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A Message to Superdelegates

The Road to Resilience

Picture this scenario.  The presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party is lagging in the polls before the nominating convention.  Another candidate that might attract more votes lags behind in elected delegates but can take the nomination if the superdelegates vote for him.  The superdelegates stick with the presumptive nominee, who goes on to lose in the general election to a charismatic, conservative blowhard that hails from the entertainment industry.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter was running for a second term and was, of course, the presumptive nominee.  Although Reagan did not have much in the way of specifics in his plan to govern, he made a lot of headway blaming Carter for the economic downturn and taking advantage of the unpopularity of Carter’s energy austerity plan.  It didn’t help that Carter’s attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran was botched.  Many, including me, voted for an independent, John Anderson, instead of Carter.  I remember that I thought of John Anderson as being a man of real integrity.  At the time, Reagan was looked upon with almost as much trepidation as we now look upon Trump.  I can’t remember what made me decide to not vote for Carter.  I liked his down-home counterculture in the White House and his early crusade to shrink our energy footprint.  Unfortunately, the idea of turning down the thermostat and driving less was not so popular with most of the country.  Perhaps wielding power brought out a meaner side of Carter that I was reacting to.  It seems almost blasphemous to say that of a man that has become one of the  most honored and respected men in the world.

Ted Kennedy was the other Democratic candidate.  He entered the race late but had some big wins on the primary circuit.  He had his own problems, but the possibility remains that he may have won the election if he had been nominated.  Think about that for a minute.  What kind of world would we live in today if Reagan had never become president?  The tax breaks for the rich; the war on entitlements for the poor, unions, and living wages in general; and deregulation of the financial markets–all of the things that have led to the grievous income inequality we have today began or intensified with the beginning of Reagan’s tenure in office.  Let’s not forget that Carter was aware that our energy resources were limited and we needed to cut back and become more efficient.  Just imagine how much farther along we might be if we had begun a culture of energy efficiency back then.  Instead we were lulled back to sleep by Reagan’s “Morning in America,” and few of us noticed when he took Carter’s solar hot water panels off the White House.

Hillary Clinton is not the incumbent but has always been the presumptive nominee.  One would be hard put to find much resemblance between Carter and Clinton and the nature of their respective popularity problems.  Still, any lack of popularity amounts to the same failure to get the votes needed.  In both elections, there were and are third party candidates to draw votes away from the major party candidates.  John Anderson drew about 7% of the vote to Carter’s 35% and Reagan’s 43%.  This year, we have two minor candidates, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein, who are expected to draw off about 15% of the vote.  Since this year’s divide has not been just liberal-conservative but also establishment-nonestablishment, voters that prefer Bernie Sanders will not all automatically go to Clinton.  Many independent and conservative voters were attracted to Sanders because of his obvious aura of integrity and his position outside of the establishment.  Likewise, if Sanders is the Democratic nominee, he will attract not only Democrats but also a substantial number of independents and conservative populists.  The latest polls show Clinton losing to Trump in Florida and Pennsylvania and tying him in Ohio.  No president has ever won without taking two of these three states.  There is sure to be a high level of indecision amongst voters this year, so we can’t rely on the accuracy of polls taken now, but we also can’t say that Clinton’s polls will necessarily trend upward.

Superdelegates, please take note.  We disenchanted Sanders backers may be convinced or scared into voting for Clinton, and she could still lose to Trump.  If Clinton does not take a strong and definite stand against the TPP trade agreement, Trump will mercilessly hammer her for it.  The refusal of Clinton backers on the platform committee to include a clear anti- TPP statement is telling and ominous.  

Superdelegates–you have the option of voting for Bernie Sanders who, 1) has the highest favorability rating of all candidates, 2) attracts Democrats, Independents, and anti-establishment conservatives, and 3) can carry the Democratic Party into the future transformed and intact, and, perhaps, the only major party left standing.  There is a chance the Party might escape battered but intact if you go with Hillary, but are you really willing to take that chance?  The past never determines the future, but we would be fools not to take it into account.  Your call.