STATESBORO, GEORGIA – What they don’t tell you about campaigning in California is that it’s the size of a country. Maintaining an effort in the Golden State is a grueling, frustrating affair that is only eclipsed by a national campaign, and this year, with the way the numbers added up, the contest was particularly ugly and exhausting.
Quite simply, Bernie Sanders is not going to win the Democratic nomination. This has been known for some time now by everyone but the truest of believers. The reality set in shortly after Bernie announced his race and the only unseen truth was how competitive he’d manage to be. Originally I predicted he wouldn’t carry a single state, one of the more pessimistic assessments of his candidacy, but that changed shortly after I saw him address a union hall in Iowa and realized his was an odyssey steeped in exactly the kind of frustration and anger that simmered below the country’s surface. Since then he’s marshaled one of the most advanced fundraising operations ever seen and shepherded a group of exasperated voters, both young and old, who are tired of settling for politics as-is.
Monday night, when the Associated Press, followed shortly by NBC News, announced they were projecting Secretary Hillary Clinton to be the Presumptive Democratic Nominee, the political world rippled with disbelief. Immediately the Sanders campaign bristled and whispered of collusion between the DNC, NBC, and GE, the Holy Trinity of Center-Left Politics. Those whispers evolved over the course of the night into full-throated accusations of election tampering. Several members of the team told me they believed the projection had a solitary aim: substantially lower voter turnout in California.
Meanwhile, Clinton, with the aid of unpledged superdelegates, has won. This evening she spoke to supporters in Brooklyn and declared the infamous “glass ceiling” she referenced in her concession in 2008 irrevocably broken. These are the facts. Hillary Rodham Clinton is the first female nominee of a major political party in the United States of America. It’s an achievement long overdue and one that, much like President Barack Obama’s historic win, gives hope to even the most cynical of political observers. The call by the Associated Press and NBC plays absolutely no role in this accomplishment and actually does more to harm the historic nature of the event – sources inside the Clinton campaign were frustrated that the timing undercut tonight’s celebration – but it does go a long way in furthering the rift between Sanders’ supporters and Clinton’s constituency in that it affirms every fear they might have.
That rift is now the thing of political prognostication. It is ten ‘til midnight, Eastern Standard Time and just over four percent of California’s results are reported. In true Californian fashion, the final tally probably won’t be known for weeks. Bernie Sanders is planning on speaking in an hour or so and more rumors are running rampant that the campaign is laying off half of its staff, though E-mails referencing that rumor have yet to be confirmed. Right now, Clinton enjoys a predictable lead in mail-in voting. The numbers are exactly what were expected, which means this contest will come down to one thing and one thing only: turnout.
Articles from every political persuasion and every avenue echoed the same sentiment this morning. Voters in California were doubting whether it was necessary to show up with the nomination having already been “won.” Sanders’ staff crisscrossed the state, roused their supporters, did everything in their power to whip up a last second push. Only days and hours will tell whether they succeeded, but their efforts will determine not only the outcome of the primary but possibly the future of the Democratic Party, and the United States for that matter.
There is growing concern in the progressive ranks that the Democratic Party has left them in the cold. Short of Elizabeth Warren being named Clinton’s vice-president, and a subsequent first-term that is both more left than expected and radically transformative, there may be no quelling what has become one of the most disruptive uprisings in Democratic history. The thought here is that Donald Trump is most definitely someone to vote against, but once he’s been thwarted…will progressives find it in them to vote for Clinton?
The next step in unraveling this puzzle is California, but then comes Philadelphia. Sanders has been granted extraordinary sway over the DNC’s platform and there’s no telling what Sanders’ presence or role at the actual convention will be. There are rumors that Sanders will use his newfound political capital to chisel out a progressive wing of the party, whether that’s in the form of a PAC or caucus, or possibly a nod toward a brand-new entity that no one could possibly predict at this point. If it’s the former, we could see a challenge for control of the DNC – much in the vein of what Howard Dean did in the wake of 2004 – and a tug-of-war for future direction. If it’s the latter, we’re talking complete political realignment.
The difference between the two is like measuring the distance to the moon in paperclips. But if California goes to Sanders?
All bets are off.
That possibility, the nuclear option so to speak, was only forwarded last night when the Holy Trinity of Center-Left Politics stepped into an already-volatile situation. Their calling of the race cemented the unease within the Sanders campaign that the entire system, including Debi Wasserman Schultz’s purported manipulation and the establishment Left’s inclination to black out Sanders’ progress and momentum, has been rigged against them from the beginning. Now that they’re being invited back to the table, it looks more like an opportunistic coup to assimilate Sanders’ supporter and fundraising faculties, both of which would virtually ensure a Clinton presidency.
As we speak, the corporate news complex, social media, and conventional knowledge have tied the bow on this primary. It’s all over, as they say, but the crying. But what they don’t say is that the crying, at least in this case, could flood the known world.
Photo by Julio Cortez/AP: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton