Sunday, February 28, 2016

Bernie Bummer

Today Bernie lost the primary vote in South Carolina to Hillary Clinton by a wide margin: 26% to 73.5%. As a Sanders supporter, this isn't a big deal to me in and of itself. South Carolina Democrats voted on their issues, and Hillary has a pretty strong base there. It was a decisive victory for Hillary, for certain, and I'm certainly not going to bear a grudge against South Carolina.

Unfortunately, neither candidate really seems to have captured the imaginations of the South Carolina electorate. Only 369,526 people voted in the South Carolina Democratic primary today, which is down about 30% from 2008. I wonder if those voters were undecided or simply apathetic.

That said, going into today's election I was pretty disappointed in how it was being reported. I don't take much stock in the idea of media conspiracy, but even before today's victory for Hillary all I've been hearing from pundits is that Bernie's campaign is done. That sort of pronouncement doesn't just seem premature; I believe it actually influences the results.

First, I should show what I mean about the race not being done. So far there have been four Democratic primaries: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Iowa was basically a tie, New Hampshire was a decisive victory for Bernie, Nevada was a narrow victory for Hillary, and South Carolina was a decisive victory for Hillary.

In terms of delegates, not counting superdelegates, Bernie has 65 delegates to Clinton's 91. To be clear, there are over 4,000 delegates up for grabs in this primary, and only 156 of them have been decided. To me, this looks an awful lot like an open race.

Until recently, voters have seemed energized to go out and vote against the establishment candidates. However, it seems like the Democratic primary is being reported in a way that's designed to discourage turnout. Bernie has done well in states with high turnouts, and less so in places with low turnout. The more Hillary is pegged as the inevitable candidate, the more the base is going to feel unenergized and apathetic. After all, voters don't turn out when they feel like their vote doesn't matter, and having the vast majority of the superdelegates already siding with Hillary is doing a great job of making voters feel disenfranchised.

This isn't just a problem for Bernie. High turnout doesn't guarantee a win for him, after all; it just makes this a closer, more exciting race. However, if the Democratic electorate loses its energy now, it's going to be a lot harder to get them re-energized for the general election. Regardless of the Republican nominee, Hillary is going to have a tough time winning the general election. When the voters are apathetic, the Democrats lose. And I foresee a very apathetic electorate if things continue as they are.

Again, though, I'm not going to accuse the media of being entirely biased. (It is a little bit, but not necessarily toward any one specific candidate.) However, compared the the circus show being offered by the Republican primary, the Democrats seem pretty unexciting by comparison. The Democratic candidates are more or less amicable with each other, while the Republicans are putting on a show complete with an upstart underdog and a cartoon villain. Given the choice, the American public (and, therefore, the media) will choose to give their attention to the show every time. The alternative just seems boring.

However, as a pretty boring person myself, I think the "boring" stuff is more important than the show. I'm hoping that soon the media will stop dismissing the "boring" Democratic primaries as being over and focusing their attention back to the more exciting show on the other side. I'm not holding my breath, but I'm hoping.

Tuesday will give us a clearer picture. After Tuesday, if Bernie is still neck and neck with Clinton, I imagine things will continue as they are. If Hillary smashes Bernie on Tuesday, that will pretty much be it for the Sanders campaign. If Bernie supporters can come out in droves on Tuesday, though, and take back the lead, I think the game will be on and eyes will turn back to the Democratic primary again, which would be a good thing for Democrats as a whole.

In any case, one the primaries are over, I'll be returning to my Independent status. I hate being tied to a label like this, and Democrats as a party haven't exactly endeared themselves to me through this process.

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