The frantic U.S. presidential primaries are in their last round. On Tuesday, half a dozen states will hold their primary elections: Montana, North and South Dakota, New Jersey, New Mexico and California.
On the eve of the vote, the three remaining candidates have concentrated their forces in the latter, the most populous and with the most delegates — 172 for the Republicans, 546 for the Democrats — and an enormous symbolic weight for both parties. So all the candidates campaigned furiously this weekend.
Bernie Sanders traveled tirelessly throughout the state, from Oakland where he introduced Berkeley economist Robert Reich to Los Angeles with Susan Sarandon and a concert at the Colosseum on Saturday night. The polls seem to have rewarded his efforts, indicating a virtual tie between him and Hillary Clinton, now separated by one or two percentage points.
However, the only constant of these primaries has been the inconstancy of the polls: Clinton remains the leader, but pollsters aren’t definitively ruling out a sudden jolt from Sanders. “If we had bet on this situation a year ago, we would all be millionaires,” Sanders said Saturday to a group of volunteers at his Hollywood operations center. “They gave us 100 to one.”
For her part, Clinton has done everything to keep the focus on Donald Trump, barely naming Sanders in her many speeches and doing her best to take the nomination for granted. Given the current numbers, it is likely that Tuesday she will declare victory upon the closing of the polls in New Jersey (if she reaches the threshold of 2,383 delegates needed), well before Californians finish voting (because of the three-hour time difference). Even if there were a defeat in California, it would not amount to much more than an embarrassment.
It is no coincidence that, although its importance has diminished, Clinton in recent days has virtually moved to California, tirelessly attending rallies and meetings and finally enlisting Bill Clinton for a series of rallies in the African-American community. The result of California will depend largely on how blacks and Hispanics vote, groups generally considered favorable to Clinton. Meanwhile, Sanders has huge advantage among voters under 40 years old (something like 6-1).
In some way, this campaign has confirmed the deep split within the party and how the “socialist” candidate has somehow mortgaged its future. Sanders referred to that during a rally in Hollywood, saying his voters have chosen a new way of doing politics, funded by millions of small investors.
The remarks seemed like a preview of the themes Sanders will present to the convention in Philadelphia. He asked for a review of the role of the “Super Delegates,” the 600-odd voters virtually assigned by the party to Clinton (as a sort of favorite award). If they were more evenly distributed, the result would reflect more closely the unexpected strength of the new progressive current.
California seems to have expressed one opinion, though: a strong dislike for Trump. Since he had to sneak out a rear exit of the Republican convention in San Francisco a month ago, the billionaire has been dogged by disputes in each of his forays into “enemy territory” — anyplace with Hispanic diversity and strong progressive tradition.
In the last week there were disruptions in Anaheim, San Diego, Fresno and finally in San Jose. In addition to the usual protesters expelled by rallies, in each city anti-Trump demonstrators have had clashes with Trump supporters and in any case, and the latter got it worse.
The beatings his supporters received didn’t prevent xenophobic racism from finding its way to a federal judge, Gonzalo Curiel, who revealed through court records a sordid history of scams surrounding Trump’s real estate sales courses. (The investigation is expected to be completed in late November). According to Trump, the judge of Mexican background is not capable of adjudicating his case because he’s “biased” against the wall builder.