The Gloves Are Off
Gainesville–Hillary Clinton was thought to be the only viable candidate for the Democrats for the 2016 general election: enter Bernie Sanders. Everyone assumed Sanders would slowly fade as Clinton won more and more primaries: the only problem? He keeps winning. He has a ton of momentum and is turning what seemed to be a one person race into a fist fight. What once was a docile campaign for both candidates has turned into a brawl, with both attacking the others qualifications in the hopes of securing the nomination.
Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton win decisively against Ted Cruz and Donald Trump come November, but according to the polls, Sanders wins by a much larger margin. A lot of Sanders supporters are pointing to these polls to support their claim that he is a stronger candidate than Hillary, however, I am not convinced. Clinton has been the target of the entirety of the GOP’s attacks, while Sanders has been all but forgotten. This negativity directed at Clinton has led to a large portion of Democrats despising her, and they glorify Sanders due to his lack of scandalous behavior. The problem is that if he wins the nomination the GOP won’t hold back; they will throw everything they have at him. They will tear into him for not having a real steady job until he was 40. They will label him an anarchist, a “taker” from the current welfare state, and a socialist. He is untainted in the eyes of many voters at the moment, but that will all change come general election time; there is no shortage of ammo for the GOP to fire at him. While I don’t find these attacks entirely convincing, I do believe a lot of the American people will. The American people especially won’t take kindly to his lack of work history, which will consequently lower his poll numbers below Clinton’s come the general election.
With his decisive win in Wisconsin, Sanders has gained majority control over the popular vote outside the South. Despite this fact, he still trails Clinton in the overall popular vote, most of which originates from votes in the South, specifically among black voters.
Bernie Sanders has struggled to gain the support of black voters throughout the entirety of campaign, which accounts for his popular vote and delegate deficit. Clinton’s ability to capture the black vote has allowed her to win a large amount of delegates in the South, and while this has plagued Sanders throughout the primaries, it won’t matter come the general election.
Black voters make up a large portion of Southern voters, but they only account for about 13 percent of the national electorate. Additionally, they overwhelmingly vote Democratic, so if Sanders were to win the nomination, it is almost guaranteed that they will still vote for him over the GOP candidate anyways, despite his historical unpopularity with their demographic. Thus, Clinton’s lead in the South means very little come general election time; the more important target is outside the South. Whoever can win more convincingly outside the South will be the stronger candidate, and based solely on primary results, that candidate is Bernie Sanders.
I believe Bernie Sanders can capture more voters outside the South than Hillary Clinton, but she has something he doesn’t: the backing of the Democratic Establishment. And even though I’ve argued in a previous article that our current political Establishment is on the decline, it still carries a tremendous amount of power at the moment. Without the backing of the Establishment I do not see a valid path to the nomination for Sanders, despite the possibility that he is a stronger candidate than Clinton.
It is the beginning of the end for the political Establishment, but in 2016, it is still to early to win an election without their backing. It is possible that in 2020 or 2024 we could see an anti-Establishment candidate winning the nomination, but we aren’t there yet, and the political Establishment still reigns supreme.
As you can see, both candidates have fraudulent leads in one way or another. Bernie’s poll numbers are higher due to the lack of attacks targeted at him, while Clinton’s numbers are padded by Southern black votes, which will probably go to Sanders in the general election anyways, should he win the nomination. So at this point it’s still a toss up, but I think it’s more important to note that it probably doesn’t matter. Numerous polls suggest that no matter the Democratic candidate, Sanders or Clinton, they will easily be able to trounce either of the GOP front runners.