Bernie Sanders exceeded all primary season expectations and was en route to building something of a real movement. But rather than locking in those gains and settling in for a long-haul effort, he’s opted for a legacy-busting temper tantrum instead, heading out the (primary) door in a cloud of whining, conspiracy mongering, and blame casting. It’s a bizarre finale to what was undoubtedly an incredible run. So here are some observations, not because it matters—he’s lost—but because his claims of victimhood are absolute bullshit and need to be corrected.
1. If you plan for a coup, you’ve already lost
Let’s just take a moment to appreciate what Sanders is trying to accomplish here—he knows he’s lost the election. He’s all but acknowledged it. Which is why he’s now focused so heavily on getting the establishment superdelegates to overturn the election in his favor.
Like a despotic dictator, he is so sure of his supremacy that he sneers at the choices of his electorate and seeks to callously toss them aside. He dishonestly tells his supporters that there’s a conspiracy standing between him and victory.
Not only is this undemocratic, it’s outright delusional. These are the same superdelegates representing the same establishment he’s repeatedly bashed and even sued. These are the superdelegates he spent the first year of his campaign blasting as an affront to the democratic process and illegitimate. NOW, things are different. Having lost the election, he expects these supers to overturn the will of the electorate, including the heavy preferences of key growth party demographics like Latinos and African Americans, in order to hand the nomination to the loser of the contest.
2. He may want to disenfranchise them, but communities of color voted against Sanders
Take another moment to savor what that would mean—a party establishment ignoring the choice of the communities of color, who have heavily chosen a woman, to undemocratically hand the nomination to yet another white guy. That, my friends, is the essence of white privilege. It’s EXHIBIT A, and in case you are wondering, yes it fucking pisses me off.
I get that it’s really hard for the old guard to surrender power, but this is a new party, and one that gives voice to more people than ever before. You want someone with Bernie’s politics to get the nomination, perhaps find someone who isn’t from the whitest state in the union, unable or unwilling to deal with the communities that drive our modern party.
Fact is, Clinton won people of color by massive margins. Sanders won white people. Sanders thinks the election results should be tossed aside in his favor. Whose votes would be disenfranchised in that scenario? This is simple extrapolation, and don’t think us people of color aren’t noticing.
3. No, Sanders won’t do better than Clinton against Trump.
Current polling has Clinton’s negatives baked in. They are her floor. Current polling doesn’t have Sanders’ negatives baked in. They are his ceiling. And dear god, there is plenty in Sanders’ background to feed the Republican Noise Machine for the general election. And by the end of the cycle, his negatives would match those of Clinton’s.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned this primary cycle, it's that demographics are destiny. And it's the same case for the general election. The biggest predictor of how people will vote this year is to look at how they voted last presidential election, and those choices are heavily correlated to race, sex, and marital status.
In alternate universes—one in which Sanders wins the nomination, the other in which Clinton does—they both would end up roughly the same in November. Democrats won’t cross over to vote for Trump, and Republicans won’t cross over to vote for Sanders (and certainly not for Clinton). In the end, the final outcome will be determined by turnout, and given our opponent, turnout will hopefully be high. We’d have to fight for that equally hard, regardless of who was our nominee.
4. No, the system wasn’t rigged against him
The system was rigged, for sure, but in his favor. The first two states? Two of the most unrepresentative states in the union, states that glossed over his failures in reaching communities of color. It’s a calendar that benefits white candidates and silences the issues that matter to the communities that drive the modern Democratic Party.
And how about them caucuses? Sanders won nine of 11, getting a significant percentage of his delegate haul from these undemocratic, exclusionary contests. In fact, those nine states are exactly half of his victory total. Take caucuses out, and Sanders is barely in the frame.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with winning caucuses as long as they exist! In fact, Barack Obama owes his presidency to them. But designing a system that prevents people from participating and eliminates the secret ballot is exactly what rigging the system looks like, and it wasn’t Clinton that benefited from that.
5. But what about the media blackout?
Who gives a shit if ABC Nightly News covered Sanders or not? This is 2016, not 1966. Every night, about 22 million Americans tune in to the three big nightly newscasts on ABC, CBS, and NBC. Meanwhile, every day, 4.75 BILLION pieces of content are shared on Facebook, and about 400,000 tweets are posted on Twitter … per minute. So while less than 10 percent of Americans watch TV network news (and to those guys … why?), 62 percent of all Americans are on Facebook every day.
There’s a reason Sanders did so well. Whether the nightly news would cover him or not was utterly irrelevant. If we know anything, it’s that if a network newscast covers a Democrat, it’s not good. Are you really jealous at all the “Benghazi” and “emails” shit Clinton has had to face? Lucky for all of us, people aren’t getting their news from those sources anymore.
Oh, and that Facebook demographic? It’s heavily skewed to liberals—urban, browner, more female, and younger.
6. All that money!
By the end of May, Sanders had raised $212 million to Clinton’s $205 million. Clinton SuperPACs had raised another $84 million, the bulk of that Priorities, but guess what—they’ve only spent $5 million of that, and not a single dime of it against Democrats. The SuperPACs may have lots of money, but it’s not being used against Sanders.
Meanwhile, Sanders had $5.8 million in the bank at the end of last month, while Clinton had $30 million. What’s that mean? It means that Sanders has outspent Clinton this cycle. That in itself is amazing! But also proof that money isn’t the be-all, end-all in politics. The fact that Clinton has spent decades working within the party, from the White House, to the Senate, to the State Department, was worth more than hundreds of millions. Sanders had to introduce himself from scratch, and while he did an admirable job, in the end, it was too high a mountain to climb.
Had he spent the last few decades working within the party to make it better, things would’ve likely been different. Instead, he tried to catapult into the party at the last minute. That kind of thing rarely works. But when the final accounting of this race takes place, we’ll know for sure that money had nothing to do with it.
But, but, but, Clinton laundered money through state parties! This is what that looks like—take particular note of all the money being sent to the states, and then realize that this list doesn’t include several more million just transferred to several battleground states. Sanders could’ve create a similar committee. Nothing would’ve stopped him from doing exactly what Clinton is doing! Except that he’s less interested in fundraising for anyone that’s not himself, and god I wish he wasn’t.
7. The system was rigged because of closed primaries!
All primaries should be closed. If you want to choose the Democratic nominee, become a Democrat. If you are too pure and awesome and independent and iconoclastic, that’s awesome too! Just don’t ask to pick someone else’s leaders. I don’t waltz in to the local Shriners Club, tell them their little hats are stupid, then demand to pick their leadership. If I cared that much about who led them (and what they wore), I’d join the organization.
It costs nothing to be a Democrat. It’s free! Just check a box! And then you don’t have to worry about primary deadlines or whatnot. And if that’s too much of a lift for you, then too bad—you shouldn’t have a say until the general election rolls around. (And yes, I think parties should take over from the states and handle the nomination stuff themselves.)
That said, there have been 23 open contests, and Clinton has won 13 of them. That’s a majority. So even this stupid talking point is stupid. And you know what makes it even more stupid? Take away caucuses, so that we’re just talking about open primaries, then Clinton has won open primaries 13-6.
So can this stupid talking point die already?
8. The system wasn’t rigged because red states voted
Democrats all over the country get to choose the nominee, and that includes African Americans in southern states, and Latinos in places like Arizona and Texas. And if you have a problem with that, fuck you. Seriously, I can’t believe that in this day and age, people are trying to argue that the votes of these critical communities of color don’t matter.
You know what would rig the system? Disenfranchising those voters. Maybe just let the whitest states vote? Would that make Sanders happy? Apparently, since that’s exactly what he is arguing.
9. If the system is rigged, why does Sanders have more delegates than his vote share?
Sanders has won 43 percent of the popular vote, yet he’s won 46 percent of the delegates. How rigged! FTS.
10. The system is rigged because more voters are voting for my opponent!
Bottom line, Clinton is winning significantly more voters—millions and millions of them—than Sanders. Now, there is a new strain of argument running around claiming that the raw vote deficit is smaller than claimed because caucus states aren’t properly accounted for. You can see some of that nonsense argument being made here. The reality?
This has been floating around so long, in fact, The Post's fact-checkers looked at this issue at the beginning of April. Did Clinton at that point actually lead by 2.5 million votes, as she claimed? No, she didn't.
She led by 2.4 million votes.
As of today, that raw vote advantage is at 2.9 million, including caucuses.
11. The system is rigged because if we could start now, more people would vote for Sanders and he’d be winning more!
Football is rigged because the scores in the first three quarters matter! Another stupid argument. But want to make it even stupider? Check out what’s happening to Sanders’ support:
Clinton’s lead is now the largest since early January, and the individual poll trendlines confirm this big movement back to Clinton. At its narrowest, Clinton led by 6 points in the aggregate. Now it’s almost double that.
In early March, ABC/Post had Clinton with a 49-42 advantage. Their latest numbers have Clinton up 56-42. NBC/Surveymonkey had Clinton up 49-43 in early April, and their latest numbers have Clinton up 54-40. Ipsos/Reuters actually had Bernie up 49-48 in early April, but their latest numbers have Clinton up 52-43.
And in any case, if Sanders wanted an extra year to make his case, he could’ve always, you know, entered the race a year earlier. Everyone knew the schedule and the calendar.
Quite simply, for a campaign that argues that the elections should be overturned in his favor, the Democratic electorate is increasingly in disagreement. Last week’s antics won’t help reverse those trends. Heck, they may accelerate them.
The system can be beat. Barack Obama just did it eight years ago. Donald Trump did it on the Republican side this year. Technology now gives insurgents a huge advantage over more stodgy establishment candidates. The smart ones with a winning message can take advantage of that, and the ones with an insufficiently winning message can’t.
Being a sore loser won’t change those facts, that reality, or the fact that we have bigger issues to deal with than Sanders’ insane temper tantrum.