February 28, 2016

Beginning of the End for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After Hillary Clinton's crushing defeat of Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina primary yesterday, some are suggesting that we are witnessing "the beginning of the end" for Sen. Sanders. I tend to agree with this assessment, although I suspect that Nevada may have really been the beginning of the end. Still, it now seems clear that Clinton has the momentum of her impressive victory as we approach Super Tuesday.

Sanders has yet to demonstrate that he can win among African American voters. I suppose the same could be said for persons of color more generally. This, combined with Clinton's delegate lead, is going to make her almost impossible to catch. And with the number of states voting on Super Tuesday, the Democratic nomination could be a lost cause for Sanders by the end of the day.

Writing in The Guardian, Lucia Graves noted,
But Sanders thus far has only been able to win in overwhelmingly white states, and there aren’t enough of them to propel him forward long-term. Wins in states like Vermont and Maine are no match for Clinton-friendly states like Texas, which has more delegates than many other states combined.
Based on the election coverage I have seen of the Democratic side, it sounds like the lack of support among African Americans is only one of Sanders' problems (although it certainly is a big one). Despite having a clear advantage over Clinton when it comes to enthusiasm, this has not been translating into increased voter turnout. While Sanders may indeed be inspiring young people to pay attention to politics and attend his rallies, there is little evidence that they are turning out to vote. In fact, voter turnout on the Democratic side appears to be down as compared with 2008.

As if all of this wasn't bad enough for Sanders, there is even worse news for those of us who would prefer not to see a Republican in the White House. Voter turnout on the Republican side has been considerably better than it has on the Democratic side. Donald Trump appears to be pulling in new voters and getting many of those who attend his rallies to show up and vote in a way that Sanders and Clinton are not. This should be cause for alarm as we approach the general election, regardless of who the Democrats nominate.

Sen. Sanders says he plans to continue his campaign, but it is not clear how he can catch Clinton without some significant changes. If Sanders can manage to win a few Super Tuesday states, perhaps he can manage to stick around long enough to continue to influence the discussion. As I have said before, I consider the Sanders campaign to be worthwhile for the influence it has had on our political discourse even though I have never expected him to win the nomination.