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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Any fortuneteller knows Bernie will bust, but do his supporters?

“It’s the math, stupid.” That phrase is as simple an explanation of how to nominate a candidate or win an election. Numbers matter, and who votes in a primary or general election decides whether the electorate endures obstruction, chaos, gridlock and dissatisfaction from their government for years or decades to come. In baseball, a player is only as good as the next at bat. In politics, it matters most if a disappointed voter actually steps up to the plate during the next election.

Our presidential primary process for both major political parties is straightforward: The candidate who reaches the party threshold with the requisite number of delegates wins the party’s nomination. As candidates compete through the various regions nationwide, the campaign clock compresses the calendar and narrows the winning path. Calculating the winning threshold through milestone wins is an easy task when only two candidates compete.

On the Democratic side between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — as in the 2008 clash involving Clinton and Barack Obama — the leader at this point in the process is the likely nominee. I dread serving as the fortuneteller of political doom so soon in the presidential primary cycle, but this writer is constrained by a semester publication schedule that draws near its end. It would be a scam if I claimed to be reading tealeaves or gazing through a crystal ball — or consulting the Mattel Magic 8 Ball on my desk — when I predict that the delegate quest “Bern” will officially become a mathematical fizzle in mid-May.

Clinton won this nomination in March when she bested Sanders in a string of net delegate victories: South Carolina (25), Virginia and Mississippi (nearly 30 each), Alabama (35), Georgia (45) and Texas and Florida (70 each). Clinton appealed to a wider cross-section of voters in highly populated states. Texas cast 1.4 million votes; Clinton won by 460,000 votes. In Florida, Clinton earned 1.1 million votes, beating Sanders by 531,000 votes. Moreover, Clinton netted on average 20 delegates in a half dozen other states to bulge her lead.

On the other hand, Sanders’ “huge” New Hampshire landslide victory netted six delegates. His “gigantic” Vermont win shutout Clinton by gaining “all” 16 delegates. Until this week, Sanders’ greatest net single gain was Utah (21) winning by 46,000 votes out of a total 77,000 cast. Unfortunately, Sanders trails by nearly 250 delegates, which is much larger than Clinton’s deficit against Obama at the same time in 2008. Despite the media hype surrounding Sanders’ current streak of wins, including his shellacking Clinton in Wisconsin this week — where he only netted a couple dozen-delegates at best — he has few lifeboats left on his Titanic campaign voyage.

The question begs whether disappointed Sanders supporters will back Clinton in November like Clinton supporters helped elect President Obama. The stakes are so critical during every election that it is important for Sanders’ supporters to vote during the remaining primary contests and not to “bust” away from voting in the fall regardless of how much the eventual party nominees appear to be a choice between the lesser of two evils. Following Nate Silver’s live blog during Tuesday’s Wisconsin election night tabulations, the Facebook threads bristled with Bernie-Bots proclaiming that they vote on principle and will not vote for Hillary in the fall.

As a consequence of apathy or disappointment causing a low voter turnout in 2010, our nation and many states stand today suffering through gridlock and chaos. The anti-establishment fervor sweeping both parties this election cycle is a result of prior uninterested voters. Our congress is locked into a decade of GOP dominance in the House of Representatives until new districts are drawn in 2022, directly a result of an anti-Obama low voter turnout in 2010. That election tilted many state governor’s houses and legislatures into total Republican control that in turn rigged congressional districts through gerrymandering antics that cannot be changed until after the next census redistribution six years from now.

Far-reaching legislative antics stem from elections when only party activists elect governors and state legislatures. Since the total GOP control of several states in 2010, all manner of ways to “take back” the past through assaults on unions, abortion procedures, anti-discrimination laws and voting rights initiatives keep percolating throughout a number of states. North Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia and Kansas have flirted with ways for private entities to discriminate in the name of religion. Despite more than 90 percent of Planned Parenthood offerings for women that are other than abortion, these legions of legislators march to completely defund the entire organization and disenfranchise women seeking healthcare services. Best of all, Texas has prioritized a constitutional amendment bestowing the right to hunt and fish as their way to “take back” their past.

Sanders is correct that revolutions ignite change. But voter participation is a revolution unto itself that prevents a further need for dramatic change. Regardless of how bleak the candidates on the ballot, or how disappointed one might be when a beloved candidate fails at the ballot box, voter participation during every election creates better candidates. My crystal ball indicates that when Bernie’s campaign cannot march on, his backers will vote on.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.