Bernie Sanders’ Presidential bid received two significant boosts today. First, the 700,000 member Communications Workers of America (CWA) endorsed Sanders. Then, Howard Dean’s Democracy for America (DFA) bucked its founder’s call for members to support Clinton and instead overwhelmingly opted to back Dean’s fellow Vermonter. Here are five takeaways:
1) When the rank and file decides, unions choose Sanders. CWA’s decision “followed a 3-month democratic process, including hundreds of worksite meetings and an online vote by tens of thousands of CWA members on which candidate to endorse.” In August, the National Nurses United endorsed Sanders in part because of “overwhelming support for [him] in an internal poll.”
By contrast, the Executive Board of the National Education Association backed Clinton without asking its members whom they prefer and in defiance of some state affiliates. Likewise the Executive Council of the American Federation of Teachers, led by a long-time Clinton ally, announced support for Clinton without even polling its members. Similarly, in July, the Board of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers endorsed Clinton after an election in which only 1,700 of over 600,000 machinists participated.
2) Clinton has made no headway with activist Democratic progressives. To win DFA’s endorsement Sanders needed to garner 2/3 of the 272,000 votes cast. He actually received 88%. The frontrunner followed with a mere 10% and Martin O’Malley got 1%. Clinton supporters are already claiming that Bernie’s techbros gamed the system in his favor since anybody could participate. The problem for them is that, as DFA President Charles Chamberlain noted in his announcement of the endorsement, “77.8% of voters who were already members of DFA prior to the poll being launched on December 7” voted for Sanders.
Even Dean’s endorsement, which was included in an email to DFA members when voting began and was accompanied by Clinton’s plea for support, had virtually no impact.
3) Clinton (still) doesn’t get technology. Many blamed a) her failure to maintain government-related emails on federal servers on a penchant for secrecy and b) her refusal to admit error on arrogance. Another possibility is that she is a complete technophobe who never really understood what a server is or the different ways and places that emails can be stored. In light of her extraordinarily poor showing in the DFA poll, the latter explanation gains credence. With support from millions of people around the nation, an “unparalleled network of experienced advisors,” and sharp-elbowed political operatives on her payroll, it beggars belief that she could not have cajoled a few hundred thousand people to spare the minute or so it took to vote.
4) There’s a world of difference between the two leading Democratic candidates. Despite one pundit’s claim that Clinton is more progressive, a supporter’s insistence that “she is more than his equal,” and Clinton’s coded implications that Sanders is sexist and racist, Democratic activists are having none of it. While liberals generally like the idea of electing the first woman President after the first African-American one, progressive activists prefer Sanders by a margin of nearly 9 to 1. This reflects both a) the vast gulf in policy, votes, and rhetoric between the two on issues that matter most to liberals – rampant militarism and corporatism, economic injustice, and incipient ecological collapse and b) an inherent mistrust of Clinton based on her dishonesty, her close ties to Wall Street not labor, and her history of embracing progressive causes tardily and unenthusiastically.
5) Sanders would be the strongest Democratic candidate in the general election. In recent polls matching Clinton and Sanders against various Republican challengers, the Vermonter tends to do slightly better. When one factors in the remarkable advantage he has in terms of motivated excited supporters, Clinton’s technology difficulties, and her unmatched ability to antagonize Americans across the political spectrum there is no question but that he’d be the tougher out for the Republican nominee.