Sanders had a good run. Now it’s time to rally behind Clinton.
California, America’s most populous state, rarely finds itself kingmaker in primaries. Often, the state votes too late to shape the outcome. It must have been quite novel, then, that Golden staters had an important role in shaping the Democratic nomination on June 7th. If Mrs Clinton lost, it would show her weakness to Bernie Sanders. If she won, she’d have the luxury of treating the Sanders insurgency with some triviality.
As voting day passed, Mrs Clinton clinched a solid 56% of the vote, and the latter scenario unfolded. Still, the Sanders campaign proved very irksome for Clinton’s team. The Vermont senator threw himself into the arena and emerged victor in 20 states, scoring an impressive 1877 delegates. This time last year, he was 50 points behind the uncatchable Clinton. Now his speeches pack stadiums. Socialism is no longer the great American electoral taboo it once was. The string of wins Sanders scored in April put his rival on the back foot many a time. Mrs Clinton likely didn’t expect the road to victory to be so rocky.
While many were feeling the Bern, Mrs Clinton’s southern firewall held. Sanders’ string of wins on April didn’t close the delegate gap, and the inevitable played out. Many believe there is some conspiracy in the Democratic party to deny Sanders the ballot. There isn’t. Mrs Clinton has a solid 3.7 million more votes than Bernie Sanders. A Huffington Post article complaining caucus data shows Bernie Sanders winning is disingenuous; counting state population, not voter numbers, and the latter decide elections (voters are, by definition, those who vote). Data from FairVote, a non-profit, gives Bernie Sanders a 182,456 vote lead in caucuses, which have much lower turnout than primaries. Only 14 states vote by caucus in the Democratic nomination, and total turnout across all those states is shy of 600,000. Ignoring superdelegate counts, party bigwigs who can vote as they wish, Mrs Clinton’s pledged delegate count outnumbers Sanders by 375 at time of writing. According to PolitiFact, an independent fact checker, the maths became brutal for Mr Sanders to win on pledged delegates back in May. It’s impossible now.
Some hope to convince enough superdelegates to change their minds, but having once called them undemocratic (oh, how the tides change), it was always unlikely Bernie Sanders would convince enough superdelegates to switch. The commanding 2203 committed delegates Mrs Clinton has won’t do him any favours. There are only 20 delegates for Sanders to claim in DC by the ballot box, and that’s with no margin for error. The only state Bernie claimed all delegates in was his adopted home state of Vermont – a mere 16. The paltry 46 he can theoretically claim from DC when counting superdelegates is a drop in the ocean. Even ideas to get superdelegates to favour him in states he won cut overwhelmingly in Mrs Clinton’s favour. Polls which place him ahead of Trump have the important caveat that very little media attention has been allocated to attacking him, as Kennesaw State University political scientist Kerwin Swint observes (self proclaimed socialists don’t do well with American voters). Worse, political magazine POLITICO details a faltering campaign in its dying days. For a man who frequently brought in more money than Mrs Clinton, the finances have been tanking since April. The campaign laid off some 255 workers. In a last ditch effort, Mr Sanders threw the kitchen sink at California, and was trod on by the bear. William Irwin, professor of philosophy at King’s College London, notes the only way Bernie Sanders could become president is if Vermont secedes. Whatever way it’s sliced, Bernie Sanders lost.
Yet many of his followers don’t accept Hillary as the nominee. The combined total of the three “Bernie or Bust” groups on Facebook is clear of 50,000. Susan Sarandon implied a Trump president will hasten the revolución. His speech in California congratulating Mrs Clinton met a chorus of boos (which the senator had little time for). She’s perceived as corrupt and untrustworthy – despite being ranked the more honest candidate by PolitiFact. The scandal around her handling of private e-mails still dogs her. Some describe her as a corporate shill for banks and the fossil fuel industry, which PolitiFact kindly put into the correct context (here and here). At time of writing, over 100,000 signed a pledge to not vote for Mrs Clinton, claiming she’s a centre right (see below), democracy dodging (see above) engine of the Democratic machine. Left leaning outfit Counter Punch wrote a semi-meandering post about how Mrs Clinton is a clumsy liar (see above) and, in regards to trade and Israel-Palestine, a worse candidate than Donald Trump.
This “let the chips fall where they may” stubbornness by Sander’s supporters is dangerous; especially when polls don’t put much distance between the candidates. Many consider themselves above the “lesser of two evils” vote. But ignoring that Clinton and Sanders sit on the same side of the political divide, are those voters genuinely considering a Trump presidency better for the US than a Clinton one? With his outlandish claims about migrants, women and muslims, consistently denied climate change, proposed nonsensical tax policies and budget plans, and taken aim at women’s reproductive rights, sacrificing a Clinton presidency; with her plans for a more progressive tax system, extending healthcare access, defense of women’s rights and robust energy policy, for the pride of “Bernie or Bust” is a betrayal.
Mrs Clinton dropped out in 2008 and gave Barack Obama a full endorsement for both candidate and president, against her own diehard voters (aptly named “Party Unity My Ass”). More, Mr Sanders can enact real change within the Democratic party. Just how Reverend Jesse Jackson built the rainbow coalition in the 1980s and made the voting system more proportional, so too could Sanders amend the power of the superdelegate and energise the disillusioned voters he brought into the process. Mr Sanders seems willing to back Mrs Clinton. His supporters should follow – sooner rather than later. In less than five months Americans will go to the polls, and every extra day in post primary sulk weakens and disrupts a progressive bid for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Sanders has caught lightning in a bottle. Now it’s time to electrify the fight against Trump, not steal Mrs Clinton’s thunder.