After her resounding victory in New York’s primary, it’s now pretty clear that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president. Claims that there will be a contested Democratic convention may buoy the spirits of distraught Sanders supporters, but they stray a little too far from numerical reality to be worth much consideration.
As of this writing, Clinton has 1,930 delegates. Even if she only wins 40 percent of the delegates still up for grabs, she will have enough to capture the nomination by early June at the latest. As for the push to get waves of superdelegates to switch from Clinton to Sanders, there’s really no reason to expect much success here. If her strong performance in the polls wasn’t enough to keep them onside, there are always the financial incentives as well.
Barring some totally unforeseen circumstances, Clinton will carry the banner against Trump or whomever the GOP manages to put forward.
Sad news for socialists.
But before you start to think this article is another one of those pieces telling Bernie to pack up and go back to Burlington, read on a little further. It’s not. Just because Sanders won’t get the nomination doesn’t mean this should be a time for despair on the left.
Who would have thought a year ago that his campaign would carry on this far? Who would have guessed that millions of people, especially young people, would be so energized by the anti-austerity message of a self-proclaimed democratic socialist? Or that those same millions would carry him to the brink of capturing the leadership of the Democratic Party?
I didn’t. After the first couple of contests, I thought it would all be over. Perhaps he’d get Clinton to tack leftward a little bit here and there, maybe he’d get a few more folks talking about socialism. But I’ll admit, I was pretty pessimistic about the prospects of a long-lasting Sanders campaign.
I’m glad I was wrong.
The “political revolution” has come this far because of the power of its ideas. In essence, the message is that if people get together, organize ourselves, and get in on the action, we can change our country’s future. It is a call to build a political movement of the 99 percent.
It took hold of millions because it speaks to what we’ve been living through after years of recession and economic crisis. Breaking up the big banks, free college tuition, $15 minimum wage, investments in a new green economy, fairer trade deals, and single-payer healthcare – all of these were proposals that found a mass constituency in this election beyond their usual circles.
It is a message in tune with the spirit of the times. And combined with Sanders’ masterful skills as spokesman and leader, it was a formula for success. But that success doesn’t have to end.
Rather than dropping out when the campaign for the nomination wraps up, now is the time when the advocates and activists of the “political revolution” have to step up our game once again. It is now that we have to redouble our efforts to reshape independent politics – both inside and outside the Democratic Party. It’s time to give life to a form of political independence that can really deal a defeat to the right and open the path to proactive advances.
And whatever their many shortcomings, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party don’t have to be obstacles in this. Hillary isn’t Bill. Even if third way politics are her heritage, she knows that she will need Sanders’ supporters in November. If the millions backing him stay mobilized and engaged, they will be hard to ignore.
Sanders himself is well aware of this. On Wednesday night, his campaign manager Jeff Weaver announced that Bernie will not only support Clinton if she is the eventual nominee, but that he is also a member of the Democratic Party for life. This is a signal – a signal that his campaign is not going to just close up shop. Instead, it is preparing to reorient itself away from the nomination fight and focus on consolidating the movement and transforming the Democratic Party.
Bernie’s in it for the long haul. He’s going to keep up the fight to build and strengthen a broad-based democratic left in this country, but he’s going to do it with at least one foot inside the official structures of the Democratic Party.
Given the hurdles of forming a new third party (as well as the divisive role such an effort would play at this time), Bernie is nudging his supporters to think about the big picture. He wants them to remember that the movement that has emerged is about more than just him.
The project of making the Democratic Party a vehicle for progressive advance, although currently headlined by Sanders, is one that has to outlive his candidacy. It’s an uphill battle for sure, but anything worth doing usually is. And there hasn’t been a real opportunity to do it in a very long time, at least not like the one we have right now. Progressives are in the ascendance, building on the gains made during the Obama era. And Republicans? Well, they’ve got a lot of problems right now, but they’ll regroup. So we’ve got to take advantage of the opening.
Now is the time to inject some radical ideas and real politics into the mix. The Sanders camp will arrive in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention with enough delegates to make an impact on the platform committee, enough clout to make the case for getting rid of superdelegates, and enough energy to redefine the image of the Democratic Party for the American people. If this same capacity is applied to all the down-ticket races, it is also possible to make a dent in the GOP’s control of Congress and statehouses across the country.
Throughout this campaign, we have seen the conversation within the Democratic Party inching further and further to the left. Sure, primary season always finds candidates leaning a little more to the liberal side. But this year has been different. It is progressive, not centrist, arguments which have dominated the debates.
Sanders is setting an example for a new form of political independence. Hopefully his supporters are all getting the message.
Photo: Bernie Sanders in Davenport, Iowa. | Charlie Neibergall/AP