“The struggle continues,” Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders declared in a speech, which capped off his statewide campaign in California. He described the struggle broadly as one for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice.
Sanders also noted he has overwhelmingly won young people in the majority of the United States. Young people recognize they must shape the future, and they share the Sanders campaign’s vision for a government that works for lower class citizens instead of catering to the interests of corporations and the rich.
The primary contests did not go as well as Sanders supporters hoped. The campaign won decisively in North Dakota. It eked out a victory in Montana, but the campaign lost in South Dakota and New Mexico. It was blown out in New Jersey. Sanders did not win California, and there is ample evidence of massive irregularities at polling places, which should have Californians concerned.
It is very easy for those inspired by the Sanders campaign to feel demoralized and overwhelmed by cynicism. The Associated Press and NBC News inappropriately announced Hillary Clinton “clinched” the nomination on the eve of a major day of primaries. Alan Fram of the AP Washington Bureau sent an email indicating the media organization was “rounding up superdelegates,” which is language a campaign strategist might use but not a journalist. An image Clinton shared on Twitter to mark AP’s report that she “clinched” the nomination was created on Saturday and labeled “Secret Winner.”
Independents—what are known as No Party Preference (NPP) voters in California—supported Sanders by thirty to forty more points than Clinton. However, there was little information put out by the state or by the Sanders campaign to ensure NPP voters were able to navigate the process in California. Of 40 percent of vote-by-mail voters who wanted to vote for a Democrat, only 15 percent requested a Democratic ballot, according to exit polling by Political Data, Inc.
The Los Angeles Times reported many California voters encountered “broken machines, polling sites that opened late, and incomplete voter rolls, particularly in Los Angeles County.” Polling place workers handed numerous voters provisional ballots, which typically are not counted. Those voters, who knew they should not accept a provisional ballot and demand they be able to cast a vote that would be tallied, did so and sometimes prevailed. But oftentimes it took an hour or more of struggle to avoid disenfranchisement.
Once again, as in states like New York and Arizona, there were numerous claims of voter suppression in California. Add this to the media helping the Clinton campaign attain the “magic number” of superdelegates to “clinch” the nomination, and it is no wonder that most Sanders supporters are outraged.
The response of establishment pundits and politicians, especially those within the Democratic Party, is not to investigate, verify, or confirm claims of irregularities. Instead, Sanders supporters are pathologized as wild-eyed conspiracy theorists who cry, “Rigged!” every time Clinton wins a state. Pundits and politicians obnoxiously act offended when supporters indicate they will never unify with Democrats and vote Clinton.
Yet, in the face of an establishment media and Democratic political establishment furious with Sanders for refusing to quit, Sanders has won more than twenty states. He is headed to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with about 45 percent of the pledged delegates, which is incredibly impressive for a politician who describes himself as a democratic socialist. His campaign will have a lot of power to frustrate and stymie corporate politics at the Democratic elites’ four-day corporate-sponsored celebration.
A campaign that once polled in the single-digits nationally grew into a powerful force that had the potential to defeat one of the most powerful political families in the United States. It convinced people that social democratic politics—some of which are fairly radical in the U.S. political system—could win.
Widespread protest from Sanders supporters against the Democratic Party’s system of superdelegates has brought attention to how party insiders can suffocate a popular campaign. They have made it exceptionally difficult to defend this anti-democratic aspect of the Democratic presidential primary.
Washington, D.C. awards twenty pledged delegates on June 14 and is the last primary contest. He plans to fight for all the votes he can get from D.C.
The calls for Sanders to halt his campaign have been steady in the press for months, even though there were over twenty primaries left on the calendar. So, supporters should not take the calls today any more seriously than they did after previous primary days.
Establishment pundits only see the race in terms of winning and losing. The very notion that Sanders would still campaign, even if he cannot win, because it gives space to movements for social justice in the country is baffling to them. It is the kind of thing that makes pundits across the political spectrum turn red in the face while they bang out snarky tweets.
Yet, as Sanders put it, “What this movement is about is millions of people from coast to coast looking around them and knowing we can do much, much better as a nation.” And, “Whether Wall Street likes it, whether corporate America likes it, whether wealthy campaign contributors like it, whether the corporate media likes it,” the job of citizens is to “create a government that works for us, not the one percent.”
To achieve this goal, to realize a grand vision of social, economic, racial, and environmental justice, the millions who support the Sanders campaign must be willing to take on a long and arduous struggle that will be far more grueling than the obscenely long primary process. They must be courageously defiant because they have a core set of principles and values that cannot be abandoned.
The vilification Sanders supporters have experienced from the establishment will be even more intense when shaking the halls of power outside of the electoral process. Nevertheless, all citizens who are part of the political revolution should trudge onward without losing any edge whatsoever. The massive uprising must remain a force the Clinton campaign and Donald Trump’s campaign has to reckon with throughout the next five months.
If one believes in the Sanders campaign’s commitment to social, economic, racial, and environmental justice, there must be an end to two-party politics as usual. This requires the democratizing of elections. Make it possible for parties other than the Democratic and Republican Parties to debate and easier for candidates from other parties to have ballot access so they may compete. Break the cycle and forgo support for the Democratic Party, which views any grassroots effort to transform the party into a populist party as a disease it must aggressively prevent from spreading.