Bernie Sanders’ Path to the Democratic Presidential Nomination
A Little Birdie Told Me Bernie Can Win
With another set of wins in the western states of Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, Senator Bernie Sanders has chipped away at Secretary Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. However, the math in the remaining states makes Sanders’ path to the nomination daunting, indeed.
Political handicappers point out that at the beginning of the day, Clinton had a lead of +312 pledged delegates. Some media outlets, like CNN, misleadingly continue to add Clinton’s superdelegates – party insiders who don’t vote until the convention – and include analysis like the following:
But Sanders still faces daunting mathematical odds as he tries to catch up with Clinton’s delegate count, particularly because delegates are allocated proportionally. The former secretary of state has already amassed 1,711 of the 2,383 delegates she would need to clinch the nomination, according to CNN estimates, while Sanders has notched 952 delegates to date. That means he would need to win 75% of the remaining pledged delegates to defeat her.
Such number crunching is meant to discourage Sanders’ supporters in an attempt to get him to end his campaign so Clinton can focus on the general election. But in reality, since superdelegates don’t count until the convention, Sanders needs to capture 58 percent of the remaining pledged delegates – not 75 percent – to overtake her by the convention. If that happens, superdelegates would be risking the wrath of Democratic voters upset that their votes had been rendered moot if they didn’t support the winning candidate.
It would require a sort of political miracle rarely seen in American politics for Sanders to pull it off. He pretty much has to run the table of remaining states and notch some huge victories in places where Clinton is easily expected to win.
But here is an admittedly fantastic projection of how Bernie could do it. And before you ask me what I’m smoking, I can’t tell you, because marijuana for sale to healthy people in Arizona isn’t labeled. We start with the assumption that Sanders wins Hawaii later tonight and Clinton’s delegate lead stands at +274.
Early April – Hillary Alienates the Cheeseheads
Sanders spends early April campaigning for Wisconsin’s 86 delegates by hammering Clinton on her support of disastrous trade policies. Clinton campaigns in Green Bay, trying to appear likeable by sharing some beers and brats with hometown Green Bay Packers fans. But she commits a huge gaffe by referring to former Packers quarterback “Brent Favrey”. The clip gets paired with the infamous clip of John Kerry referring to “Lambert Field” in the 2004 campaign and goes viral, reminding ‘Sconnies that Hillary will say anything to get elected.
At one campaign event in a rural area of Wisconsin, local news crews get a shot of a wild badger peeking his head up in the background while Bernie Sanders delivers his speech. That video invites comparisons to the “Birdie Sanders” clip from Portland, Oregon and gives Sanders more free positive airtime. Voters reward Sanders with a 63 percent win on April 5th.
Four days later in Wyoming, voters there follow the lead of voters in demographically-similar Idaho and Utah and give Sanders an 80 percent win. Heading into the crucial April 19th New York primary, Clinton’s delegate lead is down to +244.
Wall Street Crash Leads to New York Stunner
As the former senator from New York, Clinton goes into the contest with a huge lead in the polls. But the idea of Sanders’ momentum keeps growing, with wins in seven of the last eight states. Also, questions about illegal electioneering by Bill Clinton in Massachusetts and voter suppression in Arizona begin to surface in the mainstream media.
While both candidates are campaigning heavily in New York, there is a tremendous week-long 700-point plunge on the stock market. Donald Trump hits Clinton relentlessly from the right and Sanders continues to tie Clinton to Wall Street on the left. The barrage weakens Clinton’s support enough to allow Sanders to squeak by her with 50.1 percent of the vote, stealing one more delegate from her and dropping her lead to +243.
Sanders Outperforms Expectations on Mid-Atlantic Tuesday
Wall Street is still struggling to recover the next week as the campaigns turn to the five states that have elections on April 26. Clinton’s inevitability took a tremendous hit by not winning her “home” state of New York and the mantra that Sanders has won every state that’s voted in the past thirty days.
Tragically, there is another terrible case of a police officer shooting an unarmed black man on video, this time in Hartford, Connecticut. Both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns address the tragedy and both are confronted with aggressive Black Lives Matter protesters. Sanders is heckled at another one of his huge rallies and he takes the time to gather some of the protesters on stage to have their say. Video is played on the news showing BLM protestors embracing Sanders and raising his arm in solidarity.
A day later at Hillary’s far smaller and strictly managed event, there is a similar attempt by Black Lives Matter to take the podium like they had at Sanders’ rally. But Clinton comes off dismissive to the protesters. Video of white Secret Service agents physically removing the protesters at Clinton’s is split-screen with the BLM embrace of Sanders video and video of security physically removing protesters from Trump’s rally.
The resulting hit to her popularity with African-Americans, especially in the younger generation, combined with upper class white panic over the Wall Street plunge allows Sanders to complete a close sweep of all five states – Connecticut at 52 percent, Delaware at 54 percent, Maryland at 54 percent, Pennsylvania at 53 percent, and Rhode Island at 54 percent. Clinton’s delegate count is down to +219 and has dropped 126 points – over a third – since her last win in Arizona.
May Day! May Day!
Stories begin to circulate about upcoming indictments in the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s personal email server – not for Clinton, but for close aides. That distinction is lost on the general public and Clinton’s already bad trustworthiness and likeability numbers continue to drop.
Donald Trump has not secured enough delegates for the Republican nomination, leading to more speculation of the GOP establishment drafting Speaker Paul Ryan to deny Trump the nomination at a brokered convention. Polls show Clinton losing badly to Ryan and only beating Trump within the polls’ margin of error.
Sanders continues to trounce Trump in the polls and the first round of polls show him beating Ryan by seven points. Word leaks that Clinton is struggling in her fundraising and that key superdelegates in landslide states for Sanders begin announcing they’re switching their votes to Sanders. The feeling that it’s all coming apart for Clinton becomes palpable, punctuated by a cell phone video someone captures backstage at a Clinton event where Hillary and Bill are screaming angrily at each other.
In this environment and with the economic effects of the 700-point stock market drop beginning to be felt, Sanders notches an unexpectedly large win in Indiana, with 60 percent of the vote. Guam votes similar to other overseas Democrats and gives Sanders a 66 percent win.
The “Big Coal Speech”
Media begins framing Sanders as a Rocky-like fighter who just will not go down as Clinton’s pledged delegate lead drops below +200 to +199 on the Guam results. With increased attention nationally to Sanders continuing to pack arenas and building a populist wave, Sanders delivers what historians will call his “Big Coal Speech” in Morgantown, West Virginia.
“For too many years,” Sanders tells the crowd of thousands at the University of West Virginia, “the titans of Big Coal have lined their pockets with profits purchased at the health and lives of the good working people of coal mining country, working people who work one of the most hazardous jobs on the planet.
“Now even those jobs are disappearing as Big Coal now simply slices off the tops of mountains to get at this dirtiest of energy sources. Well, some people may disagree, but I say it is time to end the era of Big Coal. The federal government should invest in helping the working people of West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and other coal producing regions become the world leaders in alternative energy production, through massive job retraining programs and tax incentives for alternative energy companies who create jobs right here in West Virginia!
My opponent likes to say that I’m promising ‘free stuff’. I say it takes some gall to say investing in the American people is some sort of giveaway. For how long have we given ‘free stuff’ to ExxonMobil and Chevron in the form of huge subsidies? For how long have we given ‘free stuff’ to Walmart in the form of food stamps for their employees – where the richest family in America, the Walmart heirs, don’t pay their employees enough to feed their families? For how long have we given ‘free stuff’ to the richest one-tenth of one-percent in the form of loopholes and tax havens and benefits they accrue from shipping our jobs overseas?
For too long, I say, and if somebody like Donald Trump wants to say investing in West Virginia to become an economic powerhouse, producing alternative energy products, cleaning rather than polluting our environment, if he wants to say that is some sort of handout, he should come here and say that to the faces of the working people of West Virginia!”
The West Virginia people eat it up and reward Sanders with a 55 percent win. Meanwhile, more speculation swirls around Speaker Ryan being drafted by the establishment Republicans as Ted Cruz is still hanging around, picking off more conservative states and preventing Trump from gaining the majority he needs to guarantee his nomination.
Another Pacific Northwest Shellacking
As we hit the middle of May, Hillary Clinton hasn’t won a contest since the beginning of spring. Arizona seems a long time ago as Sanders keeps winning and drawing huge crowds. Trump has been barraging Clinton in the media, resurrecting scandal after scandal that are ultimately old news, but Trump’s celebrity reality style makes them all new again for the media. Trump’s attacks on Bernie mostly consists of implying he’s weak, too old, a “communist”, and he once wrote some “disgusting” stories.
Oregon and Kentucky vote on May 17. The “Put a Bird on It” moment in Portland back in March has metastasized into a phenomenon all throughout Oregon. The cute little finch comes to represent a symbolic “third party” – neither donkey nor elephant – that rejects the establishment political offerings. The finch t-shirts are ubiquitous among trendy Oregonians and rural residents, many of whom are Republicans who cannot stomach Donald Trump.
Clinton bravely campaigns in Portland, trying to salvage as many of the delegates as possible, worried she may not even make the threshold to be awarded any delegates proportionally in Oregon. But her string of terrible bird-related luck continues. At a speech outdoors in Portland she gets an airborne delivery of bird shit on the right shoulder of her blue pantsuit, just as she’s delivering a line about how she will fight for the values of personal privacy and government accountability that all Oregonians believe in. The hashtag #BirdsForBernie becomes a trending topic and the loop of what gets called “The Second Blue Clinton Dress Stain” takes America by storm.
Oregon votes 4-to-1 in Sanders’ favor and Kentucky follows West Virginia in giving Sanders a 55 percent victory. Clinton’s delegate lead is now down to +156, less than half of what it was when she last won a primary or caucus – eighteen states ago. And if fighting off Trump, Cruz, and Sanders weren’t enough, Ryan has started dipping his toes in the political waters, lobbing a few thinly veiled attacks at Clinton.
California Dreamin’ on Final Super Tuesday
Sanders gets another couple of appetizers in early June. The US Virgin Islands votes on the 4th and gives him a 66 percent win and a 5 to 2 delegate split. The real surprise comes in Puerto Rico, where most people had expected Clinton to finally put an end to her losing stream, thanks to the large Hispanic population. But Sanders’ string of wins and the support of more Latino/a leaders, including some more superdelegates, coupled with a renewed focus on minority communities, propels Sanders to an amazing 66 percent win there as well.
The table is set with Clinton still maintaining a +133 delegate lead over Sanders. Both have been spending heavily on ads in California for weeks, but Bernie’s powerfully broad small-donor base keeps setting records while Hillary’s fundraising stalls enough that she and Bill begin loaning some of their own fortune to her campaign. Trump and Cruz hammer her for being unable to fundraise and Sanders points out that both his opponents, Trump and Clinton, are the mega-rich funding their own campaigns.
Polls in California are plentiful and all over the place. Some have Clinton winning a nail-biter, some have it going the other way for Sanders, but by a slightly larger margin. Everyone says it will all come down to turnout. On this last Super Tuesday of June 7th, with the biggest prize on the line, the political world is shocked as turnout crushes records. Universities report being nearly empty as college students are camped out in voting lines before the polls even open.
Initial counts of early and absentee voting in California show Sanders with a lead. The news boosts the morale of the young people standing in those long lines all across the state. The voting continues past midnight and the world is shocked when Sanders pulls off an unthinkable 58 percent win. With just the win in California, Sanders has knocked another 77 delegates off of Clinton’s once insurmountable lead.
The California upset is the second big one of the night. On the East Coast, Sanders defied all expectations by pulling out a 60 percent win in New Jersey, as people still fed up with the so-called stock market correction let their dissatisfaction with Wall Street be heard. Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota went as rural white states have gone for Sanders, giving him a 75 percent, 80 percent, and 75 percent, respectively. New Mexico also reacts to the increased support of Latinos/as for Sanders and breaks from next-door Arizona by giving Sanders a 66 percent win.
The End of Inevitability
M.ost of all, the California win does for Sanders what was once though impossible. For the first time in the primary contest, Sanders has pulled ahead of Clinton in pledged delegates – just +11, 1,982 to 1,971 – leaving the nation’s capital, Washington DC, to decide who will be the people’s Democratic nominee.
The week of campaigning is fierce and Clinton finally notches her first win since Arizona in March on June 14th when DC voters support her by a 3-to-1 margin. But that nets her 15 delegates and Sanders 5 delegates, leaving him with a +1 margin in pledged delegates over Hillary Clinton. The media, however, has been adding in the remaining superdelegates of hers who haven’t switched over, giving her the appearance of being the party’s nominee in two weeks. Sanders supporters are furious and vow to ensure the finch wing of the Democratic Party wins that nominating battle.
The GOP Convention begins in Cleveland in just four days after DC votes. Trump hasn’t collected enough delegates to win on a first ballot. Ryan continues to beat Clinton in nationwide polls and Sanders continues to beat Ryan in those same polls. The convention is a madhouse full of angry Trump supporters and there is plenty of violence for the cameras to cover. The GOP finally picks Ryan to be their nominee and hope Trump sticks to his pledge to support the nominee. Trump, only interested in winning, knows he can’t win an independent bid and bows out, asking his supporters to get behind Ryan so Clinton will lose.
Next comes the Democratic Convention, where the momentum of three months of nothing but Bernie Sanders wins (minus DC) combined with his actual +1 pledged delegate lead and superior poll performance against the Republican nominee Paul Ryan are all in Sanders’ favor. Sanders eventually converts enough of Clinton’s superdelegates and picks up more of his own from unpledged superdelegates that he wins the Democratic nomination for president of the United States and goes on to beat Speaker Paul Ryan with 58 percent of the popular vote – coincidentally what he needed to win in the remaining Democratic primaries when we started this fantasy.
You know what? This black market Arizona weed isn’t so bad…