Bernie Sanders now has no feasible path to White House, but he can still help shape the Democratic debate.
Almost a year since Bernie Sanders officially announced his presidential bid, it’s safe to say that few at the time thought it would take until New York before the senator would be all but out of the race. Thus far, it’s been an extremely tense campaign, and one with results that almost no one anticipated.
When the Democratic presidential campaign first got under way, Hillary Clinton seemed like a shoe-in to most spectators. Former First Lady during Bill Clinton’s presidency and Secretary of State under President Obama, Hillary Clinton’s experience put her in an incredibly strong position. But her relative unpopularity and centrist agenda left many seeking a more bold and radical candidate.
In droves, young people turned to social democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, whose radical message appealed to more idealistic voters who despised Hillary Clinton’s establishment appeal.
As the results from the first votes cast in the race poured through, it soon became clear that Hillary Clinton was no longer guaranteed the Democratic nomination and that Bernie Sanders could indeed pose a credible threat to her campaign. Technically, the Clinton campaign won Iowa, but only by an incredibly slim margin of less than one percent, giving great impetus to the Sanders campaign.
The campaign rolled on, and a pattern began to emerge: Bernie can win in low stake, predominantly white states, while Clinton can win big in delegate rich states with large minority populations. This means Hillary Clinton has secured victories when it has mattered most, and as a result has maintained a consistent delegate lead over Sanders from the beginning.
Just prior to the New York primary, it became obvious he needed to pull off a remarkable and unexpected victory in Hillary Clinton’s former Senate state or the game would be up. And as Tuesday night told us, no such victory did transpire, with Hillary winning nearly 60 per cent of the vote, leaving Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid all but over.
Number crunching by Slate shows that in order for Sanders to reach the 2,383 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination, he needs to secure 73 per cent of the remaining delegates at stake, while Clinton only needs to pick up 28 per cent. In other words, Hillary Clinton’s lead is now wholly insurmountable.
In normal circumstances, Senator Sanders would have probably dropped out of the race by now, seeing as his path to the nomination is near impossible post-New York. However, this year’s Democratic and Republican primaries are far from conventional, and his campaign can still significantly influence the debate in the Democratic primary.
Already, we have witnessed Hillary Clinton perform a dramatic U-turn over her support for the highly contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) following early pressure from Bernie Sanders, while her rhetoric on Wall Street has become increasingly tough as the campaign has progressed, which many attribute to Sanders.
Moreover, one in three Sanders supporters say they will not vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election presuming she becomes the official Democratic nominee, and he continues to hold spectacular support among young people. Since Bernie himself has the most influence over these voters, it is clear the Vermont senator will be in a strong negotiating position if Hillary Clinton asks him to persuade all of his supporters to vote for her in the upcoming general election.
These demands will inevitably come in the form of Hillary adopting a slightly more radical position on specific issues, such as the minimum wage, health care, tuition fees, cannabis, and finance reform. Most likely, Hillary won’t be prepared to alter her stance on all of these issues as she looks forward to her electability among moderates in the general election, but naturally going into negotiations you aim high and subsequently compromise if necessary, which Sanders must be prepared to do if he seeks a more progressive Democratic candidate.
Moreover, Sanders must be prepared to drop some of the hostile rhetoric he has adopted of late or Hillary Clinton’s appetite for compromise will be non-existent if she is crowned the official Democratic nominee.
Yet, despite this recent division, the Democratic Party appears remarkably intact when placed alongside the rapidly crumbling Republican Party. The ascent of Donald Trump has led to senior Republican figures such as John McCain stating they will even skip the national convention if it looks like the New Yorker will secure the nomination. And given Trump’s landslide victory in his home state on Tuesday, this seems increasingly likely.
Hillary Clinton may not be the perfect candidate for many of Bernie’s supporters, but at least she isn’t Donald Trump, and if Sanders plays his cards right, there’s every chance she will adopt some of his more popular policies, such as a minimum wage of $15 rather than $12.
As the general election edges closer, rather than continuing the hostility, the Democratic Party must now unite against its common enemy, because if Donald Trump wins the nomination, the Republicans certainly won’t be uniting anytime soon.