When Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders finally announced he was suspending his campaign — but oddly, that he will remain on the ballot and collect delegates — the news hit his supporters understandably hard.
Despite Sanders’ clear lack of viability over the past month, and a pandemic that paralyzed his and all political campaigns, his proponents reacted to the news with varied degrees of sadness, appreciation and defiance.
Comedian Sarah Silverman: “Wow. I’m heartbroken about Bernie.”
Democratic Socialist activist Meagan Day: “Bernie Sanders upended American politics and we’re never going back thank god.”
Record producer and Sanders supporter Tommie Sunshine tweeted: “Don’t get it twisted, @BernieSanders is still on the ballot in every Primary yet to vote & I will get to vote for him in NY.”
“Rising” co-host and Sanders supporter Krystal Ball said, “Bernie Sanders suspending his campaign. I respect his decision but I think this is the wrong move.”
And Sanders campaign press secretary Briahna Joy Gray mused, “On the plus side, I can drop the ‘Democratic’ from my tweets about why Socialism is good.”
Many Sanders supporters have already said they will vote for the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Joe Biden, and Sanders himself motioned at party unity in his announcement, saying, “Today I congratulate Joe Biden, a very decent man who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward.”
Notably, however, Sanders did not endorse Biden.
Getting Sanders supporters, many of whom are notoriously loyal and pugilistic (see Bros, Bernie) to transfer their enthusiasm over to Biden will be no small challenge for a candidate who many progressives see as insufficiently liberal. In the past few months, Sanders supporters had also mounted an effort to question Biden’s mental acuity.
Biden will make the effort, as he suggested today. But there’s a subset of Sanders supporters who were all in on Bernie, and no one else will do. Their tweets came in fast and furious, too.
@DovahFem: “I’m not voting for Joe Biden. I’ll be staying home. F*** the DNC, and f*** unity with these ghouls. I meant it when I said #BernieOrBust. Good luck in November.”
@BernieOrElse: “Let’s get #BernieOrBust trending and sign the pledge now. Burn this s*** to the GROUND.”
@saynotoheteros: “The Democratic party is over. Vote green this year to help ensure the future of progressives in this country. #NeverBiden #BernieOrBust #BernieorGreen.”
It’s hard to know how big a group of voters #BernieOrBust truly is. It’s obvious that some on social media are merely bots and Trump trolls, hoping to disrupt the elections.
But are there truly enough #BOB voters to make a difference? Just ask Hillary Clinton.
There’s evidence that at least some of the #BernieOrBust threats were mere bravado. In January, when Sanders was considered the frontrunner, a National Emerson College Poll found that only 53% of Sanders supporters said they would support the Democratic nominee even if it was not their candidate.
Now, after Sanders’ precipitous primary fall, that gap has closed significantly. A Morning Consult poll conducted last week found that 80% of Sanders supporters would support Biden.
Still, that 20% who are not committed — 7% say they are supporting Trump and 13% say they do not know — should be worrisome to the Biden the campaign, and is likely very good news for the Trump campaign. Trump himself tweeted that Sanders supporters should vote Republican in the fall. And they just might. Others still may stay home.
While it’s hard to imagine the sitting president attracting new voters while tragically mismanaging one of the worst human health crises our country has ever seen, there’s always been a weird Venn diagram of Trump/Sanders policy and personality overlap. Even while Trump’s inadequacies and vulnerabilities are on full display on a daily basis, he can still win over plenty of disaffected Democrats who think the party has sold out. He did it in 2016, he’ll do it again.
It will be up to Biden to convince them otherwise, but it will also depend on whether Sanders is truly interested in delivering his voters. Clinton and her supporters believe he was too late in 2016. For Biden’s sake, he better hope 2020 is not a repeat.
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S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.