Editorial: Bernie’s gift to Democrats hangs on Hillary’s response
What if Sen. Bernie Sanders wins the remaining primary races? Or even all but a few?
Would that late surge shift the perception of Hillary Clinton’s inevitability as the Democrat’s presumptive candidate? Would it shift the hearts and minds of the Superdelegates in the one single calculus that is supposed to be their raison dêtre: supporting the candidate they think stands the best chance of beating Republican front-runner Donald Trump?
Maybe not. Clinton will almost certainly finish the primaries with the most elected delegates, though by fewer than her supporters would have preferred. She may have carried the most states (though it will be close), and she will have certainly carried the states with the highest population.
But consider the final month of this primary election and Bernie’s chances of coming out on top in the majority of them: With Indiana in Bernie’s column with a surprising 52 percent of the vote compared to Clinton’s 47 percent (contrary to poll predictions that Hillary would win), the next contest is this Saturday, May 7 in Guam (12 delegates); then Tuesday, May 10, it’s West Virginia (31 delegates). The week after, it’s Kentucky (64 delegates) and Oregon (73).
Sanders hasn’t done well in the South, so Kentucky (Guam too) may not be in play, but Oregon could lean Sanders’ way with West Virginia a toss up. The Democrats have no primaries the week of May 30, then on June 4-5 see voting in Puerto Rico (67 delegates) and Virgin Islands (12), both caucuses, which favor Sanders.
On June 7, voters head to the polls in California (546 delegates), Montana (27), New Jersey (142), New Mexico (43), North Dakota (a caucus with 23 delegates) and South Dakota (25). The District of Columbia (46 delegates) finishes the show on June 14.
It is conceivable Sanders could win California, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and maybe New Mexico (assuming it is more like Colorado than either Arizona or Texas).
Of the last 14 contests, then, if West Virginia bucks the establishment and goes with Bernie, Sanders could take 10, leaving Clinton with the edge in Kentucky, Guam, New Jersey and D.C.
Imagine the story line: “Hillary survives Sanders’ rally, but just barely,” as she ekes out an edge in pledged delegates. Now, it’s up to the party faithful to decide. Polls will be taken and scrutinized, but in the end, they’ll go with the establishment candidate, while also causing Sanders’s supporters to be disillusioned and disenchanted.
That scenario, or even something close to it, puts Clinton in the position of granting Sanders a bigger voice at the convention than she might have imagined and in pushing the party’s platform toward more progressive initiatives. To the extent she tries to moderate and push back to the center, Sanders and his followers will likely withhold initial support.
How, then, should she play those cards? The New York Times editorial board gave her some advice, while lauding Vermont’s junior senator, in a Tuesday, May 3, editorial headlined “Bernie Sanders’s Gift to His Party.”
“The Democratic Party and Mrs. Clinton are better off for Mr. Sanders’s presence in this race,” the editorial said. “His criticism… called necessary attention to unhealthy developments in the Democratic Party, including its at-times obliviousness to the lingering economic pain of the middle class and the young, and its drift toward political caution over aspiration.
“‘I like the idea of saying, ‘We can do much more,’ because we can,’” Vice President Joseph Biden Jr…. saidabout Mr. Sanders recently. “I don’t think any Democrat’s ever won saying, ‘We can’t think that big.’
“To this day, Mr. Sanders’s rallies are lit up by people who say he is the candidate most focused on their struggle for jobs, better health care and debt relief, and most interested in taking action against those who profited while wages for the working class stagnated and their hopes diminished.
“… Unrealistic, short on details, the populist Mr. Sanders is a wildly gesticulating reminder of how far the Democratic Party, once champion of the underdog, has strayed. He points out the degree to which the party has become captive to economic elites whose agendas don’t necessarily represent the rest of America’s. Mr. Sanders, who raised more than $200 millionthrough small donations, even cast doubt on Democrats’ claims that they need big-money backers to succeed…
“While Mrs. Clinton outflanks him on both knowledge and practice of foreign policy, on domestic policy he has forced her to address the impact of trade deals and globalization, spell out her stances on clean energy and oil and gas exploration, and put more meat on her plans for college affordability. He’s exposed her failure to support $15 an hour as a federal minimum wage, and rightly called her out on the Wall Street speeches that earned her millions and her refusal to make the transcripts public.
“Mr. Sanders has exposed a broad vein of discontent that Democrats cannot ignore… to truly unify the party, Mrs. Clinton and party leaders must work to incorporate Mr. Sanders and what he stands for in the party’s approach to the general election. It would also help to acknowledge that the party has strayed at times from its more aspirational path.
“Unlike the voices on the Republican side, Mr. Sanders’s has elevated this campaign. The Democratic Party should listen.”
But will they, and will she?
— Angelo S. Lynn
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