As the months tick down to November, two things are becoming clear: one is that Bernie Sanders has a serious chance at winning the White House; the other is that his greatest obstacle to the White House might very well be the Democratic Party.
With the momentum he has gathered since he initially dismissed the idea of an independent run, the independent democratic-socialist and coincidental Democrat shouldn’t feel himself wedded to the idea of winning only with the Democratic Party nomination. If Sanders can keep his momentum up, he might not even need the nomination.
In July 2015, Sanders dismissed the idea of running as an independent for fear that it would split the Democratic vote and deliver victory into the hands of the Republicans. Sanders was polling at roughly 20 percent and Hillary Clinton was polling at nearly 60 percent. But Sanders is rapidly closing the gap between himself and Clinton. Once a distant second, he now leads Clinton in the key primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa, according to CBS. Though he still lacks support from the Democratic Party, Sanders is nevertheless very popular among Democrats themselves.
Even though, according to Mercury Analytics, more Democrats are considering voting Republican than vice versa, Sanders still shouldn’t worry about splitting the Democratic vote (at least not enough to cost him the election). If Trump loses the Republican nomination, many of his supporters could still easily get behind Ted Cruz. If, on the other hand, Clinton wins the Democratic Party nomination, Democrats will not simply go with the flow. Most if not the overwhelming majority of those who already support Sanders will continue to support him with or without the nomination.
But there’s an even bigger reason why Sanders doesn’t need the nomination — a much bigger reason.
When former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg floated the idea of an independent run, Sanders was unfazed. “If Donald Trump wins [the Republican nomination] and Mr. Bloomberg gets in, you’re going to have two multi-billionaires running for president of the United States against me,” Sanders told MSNBC. “And I think the American people do not want to see our nation move toward an oligarchy, where billionaires control the political process. I think we’ll win that election.”
But Sanders should be careful what he asks for. Sanders’ popularity is making the Democratic Party nomination irrelevant, but a potential run by Bloomberg — a man roughly five times wealthier than Trump — makes it downright toxic.
If Bloomberg means what he says, that he will only run if Clinton loses the nomination, Sanders should let sleeping dogs lie and let Clinton have the nomination. Sanders has already won the Democrats. He doesn’t need to win the Democratic Party too. He shouldn’t even try to. For his own political survival, Sanders should give up on the Democratic Party nomination and run as an independent.