By Samson Audino
The first of the Democratic Presidential Primary Debates took place and according to college students nationwide and Huffington Post, Bernie Sanders came out victorious (or at least you would definitely think so if you were me, watching at a viewing party in a university lecture hall). He illustrated to the whole country exactly how he stands apart from Hillary Clinton and her corporate ties, and his supporters raved throughout the internet.
Regardless of his actual views on the issues and how much I may poke fun, I actually respect Bernie Sanders for quite a few things. He’s not afraid to speak his mind openly, unconcerned about traditional political poise. This is exactly the basis behind his appeal, a similar one Ron Paul had among his supporters the last couple elections. Like Ron Paul’s massive following, Sanders’ presidential campaign will most likely fail for a variety of reasons, and the hype surrounding him is not reflective of concrete election results. In my view, Sanders’s supporters are unfortunately unprepared to face the music about what’s to come, by their own fault.
Let’s get a few more technical things out of the way as to why Bernie will have a difficult time winning the Democratic nomination. In a party that’s increasingly growing in popularity amongst minorities, Sanders’s support is predominantly white. Yes, Barack Obama was able to overtake Clinton in 2008 as an underdog, but he did so by building a wide coalition of ideological progressives, civil libertarians, minority rights activists, and even more conservative Democrats. Sanders’s support is largely white college students, and his outreach attempts seem mainly focused on disenfranchised, working class whites. As Harry Enten from FiveThirtyEight analyzes, “The latest YouGov poll, for instance, has [Sanders] winning 34 percent of whites but just 13 percent of Hispanics and 8 percent of black voters in the Democratic primary. You can win Iowa and New Hampshire with those numbers, but not the nomination.”
Maybe this recent debate will boost his popularity among minority voters, who are absolutely critical to his goal of winning the nomination. But even then it’s an uphill battle; the Democratic Party establishment will do everything in their power to prevent a Presidential ticket with his name on it. Sorry Berniemaniacs: whether he is right or wrong, the voters of the United States probably won’t elect a self-identified socialist, and unlike Sanders, the party has to be a little smoother in how they play politics. Hey, this time it’s not a Republican tossing around the term, he says it himself.
The primary system as we know it was only introduced in the 1970s as a way to democratize the process, but the party still holds control of the nomination process when all’s said and done. Nominations are not decided by primary votes, but delegates who attend the national convention, primarily party officials. Just like how the Republican Party treated Ron Paul’s delegates at the 2012 Republican National Convention, there’s nothing stopping the DNC from employing similar tactics. In this aspect, I view the Sanders supporters with the cynicism of knowing how partisan politics can turn on energetic and faithful activists, still hungover from the Ron Paul Revolution.
Beyond these technical difficulties interrupting Sanders’ nomination, his supporters should probably take a look in the mirror and reflect on their own situations. While painting themselves as radical revolutionaries fighting against corporate interests and the government establishment, the candidate they are getting behind isn’t much more left than the usual liberal Democrat politician. His rhetoric is unapologetic and he says what progressives want to hear, calling for a “political revolution” on national television the other night. Interestingly, this debate revealed that other candidates such as Clinton and O’Malley weren’t too different from him, all boasting their progressive cred; thanks to Sanders’s presence, the whole debate stage was forced to shift left. Sure, there were some disagreements on gun control and foreign policy, but the prominent candidates reveled in the same progressive worldview.
With that, Sanders supporters respect the system too much to be true political revolutionaries. The proposed political revolution doesn’t seem like much of a change when Sanders still calls for the imprisonment of Edward Snowden. He and his supporters oppose financial involvement “destroying” democracy, but what they fail to realize is that money in politics is only effective with a pure democracy. A politician can receive as much money from as many special interest groups as they want, but they cannot purchase votes directly. Only voters can be swayed by political advertisements. Only voters can give in to political theatre. Only voters can choose to become more concerned with scandals like hidden emails or eating dog in Indonesia over substantive issues. The inherent flaw in democracy is exposed, revealing that the political horserace relies more on marketing over providing the citizens truth and righteousness.
Unlike Ron Paul supporters and the respective GOP, I suspect an overwhelming majority of Sanders supporters to vote for Clinton once she assumingly attains the nomination. By claiming to be political revolutionaries, they have devolved into the same rich-bashing, anti-Republican banter as their Democratic establishment counterparts. While they talk a big game, their anti-establishment threats are hollowed empty when the Democratic Party owns their votes. Sanders supporters are more worrisome over the possibility of a Republican president than the surveillance state and mass incarceration taking hold under a President Clinton. If Sanders supporters had more integrity and refused to support Clinton in a general election, maybe the Democratic Party would take the supporters more seriously in choosing a candidate they can get behind. Until then, the party will continue to disrespect them and move forward with their political game.