There are pockets of this country where engaged Democrats are emphatically rejecting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. And it has to be a concern for her campaign.
The front-runner may possess a substantial lead, support from elected officials, and the backing of the party establishment. But in the three states where voters caucused on Saturday, they cast their ballots for Bernie Sanders by huge margins. In Hawaii, with most votes tallied, he chalked up 71 percent; in Washington, he held 73 percent; and in Alaska, he claimed 82 percent support.
…Sanders’s voters seem undeterred by Clinton’s advantages. “I feel like probably for the first time since I’ve been voting I connect with somebody I really believe in and that I trust,” one supporter told the Seattle Times. Saturday’s vote suggests she’s not alone. Party officials in Washington said that at least 225,000 voters showed up, rivaling the record turnout of 2008; the 10,600 who voted in Alaska exceeded that state’s 2008 tally; and the 33,716 in Hawaii, while below the 2008 level, included 7,000 new Democrats registered since late last year.
Sanders won from wall to wall. He took every county in Washington, and in Alaska, he posted double-digit margins in all 40 districts.
It many ways this is a repeat of 2008, the difference being that Clinton has the black vote this time around and that was enough for her to build a huge delegate lead in the South. She is probably fortunate that the southern states voted before the industrial Midwest and before Sanders could demonstrate romping victories in the Mountain States and Far West.
What’s clear is that Clinton will have to deal with very widespread disappointment within her own base when she becomes the nominee. To compensate, she’ll have to show the army of Bernie supporters some immediate and tangible rewards for their efforts and their successes. She’ll also have to hope that she can win the enthusiastic support and endorsement of Sanders. Without these things, there will be large-scale disaffection, with a whole new generation of organizers feeling like the game is rigged and tempted to drop out in a fit of cynicism and apathy. Many more will move over to a fairly disloyal oppositional stance to her presidency, possibly coalescing into a more potent primary challenge in 2020.
Clinton’s weakness and failure to consolidate the party behind her is not necessarily a liability in a head-to-head contest against someone like Trump who shares the same liabilities to a much greater degree. A disgruntled left can help convince wary voters that she’s a moderate, middle-of-the-road “safe” choice, especially compared to the unpredictable real estate clown.
But she’ll need a friendlier Congress, including a Senate controlled by Chuck Schumer and a House that will be at least de facto controlled by Democrats and Republican appropriators. She does not want to see all the newly registered voters who are going for Sanders dropping out of the general because they only got into politics to support her primary opponent.
She might want to start winning some states again, too, since losing in places like Pennsylvania and her home state of New York would be embarrassing and cause her to limp to the finish line rather than cross it in a triumphant sprint.
If I were John Podesta, I’d be making up a very big gift bag for Bernie. This would include consultations on the veep, and concessions on many key appointments. Sanders will want a say in the staffing at Treasury, for example. He may have other demands, too. He’ll need to get some very visible wins that he can show his voters so they can feel like what they’ve done has made a difference and can continue to make a difference.