US presidential race 2016
Okay, so it a different kind of slugfest to that seen at recent Trump rallies but the verbal fisticuffs over whether Bernie Sanders could still win the Democratic Party nomination are getting pretty lively.
First, the story so far. 270towin (named after the number of Electoral College votes it takes to win the presidential election) is a good place to check where Hillary Clinton and Sanders are in the race for the 2,383 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. After last week's swathe of primary votes, Clinton has 1599 delegates versus Sanders' 844. This includes superdelegates, who are free to choose their candidate, of which Clinton has 467 compared to Sanders' 26. To win the nomination, Sanders would have to win two thirds of the delegates still to be decided. At which point this improbable but still possible task — particularly if some of the superdelegates can be persuaded to change camps — becomes impossible is the source of increasingly passionate disagreement.
In the Washington Monthly Martin Longman writes it's not realistic to expect Sanders will win but he could end up with as many as 40% of the delegates at the Democratic National Convention in July and, if so, they will 'have tremendous influence over the platform and the rule-writing committees'.
The platform of the party has a more nebulous influence, as it isn’t binding on the president or the lawmakers. But, if you’re trying to change the culture of a major political party, having a big say in what’s in their platform is not unimportant.
For these reasons, it’s worth the effort for the Sanders folks to keep up the fight for delegates. He can release them to vote for Clinton on the first ballot if he wants, but they’ll still be there to vote on everything else a convention considers.
Over the weekend, Sanders reiterated his pledge to stay in the race. And those feeling the Bern on the progressive PivotAmerica blog are being exhorted to hang in there as well ('Bernie will only lose if YOU give up on him'). The rationale is the primary season has two halves, the first was always going to favour Clinton but the half time bell has run and soon Sanders will shine. This is how Patrick Curl describes it:
The second rung of this race has 2033 pledged delegates up for grabs in some of the most liberal parts of the entire country. Washington state for instance has donated the most money of any state to the Bernie Sanders campaign. California is also highly liberal, as is New York. If Bernie Sanders can maintain his 20 point lead or beat it in most of these races, it’ll all culminate in a very close race and most likely California will decide this on June 7th.
In this interview on The Real News, Robert W McChesney, professor of media and communications at the University of Illinois, describes Sanders' chance of winning the nomination as still 'very strong'. He reckons that if Sanders wins the most delegates in the primary votes, some of those superdelegates now supporting Clinton would switch their support. Noting that mainstream media never thought Sanders would do as well as he has, McChesney says the rest of the primary schedule 'bodes very well' for the Vermont senator.
While there were plenty of pundits claiming Sanders could never win earlier this year, most are now hedging their bets. In the Chicago Tribune, Joshua Green is still certain Sanders won't win ('he won't be the nominee. Clinton's delegate haul now all but assures that') but Green says the candidate will leave a lasting impact:
The important thing to understand is that Sanders is a vehicle, not the catalyst, for the increasing liberalism of the Democratic electorate. No one should make the mistake of assuming that just because he'll go away, the agenda he speaks for will too.
Certainly Sanders' supporters are making their views heard. Clinton celebrity campaigner Lena Durham is getting plenty of reaction from the rival Democratic camp on her Instagram account. At a recent campaign event, reported by Variety, the actress and feminist said she had received more hostility from the left for voting for a qualified female candidate than 'she had have ever received anywhere from the American right wing'.
The spirited contest is certainly getting the vote out. In Michigan, where Sanders pulled off a surprising victory, polling stations were running out of ballots which is not something those in charge are used to. In fact, Flint City clerk Inez Brown told mlive.com. 'I have been clerk for the last 20 years, and this is the first time that this has ever happened'.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Phil Roeder