La La How The Life Goes On

Weekend at Bernie’s

Posted on: April 4, 2016

It’s time to close out the weekend by discussing Bernie. I know many of you FeelTheBern, and I 100% say rock on with your bad selves. I recall backing an upstart candidate 8 years ago to the chagrin of the party faithful. So I will never denigrate anyone supporting the candidate who moves them even if it’s not my candidate. And even if, as a shouty Jew-y person myself, I can assure you that no shouty Jew-y people will be elected President of the United States in this lifetime. **

How do I know? You know my life back in the day was in politics, and that means I believe in the numbers.  That as much as we feel passionately for a candidate, we have to look dispassionately at the numbers. There is no secret magic incantation for winning a national election in the United States. It is simply a question of mathematics as it relates to demographics.

If you reach the correct number of pledged delegates followed by the correct number of electoral votes, you win. The end. There is very literally nothing more to it than that. Not even the popular vote total matters, as Al Gore learned the hard way.

Do you think this is a terrible way to elect a President? Then by all means get involved in our political system and work to change it. But in the meantime, this is the way we elect a President. This is the current mechanism by which we will elect our president this November, and no amount of bitching and no eruption of righteous outrage is going to change it before then.

So, on the basis of the electoral process we have now, the path for Bernie Sanders to reach the required 2,383 delegates is well-nigh impossible. He has performed extremely well in caucus states but has underperformed his delegate goals in primary states. In states where largely homogeneous people have the ability to attend a caucus for several hours, Bernie is killin it. In racially diverse states without major university presence, where voters use the traditional ballot box process, Bernie has done significantly less well. His primary wins have been in areas with major college turnout, in keeping with his domination of the Under-35 demographic.

All of this has brought up the issue of super delegates. SDs were created by the party in 1984 after a series of demoralizing losses. SDs are party poobahs who were tasked with ensuring the Dem party did not keep running unelectable candidates. They were added as a check/balance to the convention selection process. The President is an SD. The VP. Bill Clinton. State governors. You get the picture. People who are part of the party apparatus. By definition, super delegates owe allegiance to no one. They can vote for Mickey Mouse if they damn well please. They are not pledged delegates, who rightly should vote for the candidate they are assigned to.

In past elections the SDs have thrown their support behind the putative nominee. It has been easy to do because the nominee has been a clear winner in every case. In other words, the nominee already had the 2,383 required pledged delegates. So the SDs were just icing on the cake.

In this case, Bernie cannot win the nomination without a large number of the SDs pledging for him to get him to the 2,383. Which has created a movement to call out all the SDs in states that went for Sanders and try to make them switch from Clinton to him. But this movement misses the point. If your candidate cannot achieve the nomination via pledged delegates in the first place, SDs are extremely unlikely to back him, since their entire raison d’etre is to back a winner, not to help a guy squeak it out by the skin of his teeth.

Its also an interesting approach because it fails to recognize that until November 2015, Bernie Sanders was not a Democrat. You read that right. Until 6 months ago Senator Sanders had an (I) after his name. He caucused with the Dems but did not join. So the movement to somehow shame Democrats who have run and governed as Democrats (and who have taken the time to fundraise for other Democrats down ballot) into supporting Sanders, a Dem for 6 months who states he has no plans to assist congressional candidates he will inarguably need in Congress should he win, is a guaranteed fail from the word Go. That said, even Bill Clinton has pledged to throw his SD vote to Sanders should he win the nomination.

And that’s the bar: if you can win the pledged delegates you get the super delegates. If you can’t, you don’t. There really is no magic incantation. There is only math. And that math favors Hillary Clinton.

**This reminds me of an old joke. A Jewish father and son are tourists in DC. Standing outside the White House, the boy asks hopefully, “Dad, do you think someday a man who wears a kippah will be President?!” The dad answers, “Of course he will, son. Unless that man is Jewish.”

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