Bernie: For the Good of the Party, Step Aside
After South Carolina, where the boxing match between cold numbers and “political revolution” that have defined the contest for the Democratic Nomination came to a clear and firm resolution, the only thing left standing is the math.
And the math is not with Bernie. Perhaps media personalities will continue to trumpet Sen. Sander’s many admirable qualities and the energy of his campaign, but without a doubt, the writing is on the wall, and anyone who is willing to compare the current delegate count, poll numbers, and demographic wars will have to acknowledge that Bernie Sanders, wonderful though he may be, has effectively lost the Democratic Nomination.
Hillary’s win in South Carolina on Saturday night was a shock to the political world. It wasn’t the winning that was surprising — everyone expected Clinton to win it — but by how much.
On Thursday, Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight predicted Bernie would have to, at the very least, pull within 25 percent of Clinton after the polls closed in South Carolina. Conventional wisdom had it that she would get just around that margin of victory, and maybe — maybe — 30 percent.
Still, others pointed to Sanders’ robust operation and investment in the state, dropping $2 million in a bid to seize the day, pull within 15 percent (maybe 10!), and keep the buzz going. If he could give a good showing, let alone give Clinton a scare, it might be just enough to start a pull on super delegates and generate enough momentum to play Clinton to a draw on Super Tuesday.
Instead, Sanders was defeated far worse than anyone predicted. Clinton came away with an astounding 73.5 percent to Sander’s 26 percent, sweeping nearly every demographic, including a jaw-dropping 86 percent of black voters.
So, big deal, you might be saying. It was a bad showing. Wait for Super Tuesday in 48 hours to see what happens next. And we will, of course, but it’s unnecessary. Everyone knows what happens next: Sanders will inevitably win Vermont, and he may pick off Oklahoma and Massachusetts, despite that he’s currently behind Hillary in the polling aggregate.
There’s also a less-likely possibility he’ll pull off upsets in Minnesota and Colorado as he tends to fare well in caucuses, but don’t count on it. And that’s based on polling prior to the momentum Clinton carries into Super Tuesday with her colossal South Carolina performance.
Honestly, the numbers point to Hillary winning every state but Vermont, but let’s give Bernie the benefit of the doubt and assume he’ll win those five states above with 60 percent of the vote and Vermont with 90 percent (compared to the 86.1% at which he’s currently polling). This isn’t going to happen, but entertain the hypothetical.
On the other hand, based on the polling averages at Real Clear Politics, Hillary wins Texas (59.9%), Georgia (62.8%), Virginia (54.5%), Tennessee (53%), Alabama (59%), and Arkansas (57%). Note that these averages have an enormous percent of undecided voters (for example, Bernie is polling in Arkansas at 28.5%, leaving 14.5% who could go either way), but let’s assume they all flock to Bernie. Every one of them in these six states.
It’s the fantasy scenario for Bernie: he improbably wins those five states at 60% or more and gets all of the undecideds in the other six states.
Even in that impossible version of Super Tuesday, Hillary still wins more delegates than Bernie, 444 to 415.
Updating the overall delegate totals, she’d be leading him, 988 to 500.
There are 4,136 total voting delegates for the nomination, 3,421 of whom are “pledged delegates” that the candidates win in proportion to the votes they receive in each primary and caucus, and 715 of whom are “unpledged” or “super delegates”, the party leaders and luminaries who each receive a vote and during the campaign, commit that vote to their favorite candidate with an endorsement.
As of this writing, Hillary has 448 committed super delegates, leaving just 267 up for grabs, many of whom will not actually commit until there’s a presumptive nominee, or a candidate who has already reached the required threshold.
But again, for the sake of this generous hypothetical, let’s say that Bernie gets the other 267 super delegates to commit to him in the week after Super Tuesday.
He gets five big wins, the undecideds in the other six states, and the remaining 267 super delegates by close-of-business on the following Tuesday.
With all of that, he’s still losing to Hillary, 988 to 767. In the primaries to follow, from the three states on March 5th to the final contest in the District of Columbia on June 14th, Bernie would have to win 67.9 percent of the remaining delegates to get the nomination, which is ridiculous.
He’s currently running neck-and-neck with Hillary in Wisconsin and is slightly competitve in Utah. Everywhere else, for which polling data is available, he’s far behind. In California, with its 475 delegates, Hillary leads Bernie by an average of 13 percent.
Even in a scenario with one miracle after another, with variables that defy logic, Bernie Sanders still loses the nomination.
With something more realistic, like Hillary winning even just 22 of the 29 states holding contests in March and receiving endorsements from a paltry 10 additional super delegates (and Bernie grabbing only half a handful because the rest of them see what’s coming and don’t want to risk it), it becomes clear to everyone by April 1st that Bernie needs to concede.
But why should we get to that point, to say nothing of dragging this to the convention? Tens of millions of dollars in campaign funds wasted by both candidates, harsher attacks, and increased vitriol between supporters while Trump solidifies his place as the presumptive GOP nominee and gets to work on a strategy for the general election.
Who wants that? It’s unnecessary and ridiculous.
Instead, here’s what should happen: following a respectable showing on Super Tuesday, during his victory speech in Vermont, Bernie should publicly accept the numbers are impossible and give a rousing call for all Democrats to fall behind Hillary.
For her part, Hillary will promise policy objectives to Bernie that reflect the energy and enthusiasm of his campaign platform. She’ll make it clear that Bernie, should he choose to leave the Senate, will be the Administration’s policy czar on economic inequality, a cabinet-level project that answers only to her. If he stays in the Senate, he gets to lead the charge on legislation with the full backing of the White house.
For the rest of the campaign, Bernie will criss-cross the country, continuing to generate enormous support among Millennials and other demographics responsive to his message, and with he, Hillary as the nominee, Julian Castro at the bottom of the ticket, and President Obama stumping everywhere over the next eight months, voter turnout for Democrats will be record-breaking. Hillary wins 400 electoral votes against Trump’s awful rhetoric, and Democrats take back the Senate and close the gap in the House to a thin majority.
This should be what takes place, but first, Sen. Sanders needs to acknowledge things didn’t work out this time and put the future of the country first. Given his character and commitment to justice, this should be an easy decision.
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