Bernie Sanders' campaign manager acknowledged Wednesday that the Democratic candidate's team must keep its supporters from voting for Donald Trump in the general election, even as a spate of recent polls and exit poll data suggested that the Vermont senator's backers could bolt for the Trump train if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.If I'm reading this correctly, Weaver is saying that the message from the Sanders camp will be "Don't vote Trump." It's not going to be "Vote Clinton." "Don't vote Trump" encompasses many other options -- "Don't vote at all," "Vote Jill Stein," "Vote Gary Johnson" (weed!), even "Write in Bernie Sanders on the general election ballot" (don't laugh, that's an idea that a number of people are actually discussing seriously).
"We're going to have to reach out to voters to keep them from voting for Trump," Jeff Weaver said in an interview with CNN, after it was pointed out that an exit poll of West Virginia Democrats voting for Sanders showed that 43 percent would support Trump against Clinton, while 27 percent would vote for the former secretary of state and 28 percent said neither.
But if Clinton is the Democratic nominee, Weaver added, "she'll have to reach out to the millions of people who support Sen. Sanders and his vision for transforming the American economy and the political system."
I don't really believe there'll be a lot of Sanders defections to Trump. I think there are several reasons that nearly half of West Virginia Sanders supporters said they'd back Trump over Clinton in the fall: The state may be the last place where there are a lot of Democrats who are still politically conservative; the primary was open to independents who had no reason to vote in an already settled Republican contest; Clinton had angered residents by saying that coal jobs are going to continue disappearing. These are voters who already vote for conservative Democrats sometimes and Republicans the rest of the time. The state has always been a certain GOP state in the general election, regardless of the fall candidates (unless somehow Jim Webb managed to win the Democratic nomination).
So Weaver's offer deals with only a small part of the problem. It's swell as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough.
I'm saying this even though I agree with Weaver that Clinton will "have to reach out" to Sanders voters. No one's denying that. But in order to beat Trump, everyone's going to have to make an effort to turn out the vote for the one person who'll be able to beat him.
I know I'm supposed to read this as Team Sanders driving a hard bargain in order to get platform concessions. I worry that it's more. I've seen enough anger on the Sanders side (and, yes, at times on the Clinton side) that I'm not going to bet the rent money on a rapprochement. In that case, we may regret 2016 as much as we regret 2000.
I foresee a big uptick in attention for Jill Stein, starting as soon as Sanders concedes. What the hell else will Salon do when Sanders is out of the race? I'm certain that H.A. Goodman and Walker Bragman will instantly switch over to being tireless Stein supporters. And why wouldn't the mainstream media reach out for yet another Everyone-hates-Hillary story? On the right, I expect the Murdoch media to begin encouraging her campaign -- I'm guessing we'll see Stein regularly on Fox in the fall.
Look at the tightening Clinton-Trump poll from Reuters, and consider Thomas Edsall's observation that Trump does best in online polls, a sign that he may have support from many voters who don't want to acknowledge their Trump leanings to in-person or telephone pollsters. (Mike the Mad Biologist has already referred to this as the "Trump effect," a mirror-image "Bradley effect.") This race could get ugly. And I'm not sure Jeff Weaver really cares about the outcome.