Hillary Clinton crushed Bernie Sanders in the latest round of primaries, not only in their home state of New York, but even the key eastern states of Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania. Sanders was only able to clinch the state of Rhode Island on Super Tuesday, but Clinton’s win in New York last week ended the Vermont senator’s impressive winning streak.
Sanders has seven states in a row in pitched primary battles since March. New York rewarded its senator like it did in 2008 over Barack Obama, and Clinton has maintained a lead of 700 delegates over Sanders, with the Democratic Party convention around the corner in July.
Even though Sanders has vowed to fight for the Democratic nomination ‘till the last vote is cast’, Clinton has more or less secured the Democratic nomination. She has emerged as not only the Democratic Party’s clear favourite to face off against the Republicans, but even has the people behind her.
With Trump poised to win the Republican nomination, beating Ted Cruz by sweeping the last six primaries, the conundrum now before the Democrats is whether they should prepare a united front ahead of the presidential election in November, or let the bitter battle for the nomination continue.
The odds are stacked against Sanders even as he continues to push his popular ‘political revolution’ pitch. On paper, Sanders is the perfect Democratic poster boy, championing the party’s liberal politics for decades – not tied up by the strings of lobby groups and corporate interests.
Clinton may not have a stellar record as a Democratic leader, with her flip-flops on the Iraq war, same sex rights, and a subdued campaign pitch on empowering the welfare state, but she has proven herself a political heavyweight. She has effectively exercised her public image and clout over Democratic voters, nourished over a long career from First Lady to senator to secretary of state. Clinton’s primary wins and delegate count show she is a lightning rod for the eclectic Democratic voter base, and has emerged as the party’s best candidate to retain control of the White House.
There is no doubt that Sanders continues to hold sway over a major section of Democratic voters. However, with Trump’s positioning in the Republican Party, it may be pragmatic for Sanders to step back from a divisive campaign, cut the media jibes and attack ads in the run-up to the July convention.
Considering the tally of delegates, Sanders must realise that he has more to offer the Democratic Party and its social justice agenda by backing Hillary Clinton’s nomination for the presidential ticket. By supporting Clinton, Sanders will not in any way be waving the white flag as he has had a major influence on the overall Democratic campaign.
Sanders stressed on the need to tackle income inequality and highlighted his plans for immigration, banking and education reform, stirring Democratic voters across the US. The campaign led to him being considered a strong contender for the nomination, and even pushed Hillary Clinton to re-align her narrative to reap the popularity of his social justice message.
Even though he is miles behind in the race, Sanders has acted as a bridge between the Clinton campaign and Democratic voters, calibrating the party’s message to the sentiments and issues at the heart of its support base.
Sanders should consider serving the Democratic Party as Clinton’s vice-presidential candidate. His campaign has shown he is akin to a Birbal to Hillary’s Akbar – a force of truth and reason before the heir of the Democratic Party, keeping her true to its ideals. He should move to formalise that arrangement and end the friction between the two sides, to deter all voter fatigue and division in the Democratic ranks.
The results of the primaries have clearly established that it is time for the Democrats to unite before the people of the United States, to become a more powerful ideological counter to the Trump-led Republicans for what is set to be a no-holds-barred presidential race.
The writer is a senior news editor at CNN-IBN in India.