Note: When confronted with an argument as ludicrous as this, I generally move on to something more fruitful. But given that this nonsense is spreading around at the moment, I felt it necessary to say something.
In one of the most poorly reasoned posts I've ever read, Patrick Walker & Kevin Zeese argue that Bernie Sanders could win the election as a third party candidate on a ticket with the Green Party's Jill Stein. They claim Sanders is “well-positioned for the general election campaign” because the largest group of voters is, like Sanders, independent; his “views...have become the national consensus;” and he's opposed by “the two most disliked major-party nominees in history” and “two divided parties.” Moreover, they claim that “[w]ithout Sanders in the picture, Trump could run to Clinton’s left.” Trump, they say, “has made some sensible statements against wars that contrast with Clinton’s militarist positions.” Lastly, they note that “Sanders has defeated Trump by more than 14 points in the last 10 polls measuring who would win if they ran against each other. And Sanders and Clinton are neck and neck in national polls.”
Walker & Zeese's argument has a multitude of problems.
The fact that Sanders is an independent and that independents make up the largest bloc of voters does not mean independent voters are monolithic. In fact, as the Pew Center for the People and the Press notes,
Most of those who identify as independents lean toward a party. And in many respects, partisan leaners have attitudes that are similar to those of partisans – they just prefer not to identify with a party. (See this appendix to our 2014 polarization report for an explainer on partisan “leaners.”)
The balance of leaned partisan affiliation has changed little in recent years: 48% identify with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic, while 39% identify as Republicans or lean toward the GOP. Democrats have led in leaned party identification among the public for most of the past two decades.
Assuming for the sake of argument that independents will vote as a bloc based on their prior party affiliation, Sanders could conceivably garner the votes of 49% of independents, if we assume that formerly Democratic independents would vote as a bloc for him alone. This might conceivably make some kind of sense (I find it far-fetched on its face) if we conveniently assume further that Hillary simply drops out of the race as a convenience to Sanders. But what evidence do Walker & Zeese have in support of such convenient assumptions? In reality, faced with a three-way race, the formerly Democratic portion of independents would split their votes between the two Democrats, giving the advantage to Trump.
Likewise, Walker & Zeese's assumption that Sanders' “views...have become the national consensus” is a bit of a stretch. While it is true that a large majority of the electorate agree very generally on the issues mentioned by the authors, such agreement dissolves fairly quickly when the conversation turns to remedies. Canvass the GOP on single payer health care, government action to break up the big banks and regulate the financial sector much more tightly than is currently the case, and you'll see consensus collapse in a heap.
Amazingly, Walker & Zeese claim that “[w]ithout Sanders in the picture, Trump could run to Clinton’s left,” which, aside from a total absence of any inclination by Trump to do so, is belied by the obvious fact that were he to try it, he'd instantly lose the support of everyone within the GOP on whom he must depend to win the presidency and to fill appointments to government positions in his new administration. Moreover, Trump, they say, “has made some sensible statements against wars that contrast with Clinton’s militarist positions.” Presumably they weren't referring to Trump's statement that “I would bomb the [expletive deleted] out of [ISIS],” or his claim that he could force soldiers to ignore their oath of obedience to the constitution and perform acts of torture & kill their families. While it is true that Trump has made a few statements that were well outside traditional GOP warmongering boundaries, his inconsistencies are reflections not of any liberal impulses, but rather a total ignorance of politics, economics and everything else. Walker & Zeese may comfort themselves by redefining Trump as an occasional progressive. A more accurate interpretation of Trump's rhetorical teetering across the political spectrum is that a broken clock is right twice a day.
Walker & Zeese note that “Sanders has defeated Trump by more than 14 points in the last 10 polls measuring who would win if they ran against each other. And Sanders and Clinton are neck and neck in national polls.” This, of course, conveniently overlooks the fact that while Clinton and Trump are known universally, Sanders himself is relatively unknown by the general public. And voters generally don't tune into the election contest until just before voting starts. Sanders has yet to undergo the kind of pulverizing Clinton has experienced at the hands of the GOP over the last 24 years. Tell me what his poll numbers look like after an avalanche of GOP slander.
Why exactly an alliance with Jill Stein is supposed to be the vehicle for Bernie's accession to the presidency is never made clear in the post. Stein has far less name recognition than Bernie & no appreciable resources. The only possible effect such a quixotic candidacy would have is to siphon off votes from Hillary Clinton, thereby electing Trump. It is telling that Walker & Zeese assert that “It is also a myth that Nader cost Gore the election,” given that their ridiculous argument is a blueprint for a repetition of exactly the same folly.