I’ve written too many articles about how ridiculous the Clinton campaign has been with regard to Bernie Sanders. Apparently, I have a super power that allows me to read a poll — a power that is apparently unavailable to the Clinton campaign. Another of my super powers is the ability to remember all the way back to 2008. My take away from that primary was that the Democratic base really didn’t like having to choose between any of the three main candidates, but most especially between Obama and Clinton. So 2016 has represented a great opportunity for these people to have the best of all worlds.
So it’s been really annoying to watch the Clinton campaign never take the high road and always act as though it was in a very close match. But maybe it’s just me and my age. I find Sanders supporters very silly much of the time too. The other day, I saw a short video from The Young Turks, and they were discussing how it was a good thing that the Republicans looked set to nominate Trump, because he was the only one that Clinton could beat. What do you even say to such nonsense?! That’s the kind of thing I expect from Fox News where it is taken as a certainty that Hillary Clinton will be in prison by June.
But the implication of the complaints coming from the Clinton campaign seems to be that Sanders should just know that he’s an issue candidate and that he should therefore not hurt the obvious eventual nominee. Now, I called this race back in February — because of my super powers of poll reading and history remembering. But the truth is that the race is rather tight nationally. Real Clear Politics has Clinton ahead by just 4 percentage points. But there are a few things to keep in mind with this.
First, 4 percentage points is really quite a lot. That’s what Obama beat Romney by. What’s more, in all the polls during the last month, Clinton has been right at 50%. And if you assume that she would get roughly 50% of the undecided vote (And you should!) she is well above 50%. This is a race between two figures in the Democratic Party that are both well liked. It isn’t a surprise that the race would tighten over time.
The other issue is that the national figures don’t matter at all. I don’t know if anyone remembers the obscure presidential election back in 2000. During that there was all kinds of controversy about who had won in Florida, even though one of the men had clearly won the majority of votes nationwide. I still get the question, “Can Sanders win the nomination?” In the sense that anything could happen (a humanity destroying asteroid hitting the Earth this calendar year), then yes, Sanders can win the nomination. But reasonably: no, Sanders cannot win the nomination.
Now I keep hearing that Sanders is hurting Clinton by staying in the race. Of course, the same people have been calling for him to step down for months. But the Clinton campaign thinks that Sanders is hurting Clinton in the general election. That might be the case. But I have a hard time taking it seriously for two reasons.
First, Sanders being in the race has made Hillary Clinton a far better candidate. If she had just floated through this campaign with only Martin O’Malley to fight with, she would have been a much worse candidate once the general election started. So the Clinton campaign really ought to balance out the good things that Sanders has done for them compared to the minor damage he has done. And it is minor damage. Who thinks that the Republicans wouldn’t have tried to attack her on her Wall Street connections?
The second reason is demonstrated very well in an article by Brian Beutler yesterday, Democrats Should Stop Sweating Sanders’ Attacks on Clinton. He notes how Clinton was far more vicious toward Obama when she was losing in 2008. For example:
But again, I think the issue is that the Clinton campaign just takes it as granted that Sanders could never win the primary. So it was totally okay for her to say she should stay in the race because who knows what information might come out about Obama. But it isn’t okay for Sanders to do the same thing because the Clinton campaign doesn’t think he’s a viable candidate.
Just to be clear: Clinton will win the nomination. Sanders will stay in the race. Clinton is not going to be noticeably harmed by Sanders’ attacks. Once Clinton is the nominee, Sanders will support and campaign for her. There’s nothing special about this campaign. Except for all the whining.