by Allan Branstiter
If you spend any time working in, volunteering for, or being around campaigns it’s way too easy to get inured to the cloud of cynicism that permeates every aspect of 21st-century American political life. I know that I’m all too guilty of giving up on candidates and writing off the American electorate’s dedication towards meaningful leftist reforms. During last night’s “Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast” Super Tuesday extravaganza (you can watch it below or follow this link) I and some of my colleagues essentially declared Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign over. While I still believe Sanders’s path to victory is insurmountably narrow, there is hope . . . there is always hope.
If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know I’m an enthusiastic reader of Jacobin magazine. Today, political scientist and author Corey Robin offered five theses arguing that Bernie Sanders’s primary campaign is not dead. Definitely read them yourself, but in sum they are:
- Close contests in Nevada, Iowa, and Massachusetts could have easily given seven states to Sanders and eight states to Clinton by now. These close contest demonstrate that Sanders’s best asset is his supporter’s energy and passion, while Clinton’s most potent weapon is her “aura of inevitability.” Don’t give into to the inevitability.
- Exit polling in Massachusetts show Sanders gaining support among racial minorities, the working and middle classes, first-time voters, independents, very liberal and moderate voters, and unmarried women (he nearly tied Clinton among women in Oklahoma). Clinton’s support comes from those making more than $100,000 per year, liberal voters, self-identified Democrats, and married women – all demographics who reliably turn-out to vote. Vote early; vote often.
- Sanders’s support comes from more people than white men. He won more female support in Vermont and New Hampshire, 41% of non-white voters in Massachusetts, and (maybe?) half of the Latino votes in Nevada. When Sanders wins a state, he tends to win in all demographic categories.
- The racial divide in this primary campaign is a real problem; however, non-white voters tend to be divided according to generation, with older voters supporting Clinton and younger voters supporting Sanders. According to a Reuters poll below, Sanders now enjoys more support among young African American voters than Clinton. Sanders also does well in racially diverse states outside the South, which shouldn’t be discounted, but will be won by the GOP in the 2016 general election (thanks, Shelby County v Holder). Future states look better than the South for Sanders.
- Outside the South, Sanders has won or came close to winning every single state. Moving forward, the electorate looks much friendlier for him. Don’t believe Nate Silver and Vox. This can still be won.
That said, I hope Sanders does well. While he is, in the words of my comrades Carson Starkey and Troy Olson, an “imperfect vessel,” I hope he’s the Democratic party’s nominee in 2016. Much of this is based on the rationality of my pinko heart and pinko soul, but it is also based upon the pragmatic rationality of my mind and the fear of my brown body.
To me there is no case for losing in 2016, even as a thought exercise. There is no better time than now than to begin reforming the ills of the political system’s inequalities and the excesses of American capitalism. If Sanders or Clinton loses it will be the most vulnerable who will suffer the most from it. A Sanders victory, imperfect as the man is, will energize and legitimize Progressivism in the United States. And while I am less certain that a Clinton victory will do the same, I know Americans will bode well in a nation she governs. The same cannot be said for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or the increasingly irrelevant Marco Rubio.
So hope for Sanders victories from here on out because you have to. Better yet, hope, vote, unionize, and bring a friend. Unless they’re a Republican. In that case don’t swap shifts with them so they can vote on election day.