Despite the acrimony and deep ideological debate raging within the Democratic Party, the vast majority of both Clinton and Sanders supporters know America must defeat Donald Trump. They just vehemently disagree about how to best ensure his loss.
California primary voters can force Democrats to engage productively across the divide if they make the unconventional political move to register the big picture, not simply the dynamics within the Democratic National Committee confines.
First, it's important to understand the Gordian impasse. Clinton supporters and DNC leadership believe Sanders is a spoiler who must concede—yesterday .
As a result of Monday's premature announcement by the Associated Press that Clinton has the delegates to claim the nomination, they believe Clinton can rely on time to bring Sanders supporters into her fold. Conventional wisdom suggests Clinton needn't worry about earning their votes and must now pivot right. As the first woman presidential nominee, they believe her message of being "qualified" and "ready to lead on Day 1" combined with amassing opposition research and offering a steady stream of attacks on Donald Trump will deliver her to the Oval Office.
"The country deserves outside-the-DNC-box thinking at this moment of national existential crisis, because what seems lost on Clinton and the DNC—and the television news media—is that preventing this nomination process from running its full course will only increase acrimony and alienation. Time alone, in tumultous and uncharted 2016, will not heal the divide for much of the Sanders bloc. "
This opinion ignores the volatile and anti-establishment climate of 2016 and applies an old playbook, which led the DNC to watch their preferred candidate's vast inevitability disintegrate into a neck-and-neck nail-biter when challenged by a 74-year-old Democratic Socialist with no establishment or corporate backing. It also ignores the fact that all conventional attacks and critical media reports have thus far only ricocheted off Trump and even emboldened his reality-TV candidacy.
Sanders supporters believe an arcane and biased nomination process will hand Clinton the nomination and leave the party with a candidate whose private email-server activities are still under FBI investigation and who was publicly rebuked by the State Department for breaking rules and putting her personal privacy above national security. They cite months of general election match-up polls showing Sanders as the stronger candidate against Trump, and worry that Clinton's unfavorables are the highest of any Democratic nominee in the last ten presidential cycles.
Whether the DNC is propping up a weakened politician against an insurgent celebrity who seduced enough voters to implode the GOP establishment is up for debate, but the question is legitimate for voters other than Sanders partisans with America facing a potential Trump presidendcy.
It is wise to consider the fact that Clinton is the grande dame of Democratic establishment politics at a moment when "establishment" is a pejorative to many millions of Americans on the left and right. By contrast, the Sanders campaign presented a mix of policy ideas and messaging that gained momentum over time and resonate deeply with half the Democratic party, a generation of young voters, and more independents on the left and right.
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The country deserves outside-the-DNC-box thinking at this moment of national existential crisis, because what seems lost on Clinton and the DNC—and the television news media—is that preventing this nomination process from running its full course will only increase acrimony and alienation. Time alone, in tumultous and uncharted 2016, will not heal the divide for much of the Sanders bloc.
Clinton could earn their votes by being inclusive of their concerns and ideas through compromise and commitments, and when these voters feel represented, the party and nation will benefit from the unconventional thinking, creativity and dynamism the Sanders movement can offer.
Instead, Clinton and her advisors stick to the "never given an inch" strategy, despite thought leaders from the Sanders wing imploring her to change tactics. Growing progressive resistance convinced the DNC to allow Sanders to make picks for the platform committee, but to bring about the true unity that will get all Democrats rooting and working for the nominee, Clinton must be politically motivated to address the concerns of half her party and to get help in successfully reaching out to other Sanders voters—particularly the new generation of young voters and activists she and her surrogates have repeatedly attacked as being "conned" and "uninformed."
This is where California Democrats and independents can make the difference today.
Delivering a decisive primary win for Sanders is the safest way to politically ensure a reluctant Clinton excercises leadership and calls on the best ideas and strategies. With a unified and collaborative party behind her, Clinton will improve her sagging numbers against Trump. Without it? Do California voters want to risk relying on a playbook that tore the Democratic Party in two, and leave Trump an opening to prey on those who feel disenfranchised?
If neither candidate secures the 2,383 pledged delegates necessary to claim the nomination by June 14, DNC rules stipulate both candidates can take their case to the convention and superdelegates. Whether yesterday's oddly-timed announcement aimed at suppressing voter turnout here in delegate-rich California is unknown, but this media subversion of democracy only further exacerbated Democratic Party divisions.
California has the power to counter these divisive moves today by awarding Sanders the political clout to, if not win the nomination, move Clinton and party leadership at an open convention to incorporate more of the creative and bold policy and messaging ideas that, in these anti-establishment times, have proven most effective in resonating beyond the party-loyalist base.