Senator Bernie Sanders has a reputation as a person of integrity: When he said months ago that he would support the Democratic nominee, I took him at his word. Today he went and did it.
Imagine if Sanders endorsed former Senator Hillary Clinton today with the ulterior motive of showing the Democratic Party and world how many of his supporters would vote Green rather than stay in the Democratic fold?
I use that word "fold" because, since Sanders entered the race, progressive analysts and cranks have bandied about the term "sheepdogging" to describe Bernie's purpose to the Democratic Party: attract a huge herd of Progressive sheep, then drive those sheep toward the inevitably less-progressive nominee, playing on fears of the Republican wolves. See also Kucinich, Dennis; Dean, Howard; Brown, Jerry; and Jackson, Jesse.
Today's news that Sanders appeared with Clinton in Portsmouth NH and endorsed her candidacy is a very blogworthy event. My first response, however, was to email some Green comrades about organizing a get-together for local Sanders supporters to introduce them to Green Culture.
The Great Migration
How many Sandernistas will defect to the Green Party between now and November? The many #NeverHillary testimonials I have seen on Facebook over the past few weeks are encouraging, but anecdotal and hardly verifiable.
According to Real Clear Politics, about twelve million Democratic primary voters nationwide cast votes for Sanders this year, compared to nearly sixteen million for Clinton. Caucuses were not counted toward those totals, but the Democrats don't have a large number of caucuses.
The percentage of Sanders voters who will not follow his endorsement is in dispute: I have heard figures as disparate as 15% and 90%. But let's go with the pessimistic estimate that two million will not just say #NeverHillary, but mean it and stick with it. In the Sanders diaspora, some will vote for Clinton, some for Gary Johnson, some for Trump, some not at all, and I reckon about half will vote Green (mostly in the states where the Greens appear on the ballot).
How Green Is Your Money?
Let's imagine further that a million #NeverHillary voters will vote for the Green nominee (presumably Jill Stein), rather than for the two parties of Empire As Usual. Can we convince a million Greens to pony up five bucks each, or even ten, for the Greens, or for the Jill Stein campaign? Quite a few of them donated $27 to the Sanders campaign. If they are truly enthused about sticking it to Hillary, they must have a spare fiver or tenner, on average, to throw toward Jill Stein and the Greens.
The Green Party gets more votes per dollar spent than the major parties and, I would assert, the Libertarians. I spent a couple of hundred dollars in 2014 and received 80,000 votes for County Judge (helped by the lack of a Democratic candidate). I spent less than a thousand in my 2012 Senatorial campaign, and I got 67,000 votes statewide; Ted Cruz spent about a quarter-million, in a state where he was damn-near guaranteed to win once he secured his party's nomination, for his 4.5 million votes.
To my great astonishment, I outpolled Stein in 2012; a lot more people in Texas had heard of her than of me. In 2016, Stein's name recognition has increased dramatically. Furthermore, she has indicated for months that she is ready to receive dollars and votes from disaffected Sanders supporters.
We knew things would get tense in the final months of this seemingly endless election season. What remains to be seen is...how tense.