Thursday, June 02, 2016

A thought experiment on the Democratic nomination

I've been giving some thought to the possible outcomes of the Democratic nomination process. I think a mental exercise or thought experiment is useful in reviewing the consequences of either of the most likely outcomes. I invite you to walk with me now along two possible forks in the road. On one side, Hillary Clinton wins the nomination. On the other side, Bernie Sanders wins the nomination.

For the sake of discussion, I will exclude a few other possible alternative outcomes for one rather obvious reason: by the time of the convention, it will be too late for anyone else to meet filing deadlines in many states for running for president. By the time of the convention, Joe Biden, who doesn't seem all that interested in being president, will not be able to run for this office. Sanders will not be able to run as an independent or as a write-in. Sanders is not likely to join Green Party Candidate Jill Stein for a run for office. The paramount objective for Sanders, as far as I can tell, is to act as catalyst for a new political movement. If he wins the nomination and goes on to be president, well, that's a bonus.


Hillary Wins

So lets consider the first option: Hillary wins the nomination. The mainstream media has been her most obnoxious ally during the entire process. They called all the superdelegates and polled them to see who they would vote for at the convention. Then they added them to the delegate count even though they do not vote until the convention, and even then, only if the convention is contested. They continue to count the superdelegates even after being instructed by the DNC not to do so.

It shouldn't be a mystery to anyone as to how so many superdelegates had made up their minds so long before the first vote was cast. They were bought and paid for with campaign funds at the Democratic national convention last year. Hillary has been playing the long game on the political front and it has paid off so far. Interviews with a few superdelegates reveal that in their minds, under no circumstances would they ever vote for Sanders. Clearly, the money must mean something to them, for how else could they support a candidate with a criminal investigation brewing behind her?

If that wasn't enough, there were plenty of efforts to suppress the votes. From massive cuts in polling places in Arizona to massive voter purges in New York, to the very real possibility of election fraud, all of it was to get Clinton the coronation they think she deserved. Of course, it costs real money to get a voter purge done right. I have to wonder how any Hillary Clinton supporter can be proud to win the Democratic nomination under these conditions.

If Hillary wins the nomination, she will almost certainly see the other shoe drop on that criminal investigation into her use of a private server and email account for official business. A normal person would have been fired, arrested and thrown in jail for what she did. A normal person would have dropped out of the race by now. But Hillary is very determined to forge on. She sincerely believes that this is her turn. This is what we can expect from someone who believes that she is different from the rest of us. Perhaps she suffers from social class essentialism.

The Inspector General for the Department of State has already revealed in a scorching report that she never even asked if she could host her own personal email server for conducting official communications as Secretary of State. Even if she did ask, her request would be rejected even before being put to the laugh test. She broke the rules and is now asking for a pass. Superdelegates may still be dense enough to continue supporting her with the ruse and justification that this is a Republican witch hunt for an excuse. But all this heat is coming from an administration run by one Democratic President Obama.

Despite calls for her to concede and drop out, Hillary continues to press for the nomination despite the very real risk of indictment. Her lead over Sanders has evaporated in California, and nationally. Her lead over Trump has all but evaporated. Yet Sanders still maintains a wide lead in the polls over Trump. If anything, Hillary is the one who is willing to risk a Trump presidency rather than concede to Sanders.

Assuming she wins the nomination, Hillary will go on to battle Donald Trump. Trump is going to have a field day with Clinton in debate after debate. I doubt seriously that Hillary will consent to many debates unless Trump "tones it down". Maybe she thinks Trump is supposed to be controlled opposition. As a true opponent, I would expect that Trump will go after Hillary with a vengeance unfettered by any sense of respect for her. Every few minutes during any debate, we will hear him talk about "Crooked Hillary and her emails" and that will be that. Hillary can't really touch him because he doesn't care. He will hammer everything she says and bring her back on point.

Leading up to and during election day in November, we will very likely see a massive loss of support for Hillary. Sanders supporters will either sit this one out or vote for Jill Stein, candidate for the Green Party. Worse, they show up to vote, but with their research done and a sample ballot marked to identify anyone they can find that supported Hillary Clinton and they will vote against them.

Think about what the means. If Sanders supporters do actually show up to vote, they will vote against anyone who supported Hillary Clinton. I know I would. That would essentially kneecap her presidency if she should win.

Now what happens if she wins, but down ticket, she faces not just a Republican Congress, but an angrier, more confident Republican Congress? The only thing on their minds will be investigations leading to impeachment. There will be weekly hearings and hardly anything else will get done. Oh, there will be budget bills, but if you thought social safety net cuts were bad now, wait to you see this next Congress under Hillary. They will pass the worst imaginable budgets just to defy her.

Republicans in Congress may hate Obama, but he's got nothing on Hillary.


Sanders wins

Sanders actually has a decent shot at wining the nomination, despite the disenfranchisement of millions of his supporters and a massive contingent of superdelegates who drank the Clinton Kool-Aid long before the election got started. Given the way Sanders is packing stadiums in California, he could win California by a landslide and scoop up the remaining delegates, putting him within reach of the nomination, but can't clinch it. Neither of them can. Win or lose in California by a narrow margin, he would still have some pull at the convention.

At the convention, more than a million people descend upon the streets around the convention center. They're protesting, carrying signs, getting arrested, and doing what protesters do. It's Occupy Wall Street on steroids.

After winning California and the remaining states, Sanders can say not only that he is the better candidate, he has the popular appeal to beat Trump. While Clinton is a coin flip away from losing to Trump, Sanders has a convincing double-digit lead over Trump in the polls. Sanders can honestly say that Trump didn't have the balls to debate with him, and neither did Clinton. After all, a candidate should be willing to debate anytime, anywhere. Just ask Hillary Clinton.

Even if Sanders makes a close second in California, he'd still have a shot at the nomination. It's up to the superdelegates to get their butts behind the superior candidate. All Sanders has to do is point at all the examples of voter suppression, the voter purges and the gigantic cuts in polling places at selection locations where Sanders polls well. He can also point to the mainstream media and their breathless attempted coronation of Hillary and ask a simple question. If she's such a strong candidate, how did he beat her out of so many states with all that help? How did she go from a 50 point lead in national polls to a virtual tie? And what about that FBI investigation? Would you like to see her indicted after she is nominated or after Bernie Sanders is nominated?

Sanders can deal with Trump in a debate. He's already proven that Trump is afraid to debate him. Get them together on stage and watch Trump try to play the clown. With Sanders, he can make every joke fall flat and bring Trump back on point. Trump has a tiny little compartment in his brain called "experience in government". Where Sanders can answer questions with knowledge and confidence, Trump will try to distract or make light of the question. Where Trump could play the character card with Hillary, he's got nothing on Sanders. Hillary took Trump's money, Sanders did not. These are the kinds of arguments Sanders could make to the Superdelegates.

Lets assume Sanders wins the nomination. The DNC gets their butt in gear and puts their money behind Sanders. Sanders supporters become more forgiving of anyone who supported Clinton. They show up to vote for him and to vote blue up and down the ticket. Even if there is not much of a change in Congress, remember, many members of Congress are sitting in safe seats, Sanders can reach out in ways that Clinton cannot. Where Sanders was and still is the amendment king, Clinton is almost universally hated by Republicans and would find it difficult at best to work with them.

Instead of defending a President Clinton, Congressional Democrats could be working with a President Sanders to bring about truly progressive change in our laws and in our markets.

That is the end of my thought experiment. I hope you enjoyed the trip and that it has given you food for thought in these final days of the primaries.
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