If you listen to the popular news media and supporters of Hillary Clinton, the contest for the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination is over and Secretary Clinton won. But contender Bernie Sanders has vowed to continue his campaign until the Democratic National Convention in July, and even has a path to winning the pledged delegates. I personally think this is a good thing, mainly because I believe Senator Sanders is not only the best candidate in this year’s election, but the best major party candidate for President in my entire life. But if you are a dyed-in-the-wool Hillary Clinton acolyte you may feel differently. Yet, I believe Senator Sanders campaign is ultimately good for the Democratic Party and should continue as long as possible.
Here are five reasons why:
- The Republican Party is down to just one candidate, the odious Donald J. Trump. While I expect that the mainstream media will continue to give an inordinate amount of coverage to Trump, if they’re looking for fresh election events to cover it’s going to be the campaign events, debates, and elections on the Democratic side. The Democratic campaign has already shown that politics can be civil and issue-oriented, not only compared with this year’s Republican circus, but also with past Democratic primaries. And the issues they’re discussing are important left-wing social and economic matters. Having two months where the top political news story is two candidates courteously focused on substantial progressive issues can only be a good thing for the Democrats leading up to their convention and beyond.
- Speaking of left-wing social and economic issues, Secretary Clinton has a history over the course of her public career of being on the wrong side (or more accurately, the right-wing side). This ranges from her hawkish support of disastrous military engagements in Iraq, Libya, et al to her cozy relationship with Wall Street financial firms and big business that has informed her support of financial deregulation and job killing trade agreements. Competing with Senator Sanders has already forced Secretary Clinton to move left on various issues ranging from the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the $15 minimum wage. If Clinton goes head to head with Trump, the temptation will be to tack right on issues such as immigration and defense against terrorism, while abandoning left-wing issues. A couple more months of dealing with left issues should make Clinton more appealing as a candidate to progressive Democrats and independents as well as making sure she will remain committed to these causes should she become President.
- The process of primary elections is not all that Democratic. Caucuses require massive time commitments and primaries are often closed to party outsiders and/or require registration at a date ridiculously in advanced. This election cycle has also seen travesties such as massive purges of voting rolls, limited numbers of polling stations opened, and lengthy lines at polling stations that are open. Pretty much every primary season is weighted toward the states that participate earlier in the process meaning that primaries held in May and June are generally not contested. This year the Democrats can continue campaigning and holding elections meaning that people in populous areas like California, New Jersey, Oregon, and Puerto Rico can participate in voting, many for the first time in a primary. Isn’t that one tiny step toward a more inclusive democracy a good thing? At the very least it will mean that voters in these states will be registered – as Democrats – and on the rolls for the general election in November.
- Of course, it’s also important to note that despite everything you may have heard Bernie Sanders is still very much in this race. As of May 9, the pledged delegate count is Clinton 1706 – Sanders 1419, a difference of 287 pledged delegates with 926 pledged delegates to be decided (this does not include unpledged “superdelegates” who do not vote until the convention. And Senator Sanders is polling very well in many of the populous states left to vote, including America’s most populous state, California. Don’t we owe it to our country to let the democratic process play out in such a close race?
- Finally, a contested convention may be good for the Democratic Party’s soul. There is a great divide between the establishment party members who follow the triangulation approach of the Democratic Leadership Council (co-founded by former President Bill Clinton) who have abandoned traditional popular labor and economic issues, and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, not to mention the growing number of left-wing people unaffiliated with either party. The temptation is to sweep every thing under the rug and turn the convention into a rally for Hillary Clinton (while supporters of Senator Sanders and those who are like-minded are locked out of the convention hall). But just perhaps it would be a good occasion to hash out all these differences in July, rather than having them come back to bite the Democrats in the butt in the general election and beyond. It could be the opportunity to create a new triangle for the Democratic Party with the DLC old guard only one point while the others represent the Democrats’ progressive wing, and the Independent leftists who could be drawn into the party (or at the very least, convinced to vote Democrat when it counts).