When I went to sleep last night, probably a bit later than someone who awakens at five every morning should go to sleep, I did so knowing that Bernie Sanders had pulled of a bit of an upset and I was happy for him. It showed that he still had some life and would be sticking around for a bit. However, when I awakened this morning, I gathered from the Bernie fans on my Facebook feed that, in their view, Bernie had pulled off the most spectacular upset in election history. Some bragged that they had celebrated his win “all night” and that we were in the midst of a “revolution” unlike any seen in American history.
Just to keep things in perspective, I remember feeling just as elated when Jesse Jackson won the Michigan primary in 1988. I think we all remember how that turned out, right?
The funny thing this time is, Bernie didn’t even actually win Michigan like Jesse Jackson did. It was actually a statistical tie. And since “winning” is relatively meaningless in a primary election, I am still scratching my head over why so many of Bernie’s followers are so incredibly elated after yesterday. The nomination is won and lost by collecting pledged delegates. Do they even realize that their candidate was about 220 delegates behind (not including super delegates, since they hate those and think they’re unfair) when the day started and now he’s roughly 250 behind?
See, even if you’re elated over his Michigan “win,” which is kind of nice, I suppose, you have to take into account that he also lost in Mississippi. And when I say lost, I’m being kind. He had his ass handed to him. And can I explain something else here? While many white liberals in blue states would like to write off red state Democrats as unimportant, since they believe Democrats can’t win those states in the fall, the reality is, if you really want a revolution, this is where it’s going to happen. It’s insulting in the extreme to dismiss Hillary’s massive, bone-crushing wins in Southern states, based primarily on Black votes at the same time you crow about Bernie’s wins in places like Kansas and Nebraska, which are redder that most southern states, but just happen to be mostly white. Don’t rest on your laurels because your candidate eked out a tie in a mostly-white state in the “rust belt;” given his message, these types of wins should be huge, not just 20,000 votes out of a million cast.
And this is the part of the Sanders campaign that has troubled me all along; one that should trouble everyone who thinks he should win the nomination. Bernie’s support is almost all white. It is almost exactly the same as the support Nader received in 2000 and 2004. This is why I am ultimately happy he decided to run as a Democrat and not as a third party or independent candidate. In the end, he will do a lot less damage as a Democrat than as something else, and he knows it. However, the hardcore Bernie stans think he’s running a revolution and he’s changing the entire political game and there is no evidence of that. So far, Sanders is not winning primaries. He won New Hampshire and Vermont because they know him and are familiar with him. Other than that, he’s won Oklahoma and eked out a tie in Michigan.
Meanwhile, Hillary is steamrolling him as if he was Professor Doom at the Acme animation studio. He’s not just losing states with a lot of black people; he’s getting his ass handed to him in those states. It’s so bad that some guy has put together a group called “Black Men for Bernie,” which seems to be him and a few white women, if the pictures he posts are any representation of group membership. While a lot of people are falsely making hay about Democratic turnout being down (there is actually no correlation between primary turnout and what to expect in November), Black Democratic turnout is higher than in 2008 and she’s getting almost all of it. She’s actually getting more Black people to vote for here than voted for Obama eight years ago and Bernie’s getting almost none of that love.
Curiously, Bernie is only attracting one demographic. When you examine the exit polls closely, Bernie is getting white men who are relatively well off. That’s curious, given that Bernie’s message seems to be as a savior to the working class and the poor. He’s going to tap into that well of money that all the rich people have and hand a bunch of that money to people who are not doing well, so why are those people not responding? The only group that turned out in large numbers were white men under 30 whose families are fairly well off. Unfortunately, Blacks, women and Latinos all went for Clinton, by a fairly wide margin. Really, do I have to say again that Democtats can’t win if they have to depend on white men? People of Color, women and immigrants are the base now and they voted for Hillary.
By the way, the fact that Nate Silver and Five-Thirty-Eight got this one wrong is no reason to think they will get others wrong. Michigan’s primary system is very unusual. See, it’s a closed primary system, technically. However, the state doesn’t register voters by party. When you show up to vote, you are asked which party you would like to vote for and you’re given that ballot. According to at least a couple of exit polls, a relatively large number of voters, possibly as many as 10 percent, described themselves as belonging to the Democratic Party and ended up taking a Republican ballot to vote with. Now, I can’t say why they did that; perhaps it was because it looked like Hillary was going to win and they wanted to stop Trump. In some cases, maybe a Bernie voter figured his guy was going to lose so he wanted to vote for Trump to give Hillary a better chance to win. Hell; some Bernie stans have told me their choice is between Bernie and Trump. Who knows, really?
The point is, regardless of your elation over Bernie finally winning a state that isn’t a caucus state, the fact of the matter is, yesterday was not actually a good day for him. If he is going to make up those 250 delegates, he has to win more primary states and more votes, and he has to win them by more than 0.2 percent. If you want Bernie to win, he needs to start appealing to a lot more than relatively young white males and reach out to other groups. The Democratic hasn’t won a majority of the white vote since 1964. We have to be more than that.
As I keep saying, the progressive movement has to expand its influence. But we can’t do that if we get so excited over tiny “wins” that we can’t see the reality right in front of our face. Bernie didn’t win yesterday. He lost. I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings but sometimes the truth is that way.