After Hillary Clinton’s southern dominance, as well as her narrow wins in Iowa and Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders’ Michigan win could be a turning point. For weeks the Wolverine State appeared to be a safe bet for Clinton—even FiveThirtyEight gave her a greater than 99 percent chance of winning. However, as voters became more familiar with Sanders, the dynamic changed. This latest victory is a welcome narrative shift for the underdog Vermont Senator which promises to carry him to future victories in the North and states that Democrats can win in a general election.
Sanders’ win is a good thing for Democrats because he is the only candidate who can unite the party in November. There is no way economic progressives and Bernie supporters will accept a Hillary Clinton nomination after everything they’ve seen in this primary.
The other night Vermont superdelegate Howard Dean tweeted the following:
In Dean’s state, Hillary Clinton won less than 14 percent of the popular vote. To Bernie Sanders supporters, Dean’s promise to vote Clinton in spite of the overwhelming voice of the people of Vermont is just the latest example of the primary being rigged against them. To progressives, it is further evidence of the “coronation” which has dissuaded many from voting (voter participation is down nearly 30 percent from 2008).
The feeling that Bernie Sanders has not been given a fair shake has given rise to the “Bernie Or Bust” movement—voters who will turn their backs on Hillary Clinton in November if she wins the nomination. These voters now represent roughly 14 percent of the Democratic base, and are a growing concern for party leaders who fear that the division will lead to a President Trump or a President Cruz. This fear has caused much hand wringing and outrage from Clinton supporters directed at the Bernie Camp.
However, if this scenario does happen, and Trump or Cruz wins the election due to low Democratic turnout, the blame will lie squarely with Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and the media for alienating Bernie supporters.
In spite of her record, her donor list and the fact that most of her campaign funding (83 percent) comes from large donors—all of which progressives find troubling—Hillary Clinton could have stemmed the spread of “Bernie Or Bust.” Instead she has conducted her campaign in such a way that, now, most voters feel she is dishonest.
A recent article from the New York Times revealed that Clinton’s strategy to defeat Trump boils down to fear. She hopes to scare enough of the economic progressive wing of the Democratic Party (Bernie’s camp) into voting for her while she appeals to social moderates on the right. This is why Clinton flip-flops on progressive rhetoric even in the internet age where voters can easily see her playing both sides on Youtube.
This inconsistency is due to the fact that the Clinton Camp does not appear to view Bernie’s progressive voters as reliable—nor do they appreciate their situation. To that end, Hillary has dismissed concerns about her record; she has not released the transcripts of her paid Wall Street speeches (which made her millions of dollars); she has characterized Bernie supporters as unrealistic, sexist, and seeking handouts.
On the other hand, Donald Trump, often speaks about inequality in America: protecting workers from free trade, taxing “hedge fund guys,” and allowing the government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare. In the past he’s supported liberal causes like abortion rights and universal health care. This rhetoric appeals to many blue-collar Americans who make up the Democratic Party’s economically progressive base. The Clinton Camp’s response to this appeal is troubling to Bernie supporters. As former Pennsylvania governor Edward G. Rendell indicated:
For every one of those blue-collar Democrats he picks up, he will lose to Hillary two socially moderate Republicans and independents in suburban Cleveland, suburban Columbus, suburban Cincinnati, suburban Philadelphia, suburban Pittsburgh, places like that.
Indeed, many moderate Republicans have said they would vote Hillary Clinton over Trump, which means that if those two were the nominees for their respective parties, the Democratic Party would expand to encompass these conservatives. Sanders supporters worry that in an effort to win two terms, Clinton would try to appeal to these new conservative voters by tacking right on economics. This is not the direction Sanders progressives think the Democratic Party needs to move—nor is it the direction the party or the country has been moving over the past eight years.
As such, they worry that their concerns would not be listened to by a center-right Clinton administration.
But Clinton is not the only one apparently taking progressive votes for granted. From the debate schedule and the threat of punishment for any candidate caught participating in unsanctioned debates, to lifting its own rules against donations from federal lobbyists and superPACs, it has become apparent that the DNC has not been worried about Sanders supporters defecting or sitting out—until recently.
The superdelegate system is a relic of the 1980s when Democratic leadership sought to win back the formerly “Solid South” from the GOP which it had lost pursuing a Civil Rights platform. Last month, the system was put under the microscope when DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who served as Clinton’s co-campaign chair in 2008, admitted, in a moment of candor, that superdelegates (whose ranks include Bill Clinton) exist to insulate party leaders from “grassroots activists.” Thanks to this election cycle, Ms. Schultz now faces a progressive primary challenger, Tim Canova.
Fearing similar backlash, some party leaders in safe districts have sought to distance themselves from Schultz. Nancy Pelosi, for example, has come out against the superdelegate system as being undemocratic. However, the damage has been done. Schultz’ and now Dean’s remarks have cemented the worst fears of Bernie supporters—that party leaders, regardless of popular vote, will subvert the will of the people and hand victory to the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton.
But superdelegates aren’t the only problem with the primary process Sanders supporters see which stems from the 1980’s. The fact that the southern states who vote GOP in the general election overwhelmingly vote first, setting the narrative for the rest of the primary, is seen as indication that the party really values conservative voices over its liberal base.
The DNC’s actions have many progressives seriously considering whether or not the Democratic Party is the right vehicle for the changes they want to see—especially since Trump is doing so well on the other side. If Hillary were to win the nod, it is likely both parties could realign as it would seem a confirmation of an answer in the negative.
The final nail in the lesser-of-two-evils coffin has been the perceived pro-Clinton media bias.
From the start of the primary, news outlets, wonks, and talking heads have been helping spread a narrative that Bernie Sanders can’t win. Additionally, Sanders supporters have been labeled everything from naive to sexist. At the same time, they’ve seen Hillary Clinton asked fluff questions at town halls; they’ve seen her hailed as the responsible choice though she has not outlined any concrete plans for major issues like health care reform; they’ve seen her allies make sexist remarks, and get away with it.
Adding insult to injury, many of the people pushing the pro-Clinton narrative were those progressives once counted among their ranks. And many of the news outlets promoting the former Secretary were those they previously trusted.
It didn’t take long before it came out that many of those individuals and outlets had ties to the Clinton political machine. Paul Krugman, who made a prima facie argument against the recent study showing Bernie Sanders’ economic plan would generate unprecedented growth. He called it “voodoo,” but he never even ran the numbers, or looked at the models. Also included under the The Washington Post, owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos whose financial ties to the Clintons are well-documented, recently ran 16 anti-Sanders stories within 16 hours. Blue Nation Review, owned by political trigger-man and Clinton attack dog, David Brock, is an anti-Sanders propaganda site.
Recently, Gawker revealed the extent of the Clintons’ influence over the media by leaking screenshots from 2009. The first is an email in which Clinton’s then-spokesperson, Philippe Reines, told then-politics editor of The Atlantic, Marc Ambinder, what language to use to describe a speech of Hillary’s in an upcoming article. The second picture shows the article using the language.
Regardless of what side one comes down on, this influence is disturbing. Bernie progressives have, through this primary, unwittingly uncovered the corrupted heart of our system: that influence peddling and money rule on both sides of the aisle. Supporting Hillary, to some extent, means capitulating, and accepting this system—which is exactly what Bernie Sanders is fighting against.
If Bernie Sanders wins the nomination Clinton supporters will likely fall in line. The simple reason for that is there’s nothing they have to lose with his presidency. And while they may disagree on certain issues, they do accept that he’s fundamentally different from, and better than the GOP.
However, the same cannot be said if Hillary Clinton wins. To Sanders supporters, the prospect of a Clinton nomination presents a serious dilemma. They would be torn between stopping a crypto-fascist from reaching the White House for four years (and all that entails), and voting to potentially kill their own movement. Voting for Hillary would mean diluting their power within the Democratic Party by supporting a leader who is bankrolled by big donors, caters to economic conservatives, and has shown progressive causes little commitment save for when it is convenient for her political career. Additionally, it would show the DNC that their votes are guaranteed despite the disregard shown by the party towards them. And most importantly, it would set a dangerous precedent that the media gets to pick the winners of the primary before any votes are even cast.
The “Bernie Or Bust” movement is controversial, and is viewed as destructively naive by some. However, the decision not to support the potential Democratic nominee for president with all that that entails, is not one reached lightly. The promise of a Clinton coronation has resulted in low turnout already in this primary. Voters want change, and they do not see Mrs. Clinton as a vehicle for it. Democratic leaders like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Howard Dean should recognize the danger they’ve put the party and country in.
As I said in the beginning, it is a good thing for Democrats that Bernie Sanders won Michigan last night.