The trouncing of Bernie Sanders came, unexpectedly, from New England, where wealthy, white and liberal Massachusetts chose by a narrow majority Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. So did, by wide margins, voters in the Deep South.
Blacks in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas went for Clinton overwhelmingly. Not only that, but in Texas, where 30 percent of the electorate is Latino, the results were just as resounding for Clinton. She brought home 65 percent of the votes there.
By the end of Super Tuesday, Sanders had turned from aspiring president to symbolic candidate. But his flag is still flying, as the old socialist not only won four of the 11 states that held their primary election Tuesday but also 340 delegates (Clinton won 504). Plus, his campaign coffers are still full. In February alone, he raked in $42 million.
It’s not over. His fans remain in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps willing to donate a few dollars a week. And on Saturday, the voting will move to white Nebraska, followed on Tuesday by Michigan, the heart of the American working class. Sanders will likely give his opponent a hard time.
But it’s all too clear now that what’s missing from his coalition is the support of minorities, who comprise much of the Democratic electorate and without whom no candidate can win the White House. The first to admit this was Sanders himself.
Speaking after his searing defeat in South Carolina — and also from his home state, Vermont, on Tuesday night — Sanders made clear that his objective is to arrive at the Democratic National Convention, to be held in Philadelphia at the end of July, with a solid package of delegates. With enough popular support behind him, he can fight to infuse socialist ideas into the Democratic platform. Why not, if the numbers show favor for progressives, shift the balance of the party? Already, whispering has begun about who would be Clinton’s running mate if she was nominated to be Barack Obama’s heir in the corridors of power. In short, it will be a long battle.
But the prospect of a long battle has alarmed the party leadership, concerned that sharper tones between the two Democratic candidates could weaken their chances in November. Clinton, speaking Tuesday night from Miami, sensed the nomination is in the bag and tried to turn the page, shifting to Sanders’ economic platform and squaring off against the Republicans.
By abandoning the Sanders challenge, the party could better prepare for the general election. Because, in fact, Republicans aren’t the only ones frightened by Donald Trump’s victories. Although the New York millionaire is for now drawing his support from the bigots and racists of the Republican Party, that won’t necessarily remain the case. In Texas, despite finishing second behind Texan Ted Cruz, he actually brought in many young Latinos, and in the future, Trumpism could take hold even among independent voters.
Both on the right and the left, the populist wave of hatred toward Washington elites remains strong, as does the frustration of those still buried under the rubble of the Great Recession. And those resentments won’t turn off so easily.