With virtually no shot at securing the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders nevertheless cruised to another victory over Hillary Clinton in West Virginia this week. But the surprising news was not found in the results – it was found in the exit polls.
According to CBS News, 44% of those who voted for Sanders said they will vote for Donald Trump in November. The media is trying their hardest to make it look like Trump will lose in a landslide to Hillary, but these polls are one of many indications that suggest a much different story. Democrats may not want to admit it, but the writing is on the wall: Sanders supporters will put Trump in the White House.
Both Trump and Sanders have tapped into the same vein of frustration. On several issues – free trade agreements, the destructive influence of special interests, and entitlement reform – the candidates are more alike than different. To be sure, they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum on most issues, but Sanders supporters may be inclined to look past many of them.
To understand this, you have to break the Sanders crowd into factions. Certainly, there are those liberal wingnuts who want to bring socialism to the United States, and they will most likely switch to Clinton in the fall, knowing she’ll be closer to their political ideology than Trump.
But then there are those who like Sanders because he’s trying to change the system. These supporters may be less interested in some of the senator’s liberal proposals and more interested in his anti-establishment message. Many of them are young and flexible in their ideology. To them, it doesn’t really matter which party is in charge; they view both as elitist organizations that put their own interests ahead of the country. These supporters may or may not vote for Trump, but they will certainly not vote for Hillary.
For Trump, the way forward is clear. Despite all the talk, the importance of “unifying” the Republican Party has been overblown. Polls now show that nearly 90% of Republican voters will cast their ballot for Trump in November. Yes, he has ground to make up with women and minorities, but there’s no significant need to win over Republicans like George W. Bush.
Instead, he should let Sanders’ voters know there’s a place for them. He doesn’t need to start attacking Wall Street and he doesn’t need to promise them free college. He just needs to let them know that if they still want to fight the corrupt Washington establishment, he’s the man for the job.
If he can, Trump will “bern” his way right to the White House.