Will it be a Sanders bandwagon rolling into Super Tuesday?
Notably, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is not freaking out over Bernie Sanders. She says Democrats remain united on defeating Trump and that she would have "no problem" if Sanders was the nominee. | AP

HOUSTON—Packed arenas here in Texas. Rising poll numbers. A lead among voters in another hopeful’s home state. A possible surge by Biden in South Carolina but upset Democratic big donors who want a definite alternative to Bernie Sanders.

Welcome to Super Tuesday coming up March 3 here in Texas and other states – including key states like California, North Carolina, and Massachusetts.

And welcome to the continuing effort by many party leaders to stop the Vermont independent who calls himself a Democratic Socialist –  a brand some party leaders have big problems with, but many voters apparently don’t.

Sanders pulled in large, enthusiastic and committed crowds, and not just among his own supporters, as he toured the country in the run-up to the 15 primaries on March 3. He hopscotched across Texas the last weekend of February, making six stops, and packing the University of Houston’s basketball arena for a rally of his backers. And a week later, Sanders drew a capacity crowd at a church in Greensboro, N.C. The rough spot for him was South Carolina where Joe Biden has long held a big lead.

In North Carolina Sanders spoke to supporters of the New Poor People’s Campaign – a nationwide drive to elevate the issue of poverty onto the national stage and to keep it there. He discussed his issues, his background and what motivates him to run for the White House.

As it turns out, and it’s no coincidence, the senator and the NPPC share many of the same goals. They include cutting war spending and shifting the funds to domestic programs, and restoration and strengthening of the Voting Rights Act, among other election reforms to open voting to the people.

They also include extending affordable and available health care to all without having insurers bankrupt people or turn them away, elimination of U.S. reliance on fossil fuels, and – most importantly – raising the wages and standards of living not of the 1%, but of everybody else.

And they share roots, too. That’s another aspect Sanders is now playing up that he didn’t before.

Sanders drew on his personal history as part of his appeal, and he’s recently been talking more about it on the campaign trail. He relates to immigrants and refugees. because his parents, including his poor non-English-speaking father, fled Nazi Germany. He grew up working class in Brooklyn, N.Y. And he became politically progressively energized in the late 1950s, extending into the anti-war movement.

“So the combination of growing up in a family without a lot of money and with a lot of stress” propels his politics, Sanders told the Carolina crowd.

NPPC founder and co-chair the Rev. William Barber II pointed out the independent study the campaign commissioned which revealed there are 143 million poor and near-poor people nationwide. One audience speaker said that it includes four million in North Carolina alone.

The other Super Tuesday tilts include California – the largest – Texas, which is #2, Minnesota and Massachusetts. That last one is now suddenly more important, and more evidence of the Bernie bandwagon.

The reason? In past party primaries, if a home-state officeholder sought the party presidential nomination, other contenders stayed out. Not this time.

Sanders’s campaigners hit Massachusetts, even if he personally did not. The Bay State’s high share of younger voters – especially in the colleges in and around Boston – have given him 25% of the vote, the latest poll shows. Home-state Sen. Elizabeth Warren is second at 17% and the others are far behind. And Sanders has almost half the voters under age 45, the poll adds.

Five-thirty-eight’s average of polls shows the same thing is happening in Minnesota. Home-state hopeful Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., draws an average of 25% of the vote, and Sanders draws 24.6%. Warren is third (12.9%) and former Vice President Joe Biden is fourth (9.6%).

Meanwhile, in red-turning-purple Texas, Sanders pulled ahead of the former leader and presumed insider favorite, Biden. Before South Carolina’s Biden had been doing poorly in primaries and caucuses.

Five-thirty-eight’s average of Texas polls in the last two days of February show Sanders garnering one-quarter of the vote to Biden’s one-fifth, with multibillionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg third, at 17%. Other hopefuls trailed.

Houston native and noted actor Kendrick Sampson told the crowd there that “the oppressors are more afraid of this campaign” than any other.

All this has freaked out party pooh-bahs, both in the Lone Star State and nationwide.

Some are searching for any candidate to try to stop Sanders. Biden was hoping that with a good South Carolina showing he could be that candidate. Others are leery. Although they haven’t found their one candidate to push out Bernie, they have been running a concerted anti-Sanders campaign over the last ten days with all the other candidates attacking him for one or another of his positions and many party leaders expressing concern that if nominated Sanders would not defeat Trump or that he would hurt Democratic candidates down ballot.

In the last debate former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg seemed to be auditioning for the job of being the “stop Bernie” hopeful. His criticisms were constant, sharp and contained doom-and-gloom predictions of the impact of a Sanders nomination on those down-ballot races.

“I’m not looking forward to a contest of Donald Trump, with the nostalgia for the 1950s, and Bernie Sanders, with the nostalgia for the 1960s,” was one of Buttigieg’s milder digs. He drew boos from the Charleston, S.C., crowd. Among the signature achievements of the struggles of the 1960s were the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Acts.

Another indication of insiders’ concern, a pro-Warren SuperPAC, which doesn’t have to disclose its donors, bought $9 million in TV ads for her in California, Texas, and Massachusetts covering the final days before Super Tuesday.

In Texas, the donors and elected officials fear Sanders at the top of the ticket could cost them a chance to retake at least one house of the legislature, just in time for redistricting in 2021.

Texas will once again gain congressional seats, due to increasing numbers of Latinx people. The same thing happened in 2010, but the GOP-dominated legislature robbed them out of seats their population gains merited, and federal courts had to order the state to redraw the lines. The wrangling took most of the following decade.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is notably not joining the freak-out against Sanders. She was perfectly calm about a Sanders win – in Texas, her home state of California or nationwide – the New York Times reported.  Sanders has a more than 2-to-1 lead (33.4%-13.8%) over Warren, who is second. Biden has 13.1%., 538’s polling average reported.

After urging her Democratic colleagues, behind closed doors, to stay calm, Pelosi told reporters “The presidential is its own race, and contrary to what you may be hearing or writing, we are all unified. Whoever the nominee is of our party, we will wholeheartedly support.”  Pelosi said “yes,” when asked if she would be comfortable with Sanders heading the ticket.

And Jim Hightower, the most-prominent, longest-lived Texas progressive, has another response to worries about Sanders at the top of the ticket in the Lone Star State. “I call them fraidy-cat Democrats. They’re afraid of their own principles. They’re afraid of their own party. This is the party of Franklin Roosevelt. This is the party of Eleanor Roosevelt,” he says. Hightower is Sanders’s Texas state co-chair.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners. El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People's World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).