By Tony Brasunas
The most popular politician in the country is up against all three facets of the American political power structure, and he’s already defeated two of them.
After weeks of inspiration and joy, there was anger and sadness this past week in the Bernie Sanders movement. After historic rallies throughout the state, Hillary Clinton’s apparent victory in New York left millions in the movement wondering whether it was the corporate media or the Democratic National Committee that was screwing them over. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but it’s a third culprit who deserves their scorn.
Yes, the DNC has actively worked to rig this primary for Hillary Clinton, by minimizing and delaying the debates, by counting superdelegates as if they vote before July’s convention, and by surreptitiously funneling money to her campaign that was solicited for down-ticket candidates.
Yes, there have also been countless instances of blatant propaganda in the corporate media, most galling perhaps the ones appearing daily in the New York Times and NPR — the so-called “N-axis” — where many thoughtful urban Democrats get their news. So tendentious has Paul Krugman become, for instance, one can only assume he’s angling for a position in a Hillary Clinton cabinet
But the Bernie movement has it’s own sources of news, thanks to the Internet you’re using right now, and the campaign has its own sources of funds, too, thanks to the number 27.
The Elephant in the Room
The obstacle that the movement has to confront right now is something else: the voting system itself.
Some people will stop reading this article right here, skip down to the comments section, and fire off about “conspiracy theories” and “sore losers.” That’s fine, go ahead. Your mind is closed and there’s little I can do with you other than point out that you’re not a patriot if you love our democracy less than you long for your candidate to win. Rant if you must. It’s 2016, I’m not scared of name-calling.
The emperor has no clothes, and I’m going to point it out.
But before I do, let’s acknowledge that by many measures Bernie has been winning for over a month now. He has won eight of the last ten contests, even if we accept these deeply flawed New York results. He has been rapidly climbing in the national polls while Hillary Clinton has been declining; from double digits down, Bernie is now tied or ahead by as many as five points. From a historical perspective, his favorability ratings dwarf Hillary’s in a way that makes her chances of winning a national election highly unlikely and his chances highly likely. The polls also show Bernie is the more electable candidate in a race against any of the likely Republican nominees. Among independents — you know, the ones not allowed to vote in New York but who will determine the winner of the general election — Sanders is the clear winner. Sanders has maintained a double digit lead over Trump for months. Clinton now leads Trump by only three points —the margin of error — and is losing to the other Republican candidates.
Bernie is the one national candidate who people like the more they get to know him. As people learn more about Clinton, Trump, and Cruz, they like them less. As the country learns more about Bernie, they like him more. He’s still relatively unknown compared to Clinton and Trump, yet he already outpolls them. Looking at the current trends, one would predict that Bernie Sanders will be the most popular politician in the country come November, just as he is now.
Whichever party gets to nominate him will win the general election.
(And don’t tell me these polls don’t matter, or that Sanders hasn’t been attacked yet).
The Clinton campaign sees this too. They’re not idiots. They do have a 231-delegate lead, but they know Bernie is on the rise and that 1,401 delegates have yet to vote. They know that with every passing day his odds increase. They’re in a race against time to secure the nomination, so on any given day they howl for Bernie to get out of the race, to “tone it down,” to stop trying to actually win the nomination.
Bernie’s remarkable candidacy, and the enthusiasm in the Bernie Sanders campaign are frankly phenomena I haven’t seen in my 20 years closely watching American politics. Only Obama’s campaign was remotely similar, but that campaign was organized top-down to be a successful election, not bottom-up to be a successful revolution. Bernie will continue inspiring this movement and continue working to win this nomination precisely because he can win.
So let’s get back to the real reason Bernie has won only eight of ten, and not all of the contests that have taken place over the past month.
Grand Theft in the Grand Canyon State
The biggest issue, and something the corporate media barely touches, is that Hillary’s two wins over the past month — New York and Arizona — came in the two state primaries that were most fraught with problems and that are now under legal investigation.
A similarity between the two states is disturbing. In both states, massive voter roll changes and purges took place in the days and weeks leading up to the primary, disqualifying thousands upon thousands of new Democratic voters.
One current delegate map shows Nevada for Bernie and Wyoming tied.
Every western state that has voted is now a Bernie state. Every state, that is, except Arizona, which had only 60 polling places open for 1.3 million people in Phoenix, witnessed massive voter roll changes, and still hasn’t counted it’s thousands of provisional ballots. Two of Arizona’s neighbors — Utah and Colorado — delivered decisive wins for Bernie on initial votes, and after second-round caucuses, Nevada has flipped to Bernie as well. Wyoming, where Bernie won the popular vote but ended the first-round caucus tied in delegates, will likely also flip to Bernie after the second-round caucus. With all the voter suppression, and with all neighboring states favoring Bernie, it seems likely Bernie might very well have won Arizona too with a fair election.
Some have pointed out that Republicans led the effort to reduce the polling places and to reject the provisional ballots in Arizona. This is true, but if we actually delve into how the polling and the voting unfolded there, we learn that the Clinton campaign knew in advance that they had a lead in the early and mail-in voting, but that the polls were beginning to favor Bernie, so an obvious strategy would have been to depress election day turnout. They no doubt feared Bernie could win on election day. The long lines and voter roll purges did indeed depress election day turnout, but Bernie did win on election day. Nevertheless, because of the voter suppression and the uncounted provisional ballots, he didn’t win by a large enough margin on election day to win the state. Whether they planned it or not, the Clinton campaign certainly benefited from voter suppression.
If Republicans alone were responsible, one would expect to hear the Clinton campaign condemn the voter suppression, and, for the sake of fairness and democracy, call for a revote. At the least the Clinton campaign might have joined the Sanders campaign in calling for a recount that included the provisional ballots. Hillary instead immediately and unequivocally accepted the flawed victory and said nothing that night while watching Utah and Idaho deliver 50-point wins for Bernie.
In the Empire State the Emperor Has No Clothes
In New York, the suppression was even more obvious, if such a thing is possible. As in Arizona, thousands of voters in New York were simply removed from voter rolls all over the state in the weeks leading up to the election. In the most egregious case, a single county removed 126,000 voters from the voter rolls, and this was an important county — the county in which Bernie Sanders was born and raised.
The voter suppression in New York has been reported in many places, the Attorney General has already launched an investigation, and some people on the Board of Elections have been fired. But many see the steps taken so far as a coverup.
The investigation is being led by a delegate for Hillary Clinton, raising an obvious conflict of interest. There are reasons to believe the people fired were mere scapegoats. And the provisional ballots still have not been counted.
Even with voter suppression throughout the state, Bernie still won fifty of the sixty-two counties in the state — yes, even with all the problems, over four-fifths of the state’s counties voted for Bernie. The only counties that voted with a significant margin for Hillary Clinton — and thus enabled her victory — were the counties in and around New York City. This fact itself is not a smoking gun, as we’ve seen urban areas and rural areas vote differently throughout this primary.
But we know that the Democratic National Committee establishment has shown repeatedly that they favor Hillary Clinton, and we also know that New York City politics are infamous for corruption and are controlled primarily by the local Democratic Party.
To a neutral observer there is a prima facie case for a deeper investigation here, even before we talk about the exit polls and voting machines.
A Mathematical Impossibility
Exit polls by CNN on the night of the New York election showed a narrow victory of 4–5% for Hillary Clinton. Thus it was to the great surprise of many experts that an hour later the results came back as a 16% statewide win for Hillary Clinton. While nothing is universally accurate when it comes to democracy, exit polls are viewed as highly reliable assessments of likely final results because they ask people who have just voted, rather than people who intend to vote at some point in the future. Exit polls are widely respected and the vast majority of the time they are correct, within their margins of error. In fact, in countries around the globe, exit polls are used as early indicators of possible election fraud.
This variance of 10–11% between the exit polls and the recorded vote totals is way outside the margin of error. Mathematical analysis of this variance reveals that the probability of this happening by chance is 1:123,000. Which is to say, essentially impossible. We’re either dealing with one of the very few instances where exit polls are way off, or we’re dealing with election fraud.
It might count as heresy, but I’m going to ask: Why do we assume the voting machines in New York City are honest?
Is it too scary to contemplate? Perhaps for many of us it is.
But someone has to ask this question, and someone has to provide an ironclad answer. If we just choose to look the other way, election after election, we are living in a lie, not a democracy.
My friends, the emperor has no clothes. There must be a manual recount of 5% of paper ballots in New York City to determine the truth. A well-researched piece suggests Bernie really might have won New York, and there are already anecdotal cases where voters tried to vote for Bernie Sanders on the electronic voting machines in Brooklyn, but the machine wouldn’t record their vote until they chose Hillary Clinton. I hope to be proven wrong, but I suspect that we will find the same type of fraud that was just uncovered in Chicago.
Patriotic Americans: Protect Democracy and Call for Manual Recounts
People in every era of our troubled but brave American history have died for the right to vote. Few died for the right to have to register six months before you vote, at a time when you haven’t even heard of the candidate who is going to inspire you, only to have your registration changed or your vote counted for another candidate on election day. But that’s what voting looked like in New York last week.
Without a manual recount of the paper ballots in both Arizona and New York, we won’t know if the machines were hacked, and we won’t know who won these two pivotal states. All patriotic Americans should call for recounts. Surely those who have fought and died for the right to vote never envisioned this right to be taken so lightly that we wouldn’t continually insist on rigorous fairness.
Hillary Clinton must call for a manual recount of paper ballots. Bernie Sanders must do so as well. For potential unity inside the Democratic Party, and so that we can all regard both candidates as trustworthy and democratic, we must have fair counts in Arizona and New York, and we must have reasonably fair elections in the states yet to vote.
Now, do I think Hillary Clinton will ask for recounts? I don’t. I think most people watching these elections know — even if they don’t admit it publicly — that at this point the Clinton campaign needs every victory it can get, by hook or by crook. This desperation will likely be their undoing.
Most Americans, particularly those turned on to politics for the first time by the Bernie Sanders movement, already have lost respect for the Clinton campaign since she hasn’t said anything about the obvious flaws in these primaries. How can she blithely claim victory in New York, for example, when her total victory was by approximately 250,000 votes, the same number of voters who were disenfranchised by the voter purges? Clinton lost fifty of New York’s sixty-two counties, and a reasonable person might conclude that those fifty counties were the counties that had the more honest elections.
A responsible leader in a time like this might say, “As a nominee for the Democratic nomination, I join all Americans in recognizing that there were flaws in this election. The State Attorney General has launched an investigation. For the good of our democracy and our party, I will fully support a recount or any other remedies the investigation recommends.”
But Hillary Clinton never says things like this. There is an aura of secrecy and arrogance around her campaign, as if the entire primary is something she barely tolerates on the way to a coronation; it isn’t lost on independents or new voters that she has claimed these two flawed victories zealously and proclaimed the nomination hers after her only victory in a month.
If voter suppression on the magnitude of Arizona and New York continues, and goes unopposed, then yes, Hillary Clinton will claim the nomination. But the Democratic Party will be in sorry shape indeed.
Fair Elections Will Transform the Democratic Party and Elect Bernie Sanders
More likely, by winning in states with less corruption and fraud—and by challenging fraud where it occurs — the Sanders campaign will continue to rack up wins, delegates, and points in the polls. Bernie will arrive at the convention roughly tied on pledged delegates, perhaps ahead or behind by a few dozen, and with significant momentum. In that case the choice before the Democratic Party and the superdelegates will be to nominate a surging Bernie Sanders with lots of money who obliterates the Republicans in the polls, or to nominate a slumping Hillary Clinton and her string of losses, scandals, and weak poll numbers who clings to one positive attribute — that she is a woman.
It will be a momentous choice. As a country and a planet, we have so much that needs swift and serious reform — the banking system, the environment, the destructive trade deals, racist criminal justice, profit-driven wars in the Middle East. Millions know this and many will turn up in Philadelphia for the convention. The Sanders campaign just needs to keep pushing despite the fact that the three facets of the political power system are arrayed against him. The corporate media, the Democratic Party, and state elections officials will all suggest that Sanders stops trying to win.
A popular meme on Facebook, 4/20–22
But the Bernie Sanders movement didn’t pack it up on March 16, when Hillary “won” five states (two of which were actually ties, Illinois and Missouri). And there’s little reason to believe they’ll pack it up before the convention. For them, the media’s opposition and the party’s opposition have largely been neutralized by enthusiasm, organization, and commitment. The appearance of this last edifice of opposition — election fraud — should only strengthen their resolve. They’re on the right side of history on so many issues, and now they can take inspiration from the social movements of history that fought for the right to vote. They’re no longer only fighting for the issues Bernie advocates, they’re also fighting for the system that undergirds our very democracy.
On March 16th, the media said it was over, and they’re saying it’s over now. But those who “do their own research” knew then that the movement had many contests left to win, and they know now that nineteen states and 1,401 delegates are still available. Most are winnable, and it’s entirely possible that Bernie Sanders wins every state that votes in May.
As he becomes more popular, if the votes are counted fairly, Bernie Sanders will pull into a lead or a virtual tie in the fight for the nomination in California on June 7. And if the votes are counted fairly then too, we just might watch him in November handily defeat a Republican for the White House.