Feeling the Bern lasts only so long, it turns out. Now for the hangover. One of my friends posted a message on Facebook at the weekend that sums it up. ‘What is on my mind this morning is Sanders. I voted for Sanders but right now I really want him to step aside and let Ms Clinton fight the fight against Trump,’ she wrote, going on to explain how worried she was about the future of the US. ‘If I have to go knock on doors to get Democrats to vote for Hillary, I will. The prospect of a Trump presidency terrifies me! I will seek asylum somewhere!’
Whoever thought it would come to this? Not only has the Republican party been hijacked by a thrice-married, former-abortion supporting, anti-free trader, but Donald Trump has begun to rally his party around him.
It is Hillary Clinton – the ultimate political insider – who is stuck with a rebellious wing more intent on damaging her credibility than going on the offensive against the presumptive Republican nominee. And that was even before a running tally of delegates revealed on Monday night that she had secured 2,383 delegates, surpassing the threshold needed to become the Democratic nominee.
Tonight’s last big round of primaries (inevitably dubbed the last ‘Super Tuesday’ of the campaign by overexcited 24-hour news channels) will only cement her position as nominee-in-waiting. It is in the bag, subject only to a rubberstamping at next month’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Yet Bernie, much to my friend’s alarm, has made clear he will fight on. He was at it again on Monday night, clutching at the mathematics of a complex electoral system. ‘Our goal is to get as many delegates as we possibly can and to make the case to superdelegates that I believe the evidence is fairly strong that I am the strongest candidate,’ he said.
Having shifted the goals numerous times during the campaign, he is still refusing to back down. His focus is the superdelegates – the senior party figures that are not bound by primary or caucus votes, and are overwhelmingly backing Hillary – arguing that the system is rigged against him.
If he can just win in California, the biggest prize in the whole primary calendar, he says, then he can go the convention with momentum, arguing that he is best placed to defeat Donald Trump. Perhaps then, he thinks, the superdelegates will swing from Clinton to him.
It is pie in the sky, of course.
A small number of polls showing Sanders beating Trump in a hypothetical match-up proves nothing. And the superdelegates aren’t going to buy it. These are the Democrat grandees that he has alienated with a grassroots campaign built with youthful independents and a socialist message.
Those superdelegates – rather like my friend – are aware of what extending the infighting means. The longer Sanders fights on, the longer he is doing Trump’s dirty work by attacking Clinton for her Wall Street ties and interventionist foreign policy. All the indications are that Barack Obama is ready to endorse his former secretary of state this week, but a protracted bitter Democratic civil war might make him wait a little longer.
At the same time, Sanders’ biggest supporters are starting to sound as if they would rather keep another Clinton out of the White House than a Trump. Susan Sarandon, one his most high-profile supporters, gave the game away last week, saying she feared a Clinton presidency more than a Trump administration. ‘I believe in a way she’s more dangerous…’ she told an online news show. All of which leaves my friend wondering quite what she has done with her primary vote and whether Sanders is ever going to do the right thing and step aside.
The only winner is Trump. A frightening thought.