Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersIn California race, social justice wing of Democrats finally comes of age Sanders to headline progressive 'People's Summit' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (I-Vt.) just achieved one of the biggest upsets in American political history by defeating Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonClinton defends April Ryan, Rep. Maxine Waters in speech Lobbying world Trump puts foreign investors first by supporting the Republican tax plan MORE in Michigan, winning a primary in a key swing state. With Sanders also scoring victories in primaries in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and other states, Clinton's advantage in the South ignores glaring realities for Democrats. First, Republicans win most of the South in a general election. Second, Sanders defeats likely Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpManafort-linked accounts on Cyprus probed: report Republican failure Trump's environmental order jeopardizes our national security MORE by a wider margin than Clinton, especially since he can win swing states like Michigan and Colorado. According to Real Clear Politics, Sanders beats Trump by 8 points in an average of various national polls. In contrast, Clinton barely defeats Trump — while simultaneously battling an FBI investigation.
If a possible indictment isn't enough to make Sanders the clear front-runner for Democrats, Clinton won't perform well in a general election with 67 percent of Americans distrusting her, as noted in a Quinnipiac University poll from February. And according to Real Clear Politics, Clinton barely defeats Trump, the same man who donated to her Senate campaigns and the Clinton Foundation, by a whopping 3 percentage points. Remember, Clinton doesn't keep polling leads and 3 points is within the margin of error for many of these polls. Thus, Sanders already defeats Trump by a much wider margin, without the threat of indictment.
Sanders also has positive favorability ratings. In fact, aside from Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), he's the only leading presidential candidate in 2016 with positive favorability ratings. If Democrats care about losing to a Republican this year, then they should also care about this fact.
Conversely, Clinton and Trump have similar favorability ratings, yet one is surprisingly viewed as more trustworthy. Clinton and Trump both have negative favorability ratings; 59 percent of Americans distrust Donald Trump. However, as noted above, 67 percent of Americans find Hillary Clinton "not honest and trustworthy." Surprisingly, more Americans trust Trump than Clinton.
Most alarming is the fact that Sanders is the only Democratic candidate not linked to an FBI investigation. In Real Clear Politics, University of Chicago Professor Charles Lipson addresses the magnitude of this investigation:
The FBI reportedly has assigned some 100 agents full time to the investigation and another 50 temporarily. The bureau would not commit such massive resources unless the initial investigation raised troubling questions of potential criminality. FBI Director James Comey is monitoring the case closely and coordinating with the intelligence agencies, which have to review the documents. Comey has a reputation for integrity, and it is his call whether to refer charges to the DOJ. Attorney General Loretta Lynch would then decide whether to indict.
Whatever Lynch decides, there will be a maelstrom if FBI agents found substantial evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Consider what would happen if Lynch and her boss, President Obama, quashed an indictment.
Thus, Democrats are rolling the dice with whether or not 100 FBI agents will find that Clinton either broke the law, or circumvented the law but still jeopardized national security.
Imagine Trump, if Clinton wins the nomination, making every televised debate and political advertisement about Clinton's FBI investigation and trustworthiness issues. Or, just imagine that several days before Nov. 8, 2016, the FBI calls for Clinton's indictment.
As for the intelligence community's view of a Clinton nomination, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn believes Clinton should leave the race. As CNN noted:
President Obama's former top military intelligence official said Hillary Clinton should pull out of the presidential race while the FBI investigate her use of a private email server for official government communication while secretary of state.
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the retired chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency, made the call in an interview with Jake Tapper on "The Lead."
"If it were me, I would have been out the door and probably in jail," said Flynn, who decried what he said was a "lack of accountability, frankly, in a person who should have been much more responsible in her actions as the secretary of state of the United States of America."
Considering the fact Flynn worked under Obama, Democrats should be concerned with his viewpoint.
Finally, while Clinton barely beats Trump in polls, the big issue is her weakness among independent voters. Seventy-four percent of independents distrust Clinton, and this matters primarily because 43 percent of the electorate is comprised of political independents. Many of these voters would gladly go to Trump, if Clinton was the only alternative. Sanders, on the other hand, reaches independents in a manner Clinton doesn't, and Democrats need this vote, especially in swing states.
Democrats who support Clinton are rushing toward a cliff, and Donald Trump is at the bottom. Only Bernie Sanders saves the Democratic Party from the reality that either an FBI investigation, or weakness among independent voters, could sink the Clinton campaign. Since 2016 is an anti-establishment election, battling Trump with the embodiment of establishment politics could easily doom Democrats.
Goodman is a columnist and journalist who has been published in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Jerusalem Post, Salon, The Huffington Post and other publications. He worked briefly at the U.S. Department of State's Foreign Service Institute.