The primary is effectively over, but the movement need not be over. Hillary Clinton’s lead among pledges delegates (not talking super-delegates) is insurmountable. Clinton’s lead in total votes is also insurmountable.
Caucus votes cannot, by definition, be counted among total voters, but the states that make up caucus states are smaller and would not overcome Clinton’s popular vote lead given that she won California, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, and huge swath of Southern states. Sanders supporters believe in opening up democracy to all people, but caucuses do the opposite: the shift worker can’t attend, the single parent who can’t get child care can’t spend hours at a caucus as the rounds of caucus voting continue, and those without adequate transportation or who cannot drive at night are often left out in the cold as well. Caucuses are a terrible way to pick a nominee and Sanders’ advantage in caucus states are more a feature of the demographic make-up of those generally smaller and whiter states as well as the fact that young people who do not have kids at home or who do not work at night are most likely to attend.
And you can’t blame “closed primaries.” Bernie Sanders announced his campaign in April of 2015. In the most restrictive “closed primary” state, New York, supporters had until October to change party registration to Democrat or they could’ve voted as first-time registrants by registering even later than that. Beyond that, parties exist so that people of shared values can put forth a candidate who is reflective of those values. Why should those who do not share those values select that candidate for those who do?
It wasn’t rigged. Sanders simply finished second in a race that briefly had five candidates.
It’s time to make demands, but also to unify in the fight against Trump. Only Clinton will ensure that the Supreme Court does not get a Scalia clone to replace the most regressive Supreme Court Justice in recent history. If Republican Senators are smart if Clinton wins, they’ll confirm President Obama’s nominee, Judge Garland. He is at least a moderate, if not a progressive. If Republicans are stubborn after a Clinton win, she’ll have he chance and a mandate to either re-nominate Garland or select a progressive in the mold of President Bill Clinton’s appointment: Notorious RBG (Ginsberg) – who progressives love. And that means that fighting gun violence, combatting climate change, getting money out of politics, worker rights, and restoring the Voting Rights Act all hang in the balance.
And Clinton agrees on raising the minimum wage (not as high, but Trump won’t do it at all), climate change (Carol Browner was an excellent EPA Administrator for Bill Clinton and is on Hillary’s convention platform team), gun reform, opposing Keystone XL, opposing TPP, and a host of other issues. We can win all of this if we come together and fight the bigot at the top of the Republican ticket (The Bigot Ticket).
We won. Congrats. But it doesn’t matter if we lose to Trump. We share Bernie’s concerns about the big banks, climate change, getting money out of politics, fair pay and a lot of the other things he talked about. Bernie supporters are more supportive of Hillary than Hillary supporters were of Obama in 2008 at this time and it is very possible to unify the party, but you have work to do.
First, support either Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown or Tom Perez is the choice for Veep. All are great progressives. I’d prefer Warren because she has proved to be the most adept at attacking Trump, which is a necessary quality for a vice presidential candidate. However, Perez is fantastic on civil rights and labor issues (and adds ethnic diversity to the ticket), Brown is great on labor rights (and can help win the swing state of Ohi0) and Bernie has a yuge number of committed supporters.
Second, make it clear that the vice presidential candidate has a unique ability to set his or her own agenda a bit. This has to be a unique relationship for a unique campaign year. If Sanders supporters think he VP candidate is merely going to parrot the candidate, that’s not good enough. The VP candidate has to have the freedom to hold his or her own positions in an effort to influence Secretary Clinton. Those who do not believe Clinton is progressive enough need to know that the VP candidate is going to be able to serve as a check if Clinton veers too far right – the price for doing so is that the VP will separate on that issue. That’s not common in modern presidencies. Clinton is not a socialist and should not have to debate her own VP on a philosophical issue, but having Bernie or Warren or Brown or Perez in the room with the ability to go off message if the administration goes off track on fighting for an issue like bank regulation or the minimum wage will keep the progressive movement alive within the administration and on the outside.
Third, let Bernie’s people win platform influence on climate change, worker protections, diversity and other issues. We agree on most of these issues and the platform should reflect that. Israel will be a sticking point, but as long as Netanyahu thinks that he can attack the Obama administration and breach proper diplomatic protocol by addressing Congress with a misleading speech meant to attack the Iran deal, he should realize that a lot of progressives do not think highly of his performance. Language in the platform can reflect that.
Fourth, modify the convention rules on super-delegates. We still need them in case a candidate becomes incapacitated or does something completely off the wall after essentially sewing up the nomination or in the case of a really close election (51%-49% of popular votes, for example), but they should not dictate the coverage early in a campaign or be able to swing support from a candidate who has a substantial lead in the popular vote. Sanders is not in that situation, but he has a point on the rules.
Fifth, if Sanders wants to run through the DC primary next week, it’s not a big deal – don’t criticize him.
Finally, if Sanders is not the VP nominee (does he want it?), maybe he wants a particular committee chairmanship or bill to get a vote in the Senate. He’s earned it and should get it if the Democrats win back the Senate.
A Time to Unify
Unification has a cost, but the price of disunity is a Trump presidency. And the possibility of progress on everything we care about hangs in the balance. The time has come.