What a wild ride it’s been this past couple of weeks. Since the first Iowa caucuses we’ve already had several Democratic debates, and February 26’s could only be described as an all-out brawl. The candidates often shouted over each other, going far beyond the time limit imposed on answering questions. It seemed that the moderators lost control of the debate early, making for an explosive night that was often hard to watch.
The theme of the evening was clear: everyone targeting Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. There’s no question that he’s the indisputable front runner, having scored decisive wins in New Hampshire and Nevada, as well as winning the popular vote in Iowa. He’s slated to do well in many of the upcoming Super Tuesday states on March 3 (one of which is Texas. Get out and vote!) and depending on just how well he does on Super Tuesday, it’s possible for the race to be all but over if his delegate lead is large enough.
Sanders received some heat early in the debate season, but when former Vice President Joe Biden was considered the frontrunner, he faced the brunt of the attacks — followed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. It may have been too little, too late for the candidates to just now put their sights on Sanders, who has the backing of an exciting progressive base, and a sizable bank account to last him all the way through primary season.
With Sanders emerging as the most likely candidate to win the nomination, there are only a couple of questions that remain unanswered, such as whether former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg poses a legitimate threat to Sanders. I don’t believe a billionaire entering the race late and buying his way into the nomination fits well with what the Democratic Party claims to be (getting big money out of politics has been a key part of the platform for some time now), and with income inequality becoming a big part of political discussion, a Bloomberg nomination would be antithetical to Democratic values. Democrats can and should do better.
Another question is whether Biden can turn the tides with a win in South Carolina on February 29, but Biden’s lead in the state has shrunk considerably and a win by only a couple of points would still not look good for his campaign. It needs to be a decisive victory; even then, a win in South Carolina only three days before Super Tuesday may not be enough momentum.
A brokered convention is a possibility, where no candidate scores an outright majority of delegates to become the nominee. In that scenario, super delegates then get factored in and can bargain with one another to coalesce around a nominee, followed by re-votes among pledged delegates in an attempt to have one candidate reach a majority. That aspect of the system means that, theoretically, someone with a plurality of delegates when heading into the Democratic National Convention may not become the nominee.
But the ramifications are potentially disastrous. It would hurt the Democratic Party far more, in the long run, to buck the will of voters, if there’s enough fear that someone like Sanders isn’t formidable in a general election. The party should ultimately reward the candidate who goes into the convention with the most delegates, even if that lead is a plurality and not a majority. Anything else feels undemocratic and out of touch.
Defeating Donald Trump isn’t going to be an easy feat; his approvals have been gradually up-ticking, buoyed by a “strong economy” or at least, what’s perceived to be a strong economy. Incumbents have an inherent advantage when it comes to elections, so it’s truly going to take party unity along with high voter turnout for Democrats to win in November.
By the same token, the Democratic Party frames itself as the party of the working class. It would be wise for party leaders to look at where the votes are going and back the candidate with the most support.