Can voting be a radical act? For Bernie Sanders supporters, the answer is yes. After decades of being told that socialism is unthinkable, single-payer healthcare impossible, and corporate domination inevitable, here is a candidate who has not only dared to shout “Enough is enough!” but who drew yuuuge crowds, raised millions of dollars from small donors, and actually started winning primaries. From New Hampshire to Minnesota, from Colorado to Michigan, the Sanders campaign stunned pollsters, defied expectations, and lifted the hopes of millions of voters.
Then came Illinois and Ohio, and suddenly his path to the Democratic Party’s nomination, always narrow, began to look whisker-thin. Illinois, where his campaign hoped to profit from dissatisfaction with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a longtime Clinton ally, instead saw urban voters splitting their tickets: They punished Cook County prosecutor Anita Alvarez for her handling of the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald (her challenger, Kim Foxx, won by a margin of two to one), while giving Clinton a comfortable eight-point victory. In Ohio, helped by an early endorsement from Senator Sherrod Brown, Clinton took every big city on her way to a convincing 14-point win.
Yet to those who say the race for the nomination is over and demand that Democrats now unite behind Hillary Clinton, we again say: Not so fast!
Not only because states like Wisconsin, Oregon, and New Jersey—not to mention New York, Pennsylvania, and California—will be crucial to Democratic hopes in the fall. Or because the primary calendar, which sent Sanders on a brutal tour through the South, now tilts in his favor. (Try telling the 17,000 people who recently turned up to hear him speak in Seattle that the campaign is over.) But because the challenge posed by Sanders and his supporters will never be met by a Democratic Party reliant on Wall Street for funding and K Street for policy.
Clinton has always been the candidate favored by the party establishment. And unlike 2008, when the powerful Chicago faction broke for Obama, a favorite son, this time the establishment remains unified in the face of the Sanders insurgency. This would be reason enough for Sanders to carry on his fight all the way to Philadelphia this summer, even if it really were mathematically impossible for him to win the nomination—a point we are still unlikely to reach before June. The strength of his challenge, and the enthusiasm of his supporters, have already pulled Clinton off dead center on police violence, trade policy, access to education, and making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes.
As long as he stays in the race and remains true to his beliefs, Sanders will keep winning the argument, even if Clinton’s willingness to borrow his best ideas—and even some of his best lines—helps her to win the voters she’ll need to defeat Donald Trump in November. Turnout remains the Democrats’ Achilles’ heel: In Ohio, where Trump came in second, he still pulled more votes than either Democrat. Clinton herself seems to get this, declining to endorse the calls for Sanders to drop out. Any other course would leave Trump in sole possession of the media for the next four months.