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Bernie and the Super Delegates

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A specter is haunting Democratic superdelegates – the specter of Obama in 2008 – the members of Congress, the governors the political consultants, the journalists, and lobbyists entered into an alliance to anoint Hillary Clinton, the first woman to succeed the first black.

But victory eludes Clinton; in Michigan Bernie had a surprising win. It calls Hillary’s popularity into question. If she can’t enlist the support of Democratic primary voters, how can she convince the nation? Clinton’s early lead evaporated. Bernie took first with a last minute surge. The more the voters learned about him the more they liked him.

Superdelegates are Democratic elected officials and other party insiders allowed to support whichever candidate they like. They are there to prevent a kook from leading the ticket. Their interests diverge from Secretary Clinton; they are less concerned about the top of the ticket. They ask will the Presidential candidate help Governors, Members of Congress and the state legislatures win in November. They are as interested in the fate of the Democratic Party as they are in the Presidential candidate. Like Bernie, they need a big turnout of voters.

Clinton’s lopsided lead in delegates comes from pledges made by these party insiders. They are not written in stone. A Democratic victory requires massive turnouts of the young. Bernie has this vote. The issues of income inequality and fighting the Wall Street oligarchy favor Sanders, not Clinton. The superdelegates will assess Hillary’s appeal.

Like Obama, Bernie is winning the battle for enthusiasm. He draws the crowds and he is likeable. Hillary is thoughtful serious and loved by many, but she can’t shake her history. The Clintons prospered by milking the rich, and the charge she is bought and paid for burdens her candidacy.

While she and her husband created the Clinton foundation, Bernie remained an independent socialist. He condemned inequality and his leftwing demands nettled his colleagues with their implied criticism of go-along-to-get-along politics.

His day has come – the voters have turned against the parties. Republican and Democratic voters echo this call they want far-reaching change. Hillary’s experience and training is moderate change. Her supporters value these traits, but in 2016 these qualities are losers, and the superdelegates will come to recognize it.

Sanders populist appeal is hard for rich white educated people to duplicate. In Florida, on Tuesday, he held a rally. He shouted Wall Street, the crowd jeered. The event drew the young and had the energy of a rock concert or a football rally. It was lowbrow, and the audience felt at home with Bernie. Bernie is convincing as a man of the people. The superdelegates know he is honest; he has spent decades slamming the injustice of inequality. This is not a campaign message; it is Bernie’s core belief.

Anyone who has been to a left-wing event would recognize this Florida crowd of black, white, brown young with many old. This is the post-2010 Democratic Party. In that off-year election, the Republican picked up a spectacular 63 seats to become the majority that bedeviled Obama. The losers were conservative Democrats who were shy about reproductive justice, opposed taxes and government spending. In defeat, the Democratic Party moved left. Bernie Sanders is ratifying that change. This Democratic Party is proud of its diversity and eager for equality.

Republicans tried to stifle this change and failed. Passage of voter id laws to intimidate black and brown voters created a backlash that increased their turnout in 2012. Trump calling Mexicans rapist and demanding a wall is bringing a surge Hispanic registration. His hostility to Muslims boosts their participation.

Bernie Sanders is gaining black support. Had 70/80% of this vote gone to Hillary, he would have lost. He responded to the poisoning of Flint Michigan’s water supply by demanding the Governor resign. He identified the culprit; his response was so popular Hillary adopted it. The movement is clear, to know Bernie is to like him.

The superdelegates know about these changes, by the time the Democratic Convention roles around they can chose Bernie to maximize turnout.

Nathan Riley is a columnist for Gay City News and a veteran of numerous New York State Campaigns. 

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