I tried to go to the Bernie rally in downtown Oakland on Monday but by the time the BART train let me out, Oscar Grant Plaza was already filled with bodies from wall to wall and there was a long line of people waiting to go through the security tent and get in. How long? I walked two blocks to the corner of 12th Street thinking I was close, but the line snaked for two more blocks and then took a turn up to 14th Street, where it turned left, and from where I stood I could see the line string further and I could not see the end. The line was at least 12 blocks long. There was no way I was going to get in. Feeling sunk, and with legs tired from garden work that morning, I headed back to BART and went home. It took me a while to shake the funk at my personal failure — I should have left home hours earlier — and to realize the great good news that the candidate’s Oakland rally had a huge turnout. The Oakland police estimated twenty-five thousand. The great majority of the faces waiting patiently in the slow-moving line looked to be under 30.
We’re going to need this kind of turnout by enthusiastic, energetic and tenacious young people in November to beat back the inflamed right wing fanatics who are driving the poll numbers for that rich boy, Trump. The candidate who can bring this energized democratic youth to the ballot box is, without a doubt, Bernie Sanders. Hillary can’t do it. The harder she tries to sound like Bernie, the flatter she falls. It isn’t her personality. It’s her record. Her efforts to sound like a left-wing populist are so insincere, so calculated, so triangulating, that there’s just no credibility.
Hillary wants Sanders out of the race NOW so that she can stop trying to siphon votes from the progressive voter base and tack sharply to the center, where a vacuum filled with money lures her. Trump has delayed moving to the center, choosing instead to suction up every possible pocket of racist, anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi, hoodlum, and wing-nut sentiment. Wall Street is voting with its money for Hillary; she leads all candidates in campaign donations from the New York financial industry, according to a Wall Street Journal report. A forthcoming Fortune magazine poll shows a majority of major corporate CEOs backing Hillary over Donald. But when she tacks back right, where she was before Bernie’s meteoric rise, she looks more and more obviously like the calculating, triangulating one per cent establishment candidate that she is, and she turns off energized progressive voters in droves. She’s the kind of candidate who helped create the mess of inequality and endless wars that people are angry about.
The Democratic Party machine, with its backing of Hillary, it seems to me, is working hard to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Facing a widely disliked Republican candidate like Trump, the Democratic Party could probably run a yellow dog and win — if the dog energized young people and got them to turn out. Let’s face it, a dog would probably be more popular and widely beloved than Hillary. Her negatives have been hovering just below Trump’s and in recent polls she’s pulling even with him in the thumbs-down contest. If she’s the candidate, the American voting public may respond to the November offering with a collective retch. Voter turnout rates may approach the single digits, and it’s anybody’s ballgame.
I’ve gone out canvassing twice for Bernie, and given him some money out of my limited income. I hope he wins the California primary on June 7. He’s the stronger candidate against Trump. He’s not perfect, but he’s the candidate who most clearly and energetically advocates a path forward for this country. As a provocative piece by former Bill Clinton pollster Douglas Schoen in the June 1 Wall Street Journal speculates, if he wins California, he might very well end up as the candidate. Or he could knock Hillary out and open the door for something like a Biden-Warren ticket.
Let me conclude by saying that if Hillary is the candidate, I will hold my nose, as I have done for decades with Democratic Party candidates, and vote for her. Trump would be a disaster. Clinton will nominate a Supreme Court justice who will uphold Roe v. Wade. But getting the Senate to confirm such an appointment, if Clinton’s weak showing leaves the Senate in Republican hands, is another story. On that issue if no other, Bernie is the stronger candidate because he has a greater likelihood of regaining Senate control.
See, along a similar line of thought, this column by John Atcheson in Common Dreams.