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Declaring Clinton’s Premature Victory

The mainstream media has run out screaming headlines and saturation TV coverage on AP’s tally that Hillary Clinton has nailed down the Democratic nomination, but the claims are misleading

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Photo: NBC)

Hillary Clinton needs to win 613 of the remaining 775 pledged delegates to clinch the Democratic Party nomination for president. That’s the math, though not what you’ve been seeing in the corporate media’s headlines.

With Clinton neck-and-neck with Sen. Bernie Sanders in the opinion polls for Tuesday’s California primary, where 475 pledged delegates are at stake, it’s very unlikely she’ll have the required 2,383 pledged delegates going into the Philadelphia convention next month. That means Clinton will need the votes of super-delegates, those unelected, pre-selected, party insiders chosen specifically to prevent a grass-roots insurgent candidate like Sanders.

By a large margin, Clinton leads Sanders in super-delegates who have indicated how they intend to vote. But unlike pledged delegates, bound by the will of the voters, the super-delegates can change their minds right up to the convention night when they must cast their ballot.

That is not what the Associated Press misleadingly reported on Tuesday however. It has prematurely declared Clinton the Democratic nominee, even though she’s short of the required pledged delegates. AP and other corporate media are making a huge assumption that the super-delegates will stick with her until Philadelphia.

But Sanders has several strong arguments to get them to change their minds. First, he does much better against Republican nominee Donald Trump than Clinton does in every poll. Second, Clinton could still be indicted by the Justice Department before the convention for her mishandling of classified information on her private email server.

Third, at this point in the 2008 Democratic race, Clinton also trailed Barack Obama by a large number of pledged delegates, yet she refused to leave the race. She even floated the possibility that Obama could be assassinated, invoking the June 1968 slaying of Robert F. Kennedy on the night he’d won the California primary. There’s probably more chance of Clinton’s indictment than there was of Obama’s assassination.

Fourth, Sanders has very little baggage. There are virtually no scandals in his past. There is little that Trump’s opposition research can dig up on him compared to the library full of dirt they will get on Clinton.

Fifth, in a year of anti-Establishment fervor on both left and right it seems very risky for the Democrats to put up a quintessential Establishment figure like Clinton to face the populist Trump.


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Given these facts, Sanders would be foolish not to lobby the super-delegates until that night in Philadelphia. And that’s why he’s staying in the race. Not because he’s bitter. Not because he wants to damage Clinton. But because he thinks he can still win.

You wouldn’t know it from corporate media, however. It smears Sanders with both news and opinion pieces that portray him as an angry, old egomaniac who stubbornly is staying in the race only because he wants to hurt Clinton out of vindictiveness, and thus help Trump. And it tries to portray all his supporters as angry and violent, ready to strike respectable people at anytime.

Even if he suffers a blowout loss in California – possibly made more likely by the AP’s report on Clinton clinching the nomination – Sanders has several strong arguments with the super-delegates that Democrats would have a much better chance with him in November. But his biggest obstacle may be something even more important to the Democratic establishment than winning the White House: protecting their privilege.

Sanders has stirred up masses of people who pose a threat to those privileges. His proposed policy changes could cut into the Democratic establishment’s entrenched interests. Trump’s rhetoric on the right has made similar appeals to suffering workers and formerly middle-class Americans. But Trump is a demagogue exploiting that sentiment, while Sanders may genuinely try to make reforms that could challenge the moneyed elite.

Sanders is a greater threat to elite Democrat’s class privilege than the billionaire Trump is. Trump is a better bet not to mess with the status quo and may even push for more government concessions to the rich.

Therefore it is unlikely, short of a Clinton indictment, that the super-delegates will listen to Sanders. And if she is indicted, there’s Establishment talk of inserting Joe Biden or John Kerry as the last-minute nominee.

And that could bring a self-fulfilling prophecy by establishment Democrats of a violent reaction in Philadelphia.

Joe Lauria

Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the U.N. since 1990. He has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He can be reached  and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.

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