This year’s Super Tuesday was exceptional. With 14 states voting in a single day, the Democrats twisted the political landscape, setting a trap for themselves. After Bernie Sanders’ clean victory in Nevada and Joe Biden’s deafening triumph in South Carolina, the expectations for Super Tuesday were high. With 1,357 delegates up for grabs, the appetite among the candidates was growing, and so was our interest. This Yonder tries to explain what one can learn about this passionate political game.
My first observation is on the unexpected change that has occurred in the presidential race. This instantaneous, earthshaking reshaping of the primaries no doubt demonstrates the current political fragility of the United States. In a mere day, three moderate, politically articulate presidential candidates were burned while vote after the vote was cast for a man who, until that moment, had been performing miserably. A man who has never said anything new or inspiring on the campaign trail, who has been repeating his old mantra like a broken record. Was the decision to give Joe Biden the party establishment’s support, making him the future leader of the Democrats, a political decision?
Or was it just a consequence of the fragmented political scene and people’s disorientation and fear of the future? Could it be due to the lack of a plan that would help the nation face the challenges that are looming over the country and the planet? Why is the U.S. experiencing such a high level of volatility among voters? Is it because voters are desperate, ready to grab the first passing opportunity in the hopes that it may be their salvation? If this is the case, America is risking it big time. The political blitz we witnessed on Super Tuesday might indicate that later down the road there will be another candidate, another twist from the other side. It could mean that Donald Trump will win again.
But we are not there yet. As stated previously, the volatility is such that, politically speaking, the whole United States seems to be acting like one big swing state. In such a polarized nation, the imperative for the Democrats should be to rid the White House of Donald Trump. How come Joe Biden now seems to be the person most trusted to do the job? What does he now have that he didn’t when he was defeated in Iowa and New Hampshire? His voice? True, it’s louder and more confident now. Biden all of a sudden appears more secure, having earned strong support from the party establishment. In a speech made in Los Angeles on the night of his landslide victory, he raised his voice and enthusiasm in a manner that evoked Howard Dean, the Democratic presidential candidate whose famous scream stopped his promising race. That was 16 years ago.
Was it, therefore Biden’s macho performance that shifted the support of the Democratic Party to his side? Of course not. Before Super Tuesday, Bernie Sanders had been the most robust candidate among the Democrats. He has a clear vision; a program that goes beyond the pure power grab. Sanders is proposing some serious changes for the country, exciting the younger generations. There was a chance that if he swept big states like California, Texas and North Carolina, winning hundreds of delegates, he would have gotten so far ahead it would have been impossible for the others to catch up to him. Then, just a few days before what could have been Sander’s decisive push to victory, Jim Clyburn’s game-changing endorsement sent the vast majority of South Carolina votes towards Biden.
Clyburn is a longtime House Representative; a powerful player within the Democratic Party and the absolute leader of the African American community in South Carolina. Giving strength to the underperforming Joe Biden, the former vice president was able to come back roaring with the massive support of the African American community. In an interview, Clyburn said that when the party establishment was looking into candidates they noticed that Biden’s organization was a disaster. In many of the states where he was campaigning, Biden had nothing, not even a small office, Clyburn said. Biden was risking getting annihilated by Sanders, Bloomberg, Warren, and even perhaps by Klobuchar. The party needed to do something. Then, after his resounding victory in South Carolina on the eve of the Super Tuesday, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar dropped out of the race.
On the eve of Super Tuesday? Who does that? Didn’t they want to see their results first and then decide? Not only did they drop out, but both moderates, who before South Carolina had been better positioned to win than Biden, decided to endorse the 77-year-old Vice President. Klobuchar, who had fought well during the race, even said that her endorsement of Biden couldn’t be a better way to end her race. She made this statement on the eve of Super Tuesday, standing on the stage with Butiegig and Biden, the latter pretending to be surprised about the rapid development of events.
The rest is history. Biden won a lot of delegates and positioned himself as the frontrunner.
One could see it coming, but nobody did. The mainstream media abandoned Biden after his disappointing performances in the debates and his low delegate count. Everyone was expecting Biden to drop out of the race while Sanders was gaining momentum, gathering big, thrilling and cheering crowds. Sanders’ campaign rallies were formidable to watch and rather hard to listen to. He repeated a lot of the same lines he had used during the 2016 primary, which he lost to Hillary Clinton, supported by the party establishment. The fight between Hillary and Sanders was ruthless, and none of the competitors have gotten over it yet. It was therefore ominous to hear Hillary Clinton’s interview on Super Tuesday. When asked what she thought about Sanders’ chances of getting party’s nomination at the Democratic Convention in July, Clinton burst out into sardonic laughter. That laughter, fake as it was, said it all. It was a sign that the plan was done. After weeks of left-wing cable network MSNBC campaigning against Sanders, silence from the party establishment, surrogates stating that Sanders’ utopia would be a disaster for the country, and billionaire Michael Bloomberg offering his services and money to the Democrats, somebody obviously made a phone call. Probably more than one. The clock has been set back to 2016. We are now watching the same scenario. With one change: the smart and powerful Hillary Clinton has been replaced by Joe Biden, a good man with nice words for everyone. The Manchurian candidate of the Democratic Party.
In this context, Sanders’ repetitive words have started to make sense. He saw it coming a long time ago but only sharpened his tone on Super Tuesday:
So we’re going to beat Trump because this will become a contrast in ideas. One of us in this race led the opposition to the war in Iraq; you’re looking at him. Another candidate voted for the war in Iraq. One of us has spent his entire life fighting against cuts in Social Security and wanting to expand Social Security. Another candidate has been on the floor of the Senate calling for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans.
One of us led the opposition to disastrous trade agreements, which cost us millions of good-paying jobs. And that’s me. And another candidate voted for disastrous trade agreements. One of us stood up for consumers and said, “We will not support a disastrous bankruptcy bill.” And another candidate represented the credit-card companies and voted for that disastrous bill.
The next day, his tone was even more personal and sharp. Sanders was now explicitly appealing to the class struggle:
Joe and I have a very different voting record. Joe and I have a very different vision for the future of this country. Joe and I are running very different campaigns … Joe is running a campaign that is obviously heavily supported by the corporate establishment … What does it mean when you have a campaign which is funded very significantly by the wealthy and the powerful? Does anyone seriously believe that a president backed by the corporate world is going to bring about the changes that the working class and middle-income people desperately need?
What will happen now? The fight will continue. A while ago, watching the confusion and bickering amongst the Democratic candidates, one might have hoped that Michael Bloomberg, the only person rude and rich enough to stand up to Trump, could win the nomination. It did not happen.
In his essay on the eve of the coup of the Democratic party Chris Hedges wrote:
What will we do if the oligarchs in the Democratic Party once again steal the nomination from Sanders? Will we finally abandon a system that has always been gamed against us? Will we turn on the oligarchic state to build parallel, popular institutions to protect ourselves and to pit power against power?
Will we organize unions, third parties and militant movements that speak in the language of class warfare? Will we form community development organizations that provide local currencies, public banks, and food cooperatives? Will we carry out strikes and sustained civil disobedience to wrest power back from the oligarchs to save ourselves and our planet?
Is Hedges describing a similar revolution to the one Bernie Sanders speaks about? Neither has detailed concrete policies. There is no manifesto. At present, the revolution seems to be the right way to talk about social justice issues that have been absent from political discourse for far too long.
Rachel Bitecofer, a political analyst who tends to think outside the box, added some interesting points to the conversation, but surprisingly joined the herd when giving Sanders lessons on realpolitik:
Sanders’ candidacy ultimately hit the same demographic brick wall it hit in its 2016 iteration. The Sanders campaign always understood that in order to actually win the Democratic party’s nomination, the senator needed to dramatically improve upon his share of black voters from the 2016 cycle. Black voters are the kingmakers of the Democratic primary process – win them over and you will most likely be the party’s nominee.
The Sanders campaign had hoped that gains among black voters under age 40 would be enough to offset continued reticence among older black voters, but even when younger voters are more engaged than normal, voter turnout models are heavily lopsided, made up disproportionately of older voters.
Had Sanders’ revolution been more digestible, and not saddled with the democratic-socialist label, it may have fared better. Instead, it provoked outright panic throughout the Democratic party, and not just within the party’s so-called establishment.
Although Monday night’s coordinated winnowing and endorsement effort were clearly organized by party elites, the rejection of Sanders’ candidacy came at the hands of rank-and-file Democratic voters, who turned out en masse on Tuesday to blunt his path to the party’s nomination.
It was worse than this. Sanders’ modest defeat last week was the consequence of the absence of his loudest supporters. The Millenials and Gen Zers have missed out on voting, their absence helping realize the party establishment’s dream scenario. Let’s hope that next time the younger generations and all others needed will wake up and give support to the fighter that stands against Trump with his own ideas. The revolution can wait, but the country cannot. This is why Yonder is endorsing Bernie Sanders.