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This Ain’t the Kentucky Derby, Y’All

A full 89 percent of Sanders supporters say they would like to see him stay in the race until July. (Photo: Todd Church/flickr/cc)

Ok, everybody, just calm down.

At this point in the Democratic presidential primary “horserace,” things are getting tense. Some Clinton supporters clamor for Sanders to drop out. Although their voices may seem loud, in reality it’s surprisingly few people: results from the latest NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll says only 16 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners want Sander’s exit. Even almost a third of declared Clinton supporters want him to stay in until the end.

On Sander’s side, as the path to nomination becomes narrower, some of us cry foul with increasing vehemence, blaming Clinton’s success on a rigged contest.

As with most popular conspiracy theories, there is some truth to that. Take the case of the superdelegates, around whom the race may finally pivot. There’s no defense of the Democratic National Committee’s anointment of Clinton before the primaries even began.

How we deal with the inequities determines what the future of the party will be. Sanders voters can rail against DNC insiders on social media until they run out of pixels. Or they can do what delegates in Maine did at the state convention on May 7, when they made a rule that, starting with the 2020 presidential primary, superdelegates must apportion their votes according to Maine’s popular vote outcome. And, while the delegates couldn’t change the rules retroactively for this nomination, they could add a strong recommendation that such apportionment happen in this cycle. In addition, the state convention will send one strong Sanders supporter to the DNC and has the possibility of electing another as well. You can be sure the mandate those two carry with them will not the fit the current status quo.


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If Sanders does manage to navigate that narrow path and end up the Democratic nominee, his candidacy will pull other down-ticket progressive candidates along with him. The movement he’s been talking about will be launched. And we’re off!

But if he doesn’t make it past the national convention, the race isn’t over. Sanders brought a gift to the party and unwrapped it in front of our eyes. And now that we’ve seen his offering of higher aspirations, we can’t go back. He’s energized millions of previously disaffected, disappointed, or uninterested voters and brought them out to vote in primaries, caucuses, and state conventions.

Bernie Sanders is 74 years old. As he often states, this campaign is not about him; he’s handing us the reins. He has shown the way—through personal example and by speaking his vision for the country—and it’s up to us to honor his commitment with our own. In the event that he is not declared the Democratic nominee, let’s all swivel our focus to local, state, and federal candidates who share his vision. They’re out there, and they need our help. Imagine if we continue to send those small donations, if we continue to cheer at big rallies, if we maintain our enthusiasm. We can match and even overcome the self-interested power of the Kochs of the political fundraising world, because our energy will come from authenticity and honor, not self- interest and lies.

And if we succeed in bringing a new progressive power to state legislatures, local school boards, and the U.S. Congress, we’ll need a Democrat in the highest office. We don’t have to love a President Clinton but we do need to vote for one, to make sure that the vision laid out by Bernie Sanders isn’t squashed in its infancy.

This isn’t a horserace, over in the blink of an eye. Real change, organic transformation, takes time and persistence. You get kicked and you rub the bruise and keep going. Sometimes you even fall off, but you hop back on. With or without Bernie at the top of the ticket this year, we just need to keep our eyes on the vision he’s shown us, the future we all now believe in.

Barbara Burt

Barbara Burt

Barbara Burt of Round Pond, Maine, cut her teeth on good government issues at Common Cause. She was the first executive director of Maine's Frances Perkins Center.

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