By MARSHA MERCER
In the rush to coronate Hillary Clinton, let us take a moment to consider the extraordinary accomplishment of Bernie Sanders.
No, he didn’t win, but he’s anything but a loser.
Barring something unforeseen, Clinton will make history next month as the first woman presidential nominee of a major political party. Hers is a major achievement and she deserves the acclaim she is receiving. But almost since the day she lost to Barack Obama in 2008, most Americans expected this outcome from the 2016 Democratic primary process. It was her turn.
Nobody expected how hard she would have to fight to secure her prize. That an obscure, elderly, Jewish, Democratic Socialist senator from Vermont could inspire a generation of young Americans and millions of others, threaten the Democratic Party establishment’s choice and raise enough money in small donations to become a viable and formidable challenger is nothing short of remarkable.
Now, everyone in the Democratic Party from President Barack Obama down is urging Sanders and his supporters to get in line with Clinton and unite for the fall campaign.
As they do, though, everyone should remember that Sanders was correct: Clinton doesn’t have enough pledged, elected delegates to win.
She has won 2,203 elected delegates through the primary and caucus season. The District of Columbia primary Tuesday offers 45 more. That’s not enough for her to reach the magic number of 2,383 to claim the nomination with elected delegates alone at the convention in Philadelphia July 25.
Because of Sanders, Clinton must rely on superdelegates. Those are the mayors, governors, members of Congress and party leaders who are free to support any candidate.
But Clinton has 574 superdelegates in her corner, many more than she needs, according to the Associated Press, which surveyed superdelegates and counted those who said they are committed to Clinton. That’s why news outlets declared her the presumptive nominee on Monday.
Superdelegates make up about 15 percent of all Democratic delegates. Officially unpledged, they conceivably could change their minds – and that has been Sanders’ forlorn hope. He has won 1,828 elected delegates and has 48 superdelegates on his side.
There’s nothing nefarious about Clinton’s using superdelegates to put her over the top. She’s playing by the rules. Plus, she won 3 million more votes than Sanders in the primaries and was victorious in 32 states and territories to his 23.
To win at the convention what he could not win in the states, Sanders would have to change the minds of more than 400 of Clinton’s superdelegates. That won’t happen unless calamity befalls Clinton, such as an indictment for her use of a private email server at the State Department.
In a year in which the news media arguably engineered the success of the bombastic billionaire Donald J. Trump through slavish coverage of his every offensive comment, Sanders created a movement.
Trump, ironically, will go to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland July 18 with 1,447 elected delegates – 210 more than he needs to be the nominee. Nobody else is close.
Sanders’ claims that the system was rigged against him is true in the sense that the Democratic Party establishment was backing Clinton long before the process began.
More than 400 superdelegates had endorsed Clinton 10 months before the first caucuses and primaries. The party canceled some debates and scheduled those that did occur at times when most people weren’t watching, which hurt viewership and denied Sanders the chance to gain national attention.
Despite obstacles the party put in his way, Sanders caught fire.
Here’s President Obama Wednesday on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon: “I thought that Bernie Sanders brought enormous energy and new ideas, and he pushed the party and challenged them. I thought it made Hillary a better candidate.”
It would be wrong for the Democratic establishment now to deny the strength of Sanders’ agenda or the weaknesses Clinton has going into the fall campaign. Voters face a choice between two presidential candidates with startlingly high negative ratings. Neither is seen as trustworthy.
Clinton needs Sanders and a large share of his supporters if she is to beat Trump. They could make the difference.
So, don’t discount Sanders’ achievement. He won’t be the Democratic presidential nominee but he has accomplished something almost as remarkable as Clinton has.
© 2016 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.