Until quite recently, I have been undecided about how I will vote in the 2016 presidential primary election. After giving the matter much thought, I have finally made up my mind. Assuming that Sen. Bernie Sanders is still in the race when Mississippi holds its primary on March 8, he will receive my vote.
Sanders is not a perfect candidate by any stretch of the imagination. I do not agree with his position on every issue. Moreover, I remain as convinced as ever that he will not receive the Democratic Party's nomination. And yet, of the options likely to appear on the primary ballot, he is the one I would most like to see in the White House. Flaws and all, the more I have heard from him, the more I have come to admire him. Even if he loses the nomination, I will regard his candidacy as a success and believe that we are better for it.
Why would I vote for Sanders in the primary if I don't think he can win the nomination? Why not? Frankly, I'm not sure I understand this question. Why would my assessment of a candidate's chances of winning his or her party's nomination affect how I would vote in the primary? That is the point of the primary. I hope I'm wrong about his chances. I hope Sanders manages to pull an upset and defeat media darling Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. That would really be something! But even though I think that is unlikely to happen, I'm not sure why my appraisal of his chances of doing so would influence my decision to vote for him.
Two Good Reasons Not to Vote for Sanders
Now that I've told you that I plan to vote for Sanders in the Democratic primary and dismissed one of the poorer reasons I've heard for not voting for him, I'd like to mention two perfectly good reasons not to vote for Sanders in the primary. First, one might prefer another candidate to Sanders. In that case, it seems fairly obvious that it makes more sense to vote for the candidate one prefers. Since I prefer Sanders to any of the other candidates running, this doesn't apply to me. We can move on to the second reason.
The second reason to vote for someone else would be that while one might prefer Sanders, one might believe that he has less of a chance of winning the general election than another candidate if he were to somehow win the primary. This does apply to me because I do believe that Clinton has a better chance than Sanders in the general election. In fact, this has been my primary hang up and the main reason I have remained undecided for so long. While I believe that Clinton would have a better chance of winning the general election against any of the likely Republican opponents than Sanders, I don't have a clear idea of how much better a chance she would have. I also realize that I may well be wrong about this. Combined with my preference for Sanders' positions on the relevant issues, my uncertainty around this question factored into my decision to support Sanders.
I can guess what at least a couple of you are probably thinking at this point. You want to point to a couple of polls showing Sanders doing better than Clinton against Trump in some states. I've seen them too, and I don't find them at all compelling. The Republican machine has been ignoring Sanders for the most part (like the mainstream news media). We haven't seen their attack ads against him, but I think we can all imagine what they will be like. He will be presented as too radical, too Jewish, equated with South American socialists, and so on. I am worried that these ads will be more effective than anything they can do against Clinton. We have already seen what they can do against Clinton (e.g., Benghazi, primate email server), and it hasn't been particularly effective.
Why I Plan to Support Sanders
The primary reason I plan to support Sanders is simple: his positions on the relevant issues match mine far better than those of Clinton. Beyond that, I find him to be far more likable, authentic, and trustworthy than Clinton. He strikes me as more sincere, I like his lack of religious involvement, I like the fact that he had the good judgment to oppose Bush's unjust war in Iraq, and I have no concerns at all that he might have participated in secretive Christian extremist organizations that work behind the scenes to undermine the separation of church and state. I do really hope that Clinton has come to regret this chapter in her life and that she was sincere in her recent comments on the separation of church and state; however, I have my doubts.
This isn't really a reason to support Sanders, but I also appreciate the momentum and enthusiasm the Sanders campaign has built. He seems to be bringing young people into politics that might have seen it as largely irrelevant otherwise. Obama did this to some degree in 2008, and the Sanders campaign seems to be doing it now. Clinton certainly has her supporters too, but I'm not sure her campaign has anything like the enthusiasm we see on the Sanders side.
What if Clinton Wins the Primary?
I expect that Clinton will win the Democratic nomination. If I am right about this, will I vote for her in the general election? If polling showed that she had any chance whatsoever of winning Mississippi, then I probably would vote for her in the general election. I wouldn't like doing it very much, but I'd probably do it. If I thought my vote could help turn the state in her favor and defeat whoever the Republicans nominate, I imagine I would cast my vote for her. But since Mississippi goes Republican by a wide margin in every election, it is unlikely that my vote will have any influence on the outcome. That being the case, I'm more inclined to vote for a third party candidate in the general election if Clinton wins the nomination.