Clinton Needs Sanders

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April 6, 2016 10:20 a.m.
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From John Judis …

One clear lesson from yesterday’s results in Wisconsin. It’s time for Hillary Clinton and her boosters in the commentariat to stop calling on Bernie Sanders to withdraw. Agreed that he has a very small chance of winning the nomination, but he has some, and he and his supporters are entitled by the American system to get their message heard until the clock really strikes 12. (See Clinton vs. Obama in 2008.) More important, Clinton herself needs to keep campaigning against Sanders. The Wisconsin primary removed the main rationale for Sanders to drop out — that Clinton needs to focus on Donald Trump. After Wisconsin, we don’t know anymore who the Republican nominee is. It’s a moving target. If anything, the Democrats might consider secretly boosting Trump, because he would be a lot easier to beat in the fall than a candidate like Paul Ryan or even Ted Cruz (who, believe me, will shift to the center if he gets the nomination).

If Sanders were to drop out now, or after April 26, Clinton would probably spend her time fundraising among the billionaire class and holding endless meeting with the same advisors who are currently responsible for her lackluster campaign. She needs to find a way to appeal to someone other than African American senior citizens who will vote for her anyway. Continuing to campaign against Sanders is the best way to do that.

Clinton’s campaign seems stuck in the mud thematically. I listened to some of her speeches the last week. I heard her appealing to voters to support her because she is a Democrat and Sanders is not really. Look, America isn’t Europe circa 1960. We don’t have membership parties, and partisan allegiance has been declining since the election of 1896. If your main appeal is that you have a D next to your name, you are going to lose.

I also heard the appeal from Clinton and her boosters that her programs are practical and pragmatic and that his are airy, grandiose and totally impractical. Clinton seems to be arguing that the test of a good campaign proposal is that it be able to be inserted in the annual budget message that the President sends to Congress in February — a message that is never read and that is inevitably pronounced dead on arrival. It’s no wonder that Sanders is attracting young voters. They know Washington is currently gridlocked, but they want to know where a presidential candidate wants the country to go in five, ten, or fifteen years. What are the larger changes on the basis of which incremental changes could be made? They know the current Congress isn’t going to help fund free tuition for public colleges, but they (rightly!) think that the country has to move in that direction. Think of how conservative Republicans like Ronald Reagan won over the electorate in the 1970s. Or Bill Clinton in 1992. Hillary Clinton still needs to find a message for 2016 — one that will energize rather than enervate the electorate.

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