The Corner

Politics & Policy

A Trump-Sanders Debate Would Exacerbate Democratic Party Tensions

Are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders going to debate? CBS News hears that Trump’s people say he was kidding; last night on Jimmy Kimmel’s program, Sanders said he’s ready and willing, and now they are seeking a venue for the debate, to he held before the June 7th primary in California.

A Trump-Sanders debate would probably benefit both participants, and hurt Hillary Clinton. Sanders has been asking for one more debate, and Hillary’s refused. (There have been nine Democratic debates so far.)

Appearing on a stage with Trump elevates Sanders. (The site of Trump and Sanders on stage together might make the truly low-information voters think Sanders is the Democratic nominee.) A Trump-Sanders debate makes Clinton appear afraid to appear, despite a past statement that any aspiring president “should be willing to debate anytime, anywhere” and arrogant for insisting that the Democratic primary is over. Sanders refuses to accept that, and so far Democratic primary voters seem to concur; he’s won four of the last seven contests, and nearly won Kentucky.

Sanders’ best shot at getting the nomination is convincing Democratic super-delegates that he’s closed stronger than Clinton, that the former Secretary of State is now damaged goods and neartly unelectable, andthat he would be a better general election candidate. Based on Sanders’ strength in the surrounding states, he could/should do well in Montana, North and South Dakota, and he could possibly win New Mexico and California.  He’s got an argument for the general election, at least in the sense that Trump is surprisingly competitive against Hillary in the polls right now while Sanders is consistently head.

How likely is it that the FBI will look at the same evidence that the State Department Inspector General examined and conclude, “no harm, no foul”?

You know Trump would make a pitch to Sanders voters at this hypothetical debate, saying that the Vermont senator is correct in his skepticism of free trade agreements, and he would spend a lot of time talking about how the Democratic primary process is rigged, and how badly Sanders has been mistreated. The debate would amount to ninety minutes of two men with strong views and loud voices agreeing that Americans’ quality of life is declining and that electing Hillary Clinton is not the way to fix America’s problems. If Trump plays his cards right, he could pour a lot of gasoline on the fire in the Democratic Party right now.

The only real risk for Trump is that it works a little too well, and it persuades Democrats to nominate Sanders instead of the deeply flawed icon of the status quo, Hillary Clinton. But how likely is it that the Clintons would allow the super-delegates to betray her – again! – without severe consequences? If you thought Nevada Democrats looked angry, wait until you see Hillary Clinton if the Democrats try to deny her last shot at the nomination.


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