Is this just another case of the Establishment sticking it to the people, or legitimate frustration with a gadfly who won’t wake up and smell the coffee? Bernie Sanders’ colleagues in the Senate want to sound supportive, Politico reports, mindful of the anger of the populism that has allowed the longtime socialist crank to seriously contend for their party’s presidential nomination. They love Bernie. And more precisely, they’d love him even more if he got on the Hillary Clinton bandwagon:
After holding their fire on Sanders for the better part of a year, the senators — all backers of Hillary Clinton — are gently calling on Sanders to face the reality that there’s almost no chance he’s going to be the Democratic nominee. They don’t say outright he should quit; doing so would be counterproductive, they say.
But nearly a dozen Democratic lawmakers suggested in interviews that Sanders should focus more on stopping Donald Trump and less on why he believes Clinton’s stands on trade, financial regulation and foreign policy would make her a flawed president.
“What’s important is not whether or not he gets out, but how he campaigns,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). “If the contrast is now about what separates us from Donald Trump, then I think it’s fine. I just hope that we can begin to focus on unifying because obviously a lot of us are perplexed that we could be facing a country led by someone who seems to be a buffoon.”
Added Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.): “It’s good [for Sanders] to continue to raise the concerns that people have, but I think it ought to be in the context of, ‘This is the difference between the Democrats and Republicans in this race.’”
Or, in other words, keep campaigning … but for Hillary.
This request isn’t so much a party establishment putting down its considerable foot as it is a cold dash of reality. Hillary already has two-thirds of the delegates she needs for the nomination, while Sanders would need almost double what he currently has to win on the first ballot. The problem for Sanders is that Democrats have gone through half of the states already, and at least some of the delegate-rich states left on the table will go to Hillary — New York and Pennsylvania for sure, Kentucky and Indiana probably, and California more than likely.
Even in states where Sanders competes well, close races will split delegates too narrowly to help, such as the upcoming Wisconsin primary. As Paul Begala pointed out in the aftermath of Super Tuesday II, Bernie wins the tight races and Hillary wins the blowouts. That produces an inevitable delegate-allocation gap that Sanders can’t overcome.
Ah, but what about the superdelegates? Absent the superdelegates, Hillary only has a lead of around 300 delegates — a difficult gap to bridge, but not insurmountable. Superdelegates can change their minds and flip to Sanders, right? Sure, but that won’t happen. Superdelegates exist to prevent candidates like Sanders from seizing the nomination from the party establishment. The reason it didn’t work in 2008 was that Barack Obama got too big of a lead on Hillary, and the historical moment and organizational power of Obama convinced the superdelegates to throw in with him in the end. (Recall that the question of the superdelegates ran almost all the way down to the convention in 2008.)
The Democratic party establishment is right on the math and on the moment this time around, but don’t expect Sanders to listen. He’ll keep campaigning until the cash runs out or until the DNC cuts him some sort of deal. Perhaps Hillary will offer Sanders a Cabinet post, such as HHS, where he can indulge all of his single-payer healthcare fantasies if Hillary wins the election. The deal will probably come sooner rather than later, but it may take a couple of more major-state blowouts to get the message through to Bernie that it’s over … and it’s been over for a while.