PUMA II -- Will the AfterBerners become Trumpanzees?
The antics at the convention, especially on the first day, have gotten some Democrats worried. Bernie himself is not at fault for this -- since the end of his campaign he's striven mightily to re-unify the party, even getting booed for it on Monday by some of his own supporters (which raises the question of whether they can still be called "Bernie supporters" at all). Yet the eruptions in Philadelphia continue. The Russian e-mail dump has fueled the anger, as Putin obviously intended it to do.
However, the crucial words in the paragraph above are "at the convention". What we're seeing in and around the convention is not representative of the millions who voted for Bernie across the country. It's only the most fervent and committed who invest the time and expense to go to the event. Most people are not so ideological, and vote on a more pragmatic basis. Polling is already showing that 90% of those who "consistently backed" Bernie during the primaries will vote for Hillary over Trump. This makes it clear that the bitter-enders at the convention are not typical of Bernie voters more generally. Most of the latter are normal Democrats who are unifying behind the nominee -- just as I and most Hillary supporters would have done if Bernie had won.
Trump himself has expressed hope that many AfterBerners will gravitate to him, based on some similarities in positions, largely opposition to job-destroying trade deals (and frankly, Hillary and Kaine need to make their own new stances against the TPP a lot stronger and more convincing than they have so far). But in the end I think Trump's negatives in other areas -- notably the explicit bigotry fueling his campaign -- will prove too repulsive. It's already been noted that the Philadelphia tempest showcased the almost-all-white bitter-enders booing at a largely black and Latino series of speakers. The optics of this aren't good, not for real Democrats.
Letting Trump win would mean throwing a lot of people under the bus. Hard-core ideologists will be willing to do that for the sake of their own inner feelings of purity. Most Democrats won't.
Even the Russian e-mail dump doesn't actually show efforts to "rig" the nomination process -- it merely shows that the party establishment favored Hillary, something everybody has known all along. Those who are looking for reasons to be angry will find them, whether they exist or not. Others will soon realize there is no "there" there -- and will choose not to fall for a blatant and clumsy effort at manipulation by a foreign fascist regime.
There's also the "Trumpanzee lite" option -- voting for a third candidate or not voting at all. Over the next three months I expect to see some blog posts from bitter-enders chewing over such an option, or justifying it. Again, though, this kind of thing is a self-indulgence of people who are highly ideological, which most voters are not. Most voters realize that a non-vote or wasted vote is just half as effective at stopping Trump as a vote for Hillary is, and has no practical effect (or significance) beyond that. During most campaigns, poll numbers for third candidates run high for months, only to collapse to around one percent or less in the actual voting as people focus on what the practical outcome will be. I expect Stein's (and Johnson's) numbers to follow the same pattern this time.
The best analog for the current division is the PUMA movement in 2008 -- pro-Hillary bitter-enders who declared they would refuse to vote for Obama. I understand how they felt, because I was one of them. In the end, though, the number of PUMAs who voted for McCain or didn't vote was not large enough to throw the election or even change the margin much. I expect the same will be the case this November, and even more so. Trump is a vastly repulsive and frightening figure, as McCain never was.
A key role will be played by Bernie himself, who will continue to emphasize that letting Trump win would mean the total destruction of everything he's spent the last year fighting for. In doing so, it's he -- not the bitter-enders -- who is carrying on the revolution.