Consider it a variation on the old horse-to-water aphorism. In this latter-day version, you can lead impressionable young voters away from an aging, dyed-in-the-wool socialist and toward another aging make-believe socialist. But in the end, you can’t make them vote.
That sad reality is explicit in a Bloomberg Politics national poll released shortly after Hillary Clinton cinched the Democratic nomination earlier this month. The poll found that more than half of all likely voters who backed Sanders — 55% — plan to vote for Clinton. Instead, their votes are split between GOP nominee Donald Trump (22%) and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson 18%.
Nor are all of these Sanders enthusiasts millennials:
“I’m a registered Democrat, but I cannot bring myself to vote for another establishment politician like Hillary,” says Laura Armes, a 43-year-old homemaker from Beeville, Texas, who participated in the Bloomberg poll and plans to vote for Trump. “I don’t agree with a lot of what Trump says. But he won’t owe anybody. What you see is what you get.”
The reasons many give for rejecting Clinton boils down to trust:
Conversations with two dozen Sanders supporters revealed a lingering distrust of Clinton as too establishment-friendly, hawkish or untrustworthy. As some Sanders fans see it, the primary was not a simple preference for purity over pragmatism, but a moral choice between an honest figure and someone whom they consider fundamentally corrupted by the ways of Washington. Sanders has fed these perceptions throughout his campaign, which is one reason he’s having a hard time coming around to an endorsement.
The question that looms now is twofold. First is the question of whether Sanders will formally embrace Clinton as his party’s standard bearer in the November election. Second is the question of whether his throwing his weight behind Clinton will be enough to persuade his supporters to follow his lead.
Even if Sanders has a voice in the party platform hammered out at the Democratic convention in July, many of his supporters may view him as selling out to the “the man.” Others may simply Hillary Clinton too distasteful and baggage-laden to support.