Sen. Bernie Sanders’s magic-wand campaign has grown tiresome. Despite his win in Indiana and #DropOutHillary trending on Twitter as of this writing, the democratic socialist from Vermont’s chances of becoming the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee are as slim as Karlie Kloss’s dress at Monday’s Met Gala. And yet Sanders is on the campaign trail demanding things of his adopted party that can’t be delivered and saying things about rival Hillary Clinton that Donald Trump is already using against her.
During a speech in Oregon on April 28, Sanders outlined reforms he’d like to see the Democratic Party undertake. “In those states where it’s applicable, we need same-day registration, we need open primaries,” he said. “It turns out sadly that the poorest in this country, many in the South, where people are suffering without health insurance, without jobs, without access for decent education for their kids, in many of those states they are controlled by right-wing Republicans.” And then there was this. “The Democratic Party has got to make very clear we need automatic voter registration. All over this country we have Republican governors trying to make it harder for people to vote,” he said. “Our job is to make it easier. Bring more people into the system and that means if you are 18 years of age you are registered to vote, end of discussion.”
Everything Sanders said is right and true. More people, not fewer, should be allowed to participate. There should be open primaries. There should be same-day registration. There should be automatic voter registration for 18-year-olds. But how, when and whether people vote is controlled by the states. And Republican governors sit in 31 states, with 22 of them having GOP-controlled legislatures. So, unless Sanders has a magic wand or one last wish held in escrow by a genie, none of what he wants will get done.
Even more ridiculous is Sanders’s insistence that superdelegates choose him over Clinton. As reporters at The Post, NPR and Vox have pointed out, even if superdelegates in states that Sanders won switched from her to him he’d still lose the nomination. And those folks don’t really have any incentive to do so. With Tuesday’s results from the Indiana primary factored in, Clinton now has 3.1 million more raw votes than Sanders. So the superdelegates are already backing a winning candidate.
Another problem for the wannabe nominee is his unwillingness to raise money for the Democratic Party. Sanders is fond of saying, as he did at a MSNBC town hall late last month, that “the only way we transform this country . . . is when millions of people stand up, fight back and demand that we have a government that represents all of us, not just the 1 percent.” Well, that revolution to follow through on his call to break up the banks, erase student debt and make public colleges and universities tuition-free is dead on arrival without Democrats in the House and the Senate to help turn revolutionary fervor into concrete action. And Sanders completely ignores the presence of the Republican Party, now in thrall to Donald Trump.
With his victory in Indiana and the subsequent departure of his two remaining rivals, Trump wasted no time zeroing in on Clinton. And he has been using Sanders’s own words as ammunition. “Bernie Sanders said about Hillary Clinton she’s got poor judgment,” the presumptive Republican nominee said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday. “He also said, by the way, she’s unqualified. But I won’t even go there. But Bernie Sanders said that she’s got poor judgment. And she does.”
Trump is alluding to that speech Sanders gave before the New York primary last month — a speech in which he went off on a “she’s not qualified” rant because of a headline (rather than the actual story) in The Post about Clinton’s refusal to say that Sanders was unqualified to be president. “Well, let me, let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton,” he said to a boisterous crowd in Philadelphia, “I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is through her super PAC taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds.” Sanders wisely dropped that gambit, but the rhetorical damage is done now that Trump gleefully uses the “unqualified” attack line.
Clinton and her campaign are wise not to call on Sanders to drop out. Having been in that spot before, she knows the stages of grief that must be endured to get to the point of dropping out. A true Democrat would look at the rest of the primary calendar and the electoral landscape and realize it is time to let the all-but-certain nominee focus her energy on a more dangerous, unpredictable and formidable general-election opponent. And Democrats will need more than magic wands and wishful thinking to beat Trump.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj