The last elections in New York, Pennsylvania and a few other states were a rout for Bernie Sanders in his run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton currently has a delegate lead of 327. Of course, there were substantial irregularities in the voting process, as several ward leaders, who administered the election, were clearly favoring Clinton. But aside from that, most of the registered Democrats are still warming their hearts with Clinton, even though it is not obvious to me how she would be the best choice for the country.
Even though, Sanders has affirmed after his defeat in the last few big primaries that he would fight until the very end, moving on a rather narrow path to victory, he is now speculating as to what would happen if he were not to become the nominee, and he understands that his campaign remains a longshot campaign. But what he pointed out correctly is that independents favor Sanders by a much bigger margin than Clinton. The Democratic Party members might have a slight tendency to Clinton, but given that there are way more independents than either Democrats or Republicans (2-1), the independents are much more important in a general election. If the Democrats want to ensure a Democratic victory, they are better off with Sanders than with Clinton.
But that is not the way how it will turn out to be. Clinton now has the best chances to lock down a path to the nomination, and then confront Donald Trump in the general elections. The optics here is enormously weird, because Trump used to be a Democrat in the early-2000s, lavishing campaign contributions on Hillary Clinton when she was US senator in New York. Why would the Clinton’s voluntarily show up in Trump’s wedding ceremony in 2005 if there was no quid pro quo?
Now we might get the impression that as members of opposite parties confronting each other in the general elections that they are mortal enemies, but that is all show. Trump himself admitted that he gets along well with “everybody”, which includes Democrats and Republicans, because only by buying up both sides can he ensure “making good deals” (i.e. ripping off the public and have the politicians on both sides support him).
Defenders of Hillary Clinton claim that Sanders supporters insinuate her corruption, and that there is no evidence that the campaign money she has taken from the financial industry would corrupt her views on policy. But the evidence for corruption is rather obvious: she does not support a breakup of the big banks, a 15 dollar an hour minimum wage (only accepting 12 dollars), single-payer health care and free college tuition. She repeatedly said how she wanted to build on “Obama’s legacy”, which basically means to change nothing. Supporting the status quo means to be comfortable with the oligarchic takeover of the economy, which she considers to be the only “realistic” path.
During a “normal” election year that would have been sufficient. But it is hard for people to see how they are living in normal times, when economic insecurity is greater than before, and billionaires make democracy superfluous. The establishment media treats Sanders and Trump as weird outliers, when, in fact, they are at the center stage, because of the corrupted nature of our political system and the growing realization that something needs to be done about it.
Another problem with Clinton is that she is clearly progressive only in those issues that do not offend the rich donor class. When she gave a speech for Goldman Sachs, she apparently praised the number of women in executive positions, without mentioning the fraud and abuse inherent in the industry. Of course, it makes you a progressive if you support women’s rights and gay rights, but the capitalist class cannot care less who it is that does the exploiting. The working class should buy that brand of progressivism which is focused on identity politics, while the socio-economic issues should be conveniently ignored (see Frank’s 2016 take on this). She occasionally lashes out at the rich, who have “rigged the system” in their favor, but then is rather coy about saying what to do about it, which reminds me of Obama’s vague “hope” and “change” campaign of 2008.
Of course, a Clinton presidency would not be as bad as a Trump presidency, but why do the American people have to settle for less, especially if Sanders is a candidate, who finally promises to talk about the “issues”? Left commentators (The Young Turks) have already noted their pessimism as far as a Sanders win is concerned, and they emphasize the big movement that he is capable of creating which will outlast Sanders long after he stopped campaigning for the presidency. But let us not kid ourselves. If the Sanders campaign dies, so does the movement. It might get reactivated elsewhere, as people who have gained experience organizing for his campaign apply it elsewhere, but the timing of it would be quite uncertain.
The question, thus, becomes how Sanders can pave his way to the presidency in 2016. The simplest way would be to win the remaining primaries by a landslide, get most of the pledged delegates on his side, and convince the superdelegates that he has a strong case for the nomination. Then it will be Trump versus Sanders, where Sanders will have an easy time destroying Trump’s empty messages. In the other case, Sanders loses the Democratic nomination for which he already stated that he did not want to be the spoiler running on an independent platform, thus splitting the Democratic vote and handing the victory to Trump. But that might be the best way forward if he does not get the Democratic nomination. It is not very clear why he would be a spoiler, because the electorate now has had a chance to see him in action and to be familiar with his ideas. The independents like him much more than either Trump or Clinton, and they are the large voter bloc that decide the elections. In a three-way race, Sanders’ chances are not so bad.
I don’t know whether he will decide to go down this route, but given what he stated himself that he would do much better among independents than among Democratic voters, there is principally only one way to test his idea in reality. In an election that is fought by a 1%er (Trump) for the 1%er (Clinton), would it not be ideal to have some alternative on the ballot as well?