By the Numbers: How Sanders Hardcore Loyalists Helped Elect Donald Trump Bigly

Totally by the numbers: so maybe we don’t do that again.


I’ve had more and more Bernie Sanders’ supporters ask me recently, when confronted by the basic fact that the choices of the candidate’s supporters in the last election — after he lost the nomination — played significantly in electing Donald Trump, just how that can be?

I know that not everyone gets into the weeds with this the way I do, but I do believe that the stakes are so high in this election that — before Sanders’ ardent followers dismiss what they don’t want to hear — they need to find out if, just perhaps, they don’t want to hear these things because, on some level, they know it’s true. It’s hard when you are dug in around an ideological candidate to allow that he’s not all you’d hoped he would be. It is also dangerously self delusional not to acknowledge that no one person is the solution to it all: that Bernie Sanders has some epic vulnerabilities and liabilities, just as all the other candidates do.

Deciding that any particular criticism you internalize as the “deal breaker” for another candidate might not even be true. Or someone can look at your guy and do exactly the same thing. Some constituencies are more prone to that than others: Sanders supporters are decidedly more prone to defend to the metaphorical death their belief that he is the only worthy person in the field. That is a problem as a candidate, and it will be a bigger problem should he be elected President.

I have been a very measured voice in my analysis of this election cycle so far, some ask me where the criticism that Sanders voters contributed to Trump’s “victory” comes from. Many, who might have been defensive with a lot of other people, have checked their reactions and asked me why I say that that is true, Sanders supporters helped in a “bigly” way to put this criminal reprobate in office.

I want to start by saying that this is strictly by the numbers: pure data that has informed my own disinterest in Bernie Sanders as a candidate. Having said that, if — through some weird alchemy — Sanders ends up being the nominee, I will vote for him. From here I don’t see that happening but lots of things can happen between now and Super Tuesday, including that possibly Joe Biden sweeps the early state primaries and the entire conversation becomes moot; or Bernie Sanders — or Elizabeth Warren — sweeps enough of the early states to show themselves to be the one to beat; or one of these candidates over seventy has another health crisis and cannot carry on; or Pete Buttigieg slips in the bath tub; or Amy Klobuchar shocks everybody and carries the middle of the country, making her the frontrunner. The truth is, no one knows yet.

Again, anyone who does not want to see Donald Trump permitted to carry on with this temper tantrum that threatens to destroy us all will vote for the Democrat. Am I making myself clear enough before I tell you all how Bernie Sanders helped elect Donald Trump? And why he is in a position to do that again?

here are so many threads I would go down about Sanders’ failure to assuage the harsh feelings of his supporters when he lost the nomination. His failure to lead and to bring them into the party to vote for the nominee. From the perspective of a left leaning Democrat who essentially ran Barack Obama’s campaign in rural East Texas in 2008, the primary reason that the party was not all up in support for Bernie is that Bernie was not all up in supporting Democrats.

“Bernie Sanders began his political career in 1976 as a member of the anti-capitalist “Liberty Union” party, caucused as an independent for three decades in Congress, and only registered as a Democrat to run for president in 2016.”

So Sanders was essentially a carpetbagger who joined the party specifically to be disruptive, then bellyached incessantly about how the party didn’t leap to his cause. It was a low rent move from the start so can anyone blame Democrats, who seriously believed they had a real chance to elect the first female President ever, for thinking so little of Sanders? Especially when — whether you like Hillary Clinton or not — she was the hardest working, most well prepared candidate to ever run for the office.

Hillary Clinton at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa

So that is why so many long time Democrats, who’d worked so hard to put an end to the Bush administration, to elect the first African-American President, and who — when it became clear that the Republicans were nominating a flagrant racist and misogynist to the highest office in the land — busted ass to beat Trump. Meanwhile, a significant number of the “Bernie or bust” crowd either voted for Trump — which speaks to their pathological commitment to the cult of personality above ideology or morality — or they didn’t vote at all.

the numbers in the Wisconsin: 9% of Sanders voters voted for Trump.

Sanders supporters switched their allegiance to Donald Trump in large enough numbers last November to sway the election for the real estate billionaire…”

The Wisconsin state house, helmed by Governor Scott Walker, suppressed 200,000 votes using all manner of unscrupulous methods to keep voters — mostly people of color — from voting. Hillary Clinton lost by 22,748 votes.

“…fewer than 80 percent of those who voted for Sanders, an independent, in the Democratic primary did the same for Clinton when she faced off against Trump…12 percent of those who backed Sanders actually cast a vote for Trump.”

Do the math. That’s ten electoral votes that went to Trump instead of Clinton. Granted, the state GOP disenfranchised roughly six times that margin of victory, but does anyone doubt that all those Sanders voters who sulked at home, not voting, couldn’t have compensated for the lost Democratic votes? They would even have overcome the damage done by that handful of real Sanders cultists who shifted their votes to the Republican candidate.

Sanders acolytes casts 51K votes for Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton would have carried Wisconsin.

the numbers in the Michigan: 8% of Sanders voters voted for Trump.

We have three major voter suppression operations under way…target African Americans and other groups of voters.” ~Republican operative.

Trump prevailed in Michigan by 0.3%; that’s 13,080 votes.

“Even after the Democratic convention, about a third of Sanders followers were still not supporting Clinton. A month before the election 55 percent of them were continuing to view Clinton negatively…Could it be that their dispassion for their party’s candidate rode Trump to victory?”

What do you think are the odds that Sanders voters could have taken Michigan’s sixteen electoral votes away from Trump by getting over the self pity and showing up to vote?

Sanders acolytes casts 47K votes for Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton would have carried Michigan.

the numbers in the Pennsylvania: 16% of Sanders voters voted for Trump.

“A complaint filed yesterday by the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania alleges that Trump is seeking ‘to advance his campaign’s goal of ‘voter suppression’ by using the loudest microphone in the nation to implore his supporters to engage in unlawful intimidation at Pennsylvania polling places.”

Trump won the popular vote in Pennsylvania by 68,236 votes, taking twenty electoral votes. Sanders acolytes casts 116K votes for Donald Trump. And that does not account for the ones who didn’t vote at all.

Again, do the math. In Pennsylvania Clinton didn’t even need all the votes the state purged to win those electoral votes, all she needed was for Sanders supporters not to demonstrate what miffed little snowflakes they were by voting for a mad man.

Hillary Clinton would have carried Pennsylvania.

In results that narrow, Clinton’s loss could be attributed to any number of factors — FBI Director Jim Comey’s letter shifting late deciders, the lack of a compelling economic message, the apparent Russian hacking. But heartbroken and frustrated in-state battleground operatives worry that a lesson being missed is a simple one: Get the basics of campaigning right.”

this point pretty much everyone involved in that catastrophic failure that elected this malevolent idiot has been held accountable, they’ve owned their responsibility for it. Everyone but Bernie Sanders and his disturbingly committed legions. I cannot recount the number of times that I personally have been attacked online for even alluding to my support of Kamala Harris or being prepared to vote for Joe Biden if he is the nominee, in the most crude, vulgar, and childish terms, by a range of “bros.” Once upon a time it was the guys who said the simply gross, misogynistic things, but now it is the gals too. He’s never — ever — impressed upon them that this behavior is unacceptable, so — exactly like those ardent Trump troopers — they think it is socially acceptable now. The new normal. I blame Bernie for that. He is supposed to be the adult in the room, that is what leaders do.

Is it really that hard to acknowledge and show some warranted regret for the role they played? Humility, perhaps? A willingness to see the candidate’s flaws? Or the necessity to come together with other Americans to solve the problem they helped create?

Nah, that would require compassion, insight, maturity. And if you support Bernie Sanders and you don’t like that so many other Americans feel this way, perhaps you could have a word and speak some truth to those who are in denial that they kinda got Trump elected: by the numbers.

Do we all understand one another now?

About the Author:

Gayle Leslie is a writer, political consultant, published author, actor, and policy wonk publishing extensively on Medium and other platforms. She is a native Texan, graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and Circle in the Square Theatre School in NYC. She wrote her serialized memoir, Dwelling in the Vast Divine Vol. 1 & Vol 2. You can follow on Twitter at @gayleleslie7

Author of “Dwelling in the Vast Divine.1 & .2" Political consultant, policy wonk.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store