By John Atcheson
May 30, 2016
In the 1964 film classic, Dr. Strangelove, Slim Pickens is seen riding a nuclear bomb down to his certain death – and perhaps to the end of us all – while he calmly inventories his survival equipment.
The Democratic Party Establishment’s commitment to Hillary Clinton is a lot like that.
As Hillary falls behind Trump, the Establishment is doing all it can to to continue to discredit Sanders -- who beats Trump handily -- and chase him out of the race. Meanwhile, they comfort themselves with self-deluding lies to justify backing the only candidate Trump could beat.
Here’s some of the myths they’re spinning:
Myth #1: Sanders can’t win and his supporters can’t “do the math.” In an attempt to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy, the entire Establishment is declaring the race to be over. A typical slant used by pundits, the Party elite, the corporate media and the rest of theconfederacy of dunces that has opposed Sanders from the start is that Sanders supporters “can’t do the math.” To hear them tell it, he’s been mathematically eliminated, or he has “no pathway to victory” and holding on is just hurting Hillary’s attempts to beat Trump.
Here’s the reality: Sanders needs 885 delegates to get the nomination; Hillary needs 613; there are 930 delegates remaining to be won and it is unlikely that either candidate can clinch the nomination without the aid of superdelegates. Meanwhile, Sanders is surging, while Hillary is self-destructing, so many of those superdelegates may be rethinking their commitment to Hillary. And if they aren’t, they ought to be.
Sanders has pulled even in California, and by the end of June 7, there’s a good chance he may go into the Democratic Convention having won 19 of the last 25 primaries, and certainly he will have won the majority of states in the second half. Try doing that math.
Myth # 2: Sanders’ numbers would drop in the general election: This is one of the Establishments’ favorite lines. According to them, he hasn’t been exposed to the kind of assault he could expect in the general election, and given his history as a “socialist” he’d be easy pickings for the Republican hit machine and Trump.
There’s two things wrong with this story, however.
First, Sanders has been under a concerted and systematic assault in the mainstream media and from the Democratic Establishment since he began to threaten Hillary’s “inevitable” candidacy, yet his numbers have continued to skyrocket up in the polls. There’s little more the Republicans could do in this regard. Which brings us to the Establishment’s second error.
Any political consultant will tell you that the two most important numbers in predicting a candidate’s performance are their unfavorability/favorability ratings and how trustworthy voters perceive the candidate to be.
If a candidate is widely trusted, and if he or she has a net positive favorability rating, it’s harder to gain traction with negative adds. Sanders has the highest favorability and trust ratings of any candidate, and his freedom from PACs and corporate money, together with more than 30 years of consistently pursuing policies that favor the middle class and the working poor makes him all but bulletproof. There are no flip-flops, no equivocations, no spins, no claims that can be made upon him by moneyed interests. That’s why Sanders’ numbers keep getting better even though the media is doing it's best to burry him.
Myth #3: Sanders needs to drop out; Hillary will do better when she can focus on Trump. If Sanders’ numbers make him bulletproof, Hillary’s make her a sitting duck. A wounded sitting duck. She has a high net unfavorable rating, and she’s even more distrusted than Trump in some polls, so political attack ads will land on fertile ground.
Her unfavorability and distrust issues are not just the result of the decades long assault on her by what she calls the “vast, right-wing conspiracy,” although that’s certainly real enough. No, Hillary’s problem is that she’s a lousy candidate. In fact, in both 2008 and this year, she got less popular as soon as she began to campaign for the Presidency.
That’s why Trump has overtaken her in recent polls, and why she’s unlikely to reverse her slide. And while Trump is equally disliked and nearly as distrusted, he at least generates passion among his supporters.
But Hillary is seen as an over-scripted, cynically calculating, automaton at a time when people are craving authenticity and passion. This both plays into and increases the distrust and likability issue. And even while she continues to masquerade as a progressive, her campaign is contemplating whether and when to move to the center. Talk about tone deaf. As Krystal Ball put it:
The very fact that her team is so publicly mulling these choices reveals that they have no clue that their biggest problem isn’t making the proper electoral calculations, but rather that their entire campaign is based on electoral calculations.
She’s the consummate insider at a time when people are demanding someone from outside the establishment. She’s the Party favorite at a time when Parties mean less than they have, perhaps ever.
Trump can only win if voter turnout is low, and Hillary Clinton all but guarantees a low turnout.
It doesn’t help that she has a history of lying, then doubling down on her lies when caught– something she’s doing again with the IG’s report on the emails.
The closer we get to the Convention, the clearer it is that Sanders is a far better candidate in the general election.
So why is the elite Establishment clinging to Hillary like Slim Pickens clung to that plummeting nuke? Could it be they are so eager to retain power that they’d rather risk losing than backing someone who is not one of their own?
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John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.