As another Super Tuesday has come and gone, the key takeaways are already evident.
The first is that the last minute dropping out of the primary race by Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar—and their immediate endorsement of Joe Biden—has had its obvious strategic effect. Their votes clearly went to Biden. That was perhaps most evident in Klobuchar’s state, Minnesota, where Sanders was expected to win.
The Buttigieg-Klobuchar maneuver
Both Buttigieg and Klobuchar entered the race, one might argue in retrospect, to test how far they could drag potential voters from Sanders. Buttigieg would secure the youth and the gay vote; Klobuchar the female vote. Neither were able to chip away much, if any, of Sanders’ support. So when it was clear they had little chance of doing so, they quickly dropped out right before the Super Tuesday primaries and threw their endorsement, organizational support (and their financial backers’ funding?) to Biden.
If anyone believes their decisions were isolated and unrelated individual acts that had nothing to do with encouragement by the Democratic Party leadership, including former president Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, senator Chuck Shumer and their own weakthy financiers, then they are deluding themselves. The timing, coordinated exits, and endorsements of Biden were not merely coincidental. Having done their ‘party duty’, they now will no doubt now be nicely rewarded in their future careers by the party’s organization and campaign contributors.
But you didn’t hear much of this kind of analysis if you listened to MSNBC, CNN, or the other media mouthpieces of the establishment leadership of the party. Why anyone continues to refer to the Democratic Party as ‘liberal’ is breathtaking.
Warren loses Massachusetts and her days are numbered
A second obvious takeaway from the Super Tuesday primaries is that Elizabeth Warren failed to win even her home state, Massachusetts, which went to Biden. Warren’s so-called progressive votes would have gone almost totally to Sanders, had she dropped out. That would have easily given Sanders Massachusetts over Biden. Warren clearly has taken votes away from Sanders, not only in Massachusetts but everywhere on Super Tuesday.
To sum up in part, then: Buttigieg-Klobuchar drop out and shift their centrist endorsements, support and votes to Biden; Warren stays in and diverts progressive votes from Sanders. Does anyone think this is all coincidental?
My prediction is that Warren will eventually drop out, but not before the Sanders-Biden contest concludes in the key swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and a couple potential others. The dilution of Sanders’ progressive support will have been achieved.
Biden sweeps the South: So what!
A third takeaway is that Biden swept the southern states on Super Tuesday. As in South Carolina, once again his vote margin was delivered by the over-35 black vote. The Democratic Party is so weak in the southern states that black voters comprise the largest plurality of their voting population there. Older black voters went for Biden, while younger African-Americans often went for Sanders. But the youth black vote was only a small percentage compared to the older black vote, typically around only 15 percent of the total black vote. Older black voters in the South tend to vote based on recommendations of their churches, community organizations, and black political leaders. In contrast, younger blacks are increasingly independent. But there weren’t as many of their numbers to offset, let alone overtake, the older black votes going to Biden. The youth black vote is there, but the Sanders campaign still has much to do to organize, register, and turnout black youth to vote, especially in the South.
Biden’s sweep of the South is largely irrelevant, however. These are states that Trump and the Republicans have solidly wrapped up. Decades of gerrymandering, voter suppression, and control of state legislatures and governorships in these states means no Democrat candidate, Sanders or Biden, is going to swing any of the ‘red states’ into the Democratic camp in the November 2020 election.
Thus, Biden’s victories in the primaries in these states signifies nothing of import for the general election in November. But the party’s media wing make it sound like some great achievement that show Joe will sweep the South in the November election against Trump. Dream on.
The establishment media all night Tuesday have been hyping the story that Biden won in Virginia, in Tennessee, Arkansas and didn’t even show up to campaign there or spend money on TV ads. Doesn’t that show how strong a candidate Joe is, they echoed as if reading from the same teleprompter? No, it shows the Democrats are so weak in those states that the party organization’s recommendations mostly determine the outcomes.
The party’s geographical-generational class divide
Another takeaway from Super Tuesday reveals the Democratic Party is divided geographically, as well as generationally and along class lines.
Sanders wins big in the west and northern New England. Biden in the South. But the most important geographic area—the area that will determine the electoral college outcome and thus the election—is yet to be contested. That’s the ‘swing states’ regional arc from Pennsylvania to Michigan to Wisconsin (and maybe a few ‘outliers’ like Arizona). As in 2016, that’s where the general presidential election will be determined. My guess is that Warren will stay in to continue to split the progressive vote there, to Sanders’ disadvantage, and drop out after. This will all but ensure Biden wins most of the delegates there, although that’s not foreordained either.
Sanders won big in the west, where the ‘older black voter’ factor and the Warren ‘split the progressive vote’ factor have not been significant. An interesting contest was the Texas vote. Sanders was slated to win by a small margin. However, the party establishment threw everything into Texas, including the political kitchen sink, as they say. They even got that once thought of left liberal, Beto O’Rourke, to endorse and stump for Biden. Like Buttigieg and Klobuchar, he too will no doubt be nicely rewarded by the party apparatus down the road for his next career political move. The lesson: beware of progressive-sounding young political careerists on the make.
Movement vs. party apparatchiks
Sanders has rallied the youth vote, the Latino vote (youth and older), young black and other minorities, women and local unions to his banner. It’s a movement that’s growing. It hasn’t yet peaked. The question is will it peak sooner, or perhaps after the 2020 election cycle? In the west, the older crowd of voters still went for Biden. But unlike in the South, the youth vote-minority vote turnout in the west swamped the older voters. The movement there has arrived! Sanders’ movement more than offset Biden’s party apparatus. And the west, unlike the South, must be won by the Democratic Party in order to offset the electoral vote advantage of Trump and Republicans in their ‘red state’ bastions. It is futile strategy to try to retake the ‘red state’ South out from under Trump. Too late. Past Democratic Party timidity and meekness confronting voter suppression and gerrymandering has all but rendered that extremely unlikely. Better solidify the west, New England, maybe Atlantic States and win the swing states. But the latter will also take a movement. And without Sanders, the Democrats have none.
So Sanders wins the west, New England, and the youth-Latino vote. Biden wins the South-older black vote. But the most important regional contest is yet to come: the swing states voting. That is determinative. And that will take more than Democrat leaders’ tired old strategies, and even older nominees.
When to release the ‘kraken’?
Sanders might have a fighting chance if the party’s nomination were determined by winning a simple majority of 1,991 delegates by means of winning caucuses and primaries. But it isn’t. The Democratic party leaders and financiers have made sure that their ‘ace in the hole’, should they need it, is their control over the more than 500 so-called superdelegates at their July nominating convention. The majority of these are Democrat members of Congress—representatives and Senators. And they will vote as the party recommends, with few exceptions. So even if Sanders wins in a sweep of the ‘swing states’ primaries coming up, and even if he is far and away the holder of the largest plurality of delegates from the primaries, he will still be deprived of the party’s nomination in July at the convention, I predict, when the party leaders ‘release the Kraken’ (an ancient Norse sea monster) of the 500 superdelegates to vote for the party leaders’ favourite candidate. And guess who that’ll be?
Why Biden can’t beat Trump
A final takeaway from Super Tuesday primaries is this: Biden’s win of the South is irrelevant, as was said. He can’t deliver those states’ electoral votes in the general election. Obama and the Democrats already lost that race back in 2010, when Obama’s failed economic recovery of Main Street resulted in an historic sweep by Republicans of the House and Senate, state governorships and state legislatures in dozens of ‘red states’ in 2010 and 2012-14. Gerrymandering and escalating voter suppression followed Republican capture of the red states.
Second point: if Biden gets the nomination, Sanders movement supporters will not vote for him. They will stay home. The Democrats could lose several western states in that case, as well as in the South. It then won’t matter if they win one or more northern ‘swing states’. Party leaders think all they have to do is hold the party together, convince everyone there’s no other choice but to vote for Biden (or Bloomberg). And just ‘turn’ the 70 electoral votes in the swing states that determined the electoral college win in 2016 for Trump. One must also add the strong likelihood that Trump will eat Biden’s lunch, as they say, in the TV debates before the general November election.
Finally, one cannot discount Trump and the Republican’s last minute dirty tricks. At the top of that list will be an ‘October Surprise’ in the week before the November election, in which something dramatic associated with Biden’s connection to Ukraine—whether true or not—will be revealed by ‘Trumpublican’ tricksters. The Democratic Party establishment will not be able to respond in time to negate the effect of the revelation.
The Democratic Party’s coming irrevocable split
In short, a badly split Democratic Party, should Sanders be cheated out of the nomination (again), will undermine it during the last stage of the general election in November; Biden will almost certainly come off badly in the TV debates; and the ‘Trumpublican’ practice of winning by any means necessary, even if it means destroying what’s left of American democracy, will together result in another failed strategy and attempt by the Democratic Party leadership to defeat Donald Trump.
Biden is not ‘more electable’ than Sanders (who by the way leads Trump in scores of independent polls). Biden’s electability is a gross myth peddled by the Democratic establishment’s media mouthpieces. Biden is maybe the least electable. Even Bloomberg would stand a better chance (But then, there’s really little difference between Bloomberg and Trump, except for the latter’s foul mouth, bad manners, nasty tweets, and predilection to run roughshod over the US Constitution. Otherwise they’re both billionaires who in the end support billionaires).
So it seems the Democratic Party is at a real crossroads: Its corporate friendly leadership is doing all they can to maneuver on multiple fronts to deny Sanders the party’s nomination. Not just primary campaign maneuvers, convention delegate maneuvers, pushing fake messages like Sanders isn’t electable, or would lose ‘down ballot’ seats in Congress, and red-baiting Sanders’ FDR-like reforms (it’s not a revolution folks), labeling Sanders a radical ‘socialist’, and raising trial balloons by some of the party’s major fundraisers who are declaring they would vote for Trump if Sanders were the nominee (What they really mean is they would vote to keep the big investor tax cuts Trump gave them rather than let Sanders take their tax cut largesse away!).
The party’s leaders and strategists are so intent on denying Sanders the nomination that they would risk splitting the party and driving youth of all kind out of the party. If so, it could very well mean the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party come November, a process by the way that would accelerate if Biden then loses the election.
Biden would be a replicant of Obama in terms of policy, albeit a tired and uninspiring version of the latter. But the outcome would be the same as under Obama for Millennials, GenXers, and now GenZers. No solutions to their crises in employment, low pay, crunching student debt, unaffordable health care and cost of education, lack of decent housing, racial discrimination, indignation of the growing obscenity of super wealth accumulation by the few as they struggle for basics, and fear of a climate crisis out of control for them and their children. For the apparent generational divide within the Democratic Party is one and the same an economic divide; in other words, a matter of class.
It is unfortunate that Democratic leaders are so myopic they only see the coming general election with blinders on. If they deny Sanders they will split the party, not just in November but after; if they allow Sanders to become the nominee, they will give up their corporate-funded control of the party, its programs, and its policies they’ve had since 1992 with Bill Clinton. So they are talking themselves into the fiction that, even if they deny the nomination to Sanders, his supporters and movement will have ‘no where else to go’ but to fall in line behind Biden. But they do have somewhere to go: they’ll sit home. And then they’ll perhaps go out and organize a party independent of today’s Democratic Party.
Joe Biden’s nomination will not only mean failure to defeat Trump, but may mean an irrevocable split in the party itself.
Dr. Jack Rasmus is the author of several books on the USA and global economy. He hosts the weekly New York radio show, Alternative Visions, on the Progressive Radio network, and is shadow Federal Reserve Bank chair of the ‘Green Shadow Cabinet’. He also served as an economic advisor to the USA Green Party’s presidential candidate, Jill Stein, in 2016. He writes bi-weekly for Latin America’s teleSUR TV, for Z magazine, Znet, and other print and digital publications.