Columns » Gene Lyons

Democratic endgame

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OK, so the fix is in. In one sense, it's too bad the Associated Press and the TV networks called the Democratic race for Hillary Clinton before New Jersey, California and four smaller states voted on June 7, as this week's paper went to press. Judging by my Facebook feed, this has inflamed the Bernie cult's belief that they've been cheated by the "establishment."

Whatever the results, they've been rendered illegitimate in the eyes of some by the news media's supposedly premature call. Never mind that news organizations feel a professional duty to report the facts as quickly as they are ascertained. Not much imagination is required to grasp the mischief that could result from their doing it any other way.

Never mind, too, that anybody who can do the electoral arithmetic knows that Hillary Clinton has been the inevitable Democratic nominee since April, when she prevailed in New York and Pennsylvania by 16 and 13 points respectively. There simply weren't enough populous states left for Bernie Sanders to catch up — unless he could win California by an impossible 60 points.

Nevertheless, Bernie soldiered on. First came the argument that Clinton's wins in "red state" Southern primaries shouldn't count, because the South is the most conservative region of the country. These strictures did not apply, of course, to Sanders' victories among downtrodden white Democrats in the Cow States — Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah and Idaho, which are actually more one-sidedly Republican than many Southern states. Not to mention thinly-populated.

Notwithstanding the likelihood that several Southern states could be in play come November (while Kansas and Idaho almost certainly won't be), the insult to African-American voters could hardly have been more ill-advised. If it was Sanders' intention to turn himself into the white-bread college kids' candidate, he couldn't have done better.

It must be thrilling to be the 74-year-old Pied Piper of the campus set, because Bernie was hard at it during a recent California stadium rally. He interrupted his ritual chant about billionaires and Wall Street to favor the crowd with some old-timey Marxist cant.

"Any objective analyst of the current campaign understands that the energy and the grass-roots activism of this campaign is with us," Sanders said. "Not Hillary Clinton." You see, "objective" has always been radical-speak for "in my opinion." Back in his Socialist Workers Party days, I'm sure Bernie won a lot of arguments browbeating people that way.

My own scientific view is that twentysomethings go to rallies; older people vote. As New York magazine's Jonathan Chait put it, "energy and activism are definitely part of the election process. But the way you determine the winner is by holding elections."

Meanwhile, instead of complaining about the complexity of election rules, Sanders would have been wise to explain them to his supporters. No, you can't vote in a New York Democratic primary unless you're a registered Democrat. Too bad, but there it is, and it's been that way for a generation.

Instead, Sanders and his minions went around kvetching that ineligible voters would have put them over the top. They seized upon every election glitch nationwide to complain that they were being cheated.

For example, 132,000 mostly black voters in Brooklyn somehow got left off the rolls. Bernie supporters all, they'd have you believe, although Sanders lost the African-American vote in New York by a wide margin. Probably the errors hurt Clinton, but there's no real way to know.

Chait acidly sums up the rest of the Sanders camp's extended whine by pointing out that in Electoral College terms, Sanders is nowhere.

"Clinton has a large lead in pledged delegates, and an even larger lead in superdelegates," he wrote. "You could rely entirely on one or the other, or change the weights between them in any fashion, and Clinton would still win. Sanders simply refuses to accept the combination of the two, instead changing subjects from one to the other. Ask him about the pledged delegates, and he brings up the superdelegates. Ask about the superdelegates, and he changes to the pledged delegates. It's an infinite loop of bullshit."

First Bernie denounced superdelegates as an impediment to democracy; now he's counting upon them to begin the revolution by overturning the will of Democratic voters. Fat chance.

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