A Very Good Week for Bernie Sanders; Our Creaky Democracy

The unpredictable 2016 race gave us some new twists and turns last week as Bernie Sanders won 6 of 7 contests by shockingly wide margins – 82/18, 79/20, 78/21, 73/27, 70/30, 69/31 (incl Democrats Abroad). As many of these states were small and did not award many delegates, the essential trajectory of the race hasn’t changed – Clinton still holds a commanding lead. To date she has won 56% of the delegates allocated through voting, and retains a strong lead over Sanders in most national polls. But these convincing wins give Sanders and his team a powerful rationale to soldier on through what will be a busy April: 

April 5 – Wisconsin

April 9 - Wyoming

April 19 – New York

April 26 – Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island

The nature of the April schedule is going to be very consequential to both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns. Sanders has done far better on days when fewer people were voting, using the power of his campaign/message to make significant gains (think MI on 3/8 or these last round of states) against the natural name ID advantage Clinton has wielded effectively, particularly on the two Super Tuesdays, March 1st and 15th. The first three April states are one on one contests, which have historically played to Sander’s advantage. New York, however, is a closed primary (no independents), and the Clinton brand remains awfully strong in the Big Apple. But it is the final batch of states on April 26th which may indeed be Bernie’s last stand. He has not performed well on these big Tuesdays, and if Clinton can come close to replicating her previous Super Tuesday performances it could end the race once and for all.

Alternatively, if Bernie can surprise in Wisconsin and New York, April 26th could be a day of enormous opportunity for the spirited Sanders effort.

Given Bernie’s need for name ID in these large contests in late April, it should be no surprise now that the two campaigns have now begun to squabble about the previously agreed upon April debate. Debates matter in American politics, and one should not underestimate the power of debates to help insurgents gain recognition and support. A far superior GOP debate schedule has yielded 186m viewers, and helped power a telegenic insurgent, Trump, into a commanding lead. On the Democratic side, a late and poorly designed debate approach has yielded just 66m viewers, denying the Democrats’ plucky insurgent national air time that could have made a difference for him, particularly in those Super Tuesday states where he just did not have the time or money to compete in so many states simultaneously. So watch this week for news on this new round of debate over debates, and be sure to see our report on the debate audiences so far. 

As for Trump, it is belief he is going to win the Republican nomination. I will spend more time on Trump next week, but at this point I just don’t see how Trump isn’t the GOP nominee.

Our Creaky Democracy – We’ve seen it all these last few months – no paper ballots in Iowa, preventing a recount in an historically close election; 5 hour waits for voting, and far too many people leaving lines because they couldn’t wait any more; voters denied the ability to vote due to new draconian “Voter ID” laws being implemented for the first time; and the absurdity of “caucuses,” which guarantee a very low turnout even in a Presidential campaign. We are long overdue for a big national conversation about how to update our democracy for a new century – look for more from us on this in the coming days. The US must be an exemplar for the very best election practices, and we have a lot of work to do to get there in the years ahead.

More on the 2016 Election - Be sure to review our deep dive on the 2016 map and the opportunities it offers Democrats; our tally of the Presidential primary debates audiences which finds the GOP far outperforming the Dems; the Democratic bench is stronger than it appears; Clinton should become a champion of political and electoral reform; thoughts on the "children of Reagan;" my in-depth interview with conservative author Matt Lewis on what the GOP can learn from a generation of reform and success on the center-left; my long form magazine piece on the descent of the GOP into a reactionary mess, anticipating the rise of Trump; Rob Shapiro on Trump's economic plan and the crackup of the GOP.  

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You can find previous columns here. It also appears each week on the London-based progressive site, Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign. I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee.