Editorial: Nonsense from the Beltway
The Beltway chatter among political pundits, as well as the Democratic Party elite, have been hammering home a single storyline for the past two weeks: Bernie Sanders’s continued presence in the primary is hurting Hillary Clinton’s chances to beat Republican Donald Trump.
What’s hurting Clinton’s chances against Trump is that she is a flawed candidate who has difficulty connecting to the average voter, she has a ton of political baggage that will continue to haunt her, and she has extremely high negatives. That’s the truth the party elite don’t want to confront.
Bernie is not bringing Hillary down. On the contrary, the contest between Hillary and Bernie is exciting voters and drawing more Democratic voters out to the polls in state after state than their Republican counterparts (with a few exceptions in the deep South.)
Bernie is also is drawing huge crowds everywhere he goes; and he is signing up more new Democratic voters at each stop. Millions of new Democrats and Independents are engaged in the political process for the first time.
What’s dragging down Clinton is a Democratic Party establishment, run by Party Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, that has so slanted the primary process that an establishment candidate is heavily favored to win, and rather than listen to the groundswell of support for Sanders, they continue to ignore voters’ pleas for change.
What could Clinton and Wasserman Schultz do differently? First, concede Sanders’s call for making Democratic Party primaries open in future elections (not 2016, but in 2020) a reality; limit the role of Superdelegates in future primaries; assure primary debates continue as long as the race is competitive. In short, establish a primary system that is balanced and fair.
If Clinton would encourage the Democratic Party’s hierarchy to concede those points now, much of the heated debate would dissipate. What upsets Sanders’s supporters is the feeling that unless they achieve concessions ahead of the convention (or during a fight at the convention), they will never change today’s flawed system.
Feeding the Beltway chatter that Bernie is Clinton’s stone to carry as she tries to swing at The Donald, are desk-bound pundits who are covering the election — primary by primary — as if it were a horse race, rather than grasping the heart of the matter. Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza, for example, makes his daily stories seem like the final 75-yards down the stretch. Last Thursday, he created a storyline suggesting Clinton was warning Bernie she had “had enough” of his winning ways and he should pack up, concede the race and get in line behind her. (She said no such thing, though obviously wishes she were winning more of the late primaries and admits that Bernie’s wins aren’t helping her. She did say she expects Bernie will do “everything he can to help defeat Trump” and she is taking him “on his word that he will do so.”
No doubt, when the time comes after California votes and the party makes appropriate changes and concessions, he will.
In the meantime, not only is Bernie attracting hundreds of thousands of new voters, he is championing what he thinks the Democratic policies should be: universal health care, $15 minimum wage, better trade agreements, creating millions of jobs by pouring more money into public infrastructure; fair immigration laws; saving the planet by reducing our carbon dioxide emissions, and on and on. And the public is passionate in its support of those ideas.
Clinton and the Democrats should pay attention and embrace the best of those efforts, not push Bernie and his supporters aside as if they were a nuisance.
When Bernie addressed the Democratic Party Convention in Nevada last week, he didn’t threaten Clinton’s nomination, as some pundits tried to suggest. Rather he gave an honest assessment of the consequences of maintaining closed primaries. “The Democratic Party has a choice,” he said. “It can open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change — people who are willing to take on Wall Street, corporate greed and a fossil fuel industry which is destroying this planet. Or the party can choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy.”
He went on to admonish his supporters for being unruly at that event and asked them to remain civil at events, as he has for the past year, but that doesn’t mean he should apologize for remaining in the race or for winning primaries that undercut the establishment’s preferred candidate. That’s absurd. Bernie entered the race to start a revolution; to be part of a party that champions help for the poor and that bolsters the middle class. At that, he is being successful.
The Democratic leadership and Hillary need Bernie and his supporters to generate the energy and passion needed to win this election. They should figure out how to harness Bernie’s power and embrace it, rather than asking him to pack his bags and leave early.
Angelo S. Lynn
Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the name of the DNC chair.
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