Hillary Clinton needs to win 613 of the remaining 775 pledged delegates to clinch the Democratic Party nomination for president.
With Clinton neck-and-neck with Senator Bernie Sanders in the opinion polls for Tuesday’s California primary, where 475 pledged delegates are at stake, it’s very unlikely she’ll have the required 2,383 pledged delegates going into the Philadelphia convention next month.
That means Clinton will need the votes of super-delegates, those unelected, pre-selected, party insiders chosen specifically to prevent a grass-roots insurgent candidate like Sanders.
Clinton leads Sanders by a large margin among super-delegates who indicate how they intend to vote. But unlike pledged delegates, bound by the voters’ will, the super-delegates can change their minds right up to the convention night when they must cast their ballot.
But that is not what the Associated Press misleadingly reported on Tuesday. It has prematurely declared Clinton the Democratic nominee, even though she’s short of the required pledged delegates. AP and other corporate media are making a huge assumption that the super-delegates will stick with her until Philadelphia.
Sanders has several strong arguments to get them to change their minds. First, he does much better against Republican nominee Donald Trump than Clinton does in every poll. Second, Clinton could still be indicted by the Justice Department before the convention for her mishandling of classified information on her private email server.
Third, around this point in the 2008 Democratic race, Clinton also trailed Barack Obama by a large number of pledged delegates, yet she refused to leave the race. She even floated the possibility that Obama could be assassinated, invoking the June 1968 slaying of Robert F. Kennedy on the night he’d won the California primary. There’s probably more chance of Clinton’s indictment than there was of Obama’s assassination.
Fourth, Sanders has very little baggage. There are virtually no scandals in his past. There is little that Trump’s opposition research can dig up on him compared to the library full of dirt they will get on Clinton. Sixth, in a year of anti-Establishment fervor on both left and right it seems very risky for the Democrats to put up a quintessential Establishment figure like Clinton to face the populist Trump.
Given these facts, Sanders would be foolish not to lobby the super-delegates until that night in Philadelphia. And that’s why he’s staying in the race. Not because he’s bitter. Not because he wants to damage Clinton.
But because he thinks he can still win.
You wouldn’t know it from corporate media. It smears Sanders with both news and opinion pieces that portray him as an angry, old egomaniac who stubbornly stays in the race only to hurt Clinton out of vindictiveness, and thus helpTrump. And it tries to portray all his supporters as angry and violent, ready to strike respectable people at anytime.
Even if he suffers a blowout in California, Sanders has several strong arguments with the super-delegates that Democrats would have a much better chance with him in November. But his biggest obstacle may be something even more important to the Democratic establishment than winning the White House: protecting their class privilege.
Sanders has stirred up masses of people who pose a threat to those privileges. His proposed policy changes could cut into their entrenched interest. Trump’s rhetoric on the right has made similar appeals to suffering workers and formerly middle class Americans. But Trump is a demagogue exploiting that sentiment, while Sanders may genuinely try to make reforms that could challenge those on top.
Sanders is a greater threat to elite Democrats’ class privilege than the billionaire Trump is. Trump is a better bet not to mess with the status quo and may even push for more government concessions to the rich.
Therefore it is unlikely, short of a Clinton indictment, that the super-delegates will listen to Sanders. And if she is indicted, there’s talk in Washington of inserting Vice President Joe Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry as the last minute nominee.
But that risks a self-fulfilling prophecy by Establishment Democrats of the reaction they fear most in Philadelphia.