A few days ago, I saw on this website that Senator Bernie Sanders is thinking of making an independent bid for President in 2016. He's concerned that the Democratic Party is too far to the right, and wants to play a role in dragging the nominee (Hillary Clinton, of course) a bit more to the left. He also says that he will not play the role of Ralph Nader in 2016; if the race is close, and it looks like his presence is going to give Republicans the win, he'll drop out.
At first, I thought this was a great idea. Get the Democratic Party to be a bit more progressive with a no-risk option. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Sanders has come up with a silly plan that could lead to a Republican victory even if he did take the option to drop out.
If there were to be major warning signs that Sanders was going to cost Democrats the election, I'd imagine that they'd emerge in the late summer or early fall, when most people start paying close attention. At that late stage in the game, after running a campaign for at least several months, if not a year, does he really believe the infrastructure he'd built up and ideas he put out there wouldn't carry on a bit after he dropped out?
By that time, he will have filed to be on the ballot in all the states he could, which would give him thousands of votes that almost certainly would have gone to Clinton otherwise if he'd stayed out of the fray altogether. Would the volunteers and campaign staff he'd built up just stop fighting and being passionate because Sanders dropped out? I doubt it. The narrative for them would be that Sanders was pushed out by a neoliberal Democratic Party just as he was gaining traction. That organization will find an alternative to Clinton, and it will take out a chunk of her votes in swing states.
I like Bernie Sanders, but he's playing with fire here. If he's going to run, he should do so in the Democratic Primary. An independent candidacy creates way too much risk. If you disagree, think about what would happen if Ted Cruz ran as an independent. People would instantly declare Democratic victory, and rightly so.