A Sanders defeat come November is a defeat for the left, and a Trump victory followed by Republican overreach — which is what the center-left predicts with night absolute certainty — would soon set the stage for defeat of the right. And all of this follows exactly what the center-left’s self-understanding is meant to be predicated upon: the belief that extreme views can’t win (Sanders) or will fail when turned into policy (Trump). So what’s the Democratic establishment so afraid of?
Perhaps the answer lies in the second scenario that could emerge if Democrats nominate Sanders: he might actually win. And then where would the Democratic establishment be? The answer, however, as Trump’s experience with the Republican establishment shows, is that the Democratic establishment will probably be right there in the heart of the Sanders White House. Certainly the Democratic establishment will still be in Congress, where, as Amy Klobuchar tirelessly points out, Sanders’s more radical notions are unpopular even among his own caucus. The most probable policy outcomes to arise from President Sanders plus a Pelosi-led House plus a narrowly Republican Senate will be center-left outcomes, with hard left tendencies more in evidence in identity politics (where the Democratic establishment is closely aligned with Sanders, and even many establishment Republicans are eager to get onboard) than in economics (where the establishment Democrats and Republicans alike oppose Sanders).
A Sanders presidency might also defang the nationalist and populist right as a threat to establishment Democrats, by encouraging the GOP to redefine itself once more as the anti-socialist, professional-class party — the party of Mitt Romney, not Donald Trump. Establishment Democrats have a long record of success against such Republicans, for the simple reason that establishment Democrats offer much the same in terms of business-friendly policy, but always outbid the business-wing of the GOP in offering government services and more relaxed social policies to dull the pain of those Americans who are not ‘job creators’.