinton. This follows the recent endorsement from Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state under George W. Bush. Other neoconservatives, such as Robert Kagan, had previously supported Clinton, not finding Trump to be hawkish enough for their tastes.
Of course, while Clinton very well could defeat Trump without support from the left, we have to wonder what type of Democratic Party we will be left with, especially considering how far right the Clintons moved the party the last time they were in control. As pointed out at Salon last week, the side effect of Clinton’s nomination has been to transform Democrats into “new” Republicans.