San­ders won’t be the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee, but the party will feel the Bern for years

San­ders won’t be the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee, but his sup­port­ers will shape the party “The groups that dom­i­nate…now are dif­fer­ent than the ones that dom­i­nated 20 years ago”

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENTS - −Joshua Green

Hil­lary Clin­ton’s March 15 sweep of Florida, Illinois, Mis­souri, North Carolina, and Ohio ef­fec­tively slammed the door on the story that would have dom­i­nated this pres­i­den­tial pri­mary sea­son were it not for one Don­ald J. Trump: the rise of Ver­mont Sen­a­tor Bernie San­ders to lead a move­ment that threat­ened Clin­ton’s path to the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion. A self-styled “demo­cratic so­cial­ist” and scourge of Wall Street, San­ders has gone much fur­ther than any­one an­tic­i­pated. His abil­ity to in­spire the party’s lib­eral grass roots—which has de­liv­ered more than $100 mil­lion in fi­nan­cial sup­port along with its loy­alty—means that he could con­ceiv­ably stay in the race all the way un­til the Demo­cratic con­ven­tion in July. But he won’t be the nom­i­nee. Clin­ton’s del­e­gate haul now all but as­sures that.

Ever since San­ders be­gan draw­ing mas­sive crowds last sum­mer, pun­dits have ex­plained his strength as be­ing pri­mar­ily a prod­uct of Clin­ton’s weak­nesses: her trou­ble at­tract­ing young peo­ple, her murky ties to wealthy donors and Wall Street, her in­abil­ity to en­er­gize Demo­cratic vot­ers de­spite what is, af­ter all, an his­toric can­di­dacy. At the Democrats’ March 9 de­bate, Clin­ton her­self seemed to ac­cept this cri­tique when she said plain­tively, “I am not a nat­u­ral politi­cian, in case you haven’t no­ticed.”

Maybe not. But the true ba­sis of San­ders’s strength has been largely over­looked: He gives voice to a set

of pol­icy ideas that lie closer to the hearts of most Demo­cratic vot­ers— and es­pe­cially the Demo­cratic vot­ers of the fu­ture—than Clin­ton’s do. That’s why the “rev­o­lu­tion” he’s re­peat­edly called for won’t be quelled for long, even though Clin­ton will be the one ac­cept­ing the party’s nom­i­na­tion in Philadel­phia. This is as much a de­mo­graphic cer­tainty as a political one. In their 2002 book, The Emerg­ing

Demo­cratic Ma­jor­ity, John Judis and Ruy Teix­eira pre­dicted that Democrats would en­joy an ad­van­tage in na­tional elec­tions be­cause the ma­jor de­mo­graphic groups that make up their coali­tion (young peo­ple, mi­nori­ties, and sin­gle white women) were all grow­ing as a per­cent­age of the elec­torate, while the groups that Repub­li­cans rely on (mar­ried white peo­ple and se­niors) weren’t keep­ing pace. This proved pre­scient. In 2008 and then 2012, Barack Obama suc­cess­fully ac­ti­vated what the jour­nal­ist Ron Brown­stein dubbed the “coali­tion of the as­cen­dant” to win the White House.

Yet the rise of this new coali­tion has also had un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated pol­icy im­pli­ca­tions. “The groups that dom­i­nate the party now are dif­fer­ent than the ones that dom­i­nated 20 years ago—they’re fur­ther left,” says Teix­eira. In­deed, mil­len­ni­als, mi­nori­ties, and sin­gle white women all fa­vor a more ac­tivist and in­ter­ven­tion­ist govern­ment, par­tic­u­larly in the eco­nomic realm, than do other Democrats. Con­sider:

• A 2011 All­state/Na­tional Jour­nal Heart­land Mon­i­tor study found that black, Latino, and Asian vot­ers were twice as likely as white vot­ers to say that govern­ment should play “an ac­tive role in reg­u­lat­ing the mar­ket­place.”

• A 2015 an­nual sur­vey of col­lege fresh­men con­ducted by the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Los An­ge­les found that more stu­dents iden­ti­fied as “lib­eral” than at any time since 1973.

• A De­cem­ber Democ­racy Corps poll found that un­mar­ried white women fa­vor Clin­ton over Trump by 27 points, while their mar­ried coun­ter­parts pre­fer Trump by 12 points.

Th­ese groups not only fa­vor more lib­eral poli­cies, they’re grow­ing im­pa­tient for them. “They’re fed up with the lack of progress,” says Teix­eira. In hind­sight, it shouldn’t be quite so sur­pris­ing that San­ders won more than 80 per­cent of vot­ers un­der 30 in Iowa, New Hamp­shire, and Ne­vada, or that young sin­gle women have flocked to him rather than Clin­ton. “There’s grow­ing ev­i­dence that th­ese groups are open to the bold­est pos­si­ble re­forms,” says Demo­cratic poll­ster Stan­ley Green­berg. “But they won’t en­gage un­less they think you’re lead­ing from the out­side and will­ing to break down this sys­tem in which mon­eyed in­ter­ests dom­i­nate govern­ment.” San­ders fit the bill.

To her credit, Clin­ton rec­og­nized this shift in the Demo­cratic coali­tion and moved to ac­com­mo­date it. She has em­braced same-sex mar­riage, crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form, and tighter Wall Street reg­u­la­tions, while spurn­ing calls to cut en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams— a main­stream Demo­cratic po­si­tion as re­cently as a few years ago. “[You] de­serve a pres­i­dent who will pro­tect, and then ex­pand, So­cial Se­cu­rity for those who need it most, not cut or pri­va­tize it,” Clin­ton de­clared in her March 15 vic­tory speech. Most strik­ing, she’s turned against the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, a trade deal she helped ne­go­ti­ate as sec­re­tary of state.

All this looks as if it will be enough to se­cure her the nom­i­na­tion. It may not be enough to sat­isfy Demo­cratic vot­ers un­der a fu­ture Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion. “Mi­nor­ity vot­ers, un­mar­ried sin­gle women—th­ese vot­ers are very open to big poli­cies,” says Green­berg, who lays out his own pre­dic­tions in a new book,

Amer­ica As­cen­dant. “Whether it’s in­vest­ment taxes, chang­ing cor­po­rate gov­er­nance, or pro­gres­sive in­come tax­a­tion, they are sup­port­ive of the broad­est pos­si­ble changes.”

The ris­ing Demo­cratic coali­tion will con­tinue to grow. Green­berg es­ti­mates that 73 per­cent of likely Demo­cratic vot­ers al­ready be­long to this group. Take mil­len­ni­als, San­ders’s most ar­dent sup­port­ers. Eight years ago, when Obama first ran, many weren’t el­i­gi­ble to vote. This year they’re as large a share of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion as baby boomers. By 2020, when a Pres­i­dent Clin­ton would come up for re­elec­tion, mil­len­ni­als will eas­ily out­num­ber them.

The im­por­tant thing to un­der­stand is that San­ders is a ve­hi­cle, not the cat­a­lyst, for the in­creas­ing lib­er­al­ism of the Demo­cratic elec­torate. No one should make the mis­take of as­sum­ing that just be­cause he’ll go away, the agenda he speaks for will, too. “San­ders isn’t just a flash in the pan,” say Teix­eira. “His suc­cess in­di­cates some­thing much deeper. For bet­ter or for worse, the Demo­cratic Party is a party in flux and mov­ing in a more pro­gres­sive di­rec­tion. And if you’re go­ing to lead the party, you ig­nore those el­e­ments of dis­con­tent at your peril.”

The bot­tom line Hil­lary Clin­ton will win the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion, but the party’s fu­ture lies with Bernie San­ders’s sup­port­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.