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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/4/16

Sanders Wins another Purple State, But Is Still Lost in a Haze of Bad Strategy and Rigged Delegate Math

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Message Rob Hager

Bernie Sanders for President

Sanders' fairly narrow victory in another purple state, Indiana, continued the pattern that was established in Nevada and Iowa. Clinton's lead is based on the closed primary states and southern red and purple states. Unfortunately neither of these results are relevant to winning the electoral college. Clinton's identity politics appeals to the Democratic party faithful who dominate the closed primaries held for the Party 29%. They who see all politics as identity politics remain loyal to a corrupt party. Independents, the 40% of the electorate who are more interested in recovering democracy from the plutocratic establishment which controls both corrupt parties, favor Sanders.

Indiana conducts an open primary which accounts for Sanders' victory. But it also has southern influences in its Ohio River Valley counties which kept it modest. In Indiana Sanders again overwhelmingly won voters under 45 (68%). But true to the pattern caused by his refusal to give blacks a good reason to vote for him, he again won only 26% of the 18% share of the Indiana Democratic primary voters who are black. Sanders remains as resolute in this neglect of good strategy as he is in the content of his campaign speech.

Where it counts, in open primary blue states where independent voters are not excluded from participating in the nation's presidential election run-off process, Sanders wins or virtually ties primary elections, and more commonly overwhelms Clinton in the caucus states. Sanders has held his own in the non-southern purple states like Indiana. Purple state outliers, Colorado, where Sanders won in a landslide (18%), and Ohio, where Clinton did the same (13%), cancel each other out. The states remaining for Sanders to catch up to Clinton are a similar mixture of red states (e.g., West Virginia where Sanders is polling ahead), both open and closed election states, and blue states (e.g. Oregon, where Sanders is competitive), but are all outside the South -- aside from Kentucky, a border state.

Activists in New York, without any apparent support from the Sanders campaign, are taking on the quintessential case of closed state corruption that is one essential leg of Clinton's lead. Sanders told the Washington Post that "the convention and the Democratic National Committee can change the rules and can create a scenario that makes it clear that we want open primaries in 50 states in this country." But Sanders needs to do more than talk about closed primaries, and say that he "accepts" the rules that he states are "dumb" and "absurd." He needs to make a focus of his campaign the reform of the DNC rules so as to disadvantage such primaries. Sanders needs to prepare his delegates for the floor fight at the convention to change the rules to discount the delegate strength of closed states. The rules should factor in poll results from the Independents who were undemocratically excluded from what should be an open run-off election process, if the results are to be taken as democratic.

It is far from clear that Sanders' campaign is competent to wage such a floor battle, which alone could alter the outcome of the convention by shifting 200 votes or more from Clinton to Sanders, in order to account for the excluded Independents. Instead the campaign expresses interest in diverting its hard-won political capital at the convention into influencing the contents of Democratic Platform, which will have nothing at all to do with winning the nomination, much less the policies that will ultimately be pursued by Democrats if Clinton were to win.

That it is Independents who will determine the general election results, not Clinton's southern red state supporters who represent much of her delegate advantage, should concern any part of the Democratic establishment which is more interested in winning the election in November than in the payoffs they have received, or expect, from the Clinton organization.

Sanders has repeatedly appealed to the Establishment as represented by superdelegates to shift their support to him. He requests that in the states which he has won by a landslides superdelegates should vote for him. This would modify the rules that leave discretion with the superdelegates. But this change would still leave Sanders at least 200 delegates short just among the superdelegates, even if he did make up the difference among pledged delegates in the future contests, a demanding task. Therefore this seems yet another of Sanders' resolutely losing strategies.

Second, Sanders appeals to superdelegates to exercise their discretion to pick the strongest candidate against Trump, especially as shown by polling in the battleground states. Instead of this superdelegate plea Sanders should be advocating the application of ordinary conflict of interest recusal rules to the superdelegates. They, and also the members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee who would have to approve such rules changes, should be required first to disclose any promises or other pecuniary interest related to the Clinton organization, and then to recuse themselves from voting for Clinton in cases where any reasonable person would conclude that such entanglements would create a conflict of interest.

This conflict of interest enforcement approach has several benefits. First it is symbolic of Sanders campaign against the lack of integrity of the government which is largely due to the fact that it has freed itself from similar conflict of interest rules. Sanders would win his revolution against the control of government by the billionaire class if he could simply restore the application of traditional conflict of interest recusal law to politician payoffs made under the guise of campaign contributions and expenditures. Second, by advocating such a simple litmus test of integrity in the nomination process, Sanders would more clearly define his campaign so as distinguish himself from Clinton and the corrupt party she controls in a way that does not implicate her base in identity politics. Third, it is quite possible that if the Sanders campaign were competent enough to organize its own pledged delegates behind this issue as the very opening floor contest over credentials, much as Teddy Kennedy waged a rules fight in 1980, Sanders might attract enough of the Clinton identity politics crowd to win this issue. Clinton's delegates are not all committed to Clinton corruption. Many who remain ignorant of it might be persuaded that rules of integrity that apply in other similar contexts should also apply to the superdelegates. In principle, who can support buying the votes of superdelegates?

By winning on this issue of integrity Sanders could flip the superdelegates vote to favor him rather than to overwhelm him as it now does. It is highly likely that there are very few superdelegates who would still favor Clinton against the evidence that Trump can defeat her, except those who have taken or expect some payoff from the Clinton organization. Sanders needs to make this issue the litmus test for supporting Clinton, and even for his delegates remaining at the convention in which she will be nominated. This of course would need to be arranged with the delegates in advance, so the demand for the conflict of interest rule itself needs to start well before the convention. Research would be required into each superdelegate's ties to the Clinton organization. Them the issue should be negotiated with Clinton in advance, in case she wants to avoid a floor fight and potential walk out.

The Indiana result that dominates the news cycle is Trump's elimination of Cruz. If for nothing else the nation owes Trump a debt of gratitude for eliminating the possibility of a Cruz presidency. It is worrisome that if Trump does lose to Clinton, a Clinton presidency could so alienate voters from the corrupt Democratic Party that Cruz dominionism could make a comeback in 2020. This Clinton-Cruz sequence is even scarier than Trump.

The second favor Trump's supporters, especially the closers Indiana, have done the country, is giving him such a large victory as to drive Cruz out of the race. This means that Trump can begin his campaign against Clinton as he has promised to do. This will test Clinton's weaknesses well before the Democratic convention. Trump will raise those "personal" issues about the corrupt Clinton organization that Sanders refused to raise. This can only help Sanders in the remaining primaries. As Trump starts campaigning against Clinton it will give the superdelegates a foretaste of the Clinton's weakness, .and may well heighten sensitivity to the issue of integrity.

(Article changed on May 4, 2016 at 11:24)

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Rob Hager is a public-interest litigator who filed a Supreme Court amicus brief n the 2012 Montana sequel to the Citizens United case, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, and has worked as an international consultant on legal (more...)
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