Not out of it yet
Bernie Sanders is still in the race, argues Tom Munday
So-called Super Tuesday, the day on which 11 presidential primaries are contested by both major US political parties, came and went in a blur. For the Republicans, Robocop baddie made manifest Donald Trump romped home to win seven key states, extending his sizable lead into the stalwart southern party heartlands. For the Democrats it was Hillary Clinton who came out on top, finishing well ahead of Bernie Sanders when it came to the minority voters who make up a significant portion of the southern Democrat base.
The Clinton victory in particular was generating headlines even before being fully confirmed. The liberal media hot air was on full blast - within hours of the counts coming in, two separate pre-prepared articles in The Guardian were already declaring that Sanders should now back out of the race so as not to damage Clinton’s chances any further,or inadvertently hand victory to a Trump-led Republican Party, seemingly a certainty.
The argument came in two flavours. The first was conciliatory and cloaked in Google-esque cod-slang: “It’s time for the haters to get behind Hillary Clinton,” it squeaked like a hipster mouse on a fixie bike.1 The second was cold, pragmatic, serious-looking – “The cold, hard truth,” it said with no doubt furrowed brow, is that “it’s game over for Bernie Sanders.”2 Together they formed a double whammy aimed at Sanders’ two key demographics: cute for the millennials, ‘realist’ for baby-boomer, born-again lefties with vague memories of their compromise with the other Clinton. Both were on message: Sanders is wantonly scuppering Hillary’s chances and it’s time for him to go.
Never mind that – from the left – it is quite a struggle to muster much sympathy with that view. It also obscures the fact that the real threat to Clinton’s campaign is Clinton herself. The pig who can’t keep her nose out of the trough is in many cases as despised by rank-and-file Democrats as she is by ‘cold beer and blue jeans’ Tea Party loons. Yes: in spite of all that desperate triangulation, Clinton remains Beelzebub-incarnate to a vast swathe of the electorate. A slimy, warmongering, corporate shill to the left; a latte-sipping, cosmopolitan prig to the right. Many (a majority it seems at present) vote for her out of brand loyalty rather than with any genuine enthusiasm.
One need only look at her victory in South Carolina, predicated on winning a large majority of the African-American vote, and then juxtapose it to her dubious record on race to see that the dots are not joining up here (her husband was the ‘first black president’, don’t forget - an embarrassing, arrogant absurdity of the ‘post-racial’ 90s, made all the worse by the fact that it now presumably bumps the current occupant of the White House into an inconsequential second place).3 It is hard to imagine black voters feeling quite as sympathetic after they see the former first lady in 1996 denouncing inner-city black men as amoral “super-predators” in need of being “brought to heel”.4 A disgraceful piece of opportunistic race-baiting that by rights, and were it not for her wall-to-wall support amongst the liberal establishment and media, should cost her that minority vote.
And, just as The Guardian’s rent-a-gobs misrepresent the interests of Democratic or working class voters in keeping Sanders in the race, so they misrepresent the importance of the outcome. Hillary, we are told, delivered the knockout blow on super-Tuesday. The figure you will hear repeated ad nauseum is 7-4: seven Clinton victories to Bernie’s four. What you will not hear is that, of the 11 contested states, only four had been so close they could have gone either way. Of those four, Sanders won three: Oklahoma, Colorado and Minnesota. In the fourth, Massachusetts, he came within a whisker of Clinton, losing by only 1.5%. Whereas in Minnesota his victory was thumping, nearly 23% clear of Clinton; in Colorado he was 18% above and 10% in Oklahoma.5
What pundits have conspicuously ignored is that Clinton’s tally of victories, comfortable though they were, were in states where there was no realistic chance she would lose. These are, to make it abundantly clear, overwhelmingly ‘red states’: ie, states that will not vote for a Democrat come November. At no point would the Sanders campaign have been expecting victory here - and in its own assessment of its chances, was never even contemplating a shock victory in Alabama or Tennessee.
Fundamentally, the Sanders campaign has always been about the long game - delivering big results in a smaller number of primaries, and banking on the proportional allocation of delegates to see them across the finish line. As a post on the Sanders campaign Reddit explained, the key date is March 15.6 This is the point up until which Clinton is expected to build her lead - essentially the point wherein most of the southern states will have been decided, leaving the remainder (particularly big-money states like New York and California) to form the true battlegrounds of the contest. Certainly the Sandernistas expect a healthy Clinton lead that will unravel as the days wear on.
Now, whether we regard that assessment as overly optimistic or not has little bearing on the reality that there is still a battle here to be fought. The Sanders campaign correctly assessed the current standing: building a strategy around modest predictions that are now becoming reality. It is the Clinton campaign that, despite its lead, finds itself groping in the dark - the more so as the 60% lead she once enjoyed begins to crumble into nothing.7 In other words, reports of the death of Sander’s campaign are (for the time being) grossly exaggerated.
And until that day of reckoning the Sanders campaign continues to serve its purpose - even if this is a fact lost on some hopeless leftists. Eg, Alan Gibson’s letter in the February 26 issue of this paper (on a side note, comrade, Abraham Lincoln was hardly a socialist champion of the working class, but that did not stop Marx advocating support for him). In a manner unseen in the US for decades, Sanders has forced a mainstream party to divert considerable resources into combatting a threat to its left. If he does, as per the doomsayers, break the Democratic Party, then think what an opportunity that would represent for the US working class.
And, no, Sanders is obviously not a working class candidate (as if that really needs repeating for the umpteenth time), but his continued presence in the race is clearly yielding potential benefits for partisans of the working class. Even if Clinton fails to maintain the vaguest semblance of her minimal left posturing in office, for the establishment the damage is being done already - recent polling indicates that 56% of Democrats now have a “favourable” view of socialism.8 Jacobin, the prettiest journal of the American left, repeatedly gloats about its subscriptions booming month by month.9 In other words, his campaign has given US Marxists some space to put the case not for Sanders’ version of ‘socialism’, but something that vaguely resembles the genuine article.
His success has irrefutably demonstrated, on an incredibly public platform, that socialism is not an anathema for the American masses as we have been told for so long. Long may he continue.
1 . www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/01/its-time-for-haters-get-behind-hillary-clinton-super-tuesday-vote.
2 . www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/01/super-tuesday-results-bernie-sanders-campaign.
3 . www.nytimes.com/2016/03/02/us/politics/democratic-primary-results.html?_r=0.
4 . www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsSDqbot-EI.
5 . www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2016/mar/01/super-tuesday-results-live-state-by-state.
6 . www.reddit.com/r/SandersForPresident/comments/47jkbl/advanced_warning_clinton_likely_to_build_lead.
7 . www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/2016_democratic_presidential_nomination-3824.html.
8 . www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/29/why-are-there-suddenly-millions-of-socialists-in-america.