Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, April 23rd, 2016.

Unify This

Democratic Party, Sanders and Clinton

“Unify” is the verb of the hour. Can the Dems unify in November? More specifically (the usual question goes) can Sanders supporters unify with the Democratic Party and vote for Clinton?

People are pushing Sanders to drop out now mostly because he’s causing Clinton to burn money and time that could be used against the Republicans. But the primaries aren’t over yet, and the two candidates aren’t that far apart in pledged delegates — 275, I think. It keeps changing, because various state election boards keep making “adjustments,” but that’s the most recent number I could find. Clinton has 1428 pledged delegates and needs 2383 to win the nomination. There are 1633 delegates up for grabs in the remaining primary states. So the raw numbers tell me nobody’s got it sewn up.

Of course, of you add in Clinton’s 502 superdelegates (versus Sanders’s 38) she’s a lot closer to winning than he is. She’s also ahead in the polls in the remaining states. Is it over?

Not so fast — she’s only up by 2 percentage points according to the most recent poll in California. Indiana is close, also.

However, the  primaries for this coming Tuesday are in Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, with a total of 452 delegates. Maryland is a sure thing for Clinton. She could sweep the other states as well, but some will be close.

But this means that it’s very possible (by my calculations, which you should always regard skeptically) that after Tuesday, adding the 502 superdelegates, she’ll go over 2383 delegates. And then the calls for Sanders to capitulate will become deafening.

But he’s not going to quit before California, I don’t think, unless Clinton somehow gets enough pledged delegates to win without the superdelegates.  In fact, there’s a remote chance he could sweep the June 7 primaries and get a majority of those 783 delegates up for grabs. That would be a kick in the butt going into the convention, huh?

In short, while it is possible Clinton will end the primary season with enough pledged delegates to clinch the nomination, I think it’s also possible she won’t.

In which case, things will get messy. I am honestly not sure what Sanders will do. I don’t think he’s going to catch up to Clinton in pledged delegates, unless he has a landslide win in California, which is unlikely.  I understand his campaign manager is trying to flip superdelegates, but that’s not going well. The party will want him to concede to Clinton before the convention.

I’ve already written that I don’t think he will try a third-party run in the general election. I’m good with this; we’ll need him in the Senate. But the Dems had better be careful how they handle him if they want any unifying. Sanders supporters feel the Democrats are their enemy right now. If Sanders is shoved aside too unceremoniously, especially if Clinton can’t win with pledged delegates, it’s going to cost the Dems votes in November.

I believe the Democrats assume that once Sanders is clearly defeated he will make a nice concession speech, and his followers will be mollified and vote for Clinton as they are told. But I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. In fact, my sense of things is that some of the Sanders’s supporters are so angry they could  turn on him if he’s too conciliatory to Clinton.

If I were him, and it came to the end of the run, I’d tell the supporters to vote their conscience in November — adding that in my estimation Secretary Clinton would be the better choice compared to the Republican — and I’d also put forth a list of progressive Senate and House candidates and ask that the supporters put their energies into getting them elected in November. And then I’d take a long vacation before going back to Vermont to campaign for my Senate seat.

The Dems will be outraged if Sanders doesn’t give Clinton an unequivocal endorsement, but I don’t think he can without absolutely crushing a large part of his supporters, because Clinton has come to symbolize everything they hate about the Democratic Party and the election system generally. And then the revolution would be over. I think the best he can do is simply say the Republican would be worse.

The Dems had also better give him a prime-time speaking slot and a big say in the platform.

Would the Sanders supporters vote for Clinton in November? Some will, some won’t. I have no idea in what proportion. Clinton is going to have to work for it, though. She can’t take those votes for granted. And I’m not sure she knows that.

People look to the absolutely vicious 2008 campaign and note that the rough primary season didn’t cost Barack Obama the election. But there’s a difference — Barack Obama is nice. He always struck me as being very genuine. Unless you’re a racist, the more you see of him, the more you like him. Clinton … not so much. And I don’t think that the 2008 primary season left any  of us with such a sense of disgust with the Democratic Party itself, that I remember.

So whether the Dems can “unify” for the November election depends on many factors, assuming Clinton is the nominee. These are:

  1. How big of a jerk Clinton makes of herself between now and the convention, or whenever Sanders concedes. Likewise Clinton’s surrogates and supporters.
  2. How big of a jerk the Democratic establishment makes of itself between now and the convention, etc. The convention itself could be handled in a way to soothe the Sanders people, or not. We’ll see.
  3. Whether the Republican nominee is horrible enough to make Clinton look good. This is possible.

Clinton is probably going to be the Dem nominee, and she’s probably going to win the White House in November, but I don’t think Sanders supporters are going to put this election year behind them and embrace the Democratic Party afterward. So winning, maybe; unifying, not so much.

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