Bernie Sanders not going down without a fight - and it may help Hillary Clinton

 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks with supporters during a rally in Fargo, North Dakota.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks with supporters during a rally in Fargo, North Dakota.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Now that businessman Donald Trump has effectively wrapped up the nomination on the Republican side, pressure for Senator Bernie Sanders to drop out and clear the way for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is mounting, but experts say his intransigence may ultimately benefit the party. 

For starters, even though it is unlikely Mr Sanders will get the necessary delegates to secure the nomination, it is difficult for the Clinton campaign to criticise Mr Sanders for staying in the race as Mrs Clinton herself saw her campaign through to the very last primary in 2008. 

At the time, Mrs Clinton continued to win delegates and states against then Senator Barack Obama. In fact, she won five of the last eight primaries in May and June. 

Said Associate Professor of political science Melissa Miller from Bowling Green State University: “Many people wondered whether Clinton’s victories spelled trouble for Obama’s prospects in the fall general election. Quite the opposite. Obama and Clinton remained in the headlines till June and Obama became a stronger candidate as a result.”

And staying in the news cycle is especially critical in a year when the Democrats are up against the master of publicity himself -- Mr Trump. 

Mr Sanders can also turn a deaf ear to Democratic party elites calling for him to suspend his campaign because they have simply not helped him in his campaign thus far and many suggest he is old enough such that there is no need to get on their good side to prepare for a future campaign. 

Instead, he sees value in continuing to try and shape Mrs Clinton's position on issues – something he can do more effectively with his platform as a candidate. 

“Ideally, I’m sure he would like to see Clinton endorse breaking up large banks, his ‘Medicare for all’ health insurance plan, and providing free education and state colleges and universities,” said Assistant Professor of political science Christopher Devine from Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio. 

“Realistically, he probably recognises that she won’t adopt these policies, but hopes that she will modify her current plans in the direction of these policies or, at a minimum, resist moderating her current positions during the general election campaign,” he added. 

Dr Devine said Mr Sanders represents the views of many ideological progressives who want to make a statement against the policies and practices of Mrs Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment and “such symbolic statements are hardly unimportant”. 

“They are an important means of expressions that may ultimately allow the Democratic Party to rally behind Clinton as nominee because the voters have been given the opportunity to fully vent their frustrations, even in a losing cause,” he added. 

Some experts believe it wouldn't make sense for Mr Sanders to drop out now, on the back of his Indiana and West Virgina wins. 

“I think it’s difficult for Sanders to get out at this point,” said Dr George Davis, associate professor of political science at Marshall University in West Virginia. “He’s raised a lot of money and brought a lot of people into the political process. I think they expect Sanders to continue until the convention.”

While Mr Sanders has energised white working class Americans, and many young voters, which is good for the party, the questions remains as to the tone he will adopt if he chooses to proceed to the party convention in July. 

Reports have indicated that the Sanders campaign will have an agenda for the Party Platform – a formal set of principal goals supported by the party; some changes his campaign might hope to push for include the US$15 (S$20.60) minimum wage and electoral reform, such as open primaries, making it easier for Independents to vote for a Democratic candidate.

“As Sanders continues to win primaries it leaves the Democrats little choice but to include Sanders in the convention, and also to place considerable focus on the issues Sanders voters care about. I think you will see Sanders’ influence really show up at the party convention,” said Dr Davis.