Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future
Some politicians and commentators say that Bernie Sanders is losing leverage because he hasn't conceded the Democratic primary to front-runner Hillary Clinton. To believe that is to misunderstand both the candidate and his supporters. Sanders received a mandate in "defeat" that most politicians never achieve in victory.
The calls to surrender reached a fever pitch before the last primary even ended. We were told that Sanders was being stubborn, that he was rapidly losing influence. It was even said that all of the convention's prime-time speaking spots would be taken soon if he didn't concede soon, as if they were reservations at Nobu and he had no pull with the maitre d'.
If Bernie were denied a prime-time slot at the convention, chaos would ensue. You can be sure that whenever and however the deal is struck, they'll make room for him at a peak viewing hour.
The Clinton team's impatience is understandable, even if it lacks a certain grace. But they're misreading both Sanders' nature and the nature of the negotiations now underway. So is The New York Times' Nate Cohn, who tweeted:
"A fun thought experiment: Imagine Sanders winning but Clinton refusing to endorse unless he adopted her views, etc."
That thought experiment would make sense in a typical primary campaign. But this year is different. Even without context, the raw numbers are impressive.
Leverage? As New Yorkers used to say, "I got your leverage right here":
-- 12 million votes.
-- Victory in 22 states.
-- 45 percent of pledged delegates.
-- A history-making small-dollar fundraising campaign that out-raised his well-heeled opponent.
That was all while facing one of the most powerful Democratic clans in history, rejecting big-money donors, and challenging one of the most famous people in the world as a leftist outsider.
Leverage? Consider the trend line: Twelve months ago Bernie Sanders was all but unknown nationally. He didn't fit the typical "politician" profile in age, style, or rhetoric. He was a self-described democratic socialist. And he faced overwhelming obstacles erected by the party machinery at all levels.
Memories are short. When Sanders announced his run in April 2015, FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten opened his article by writing he was "almost certainly not going to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016.
"Hillary Clinton is the most dominant non-incumbent front-runner in modern primary history. It would take a truly special candidate to defeat her," he continued, "and Sanders ... is not the politician for the job."
Besides, he added, "there seems to be very little desire on the left for a challenger to Clinton."
That was what pretty much what everyone thought. Look what happened.
There's no need to re-litigate all the roadblocks Sanders faced, at least not now. It's enough to say that the success he achieved, against overwhelming odds and "the most dominant non-incumbent front-runner in modern primary history," affirms the power of his message.
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