This election cycle has been so much more exciting and interesting than I expected. Two years ago, I was bracing myself for a Clinton-Bush rematch. I did not see Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old senator from Vermont who identifies as a Democratic Socialist, as a real threat to Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House. Sanders has galvanized so many Americans who have felt disaffected and neglected by our current politics. He has run a brilliant campaign and changed the agenda and the overall discourse. However, I think it is now time for Sanders to step aside.
I love democracy, traditional and nontraditional forms of participation and as many people registering and turning out to vote as possible. However, as we get closer to the Democratic National Convention in July, I fear a Ted Kennedy-Jimmy Carter scenario. Some of you may recall the long primary battle between those two in 1980. Kennedy challenged Carter in the primary season. Kennedy was not victorious, but by the time Carter faced Reagan in the general election, he was bruised. Kennedy had exposed so many of his flaws, and we then witnessed a borderline landslide in which Reagan won 44 states and captured 489 of the 538 possible electoral college votes.
I am well aware that Clinton is not an incumbent and that we are still in the primary selection phase. The Democratic nomination is technically anyone’s to gain—however, mathematically, Sanders does not have a straightforward path to the nomination. I fear the longer he stays in the race, the more he exposes the many “Achilles’ heels” of the Clinton candidacy. And although she is not an ideal candidate for many, she is definitely head and shoulders more qualified than her Republican opponents and represents a more diverse wing of the Democratic Party when compared with Sanders. By that I mean that although Clinton is more centrist than many Democrats feel comfortable with, she still represents a larger portion of the Democratic Party. Not all Democrats are progressive or left-leaning. Just think, a Democrat in New York City is not necessarily the same as a Democrat from Texas or Louisiana.
Sanders’ ideas resonate with me. I am so grateful he has kept police brutality in the forefront of his debates. He has kept economic inequality as a central tenant of his platform. However, as July and November loom ever so close, I think the Democratic Party must unify itself around a candidate who can capture the largest number of the popular votes and more importantly the electoral college votes. Sanders has pulled Clinton to the left, more so than I (and probably she) could have imagined. However, I think it is time for the covert pushing to begin. Democrats cannot afford a repeat of the 1980s. Or, depending on the GOP candidate, a repeat of the 1880s.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.” You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.