The candidacy of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has reenergized a progressive tranche of the Democratic party disillusioned with the capture of Washington by private interests.
Similar to what we've seen working so well in the Republican party this cycle, Sanders has a populist appeal among working-class voters who feel disenfranchised while much of the country has bounced back from the great recession of the late 2000s.
The incredible wealth of support Sanders has amassed is illustrated by his fundraising successes over the past many months. As of Feb. 29, Sanders had raised $140 million, with a publicized average around $27 from 5.7 million contributions, the FEC reports.
Despite his amazing rise over the past year, Sanders at this point faces a difficult if not impossible path to the Democratic nomination. He has collected a total of 946 delegates and superdelegates, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 1,690. The former Secretary of State’s lead is significant.
Without superdelegates, however, the tally is much closer: Clinton with 1,223 and Sanders at 920. Clinton has support from 467 superdelegates and Sanders is backed by a comparatively measly 26.
As recently as mid-March, Sanders told MSNBC that he believes he is the strongest candidate to take on Donald Trump in the fall: “We have received more votes from people under 30 than Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump combined… I think I am a stronger candidate to defeat Trump than Secretary Clinton is, and I think many of the superdelegates understand that.”
Much of his campaign has focused on differences between himself and front-runner Clinton on issues of international trade and financial regulation, among others.
Now Democratic lawmakers have started calling on him to move aside. New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen explained: “It’s good [for Sanders] to continue to raise the concerns that people have, but I think it ought to be in the context of, ‘This is the difference between the Democrats and Republicans in this race.’”
In other words -- if you want to stick around, Bernie, lay off of Hillary.
However, “Sanders has managed something Clinton has been ill-equipped to do: connect with a variety of demographic groups who love Barack Obama but feel left behind by Obama’s recovery,” as John Hudah noted in a post for the Brookings Institution.
Clinton will need that demographic to win in November. We’ll have to wait and see when Sanders feels comfortable handing the progressive reigns over to his opponent, the almost-inevitable Democratic nominee.