The Democratic Race – What We Know Now

1. Sanders is much more electable than Clinton.

Sanders supporters are so enthusiastic they donate millions of dollars every time a Clinton surrogate smears him as well as after the ultra-close Iowa caucuses and his 22 point win in New Hampshire. When Clinton needs cash, she has to glad hand investment bankers and hedge fund managers thereby forfeiting precious time on the stump and re-enforcing in voters’ minds her close ties to Wall Street rather than Main Street. Another big benefit Bernie gains from his legions of young and not-so-young volunteers, including yours truly, is he doesn’t have to pay as many staffers to knock on doors and get out the vote.

Sanders appeals to a much broader range of the population than Clinton. The exit polls from New Hampshire showed that the only demographic groups that supported Clinton were seniors and those with incomes over $200,000. More particularly, undeclared/independent voters broke for Sanders 72% to 27%. The major reason many voters gave for supporting him is they find him honest and trustworthy. Those are traits that poll extremely well across the electorate.

By contrast, Clinton’s voters cited her experience as the primary reason they were voting for her. The frontrunners in the Republican field are almost completely inexperienced. Voters have shown that they are not looking for a particularly seasoned veteran with a resumé that includes stints in various government offices. In fact, given the anger voters harbor towards establishment politicians whom they blame for their current woes, Clinton’s experience is at best a double-edged sword. Likewise, Clinton is not likely to trumpet her popularity among New Hampshire’s wealthy.

Sanders basically tied Clinton in Iowa and thumped her in New Hampshire – two purple states that Democrats will need in the general election. A recent Wisconsin poll showed a two point gap between Clinton and Sanders. Wisconsin is another critical state for Democrats. Clinton polls strongest by far in deep south states that Democrats have no chance of winning. Florida is admittedly a possible exception to this rule. Bottom line, Sanders is more likely to win the states that Democrats must win to remain in control of the Executive Branch.

Finally, nearly all the polls conducted of hypothetical matchups between the two Democrats and the various Republican frontrunners show Sanders doing relatively better than Clinton.

Sanders has more fervent support. He has significant crossover appeal. He is relatively stronger in purple states. Polls show he would do better than Clinton against possible Republican opponents. For all these reasons, he is more electable than Clinton.

2. Clinton’s firewall may not be unbreakable.

In this election cycle, the first black President’s first lady has enjoyed remarkably solid support from African-Americans. Unless Sanders can shake this pillar, he will not be able to win the vote this July in Philadelphia. There is some reason to hope Sanders can make inroads into this demographic. After all Clinton’s original firewall was woman and they broke for Sanders 55-44 in New Hampshire. But it won’t be easy.

A number of influential and respected African-Americans have endorsed Sanders or indicated they will vote for him including Congressman Keith Ellison, several Black Lives Matter activists, Dr. Cornel West, and former NAACP President Ben Jealous. In the aftermath of Sanders historic New Hampshire victory, noted author Ta-Nehisi Coates announced he will vote for Sanders despite misgivings about his position against reparations. Activist rapper Killer Mike from Atlanta and Ohio State Senator Nina Turner have been indefatigable in their efforts to introduce Bernie to their communities as by far the best Presidential candidate.

Radical scholar Michelle Alexander is less supportive. In an article in the Nation, she blames the Clintons for “decimat[ing]” black communities. But Alexander does not exempt Sanders from responsibility for her people’s plight. Calling him the “lesser evil”, she does not say whether she’ll vote for him or anybody else.

According to ABC News, the very small non-white community in New Hampshire broke evenly between the two Democrats. This represents a significant improvement for Sanders over the 58 to 34 split in Iowa favoring Clinton. Sanders does not need to win the African-American and Latino vote to defeat Clinton. Thus, the push in New Hampshire may be a good sign for him . . . or not. Non-white voters include Asians and the entrance poll does not break racial categories down beyond white and non-white.

Post-New Hampshire, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) officially came out in support of Clinton, although not every member has endorsed her. Concurrently White House Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that while President Obama will not endorse either Democrat, he privately hopes Clinton wins. So much for staying neutral.

Sanders won big in New Hampshire despite the near-universal disapprobation of the Democratic establishment there and in his home state. It remains to be seen whether African-American voters will likewise reject the call of black Congressmen and women to circle the wagons around Hillary.

3. To Win Clinton May Need to Tear her Party Asunder.

Clinton started out running a relatively clean campaign. Unfortunately, during the last few days before the New Hampshire primary the fangs came out. Surrogates Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright tried to shame younger Democratic women into voting for Hillary. President Bill Clinton harshly criticized Sanders saying his unrealistic policy prescriptions show he lives in a “hermetically sealed box”.

Clinton’s designated “hit man” David Brock ominously warned Monday that Sanders “is trying to live in the purity bubble, and it needs to be burst.” The Clintons may succeed in turning potential Bernie voters off. It’s even possible that early Clinton attacks tamped down turnout slightly in both Democratic primaries.

If the former President and First Lady successfully pursue a scorched earth policy, the cost to the Democratic party will be tremendous. The Clintons played both the race and gender cards in 2008 amping up the tension between the candidates and their supporters. The resulting fissures were only smoothed over in the weeks after Barack Obama won the nomination. It is unclear whether Obama’s supporters would have fallen in line if Hillary had prevailed given the freshness of the wounds her campaign inflicted. Likewise young voters in this election cycle may not forgive the Democratic establishment for taking down their champion who has made clean campaigning a centerpiece of his bid for the White House.


Sanders is the better option for Democrats if they want to retain control of the White House. Clinton’s support within the African-American community is very significant but may not be insurmountable. If Sanders continues to compete successfully, the Clintons will have to decide whether winning the nomination is more important to them than maintaining the Democratic Party’s integrity and a fair degree of unity among its various demographic groups.

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12 Responses to The Democratic Race – What We Know Now

  1. You outline a strong case for Bernie, Hal. He will have a rough road ahead, but he’s doing everything right so far. My fear is that the Democratic establishment won’t let him win. Already Bloomberg is making noises about running, and tonight I heard Jim Webb might jump in as an independent. I also worry that if Hillary falters, Joe Biden would step in. Well, you get the idea. There are interesting days ahead!

  2. halginsberg says:

    Thanks Arlen. I am much more afraid of Clinton than Bloomberg at this point. I think Sanders, net worth $500K, would destroy Bloomberg, net worth $2o million, and Trump, net worth ???. In such a matchup, Bernie’s sincerity, class warfare campaign, and less than stellar record on guns (from our perspective) would be huge assets.

    • Shade says:

      Here is something that might help Bernie at least win the party nomination. Sign this petition to join Robert Reich and Democracy for America in calling for all Democratic Party superdelegates to pledge their support to the winner of the popular vote for the Democratic nomination.

      Here is another similar petition I previously posted to TalkBack from MoveOn:

      Sign them all! Here’s another petition towards the same cause:
      For Hal- Bernie’s “class warfare campaign”? That is a disparaging mantra from the right. Dems usually call this something more like our fight against an unfairly stacked economic system and the resultant inequitable distribution of wealth.

      • Shade says:

        Hal Ginsberg posted in Bernie for President!
        12 February at 10:18
        In partial answer to concerns some have raised about the superdelegates.

        Thom Hartman has been saying pretty much the same thing, but in less detail. That said, a little public pressure on the superdelagates in the form of these petitions isn’t going to hurt one bit.

        • Shade says:

          Alan Grayson 02/13/16
          The Democratic Establishment: corrupt, mendacious sellouts.

          There, I said it.

          You’ve seen what I’ve seen. Take the Presidential campaign. The Democratic Party schedules Presidential debates during NFL playoff games, to try to ensure that no one takes any interest whatsoever in our Presidential campaign or our issues, so that name-recognition will carry the day. The Democratic Party cuts off one Presidential candidate’s access to the most important tool of campaigning, the voter file, not long before the first primary. The Democratic Party quietly repeals the prohibition against accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists.

          God forbid that our voters might choose someone that our party elites might not want – someone who is not as corrupt and feckless as they are.

          Why don’t we just call it what it has become: the UnDemocratic Party.

          And the funniest/saddest thing is that the Party Politburo does it with one excuse and one excuse only: that they are choosing “the strongest candidate for November.”

          Excuse me?

          These are the losers who have taken us from +20 to -8 in the Senate, in just six years.

          These are the losers who have taken us from +83 to -59 in the House, in just six years. Including the biggest wipeout for the Democratic Party in more than 100 years.

          Six years ago, the Democrats controlled 16 state governments (House/Senate/Governor), and the Republicans controlled eight. The party bigwigs – these are the losers who now have left us with control of only seven state governments, while the Republicans control 27. They have taken us from +8 to -20, in just six years.

    • Shade says:

      Bernie’s “class warfare campaign”? That is a disparaging term from the right. Dems usually call this something more like our fight against an unfairly stacked economic system and the resultant inequitable distribution of wealth.

      Hillary is going to be hard to beat with her new campaign slogan: “No We Can’t! No We Can’t! No We Can’t!” LOL

      • hal says:

        I may want to lose “class warfare campaign” even though it’s about as accurate as any description.

        • Shade says:

          Agreed it is actually a correct term, but in common use it has been twisted to imply that the initial attack came from our side, when in fact it was initiated from the greedy upon the working class.

      • Shade says:

        Hillary is going to be hard to beat with her new inspirational campaign slogan against Bernie: “No We Can’t! No We Can’t! No We Can’t!” LOL

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