AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, gestures while Hillary Clinton speaks during the CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Thursday, April 14, 2016, New York.

It’s Alive! Has Bernie Found His Ninth Life in New York?

Steve Russell

The crusty old socialist from Ben and Jerry’s, I mean Vermont, has his back to the wall again. Hillary Clinton supporters are ready for her to put Bernie Sanders away, but Sen. Bernie Sanders keeps writing his own script.

Bernie is counting on his ally, Big Mo. That’s the handle political junkies put on momentum, and Bernie has now won seven of the last eight states in the Democratic presidential primary. According to The Washington Post, CNN issued approximately 700 press credentials for his showdown debate last night against Clinton. Big Mo makes news.

Clinton claims New York as her home, but Bernie was born in Brooklyn, and he needs the 291 delegates in play in that state a lot more than she does. Clinton leads the polls by double digits, but a Sanders win on Clinton’s home turf would wound her far more than just in the delegate count.

Sanders needs a win because his path to the magic number of 2,383 delegates is getting narrower by the day.  The score in pledged delegates is Clinton 1,289—Sanders 1,038. A 251 delegate lead doesn’t sound like much, but there are those folks called superdelegates.

Superdelegates—just fewer than 15 percent of the total, or about 3 percent less than the Republicans have---were added to the mix after Democratic candidate George McGovern got taken to the woodshed by Richard Nixon in 1972.  The debacle was blamed on an unseemly breakout of democracy at the grassroots level that left many Democratic officeholders and hereditary local royalty unable to get elected to go to the convention.

McGovern’s grassroots operation brought out lots of new voters—mostly young---who got too big for their britches and decided that just because they outnumbered the Old Guard, they should run things. It was skirmishes between (and among) McGovern’s troops and the Democratic Party establishment that led to McGovern giving his powerful acceptance speech, titled “Come Home, America!” to TV cameras with no eyeballs at the other end.  The nation had gone to bed hours before.

The Democratic establishment resolved to take the party back and it took 10 years and an appointed commission to accomplish that.

Ironically, Hillary Diane Rodham was part of the McGovern insurgency, along with another Yale law student with whom she was shacking up, William Jefferson Clinton. Now, she’s the establishment, and that’s why she leads Sanders in commitments by superdelegates, 469 to 31. This extends Clinton’s lead from 251 to 689.

The superdelegates, however, can change their minds at any time, and to make that happen Sanders relies on Big Mo. Sanders needed a breakout moment in this debate.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is the best qualified candidate for POTUS in my lifetime. Only LBJ even comes close. She is also the second most unpopular candidate in this election, thanks to over 35 years of continuous attacks, some of which were justified but none of which were for transgressions nearly as awful as her enemies pretended. Luckily for the Democrats, the Republicans seem poised to nominate the one candidate with even more negative poll numbers.

Bernie Sanders is also making history. The last Socialist to make a serious run was Eugene V. Debs, who was nominated by the Socialist Party five times. His high water mark was getting six percent of the vote in 1912.

Clinton, in her opening statement for last night’s debate, reached right past Bernie to whack Rafael “Ted” Cruz by praising “New York values.” It was a characteristically shrewd opening and the audience ate it up.

A blow by blow is not necessary. Democratic debate number nine was louder than one through eight, but the tune was the same. And everybody was sitting in the same seat when the music quit playing.

Clinton is more comfortable out in the policy weeds. She is not comfortable sharing the content of a $225,000 speech to an investment bank. Politico quoted a Goldman Sachs banker who heard the speech:

It was pretty glowing about us. It’s so far from what she sounds like as a candidate now. It was like a rah-rah speech. She sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director.

Wolf Blitzer asked Clinton, yes or no, does she support raising the cap on earned income taxable for Social Security, which is now $118,500?

Some minutes later, the best I can tell was that she would consider that among other ways to save Social Security.

She then extricated herself by delivering a peroration on women’s rights as heartfelt as it was preplanned using as a springboard the accusation that nobody asked the two pro-choice candidates about choice and nobody asked two vocal supporters of Planned Parenthood what they think of the efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

That left Bernie to mention his 100 percent pro-choice record and suggest that he would increase funding for Planned Parenthood.

Sanders is more comfortable with big ideas. He is not comfortable with products liability law, which he butchers every time he tries to explain his vote to immunize the gun industry from rules that bind every other industry.

He blames his wife for his failure to make their tax returns public.  I guess if he had a super-PAC he could afford to buy that woman a copier.

He’s got the correct idea that the most efficient solution to climate change is a carbon tax. That’s obvious, and Clinton did not disagree. Or agree. The unspoken question is where the votes will come from to pass any kind of tax?

He does not seem to have figured out that the biggest obstacles to renewable energy are an obsolete patchwork electrical grid and no adequate method for storing electricity.

He closed with his bottom line, that all of his “radical” proposals are being done in countries with fewer resources than this one.

Sanders and Clinton both recited the same lines as in debates one through eight. They just did it louder and out of turn. Both of the candidates trampled any attempt by the moderators to moderate.

While the Democrats are getting more rambunctious, they have a long way to go to match the Republicans calling each other liars or the remarks about Carly Fiorina’s looks or the length of The Donald’s equipment.

In my opinion, the Bernie breakout did not happen, but the Democrats of New York will have the last word next Tuesday.  In the current posture of the race, a draw is a win for Clinton.

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