By Amy Zhang
Two-Thousand-and-Sixteen has, arguably, been one of the craziest years in recent history, from widespread creepy clown sightings to the massive public outcry after the killing of a gorilla, but the forefront of the entire year has been dominated with the U.S. Presidential election. For almost two years, the process has been worn on, culminating with the shocking victory of Republican nominee Donald Trump on November 8th, defeating Democratic party nominee Hillary Clinton with 305 electoral votes, despite Clinton’s early lead. Trump was a brash and extremely controversial candidate, easily angered and prone to mindless offensive comments, particularly on social media, making it all the more shocking when he won.
However, had the Democratic presidential primaries yielded different results, the entirety of the election could have changed drastically. After Martin O’Malley withdrew from the race in early 2016, Clinton’s only rival for the nomination was Bernie Sanders, a Senator from Vermont. Here’s a look at what could have been.
Sanders, a self-described socialist, has been the longest serving Independent senator in the U.S. Congress, though he identified as a Democrat while campaigning for the Democratic nomination. When the presidential primaries began, it was considered unlikely that Sanders could gain support, both within his party and from external sources.
However, he soon began to gain popularity and, particularly in the later months of the primaries, gained several states over Clinton and challenged her position by tightening her win margins. Nonetheless, despite the traction he gained, he still lost the nomination.
His loss was significant. Despite his unconventional political background, Sanders was a likeable candidate. While both Clinton and Trump faced low approval ratings, Sanders had a 43 percent positive rating, per Wall Street Journal. His campaign stops and speeches drew large crowds; his July 1st stop in Madison, Wisconsin, drew more spectators than any other presidential candidate.
One of the most significant reasons why Clinton lost to Trump was because of the unusual swing states, states with an approximately equal amount of support for the Democratic and Republican parties. For example, Wisconsin, a state that has been historically blue, having gone to the Democrats for more than thirty years, ended up voting for Trump.
When compared, the similarities between vital states that Clinton lost in the election and in the presidential primaries are undeniable. In states such as Wisconsin and West Virginia, which leaned towards the Democratic party, Trump and Sanders both appealed to the groups that Clinton failed to attract, mainly younger, independent and working class voters, a failure that ended up costing her the election. In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, states that have voted for the Democrats for the past thirty years, states that Trump ended up taking, Sanders beat Clinton by a landslide in the presidential primaries.
Had Sanders won the Democratic presidential primaries, he may well have gone on to become the 45th President of the United States, rather than Donald Trump. Now, all we can do is look back and reflect on a missed opportunity. After all, hindsight is always 20/20. ♦