With Hillary Clinton securing enough delegates to officially clinch the Democratic nomination this week, it begs the question: Why is Bernie still in the race? By conventional logic, he lost his party’s nomination. Unless Clinton finally faces indictment for her email scandal, only then will he be the nominee. That being said, there has been some people inside and outside the Sanders organization, including the presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, suggesting that Bernie should run as a third-party/Independent candidate. As great as that might sound to some people, including the majority of Bernie supporters, it's a pipe dream. Let me break down why Sander’s third-party run is a far cry.
Sanders has spent the last year campaigning for president as a Democratic candidate. He has attached himself to the party, and has even said he will support Hillary if she gets the nomination. Sanders is not an Independent in the Senate anymore. Rather, he is a member of the Democratic Party now. Sanders changed his party affiliation from Independent to Democratic last November without the media noticing. He will follow suit and join in with the rest of the elected Democratic officials and support the party’s nominee. At this point, Sanders is so far in, he can’t get out.
So as illogical as it seems for Sanders to leave the party that welcomed him in, let’s at least entertain the thought of him running outside the party like many people would like him to do. Let’s say he runs as an Independent for President. Sanders would run into another set of issues, one of them being ballot access.
What is ballot access? It's basically having your name on the ballot on Election Day for people to vote for you. Here's the problem. There are no uniform ballot access laws. In order to get on the ballot, you need to gather signatures of people who would like to see Sander’s name on Election Day. The number of signatures vary from state to state. Some states may only need a few hundred signatures, and some you need tens of thousands of signatures to be on the ballot. With that being said, many states will not accept any more signatures, as the ballot access petitioning has ended in that state. This means that even if Sanders dropped out tomorrow to run an Independent political run, he wouldn’t be on the ballot in all 50 states. This really undermines his supporters, as they may not be able to vote for him on Election Day.
Another problem that holds Sanders back from running as an Independent candidate is a little-known law called the sore-loser law. This law states that if a candidate loses his or her party’s nomination, they cannot run as an Independent in the same election cycle. Granted, some states don't follow this law, but the states that do would remove Bernie from the ballot, even if he gathered enough signatures to be on the ballot.
So ballot access seems like a big deal. What if Sanders could team up with a party that has ballot access already? What if he could team up with a third party to gain ballot access? The two largest third parties which can mathematically win the presidency with electoral votes garnered by ballot access are the Libertarian Party and the Green Party. The Libertarians have already picked their nominee: Governor Gary Johnson. And they would not consider Bernie, because his economics are a sharp contrast to Libertarian economic ideals. That leaves the Green Party. The Green Party is a progressive party and shares similar ideals to Sander. It seems like a match made in heaven, right? It's too good to be true. Let me explain why.
The Green Party will not give up the election just to have Sanders hijack the party for his own personal gains, not with the high unfavorability in the election from the two major party candidates. The presumptive nominee of the Green Party right now is Dr. Jill Stein. She was the nominee in 2012 for the Green Party, and is polling at 3 percent in national polls. This doesn’t sound like much, but for a third party, it's huge. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party is polling at 11 percent right now. It's going to be a huge year for third parties, with ungodly high unfavorability from the major party candidates, and the Green Party isn't going to give up Stein for someone outside of the party who will flip back to Democratic once the election is over. Another issue is though the Green Party has enough ballot access to mathematically win the election, they still only have ballot access to 296 electoral votes. This means the Green Party would just about need to win every contest in every state to get the magic number of 270 to win the Presidency. It's highly unlikely for a candidate to sweep the board like that.
So what should Sanders do? Nothing. He should concede that he lost and return back to the Senate. Sanders put up a good fight, but it's over. Bernie had his political revolution and it may carry on, but just without him leading the charge.