Sunday, February 28, 2016

Bernie dies from a thousand cuts?

Last week it was the Republican Primary in South Carolina; last night it was the Democrats' turn. Here are the results:

What a boring exercise. There were no fireworks. Sanders didn't even show up to campaign. That didn't keep Talk Radio from trying to drum up a little excitement, though... one commentator on WORD 106.3 remarked that Clinton walked away with the popular vote because Bernie Sanders was away in Texas, talking to 10,000 White people.

There's some meat to that snark. The South Carolina Democratic Party membership is largely Black. And it doesn't look like they're feeling the Bern. Eighty-seven percent of them voted for Hillary, according to exit polls, as did 53% of Whites did. I grew up in a Black school (here), and Blacks in South Carolina are perhaps more conservative (ok, let's compromise with "centrist") than the Yankee pundits might believe. Around here we call it "home trainin'" and it centers on taking responsibility for yourself. And though the Democratic Party is largely Black, there are a good number of Blacks in the Republican Party as well, including one of only two Blacks in the US Senate, Tim Scott. We could not have a Republican governor and legislature without that. You can't tell from elected officials, and no one in the state has to register party affiliation, and party affiliation here leans Democratic at the local level and gets progressively more Republican the closer you get to the National level; so there is some fuzziness in the numbers. What isn't fuzzy is that the folks who voted yesterday didn't feel that an old Jewish Senator from Vermont would represent their interests.

The aversion to Sanders in this state is such that there were self-reports of groups of Republicans who held back to vote in the Democratic election because they'd rather see another Clinton in the race than a Socialist. (Unlike Trump, who actively courted Democrats to vote in the Republican open primary, Clinton didn't seek this "support". In this case the votes were squarely against Sanders.

When you map the results by county, Sanders won nothing. Not a single county, not a single district. That does pose the question of where he got those 12 delegates, doesn't it? It's a proportional allocation based on yadda yadda blah blah. Basically, everybody gets a trophy (or, if you prefer, the states where the candidate lost still get representation in the National Convention, should the other states go his way).


We've known for a while now that this was going to be about the Black vote. As Janell Ross noted in the Washington Post, "For the first time in what may be, well, ever, there is a genuine competition for the black vote — a critical and now very much proven portion of any winning Democrat’s coalition."

Except there wasn't. Sanders was a no-show.

Sanders' strategy is a bit puzzling. Since it is a proportional allocation, he could have gotten more delegates had he put in some more effort. But he's going for big, showy crowds, and I have to assume that he's using the "sizzle sells the steak" strategy. If you look like a winner, then people will vote for you purely because you're a winner. (According to a friend, a woman in Texas just admitted to just that kind of thinking on cable news... she only supports 'winners'.) I suppose this is a winning strategy if you're actually selling the steak. Under normal circumstances, I'd say you can't sell the sizzle alone.

But as this piece in points out. Clinton is well on track to win the Democratic nomination. While Sanders is winning some delegates, he's winning far less than the number he'll need to pull out an overall win. Proportional states matter. If it goes on like this, Sanders' campaign will die the death of a thousand small cuts. We'll have to see what happens Super Tuesday. And frankly, I'm not calling this one way or the other until somebody's tuchus is sitting in the Oval Office. This year it looks like anything can happen.

Nevertheless, I can't imagine any circumstance where Bernie Sanders does not stay in the race until the fat lady sings at the Democratic Convention. Even if Sanders loses every state from here on out, he still has an outside chance at a win should Clinton's worst-case scenario come about: that of being indicted for mishandling classified information without a pardon from Obama. So Sanders might as well just sit it out.

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