It’s been a tough week for Democrats, especially for those supporting Bernie Sanders. The New York primary swung heavily towards Hillary Clinton (and towards Trump, unsettlingly) and it’s hard to see a path to victory for Sanders now.
But not all is lost! He could still win, as long as he’s willing to ignore the will of the people.
That’s because Superdelegates could hold the key to Sanders’ nomination. “We’ve got a shot to victory,” Sanders said after his New York defeat. “We have come a very long way in the last 11 months, and we are going to fight this out until the end of the process.”
That sentiment was echoed by his campaign manager, Jeff Weaver.
“It is extremely unlikely that either candidate will have the requisite number of pledged delegates to get to this number, so it is going to be an election determined by the superdelegates,” Weaver said.
When asked if the campaign would attempt to flip superdelegates from Clinton to Sanders, he answered, “At this point, yes, absolutely.”
In other words, Clinton might still be able to claim the most number of popular votes. She might be able to claim the most pledged delegates. She might be the top choice among voters. But because the superdelegates are not bound to obey voters’ preferences, Sanders might convince them to abandon Clinton — and the voters — and switch to his side.
Of course, that could be a catastrophe for the Democratic party. Voters are likely to be aghast if party leaders subvert their preference, even though that’s exactly the reason that the superdelegate system was created.
But Sanders might be able to make a more convincing case than Clinton, since a lot of surveys show him performing better against Donald Trump than she does. Those polls are pretty meaningless this far out from the election, but if Trump manages to get the nomination the Democrats are going to need to do everything in their power to stop him.
The Clinton camp is understandably perturbed by this strategy. After New York, one anonymous Clinton staffer told a Politico reporter, “We kicked ass tonight … I hope this convinces Bernie to tone it down. If not, fuck him.”
This sort of deal-making and legal gamesmanship is normally hidden from voters, but the public is getting a rare glimpse into the underbelly of the political process this year. That’s because Sanders has inspired a lot of casual first-time activists to get involved, and in general they don’t like what they’ve discovered about our process for selecting leaders.
This weekend, for example, were Washington state’s caucuses for selecting Legislative District delegates -— that is, the people who will go to the convention and cast votes for either Sanders or Clinton. Many newly-minted activists have heard that it’s crucial for them to be involved in elements of the political process like these, and so they attended for the first time.
What they discovered was chaos and fighting. It took upwards of 10 hours in some locations to choose delegates, under miserable conditions. There were so many candidates that some of them were limited to 15-second speeches before voting took place — hardly an effective way to choose representatives.
And yet… it’s the system we’re stuck with. For now, anyway.