The campaign for Bernie Sanders must continue until the convention.
If Hillary Clinton is indicted, we cannot risk handing the presidency to Donald Trump.
In 2008, one of the most powerful senators in the United States was up for re-election in one of the reddest states in the country. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) was thought to be a shoo-in for the seat he had held for the past half century, despite an ongoing federal corruption probe. Then in late July of 2008, he was indicted. Smelling blood in the water, the Democrats started funding his opponent’s campaign. Sen. Stevens exercised his Constitutional right to a speedy trial, thinking to clear his name before the November election. Instead he was convicted on seven counts of failing to report gifts, and he lost the election. Later the conviction would be reversed due to prosecutorial misconduct, but the political damage had already been done.
What’s strange about Ted Stevens’s political fate is that so few saw it coming prior to his indictment. The Alaska corruption probe had already netted several politicians who took bribes from Bill Allen, CEO of an oil contracting company. It was generally known that Stevens and Allen were linked, and knowledge that Stevens was being investigated was public. One of his properties had even been raided. So why, despite the obvious risk of indictment, did he run for re-election, why did Alaska’s Republican establishment support him, and why was it even conventional wisdom that his victory was inevitable? Was it his pull over the establishment? Was it due to loyalty for his long years of service as Senator? Was it denial? Or was it hubris? Was it believed that Stevens was just too powerful and that the FBI and the DOJ wouldn’t dare sway a federal election? Whatever the reason, Alaska Republicans were mistaken, and they paid a hefty price for that mistake.
This year, the Democratic Party establishment seems hell-bent on making the same mistake in their efforts to nominate Hillary Clinton as the Alaska Republicans made by supporting Ted Stevens’s re-election campaign in 2008. We know that Hillary Clinton is being investigated for sending classified information over her personal email account. One of her staffers has even been given immunity, a typical occurrence when investigators are going after the big fish. It has also become clear that Clinton did send information over her personal email that was classified at the time, and probably knowingly. This is happening, and pretending that it’s not won’t make it go away. As a political issue, we may not care about her “damn emails,” but as a legal issue, we should at least be honest with ourselves about the potential consequences. There is a significant chance that Hillary Clinton will be indicted for mishandling classified information, and that it may happen either before or after the Democratic convention.
This by itself is a strong argument for voting for Bernie Sanders. If Hillary Clinton is nominated, and then is indicted as a presidential candidate in the general election, it’s game over. Donald Trump would win handily, take office in January, and that would be that. However, if she is indicted prior to the Democratic convention, even if she is clearly about to win the nomination, then there is still hope to avoid President Trump. That hope, ironically, would lie in the least democratic aspect of the Democratic Party’s nomination process — the superdelegates.
There are two types of delegates on the national convention floor who vote for the nominee of the Democratic Party. Most are pledged delegates, who must vote in a manner proportional to the way people voted in the caucuses and primary elections of the states they represent. But some (around 20% of the total delegate count) are unpledged delegates, or superdelegates, who may vote how they please, and consist of elected officials, party leaders and dignitaries. In practice, the majority of superdelegates end up voting for the candidate who legitimately earned the most pledged delegates (lest they risk tearing their own party apart), but their mere existence, and the fact that many like to endorse prior to the convention, has a suppressing effect on voter participation, especially for candidates who lack establishment support.
Imagine however that it’s June, most of the states have held their primaries or caucuses, and suddenly the clear front-runner is indicted on a federal crime. Would the superdelegates, knowing that the front-runner would now surely lose the general election, follow the pledged delegates? Or would they instead vote for another candidate, one who has hung on through the race, been vetted in the public arena, proven their mettle, fought a good clean campaign, and enjoys widespread popularity?
The point is that nobody knows what the future may bring, especially the portion of the future which lies between now and the convention. Although we are still on track to win the majority of the pledged delegates, it may turn out that we do very well or very poorly. But in any case, we must support the candidate we believe is right for America until the point in time the nominee is chosen. We owe ourselves and our country nothing less.