My Twitter and Facebook feeds are exploding this morning, the morning after the Iowa Caucuses, which I should remind everyone mark the first votes of the primary season and which apportion but a small number of the delegates needed to win a party nomination. The level of freak out may be unprecedented, if I’m being kind.
On the GOP side, there is the glee with which most people are noting what was effectively a huge Donald Trump loss. For the first time in the entire campaign, he reacted to something with humility; he even Tweeted about no one ever remembering who came in second. (Awwwwww…) But just as many people are freaking out over the fact that Ted Cruz “won.” First of all, he received less than 28% of the vote, which means more than 72% of Republicans didn’t vote for him. Plus, his “win” creates urgency for those who are wondering if his Canadian heritage will disqualify him. Cruz’s “win” will be short-term. Also in GOP land, Marco Rubio and the GOP hierarchy both heaved a sigh of relief; they were the clear winners yesterday. When Cruz’s delegates are released, they will likely go to Rubio, as will the delegates from most other candidates when they drop out. In Rubio, you see a clear front runner emerge, and it’s neither Cruz or Trump, which is good for democracy.
The best news for us, though, is that Republicans are doomed in the general election, or should be, at least. Let’s be real here; between Trump and Cruz, the “Republicans who hate the GOP” constituency (which sounds better than the “Fuck You Caucus,” which is my preferred name for them) received more than half the vote; 51.9%, to be exact, which may indicate problems when it comes to turnout in November. The last time that contingent was this strong was 1992, which is the last time the GOP had turnout below 80%, and that is how the first Clinton made it into the White House. The GOP’s dependency on their batshit “base” is so profound, they literally can’t win anything if turnout is less than 80%. Well, unless we hand the election to them.
So, that’s the key question for progressives. Can we pull it together enough, can we support Democrats enough to overcome what could very well be a Republican turnout advantageous to our side? That is not only something that should happen; it absolutely must happen, but the signs so far are not good. That’s the other half of the freak out.
Let’s start with the fact that Bernie Sanders is a strong candidate. He has a strong constituency, to be sure. However, as has been pointed out previously on this blog, his supporters largely seem to not understand that it’s not necessary and is, in fact, ill-advised, to tear a Democratic opponent down in the primary fight. Last night, Bernie supporters could be seen on the national news yelling and screaming “Liar!” at the televisions in Bernie headquarters as she was giving a speech that was actually quite respectful of Sanders. This is not how progressives should act, period.
Now, I’m going to say it. Bernie Sanders did not win last night.
There, I said it. I feel better. And no, it’s not because I’m against him. There are no “moral victories” in politics. You either get the most votes or you go home. Sanders entered the race as an underdog who entered the race ostensibly to move the debate to the left, which he and Martin O’Malley did very well, not that these people have noticed. Somewhere along the line, however, these folks got it in their heads that Bernie was turning into a front runner, which I don’t understand. There are numerous measures that mean nothing when it comes to predicting vote totals, including debate TV ratings and crowd sizes at rallies. Another is individual polls. Bernie has never been a front runner and, politically speaking, no one should want him to be a front runner. Front runners have a built-in disadvantage.
Yes, that’s right; all of their posturing and posing and the butt hurt they feel when they decide that Sanders has been slighted by the “mainstream media” is so incredibly misplaced as to be laughable. Obama’s strength in 2008 wasn’t as front runner, but as the exact opposite. Got it? I mean, early on, show of hands, who thought a black man could be elected president in 2007? If you say anything other than “almost no one,” you’re not being honest. Hell, I loved the guy, but I figured Hillary would win. It was the LOW EXPECTATIONS that gave Obama an edge; that and the positive messaging, something else that Bernie also sorely lacks.
Let me say that again, Bernie supporters; what wins Democratic primaries is a combination of hope and humility.
A tie for Bernie Sanders is not a win. First of all, Clinton has been working for super delegates all year and she currently has roughly 360 more than Bernie. Admittedly, many could change their minds and switch, but he’s going to have to do more than tie. He will probably win New Hampshire, but then, he always was. In fact, if he wins it by less than five points, that will not be a win for him, either. He probably won’t win South Carolina and Nevada will probably be another tie, but then comes Super Tuesday on March 1, which could be very dangerous for him. Please, no suicides; just don’t expect a lot and help him do better than that. He’s 360 delegates behind right now, which means he has to win – a lot. Therefore, if you really want Bernie to win the nomination, you have to start selling him. That means selling HIM, not the horribleness of Hillary Clinton, who is in no way horrible, anyway.
One message that came across one of my feeds this morning came from a so-called “progressive,” who declared that he would never vote for her because she’s “just like a Republican.” The funny thing his, this asshole refers to himself as a “political junkie.” Now, how could anyone paying attention enough to call himself a “junkie” think any Democrat is like any current Republican? You have to be be both blind and ignorant to think that, and that’s being kind.
Iowa was a good start, but it’s just a start. Things are about to get more intense and more fun. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both have a chance to make history in this election, but only if we progressives are smart enough to take advantage. First, stop worrying about whether Bernie is seen as a front runner. He’s not, and it doesn’t matter, anyway; one reason Trump lost was because he focused entirely on his poll numbers and over-inflated his popularity and the same thing could doom Sanders. Also, Bernie has to get off the one-note stump speech and take a more positive tone. We do not live in an apocalyptic hellscape in which the rich are eating Soylent Green made from poor people. Our health care system is much-improved, and can be improved further without completely scrapping Obamacare and filling people’s heads with dreams of “single-payer” (which is not the same as universal health insurance, by the way).
And most of all, recognize that the Democratic side has two exceptionally qualified candidates in Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, and every time one denigrates the other, the Republican dreck rejoices. They can’t rejoice; we have to make them losers. Big losers.