To win, the most important thing the next president will need to do is mobilize voters.
Obama won in 2008 and 2012 by mobilizing new voters — mostly youth and black voters. By 2012, those constituents had waned for Obama. In 2014, the U.S. voter turnout was the lowest since WWII.
Arguably, Republicans won the Senate in 2014 because their electorate was more engaged.
If the last few elections are any indication, key constituents for a win in 2016 are youth and black votes. Sanders has the youth vote, and he is making very promising headway with the black electorate. Independents are also rising in importance, as voters turn away from the establishment parties, and look to ‘an outsider’ for hope.
The Youth Vote
The youth vote was decisive in 2008, with record numbers of voters 18-29 showing up for Obama, and 2012, when youth votes swung key states toward the Democrats. In the New Hampshire primary, Sanders won support from 83% of voters under 30.
In the New Hampshire primary, Sanders won support from 83% of voters under 30.
Clinton has an uphill battle with youth votes. The younger generation does not have the kind of connection with her that older voters have. She is limited by her image as untrustworthy and part of an older political establishment. Hillary’s laid back campaign, focusing on women voters, is not paying off.
Sanders, on the other hand, has made college campuses a core part of his campaign. He is seen as trustworthy, and sympathetic to issues that matter to young voters.
If Sanders’ strategy continues to mobilize young voters, they may be a decisive factor again in 2016, and win him the presidency.
The Black Vote
Even if youth votes do not turn out to be the biggest push, Sanders has a pretty good toe in with the black vote. The pivotal moment might have been when he met with the leaders of the new black civil rights movement in August 2015.
After two instances of black activists disrupting Sanders’ events to get their issues on his agenda, he agreed to meet with DeRay McKesson, a high profile leader of the movement, and others to talk about their concerns. Thereafter, Sanders started to receive comments from DeRay sanctioning Sanders’ understanding of racism and issues facing black citizens in America.
The only criticism that has tried to stick against Sanders, is his resistance to the idea of reparations for black Americans.
The only criticism that has tried to stick against Sanders, is his resistance to the idea of reparations for black Americans. Meanwhile, Clinton has been harshly criticized because of Bill Clinton’s policies that contributed to mass incarceration for black citizens.
While Hillary has establishment support in the Congressional Black Caucus, Sanders has been endorsed by Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the 2015 best seller Between the World and Me, a hit book for many in the new anti-racist movement. He has also been endorsed by Cornell West, and rappers Big Boi and Killer Mike.
The daughter of late Eric Garner posted her endorsement of Sanders as part of her continued demonstrations since her father was killed by a police officer in New York in the summer 2014.
Polls show Hillary doing much better among black voters in the South, but Sanders has a strong ground game there too, and in a year when authenticity will matter more, Sanders is on a roll, and Hillary is in a fight.
Voters who identify as independent now outnumber those registered Republican or Democrat. The independent vote could be a deciding factor in the election.
Sanders and Trump have a hold of independent votes. Sanders won 73% of independents in New Hampshire.
In some cases, independent voters are split between Sanders and Trump. The draw for these split independents is a sense of anger and insecurity.
Whether Trump’s or Sanders’ policies hold water seem to matter less than their appeal to voters’ insecurities, and a sense that the candidates are speaking from the heart.
What About Women?
Despite her focus on her gender, and the historic opportunity to elect the first woman president, Hillary is losing the female vote to Sanders.
Shocking statements by famed feminist Gloria Steinem — that girls were supporting Sanders to get boys — and by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright — that “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” — have done little to win over support.
Counting on women’s votes as a core strategy may be the fatal flaw in Hillary’s presidential campaign, as she neglects other key demographics, and does not have great prospects for gaining a majority of women.
Sanders Can Win for Democrats
Sanders has momentum. Sanders is mobilizing youth votes. Sanders is gaining authentic trust from key black leaders in the new civil rights movement. Sanders is winning with women. He is winning independents on the right and left. Hillary and Trump have high unfavorable ratings versus Sanders who is trusted and favorable.
Sanders can mobilize Clinton’s supporters if she drops out. Can Hillary mobilize Sanders’ supporters?
What about the delegates? If the Democrats give Clinton unearned delegates despite popular support for Sanders, the electorate will become more angry and move further from the establishment of the Democratic Party.
Sanders is the Democrats greatest chance to mobilize voters and win in 2016.