Bernie Sanders 2016

Image courtesy of Bernie Sanders 2016.

Will Sanders Remain in the
Fight to the Convention?

| published May 17, 2016 |

By Keith H. Roberts, Thursday Review contributor

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—now the Democratic Party front-runner for President—would like to put the primary and caucus season behind her and turn her daily attention toward presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump.

After all, Trump is firing heavy ordnance at Clinton every day, at every stump speech and in every media interview. Clinton would like to be able to pivot, fire back at the billionaire businessman, and get on with the general election.

But over the last few days Clinton has faced an unpleasant necessity: waging costly and time-consuming primary fights in Kentucky and Oregon, where support for Democrat rival Bernie Sanders has been surging. Even though Sanders—a U.S. Senator from Vermont and a self-described Democratic socialist—is now a mathematical long shot to secure the Democratic nomination this summer, he remains an active candidate, and he continues not only to raise cash through online donations, but also continues to draw thousands to his massive campaign rallies.

Sanders, despite the long odds he now faces—the need to win some 68% of all remaining delegates in order to merely pull alongside Clinton in the delegate count—says he intends to remain in the fight right up to the convention. Most analysts now agree that the nomination fight may not reach a solid conclusion until early June, when voters in California and several other states go to the polls.

Clinton supporters and allies worry aloud that Sanders’ ongoing fight with Clinton will produce little of anything constructive for the Democratic Party, and that a prolonged battle over delegates—including a tug-of-war over the loyalty of so-called super delegates—will delay Clinton’s ability to turn her full attention to likely rival Trump. Clinton’s backers and surrogates also now tell the media that each day Clinton must defend herself against Sanders is a day lost in the long general election battle ahead. Clinton supporters also worry that Sanders may be damaging Clinton with his daily harangues and speeches, in effect giving the GOP some of the weaponry it needs to overtake her in the fall.

Sanders and his loyal supporters wave aside any such concerns, insisting that at the heart of their cause are principles and values far more important than mere partisan politics. Sanders’ enthusiastic backers also suggest that it is Sanders—not Clinton—best suited to take on Donald Trump in the fall. Sanders’ surrogates and strategists also say that their fight will serve another, critical and valuable role: forcing Clinton and the Democratic Party leftward between now and the convention.

Besides, Sanders and his supporters say, Bernie Sanders is bringing newly registered Democrats into the party in the same way that Trump is bringing new Republican voters into the contest. They say that all those newly minted young Democrats will be essential for a Democratic victory in November.

Kentucky and Oregon each vote today (Tuesday, May 17) and early returns show the race to be extremely close in both states, with Kentucky maintaining a razor thin lead for Clinton. The results could be decisive for Clinton: a win in both would validate her role as the presumptive nominee and essentially destroy any remaining mathematical possibility that Sanders could eke out a come-from-behind convention win. A Sanders win in either state will likely fuel his candidacy for a few weeks longer, sustaining his energies and galvanizing his legions of supporters in California, which votes in early June.

Related Thursday Review articles:

In Pivotal States, Clinton and Trump Are Tied; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; May 10, 2016.

Sanders Wins Indiana, Plans to Stay in Race; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; May 4, 2016.