The Meaning of Bernie Sanders


Well friends, here we are. One final Super Tuesday! I haven’t written an election post in a few weeks, mainly on account of:

  1. On the Republican side, Trump’s opposition spectacularly collapsed all at once, leaving him uncontested.
  2. On the Democratic side, the math hasn’t changed.

It still hasn’t. Yes, technically, the nomination is not decided until the convention in July. And neither Democratic candidate will have enough pledged delegates to win outright until the Superdelgates vote on the first ballot. But assuming, as all indications are indicating, that she stomps it in New Jersey today and does something at least nearly 50% in California, Clinton will only need a fraction- say 10% of the Superdelegates to vote with her to be nominated. The Superdelegates are not going to switch en-mass to Sanders. Nor should they.

Whatever one thinks of the system as it stands, under the system as it stands, Hillary is unambiguously winning- she has something like 55% of total votes, is several hundred delegates ahead, and has won a majority of individual contests. As I wrote a few weeks back, no self-respecting Sanders supporter, if the situation were reversed, would say it would be okay if the Superdelegates reversed a Bernie 55% of vote, several hundred delegates ahead and majority of contests won and voted for Clinton instead. I like to keep my principles the same no matter what personalities are involved, and the principle is clear to me here- there’s a set of rules, and under that set of rules, one candidate has clearly been chosen over the other.

So I don’t care to talk about that anymore. What I would like to talk about is the meaning of Bernie Sanders.

Exhibit A:


This is what Bernie did, as a virtual unknown running against a candidate with nearly 100% name recognition, a huge fundraising head-start, and overwhelming support from the party establishment.

Exhibit B:


Excluding the unregulated outside groups (Thanks Citizens United!), he actually outraised her. And did almost all of it with small donations from individual donors.

Exhibit C:


These are the vote totals that candidates coming from a similar ideological bent of the Democratic Party got in the previous most recent open contests. Sanders is on track to get around 45%.

To me, the conclusion is inescapable: Even in a very unfavorable party environment for it, an unapologetically Progressive candidate has flourished in this primary cycle. A significant portion of the Democratic base is ready for the party to push a bolder Progressive agenda.

One can imagine that if circumstances had been different- no candidate as predominantly established going in as Hillary, or Joe Biden stepping in and dividing the moderate/establishment vote, Sanders could even have been the nominee. You could also make the argument that Obama already ran and won the nomination in 2008 with this emerging Progressive plurality. While his policy substance was (and still is) pretty centrist/establishment as far as the Democratic party goes, his symbolism and the base he put together was very much fueled by these Progressive voters.  And one can easily imagine, in an upcoming cycle, a candidate who is slightly more polished and camera-ready than Bernie and who isn’t facing a Democratic dynasty running and winning with this agenda.

In the meantime, we organize (especially at the state and local level), we vote (especially for city councils, state legislatures, etc.).

And we keep the faith.





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