The media has declared the Democratic presidential race over, even though no candidate has won a majority of the delegates. The Democratic establishment is in a tizzy about polls showing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump running even with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, although that mostly reflects Republicans consolidating, however reluctantly, behind Trump.
Clinton surrogates and operatives are pounding on Bernie Sanders to get out of the race, claiming they want to unify the party even as they excoriate Sanders and scorn his supporters. Perhaps it is time for a little common sense about the campaign.
● A race isn’t over until someone wins.
This isn’t complicated. When the primary season ends, neither Sanders nor Clinton will have won the majority of pledged delegates needed to win the nomination. Clinton is likely to end with more pledged delegates and more total votes; Sanders, particularly if he astounds in California, will have shown increasing momentum and popularity. Superdelegates – who make their own decisions on whom to support – will decide the nomination. They can change their minds until they vote at the convention.
● Sanders is playing by the rules.
For all the animus directed at Sanders, he’s playing by the rules set up by the party. He’s competing in primaries and caucuses, including the Byzantine ways state conventions sort out delegates long after the primary is over. He’s intent on making an appeal to the Superdelegates who will decide the nomination. A vast number of them committed to Clinton before the race even began. They are free to change their minds; Sanders and his supporters are free to try to convince them to do so. Those are the rules of the race.
● Sanders has a strong case to make.
As James Zogby argues at the Huffington Post, the Sanders phenomena is real. He was dismissed as a “fringe” candidate when the race started. Clinton had all the money, the endorsements, the operatives and had virtually cleared the field. Sanders was scorned as a socialist outsider who whimsically thought he could fund his campaign with small donations. A white male septuagenarian from a white state, he had little reach into communities of color.
What resulted is astounding. His independence and the integrity was established by not taking big money and galvanized young people and independents. He’s been winning their votes 3 to 1. He gained steadily among young people of color. Now he is running neck and neck to Clinton in California, with one of the most diverse voting populations in the country.
He is the only remaining candidate viewed favorably by most Americans. Clinton’s weakness is a mirror to these strengths. After a quarter century in Washington, she is part of an establishment that is widely seen as failing most Americans. She’s viewed unfavorably by most Americans, with record negatives exceeded only by those of Donald Trump. Americans doubt her trustworthiness and honesty. She’s made herself the candidate of continuity at a time when the country is demanding change. Her big money fundraising has turned into an embarrassment, not an asset.
Not surprisingly, Sanders runs better against Trump than Clinton does in early polls.
Particularly if he wins California, Sanders has a strong case to make to Superdelegates that he is the stronger candidate – and that is before we know what the FBI inquiry on Clinton’s handling of classified information will produce.
● Sanders is mobilizing interest and voters.
Even with the media declaring the race over, Sanders continues to draw stunning crowds. Young people continue to rally to his call. Democratic registration is soaring in California, as the Sanders campaign works to attract new voters.
And this isn’t due to Sanders good looks. His bold ideas inspire – and meet real needs: Medicare for all, Tuition free college, $15.00 minimum wage and a union, enhance Social Security benefits, act on climate change, rebuild the country, end our ruinous trade policies, progressive tax reform and big money out of politics.
He’s building the political revolution needed to make these changes happen. He can and should continue to champion them through the convention and beyond.
● Sanders has already committed to beating Trump.
Much of the establishment hand wringing features fears that Sanders will not endorse Clinton if he loses the nomination to her, and/or will not work to unify the party to take on Trump. But Sanders has already – repeatedly – announced his commitment to make certain Donald Trump does not become president of the United States. He’s already promised to show workers why they can’t afford to support a billionaire who promises massive tax breaks for the rich. He'll work hard to ensure that the young people he has inspired come out to vote.
If she wins the nomination, Clinton’s challenge isn’t winning Sanders support, it is reaching out to inspire the young voters and independents that are the heart of the Sanders coalition. Sanders can’t do that for her, no matter how hard he tries.
● The Sanders revolution will be disruptive or it will fail.
Sanders has been lacerated for suggesting that the Democratic Party nominating process has been stacked against him. He’s been criticized for suggesting that Clinton is compromised by the Wall Street money she raises. The notably bad behavior of some of his supporters in Nevada was exaggerated and condemned, while the provocation of the biased Nevada party chair was ignored. Truth is the first casualty in these fulminations.
Sanders has unequivocally denounced violence or threats of violence. But the movement Sanders is building will by definition be disruptive. It will challenge the party’s rules. It will drive its agenda – even in opposition to a sitting Democratic President, as Obama has discovered with his TPP trade deal. It will go after politicians who stand in the way. It will expose big money corruptions.
Sanders is already supporting progressive challengers in Democratic primaries, including endorsing Tim Canova who is running an insurgent primary campaign against DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Ex-Sanders campaigners have already launched Brand New Congress, hoping to provide assistance to dozens of progressive challengers in 2018. They will go after Republicans, after open seats, and after Democrats who are standing in the way. What Sanders builds after the campaign is likely to be even bigger and bolder.
The establishment’s Washington consensus has failed all but the very few. It is buttressed by politics as usual in Washington, by the corruptions of big money in politics, by entrenched special interest lobbies and crony capitalism. The movement that Sanders is helping to build will seek to disrupt that order to clear the way for fundamental reform. Sanders has helped build that effort, and if his campaign is successful, it has only just begun.