Sanders started too late—or too early

I don’t think Bernie Sanders became a candidate for President with the idea that he could actually win.

I think he filed in order to make progressive ideas part of the national political debate.

Bernie SandersI think he filed only because he saw that no other progressive Democrat was going to enter the race.

I think he would have been perfectly happy to support Elizabeth Warren or some other progressive Democrat.

As it was, he started late and started from behind.

Every American knew who Hillary Clinton was.  Hardly anybody outside Vermont had heard of him.

He had to build a campaign organization from scratch.  Hillary Clinton already had a network of campaign supporters in place from 2008 and had been working for the nomination since 2013.

She began with an enormous head start, with a campaign staff already in place, a strategy already prepared, millions of dollars in campaign funds and support of established leaders of the Democratic Party.

If Sanders had decided to run in 2013 instead of 2015, he would have better name recognition and a better organized campaign than he does now.  He wouldn’t have to be learning as he goes.

But he has been catching up.   The fact that he is a real contender may be as big a surprise to him as it is to most people, including me.

I hoped he would do better in New York state than he did, but, when he filed, nobody would have dreamed he would have done as well as he did.

The reason he is a stronger candidate than Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich and progressive insurgents of the past is that the USA is now ripe for such a candidate.

Sanders was the catalyst for bringing together people who participated in the Fight For Fifteen, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street and the anti-Walker protests in Wisconsin.

Such movements will grow and multiply as long, but this may not be their year.  At this point it is unlikely Sanders will catch up, although it is still possible – as I will explain below.

I don’t think Sanders is under any obligation to drop out, any more than Clinton was in 2008 when she was trying unsuccessfully to catch up with Barack Obama.  His obligation now, as hers was then, is to his supporters.

A Huffington Post contributor named Seth Abramson pointed out how Sanders still could win.  A  Democratic candidate needs 2,383 delegate votes to be nominated.  Clinton is unlikely to win that number in the primaries election contests.  She would need the support of a sufficient majority of superdelegates as well.

But even though most superdelegates now support Clinton, they are free to change their minds.  Sanders has good arguments for them as to why he would be a stronger candidate than Clinton.  As Abramson noted:

  • He beats every remaining GOP candidate by more than Clinton, per head-to-head national polling.
  • He beats every remaining GOP candidate by either more or the same amount as Clinton in head-to-head battleground-state polling (and much more commonly by far more). 
  • His +5.3 national favorable/unfavorable ratings are approximately twenty points better than Clinton’s (-14).
  • He currently beats Clinton in national polls of Democrats.
  • He is not under federal investigation

Source: Huffington Post

I don’t think the superdelegates will heed these arguments.  I think they’d rather lose an election than lose control of their party.  And, as far as that goes, I don’t think they’re in any danger of losing.

I think any Democratic candidate has an excellent chance against the unpopular Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

berniehillarycolumbusdispatch175089_600From the standpoint of long-term progressive strategy, a Hillary Clinton victory might not be a bad thing. She would get the blame for the next economic recession, which is bound to be worse than the previous one because nothing meaningful was done to prevent its main causes—subprime lending, reckless speculation and financial fraud.

I think the real change election will be in 2020.


Against Fortress Liberalism by Matt Karp for Jacobin.

Why Bernie Sanders’ movement is much bigger than this election by Tony Karon for The Guardian.

A Contested Democratic Convention Is Now a Near Statistical Certainty by Seth Abramson for Huffington Post.  (Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist)

Full Text of Bernie Sanders talk at the Vatican.

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