Don’t Panic, Bernie-Lites

This is how establishment politics works: As the Bernie-lites went down to a rather decisive electoral defeat in independent-voter rich New Hampshire last night, they actually likely won more delegates than the Bernie-ites. So, it’s not time to freak out just yet, Hillary fans.

mcgovern disaster of 1972As Hillary Clinton learned all too well in 2008, it is the delegate count at the end that matters. Bernie racked up a lot of New Hampshire votes, but because of the super-delegate safeguard built into the Democratic primary process, he didn’t last night, and hasn’t so far, racked up a lot of delegates. Superdelegates, as we have come to know, are mostly current or former party pooh-bahs who don’t have to follow the voters’ wishes. The Democratic Party’s decision to create superdelegates was the result of the disastrous nomination of George McGovern in 1972, who was nominated via an open voting process at the convention and who was subsequently destroyed by Richard Nixon.

Many of the superdelegates have already committed to Mrs. Clinton. Here is the Associated Press’s count as of today:

democratic delegate count

People forget that in that 2008 Democratic primary race, Hillary Clinton actually got 48% of the total vote and Obama got 47%. But Obama won the delegate count 2,285 to 1,973. In that race, the Clinton campaign was out-foxed by the Obama team, the latter virtually ceding to Clinton the big prizes that she was sure to win and focusing elsewhere, as an excellent Washington Post article from June of 2008 (“Strategy Was Based On Winning Delegates, Not Battlegrounds”) explains:

“It’s the story that hasn’t been written yet, how Obama did everything right, targeting caucuses, targeting small states, avoiding the showdowns in the big states where he could,” said Bill Ballenger, editor of Inside Michigan Politics, who watched the strategy play out in microcosm in his own state, “and how in the end Clinton did so much so wrong.”

What Clinton did wrong in 2008 will not be repeated this time. She is competing for every vote in every state. Additionally, she has the backing of the party faithful, including, again, those faithful superdelegates. And as of right now, she can count on strong support in the African-American community, and relatively strong support among Hispanics.

But she will eventually have to start winning to validate her commanding lead in delegates and to assure nervous voters that she can actually overcome the barrage of attacks, including attacks on her honesty, that she has experienced for a generation now.

It is those assaults on her honesty and trustworthiness that I want to focus on, as I end this call for Clinton supporters not to panic. For as long as the Clintons have been national figures (and even before that), Republicans have essentially slandered them both with every kind of nasty deed imaginable—including the infamous “Clinton Body Bags” and the charge that former Clinton lawyer Vince Foster was murdered to cover up, among other things, an affair with Hillary. Now, to be sure, Bill gave us all reasons to question his integrity, especially as it related to his sexual escapades. And Hillary hasn’t exactly been a Mother Teresa in defense of her husband’s political career or her own.

But a lot of what the public perceives about the Clintons is tied to how they have enriched themselves since leaving politics, whether personally or via their foundation. People generally and rightly believe that politicians shouldn’t cash in on their public service, and it makes even the most ardent Hillary Clinton supporters uncomfortable when they consider all the money she has made from giving speeches to powerful bankers and others. But making money, in the way the Clintons have made it, isn’t illegal. Maybe it should be. Or maybe politicians should have to at least enter a plea of post-presidency poverty before people vote for them for that high office.

Until then, though, what Bernie Sanders and his campaign are actually doing to Hillary Clinton, who is still the likely Democratic nominee, is feeding into—and piggybacking on—the narrative that Republicans have used against her and Bill for many years now. Bernie and some of his surrogates clearly want voters to draw the conclusion that Hillary Clinton is bought and paid for by big donors, that she is fundamentally dishonest when she vehemently denies turning tricks for bankster pimps, and that she is not to be trusted to fight for the interests of ordinary folks.

ralph nader bushJust look at the exit polls for New Hampshire: a whopping 50% of voters in the Democratic primary believed “only Sanders” was “honest and trustworthy,” at least a partial testament to his constant insinuations about her ties to donors. And if he continues this not-so-subtle attack, he will not only solidify the Republican-crafted image of Hillary Clinton as essentially a crooked, money-grabbing liar, he will, like the infamous Ralph Nader candidacy that helped elect George W. Bush president in 2000, make it easier for a right-wing zealot to win in November and destroy the Obama legacy.

 

4 Comments

  1. I’m copying this from a comment on another page:
    1. Superdelegates are uncommitted. They can change at any time. They don’t count until the convention, and should not be counted until then
    2. If Bernie wins the majority of elected delegates (not including SDs), there is zero chance the unelected delegates would destroy the Democratic Party by overturning the popular will.
    A historical correction: Obama won more total votes than Clinton in the contests where they both appeared on the ballot. Clinton won the popular vote only if you count votes from Michigan, where Obama’s name did not appear on the ballot.
    Also, Nader didn’t cost Gore the election in 2000; the Supreme Court did.

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    • 1. Yes, it is true that the pledge of support from superdelegates is tentative. However, in the case of whether their support or lack of it determined whether a democratic socialist (whose vision I agree with, by the way) would become the nominee, particularly and crucially if the race for electoral delegates is close, I can assure you the super’s will side with Hillary, unless some disastrous outcome with her emails is forthcoming.

      2. I agree with you on this, unless the popular vote is close. Then the super’s will go with Hillary, as most of the establishment doesn’t believe Bernie has a chance in hell of beating anyone in the Republican Party, even though he has a better chance against Trump or Cruz, neither one of whom I am convinced will become the eventual GOP nominee. Would this cause problems with Bernie supporters? Obviously. But most of them would get over it when faced with the prospect of a reactionary Republican winning the White’s House (similar to how Hillary supporters eventually came to Obama in the general).

      3. As far as your historical correction, there is some muck in the popular count because of what you mention about Michigan, and because of the caucus process, which doesn’t always tally participation. Having said that, you have to admit that Obama got a larger percentage of the delegates than even a generous granting of his electoral strength in Michican (and Florida, which was also problematic) would support. Even his campaign engineers would, I suspect, admit that. That is what they claim as part of their “genius” strategy.

      3. As far as Nader, I have to say this: If there were no ridiculously hopeless Nader campaign in Florida–a state he knew was crucial to a Republican win that year–there would have been no Supreme Court intervention necessary. Gore would have won and the thing would have been decided and we would not, likely, have had the biggest foreign policy blunder in modern American history, nor, likely, would we have had the kind of deficits we see today, nor the Great Recession. Like Bernie, I am more inclined to support Nader’s vision of the country, but I detest his unwillingness to concede that his electoral strategy is a losing one, since it doesn’t recognize the state of the American electorate.

      Duane

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  2. cbdoodle

     /  February 12, 2016

    Your argument, Duane, is for an insider-driven, undemocratic system. Preserve the status quo at all costs. Sad, sir. Very sad. Bernie’s ability to attract independent voters is the very thing that would propel him to victory in November. I don’t think you want to win. I think you just want Hillary. Let’s hope the Democratic Party isn’t as screwed up as the GOP.

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    • I don’t think I said I was in favor of the superdelegate process. I think I just pointed out the reality of the situation. It is what it is and it is what is because of the McGovern fiasco. I have been writing for a long time about my affection for democracy, for good or for ill, so I think your charge is a bit unfair. In any case, one could, if one wanted to, make an argument that the process is still democratic, since delegates aren’t necessarily bound one way or the other.

      Secondly, preserving the status quo, when there is so much at stake, and when the possibility of Bernie’s revolution is so remote and so far removed from political reality right now, is not such a bad strategy. Sometimes you have to play defense, my friend. Sometimes you have to concede the reality of field position, too. A team can’t always go for a hail Mary backed up deep in their own territory. You usually want to pick your fights when circumstances best favor your strengths. I just don’t see what you see, in terms of relative strengths against our opponents.

      Next, as far as Bernie’s ability to attract truly independent voters, that hasn’t been proven yet. One of his selling points so far has been his alleged ability to bring new blood into the process. So far, that hasn’t happened, as participation in the two races so far has been ho-hum.

      Finally, you say, “I think you just want Hillary.” Again, I have expressed both in the past and in my present writings my questions about the way the Clinton’s have handled themselves, especially after leaving office. I have said many times that I am not necessarily big fans of either one of them. But I am also a realist. I think she is the most qualified candidate to run for the office in my lifetime, no matter what I think of her or her husband’s behavior. And based on years of political observation and study, I just happen to think she gives us the best chance of winning in November. And, at this point with so much to lose, winning is paramount for me.

      I’m sorry you seem to be a little bitter about my position, but I can assure you I want to win, and I wouldn’t in a thousand years accuse you of not wanting to, even though I disagree with your assessment of this race. I have been detecting a lot of animosity lately from those on the Bernie side, and, frankly, I think it is ultimately self-destructive, in terms of the goal: beating the reactionaries.

      Duane

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