Writing for the New Yorker, John Cassidy supplies a list of what he considers four reasonable reasons that Bernie Sanders is staying in the race:
First, most of his supporters want him to keep going. Second, he still has a (very) slim chance of obtaining the nomination. Third, there isn’t much evidence that his dropping out would affect the result in November. And fourth, back in 2008, Clinton herself did something very similar to what Sanders is doing now, extending her primary contest with Barack Obama well beyond the point at which most commentators had concluded that she had no chance of winning.
The first two strike me as eminently reasonable.
On the third, I’m sure some Hillary Clinton partisans believe Sanders is hurting Clinton by postponing the moment when she can begin to “pivot toward the center” as the saying usually goes, to assume the profile she wants to use in the fall campaign. Strategically, I don’t know about that and I don’t really care. But I’ve always wanted to say how much I dislike that meme, which we hear every four years about every candidate and we’re now starting to hear even about Donald Trump.
We are just supposed to embrace the notion that a candidate will change their emphasis and even tweak their positions, which to me looks like either pretending to be more moderate or admitting that you’ve been pretending to be more liberal than you are (or, when a Republican does it, more conservative). Shouldn’t that bother us on some kind of 19th-century standard of actually standing for something?
As for Cassidy’s fourth reason, it isn’t really a reason for Sanders to justify staying in. It’s more a reason that Clinton can’t get too upset, at least not publicly, since she did the same thing under somewhat similar circumstances to Obama.
If I had written a similar piece, I would have had a different fourth reason, only it might have been my first. Sanders openly acknowledges that his candidacy is intended to build a movement of young progressives for the long run, built around all the issue positions and critiques of politics as usual that he’s talked about all year, designed to keep these kids motivated for the long run. As far as I can tell, he has indeed expanded the range of thinkable thoughts in American politics.
Now, it’s true that Sanders isn’t saying anything these days we haven’t heard from him a million times, or is it two million? But if there was a rule in politics that you can’t keep saying the same thing over and over again, the system would collapse, the world would collapse, and we’d all have more time to binge-watch on Amazon, or wherever the cool kids are binge-watching these days.