May 3, 2016
Bernie is back on the attack. After a couple weeks of vacillating between saying he’s continuing on to California to make sure voters in each state get a full chance to vote and making a claim he still has a chance, the Sanders campaign is focusing on flipping super delegates.
On the surface this is somewhere between ill-advised and completely preposterous. There is zero chance Bernie will catch up in earned delegates by the end of primary voting on June 7. If super delegates flocked to Hillary before anyone voted, it’s unreasonable to think they would abandon her now when she’s leading.
Bernie says they should follow the lead of voters in their respective states. It’s a perfectly decent principle. You can argue party insiders have too much influence over the nomination. But Hillary will win the earned delegate competition. Even if Bernie closes strong and winds up winning more states, she’s already won most of the populous ones.
If each super delegate voted exactly the way their state did, she would win a majority of super delegates. Again, even if he closes well and wins California along with every state other than New Jersey still on the schedule. Hell, even if he wins New Jersey. It just doesn’t add up. He could only win if he gets a larger share of super delegates than actual primary votes.
Not only will that never happen (barring intervention from the FBI, Justice Department, etc.), but it’s exactly the type of anti-democratic action Sanders has spent months railing against. His campaign is the one that bitched about news organizations listing super delegates as part of Hillary’s count, making her lead appear far larger than what the primary/caucus results had produced.
His team was worried about super delegates overturning the will of the people. Now they’re his lifeline? Why would Bernie take this course of action? Is it his drop in funding? After months of leading Hillary, in April she narrowly outraised him.
Not buying it. Especially after laying off a couple hundred staffers, Sanders has more than enough funding to get through the final five weeks. It’s not like the spigot was completely shut off either, though I suspect the majority of his April funding (still in excess of $25 million) came in the first half of the month, before his loss in New York and poor April 26th results.
I believe the reason is Donald J. Trump.
Until very recently, it appeared the GOP race would continue to California. Trump might secure enough delegates on the final day to avoid a contested convention, but most thought the result would be in question until then. Now it appears The Donald has locked things up. He’s ahead in Indiana, and barring an upset, Hoosier voters will give him the nomination in a few hours.
Republicans have apparently concluded they have no appetite to listen to Ted or his shambling understudy Mr. Kasich any longer. While they still harbor plenty of reservations about Trump, a convention brawl isn’t worth it if they are the alternatives.
If we know who both nominees are, there is no place for Bernie. As it was, Hillary began clearly pivoting to November after her wins on the 26th, continuing a process that started after New York. That was already a danger to Bernie. Photos of the press area at his large Oregon rallies showed empty tables.
No coverage, no ability to pressure Hillary and the DNC to make sure the party platform feels the Bern. Limited chance to keep Clinton from tacking back towards the center. With less coverage, and less funding, more chance of losing some of the May contests he hoped to win.
Instead of winning California (never guaranteed, but something polls showed in range) and striding into Philadelphia with at least some leverage, he would slink in having returned to his original status as a semi-intriguing gadfly. The less support he gets over the final few weeks, the less panicked Clinton is about winning his supporters over.
The press is dying to move on to the Hillary-Trump fight for the ages. To them, this is Ali-Frazier, even if much of the public would rather watch UFC these days. So Bernie is up against it. He realizes if he loses all momentum now, it will never return. He’s not running in 2020.
Any hopes of turning his supporters into a political revolution to keep Clinton accountable and pass forward to an eventual successor some day are lost if the flame goes out now. He’s acting accordingly. The tricky part is if Hillary wins Indiana, as the polls are indicating she narrowly will.
If Bernie loses a state he really should win if he’s strongly contesting the remaining events, while Republicans effectively choose their nominee, pressure on Sanders to back down will mount. For the entire contest, he’s seemed torn between being a good soldier and being a revolutionary. The past couple weeks have illustrated his dilemma particularly well.
Assuming he wakes up to a Hillary-Trump world tomorrow morning, there is a hard choice to make. Continue lobbying verbal grenades to draw attention, backing down every so often to keep from going too far. Pull back and fade away. Or kick it up further.
Each of those three options carries risk. It’s not an easy call. If it was, he would have decided sooner. But he doesn’t have enough oxygen left to go back and forth. The worst is the middle-range, where he continues to vacillate. He should eliminate that choice and decide if he’s a revolutionary or a mouse.
His legacy (or lack thereof) is hanging in the balance.