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Editorial: The Big Apple speaks, but here's how Bernie still wins

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Posted on April 21, 2016 |
By Angelo Lynn



In the Democratic presidential primary, New York was a turning point for Hillary Clinton not only because it reversed the string of eight wins by the unexpectedly popular Sen. Bernie Sanders, but because she will enter the convention in July with a solid majority of delegates, as well as the bulk of the Super-delegates. There will likely be, in other words, little doubt as to which candidate has won the most state contests, the most delegates, and a solid majority of the popular vote by the time the convention convenes.

Only if Clinton stumbles badly in the upcoming primaries next Tuesday, April 26, in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Rhode Island, is it possible that she won’t continue to hold an insurmountable lead right until the day she is nominated.

That said, it’s time for Sanders to pivot slightly and broaden his rhetorical reach, rather than lose the strong purchase he has created since announcing his remarkable campaign for president almost a year ago. If he does, he can still be the star of the convention.

What Sanders has done extremely well is excite millions of Americans about his progressive ideas, and tied those ideas to the Democratic Party. Of particular note is his theme of income inequality. It’s been his calling card at rallies across the nation, drawing as many as 28,000 supporters to a recent gathering at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the largest rally of the campaign among either political party. It’s an economic populist message that has resonated strongly with all Americans, oddly enough working for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as well.

In exit polling this Tuesday at the New York primary, the 26 percent of voters who thought that income inequality was the issue that matter the most voted for Sanders 57 percent to Clinton’s 43 percent.

But that is one of many issues. In the other three top issues that “mattered the most” in exit polling in New York, Clinton bested Sanders handily:

• 38 percent of the voters who thought the economy/jobs was the most important issue sided with Clinton 59 percent to Sanders’ 41 percent;

• 18 percent of the voters who thought health care was the most important issue voted for Clinton 60 to Sanders’ 40; and

• 16 percent of the voters who thought terrorism was the most important issue endorsed Clinton 66 percent to Sanders’ 34 percent.

It’s also interesting that while Sanders carried the 28 percent of Democrats who considered themselves “very liberal,” 59 percent to 41 percent; but Clinton captured the 38 percent of Democrats who consider themselves “somewhat liberal” by 57-43 percent, as well as the 29 percent of Democrats who considered themselves moderates by 66-34 percent.

Perhaps most surprising is that Sanders has not been able to win over more of the hearts of the Democratic Party’s black or Hispanic/Latino communities (Clinton won 75-25 percent, and 63-37 percent respectively in New York), winning only the white vote (60 percent of those who voted) by a bare 51 percent to 49 percent for Clinton.

Sanders was also only able to win one age group, 18-29, which makes up 17 percent of voters, by a significant 67-33 percent. Clinton, however, virtually split the 24 percent of voters aged 30-44 (51 percent to Sanders’ 49), but solidly captured the 45-64 group by 61-39 percent, and those 65 and older by 72-28 percent (combining for 59 percent of the vote).

In short, Sanders’ strength has too often been limited to male, white voters who are very liberal and consider economic inequality their most important issue.

In our view, that reality sells Sanders far short of his message. Many Democrats adore him for his consistent approach on global warming, his skepticism of the use of military might to resolve regional conflicts around the world, his preference for diplomacy over force, and his domestic initiatives to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure as a way to boost the economy, adopt a livable minimum wage of $15 per hour, make college education affordable for all, push campaign reform and overturn Citizens United, and create a universal health care system. But somehow those positions have not resonated with the voters to Sanders’ benefit. Rather, Clinton continues to poll higher as a reliable world leader, as someone who would be better able to guide the nation’s economy and create jobs, and who would be a stronger candidate in November.

While 19 contests remain (including 14 states, D.C., Guam, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico), Sanders’ best play at this point is not to double-down on the negative attacks against Clinton, but to revert to his previously positive campaign and expand his progressive message. Not only is that likely to be his best campaign strategy to gather delegates, but it will continue to excite more Americans to join the party and advocate the Democratic agenda in the presidential race and down ticket — and that’s a message and an end-result that could make Bernie a star at the convention in the eyes of all Democrats. It is not often in close presidential primaries that the candidate not selected as the party’s nominee is also a winner, but in this unusual year, Bernie has that too within his grasp.

Angelo S. Lynn

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