For a while now, Greg Sargent has been speculating about Bernie Sanders’ end game in this presidential primary. The candidate himself has said that it will be up to Clinton to win over his supporters. And at times, he has even suggested that she will need to adopt some of his campaign promises in order to do so – like advocating for single payer and free public college tuition. It’s hard to know if he is really serious about that. But at any rate, it is not going to happen. Clinton ran on her own platform and is winning the primary. She’s not likely to adopt the agenda of the guy who is losing.
Yesterday, Sanders seemed to indicate a push for the Democratic Party to adopt some changes to their election rules and strategy. Specifically, he called for three things:
1. Automatic voter registration
2. Same-day registration and open primaries
3. A 50-state strategy
To the extent that Sanders intends to push to have these issues included in the Democratic platform during the convention this summer, that would be an interesting discussion. If adopted, they would set these up as goals for the Party to work towards. But the national party can’t simply make them happen. The first two involve state parties and legislatures – who establish these rules. This is something that Sanders often fails to articulate – like when he promised that at the end of his first term as president, the U.S. would not have the highest incarceration rate in the world. He failed to mention that reaching that goal would primarily be up to states.
But the 50-state strategy is an interesting one on a different level. As Howard Dean demonstrated, it is certainly a priority that is set by the DNC. But if anyone remembers the argument over that one, it had to do with how the national party distributes funding. Those who opposed a 50-state strategy wanted the DNC to target its limited resources to races where they had determined it could actually make a difference. Dean wanted the funding to be distributed to state party leaders and let them decide.
From the perspective of Sanders and his supporters, this raises a couple of interesting questions. The most obvious is that the resources that are under discussion are the very ones he has criticized Clinton for helping to raise. Remember how the Sanders campaign reacted to the fundraiser hosted by George Clooney? It was all about raising money for the DNC and state parties. In other words, the money that would enable a 50-state strategy.
But the other issue is that Howard Dean’s success with the 50-state strategy resulted in the election of what we often call “Blue Dog Democrats” – especially in the South. They are also the ones who lost in 2010 and 2014. Many of the Sanders supporters I know were pretty happy to see them go.
I would suggest that these are all questions that would be good for Democrats to discuss. But as we’ve seen very often with Bernie Sanders, they lead to much more complicated questions and answers than he has articulated.