The Meaning of Super Tuesday

A gush of corporate relief fills the airwaves as Super Tuesday becomes history. A progressive wave was not electorally visible as the Democratic status quo consolidated itself behind Joe Biden and won 10 states.

I was feeling a lot more hope when Super Tuesday began than I’m feeling a day later, so the need right now is to regroup.

Freelance writer and organizer Kate Aronoff, speaking on a panel of observers at Democracy Now! as the election results unfolded, made an important point in this regard: “The Democratic establishment is going against the future. . . . There is no normal anymore!”

The national and global order is unhinging, via climate change and endless war, the rise of authoritarianism, the enormous flow of refugees, the continued (insane threat) existence of nuclear weapons, coronavirus, the raging fires and melting polar ice — and so much more. Bernie Sanders is the candidate who addresses these matters with the most courage and clarity, and as Super Tuesday approached it appeared that maybe . . . maybe . . . a significant majority of the electorate understood this and would cast their votes for salvaging and reshaping the future. Now I’m not as certain, even though Sanders did reasonably well, winning California along with Colorado, Utah and Vermont, and finishing second to Biden in the other states. The two-person race continues.

Part of what I had hoped would happen on Super Tuesday was that media analysis of the election would have to transcend its horse-race reductionism and begin facing and focusing on real issues, simply because real issues seemed to be what mattered to voters. The practice of categorizing voters into abstract clumps, based on their ethnicity, income, education level or whatever, is excruciatingly tedious, e.g.: “The surge in turnout in Virginia was a function in part of suburban white voters coming to the polls to support Biden,” the Washington Post informed us in the wake of Super Tuesday:

. . . Sanders’s argument for his electability in November is predicated on the idea that he will spur a surge in turnout, particularly among young voters and the working class. Again looking at Virginia, whites without a college degree turned out more heavily in 2020 than in 2016, according to preliminary exit polls — and Biden beat Sanders by 15 points. About half the electorate was voters without a degree, up from 2016, and Biden beat Sanders by a 2-to-1 margin, a wider gap than Clinton enjoyed four years ago.

And on and on and on. But how did Biden do among white voters who couldn’t find their car keys that morning (and started college but just didn’t finish it)? After reading an endless amount of such categorizations, it starts to seem as though a voter’s abstract grouping is a determining factor in how he or she votes: Attention, members! Whites Without a College Degree, or WWCD, officially supports Joe Biden. We urge 62 percent of you to cast your ballot accordingly.

Here’s another category the media chooses not to use: Voters who waited absurdly long hours in line to cast their ballots, or even would-be voters who were unable to vote. I wonder how Sanders did among these categories?

As Salon reported on March 3:

Texas has closed 750 polling locations since 2012, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, a civil rights group, reported last year. The state had one polling place for every 4,000 residents in 2012, but that number rose to 7,700 residents by 2018. The Guardian’s analysis found that the overwhelming majority of closures came in areas that saw the largest increase in black and Latino residents.

The 50 counties that saw the highest growth in black and Latino population had 542 polling sites close between 2012 and 2018, while the 50 counties with the lowest black and Latino population growth saw just 34 closures. The closures came despite the population in the top 50 counties rising by 2.5 million while the 50 counties that had just 34 closures saw their population fall by 13,000.

Fascinatingly, Texas is a state Sanders was predicted to win but didn’t. Could it be that the other candidate received help beyond merely the consolidation of centrists? The issue of voter suppression is a Pandora’s box across much of the country that the mainstream media usually chooses not to open.

All of which intensifies my sense of frustration and uncertainty. “Is there a progressive wave reshaping the Democratic Party?” Intercept writer Lee Fang asked at the Democracy Now! panel Tuesday night. “We don’t know yet.”

But I believe there is, even when it seems invisible. And so do millions of Americans — millions of global citizens — working for change on so many levels, including politically. We are not yet the nation we are struggling to become, but the Sanders campaign, however it fares in 2020, is helping to shape that future. It’s doing so one voter at a time, whether or not their vote is counted.

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.