Faced with the prospect of Bernie Sanders not being the Democratic nominee, many of his supporters are taking a step in the seemingly opposite direction, lending support to presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
At first glance, Trump is a surprising choice. After all, the media narrative presents Trump and Sanders as diametrically opposed: Sanders supporters are portrayed as hip — often unrealistic and impulsive — college students dedicated to social change, while Trump fans are characterized as stodgy, uneducated curmudgeons.
However, the demographics don’t lie: both Sanders and Trump have legions of followers among young white males concerned about the economy and support the classically populist rhetoric employed by both Trump and Sanders.
Indeed, Sanders and Trump both represent a fight against the “establishment,” especially represented by Hillary Clinton. One Sanders voter has gone so far as to characterize Clinton as “conservative” and a “divisive figure.”
The Washington Post reports that Sanders supporters are more than twice as likely to vote for Trump than Clinton supporters. What’s more, Sanders supporters are much more likely to view Clinton negatively than other Democrats. In addition, West Virginia exit polls by CBS assert that nearly half of Sanders supporters would consider voting for Trump come the general election.
So while ex-Sanders supporters may not be in love with Trump, they are willing to tolerate him to the extent that he is a better option than Hillary Clinton.
Does this mean that we are seeing a splintering of the Democratic Party?
Most likely, no. Many Democrats are still coalescing behind Clinton, even if it means reluctantly doing so. After all, even Trump’s newfound Sanders fans are only supporting him because they see him as the “lesser of two evils.”
Still, neither major party candidate seems to be gaining much ground outside the supporters they already have. Real Clear Politics shows an average 4-point gap between Trump and Clinton, numbers that have fluctuated only marginally in the last month.
What’s more, for all the Bernie fans lending support to Trump, even more are discovering Jill Stein of the Green Party — whose economic, social, and foreign policy closely reflect Sanders’ own. She’s even gone so far as to invite Sanders to join her as a running mate.
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is also courting Bernie supporters, claiming he is the right alternative to Hillary Clinton.
Sanders left a mark on American politics by drawing hordes of new voters into the process. These voters are hungry for a political revolution, and when Sanders likely exits the race at the DNC, these voters will be looking for the right candidate who will challenge the status quo. The question is, who ultimately will carry the torch?