Dear Superdelegate: The Case for Bernie Sanders
I am a lifelong Democrat who lives in Ohio. I have voted straight Democratic ticket for the past 35 years and have campaigned for Democrats the last three elections. For the past year I have been campaigning for Bernie Sanders.
Bernie did not win in Ohio, but he did get almost 43 percent of the vote. One reason Bernie did not get more is a large number of Democrats crossed over to the Republican primary to vote for Gov. Kasich. Ohio at that time was seen as the last chance to stop Trump, and Ohio is the only state Kasich won. Unfortunately this vote did not stop Trump, who has since knocked out 17 other opponents to become the Republican nominee.
I am sure you will agree that a Trump presidency would be an absolute disaster for the nation. I am a climate activist, and Trump has already announced plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, bring back the Keystone pipeline, and turn over land and sea to drilling, fracking, and mining.
Trump is a racist and misogynist whose presidency would lead to massive oppression of minority groups – and worse, an environment in which racists would be emboldened to speak and act out. Hate crimes would become rampant, and perpetrators might not be convicted.
Trump would bankrupt the nation, destroy our standing in the world, and roll back the clock to the 19th century. We cannot under any circumstances allow him to become president. He represents an existential threat to national interests as well as international and climate stability.
So why am I writing you, a Democratic superdelegate for Ohio, about the Republican nominee for president? As superdelegate, your job will be to choose the nominee to go up against Trump if neither Democratic candidate can accumulate the 2,383 pledged delegates needed to win. Currently Hillary Clinton has 1,769 pledged delegates while Bernie Sanders has 1,501. However, neither candidate is likely to get to 2,383 through pledged delegates alone.
That means you as a superdelegate will be deciding the outcome of the 2016 nomination.
Why you should change your vote
As you know, superdelegates were created after the 1980 election that ushered in the Reagan era. Incumbent president Jimmy Carter was seen as unelectable due to the ongoing Iranian hostage crisis, but the party had no way to award the nomination to Ted Kennedy, who had won a series of late primaries. After the election, the Hunt Commission recommended creating superdelegates to “give our convention more flexibility to respond to changing circumstances and, in cases where the voters’ mandate is less than clear, to make a reasoned choice.”
Since their creation, superdelegates have always matched the popular vote. However, I believe this year there are good reasons for you to consider selecting a candidate other than the one who has the most pledged delegates. I would like to lay out those reasons and ask you to switch your vote to Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
First, the voters’ mandate is less than clear.
- Hillary has won 27 states so far, but Bernie has won 21. Most of the states Hillary won voted early in the process, but as the process has gone on, more states are voting for Bernie. This suggests that as people get to know Bernie, they like him and vote for him.
- Although Hillary appears to have more raw votes than Bernie, this count under-represents results from caucus states, where Bernie does much better. If the caucus states were counted proportionately, the gap between the candidates would be smaller.
- Bernie also does better in states with open primaries, where independents can vote. This is significant because independents will be voting in the general election. That means results from closed primary states are not indicative of what will happen in the general.
Second, circumstances are changing. One major issue hanging over the entire primary is the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. For a long time I ignored this issue, figuring it was just another baseless attack from Republicans. As Bernie said, I was “sick and tired of hearing about the damn emails.” But as I began to look into it, I found there was more to it.
The email scandal: There's a there there
The State Department Inspector General report made clear that what Clinton did was categorically different from actions by previous secretaries of state. Most of us understand using a personal email address, and other secretaries of state have used a personal email address to send government correspondence. But Clinton went beyond that to set up her own entire server in her house through which she routed all her correspondence, personal or government.
It is unclear why she did this, but what is clear is she was extremely concerned about not allowing personal emails to become public. Before turning over the private server two years after leaving office (though it should have been turned over immediately), she deleted more than 30,000 messages, or about half of all message content, claiming they were personal.
The FBI has been able to recover most of those messages, either from other servers where she sent them or from the cloud where they were backed up. Twelve agents are investigating these messages, which is a lot to have on a single case.
The Inspector General report made it clear that Clinton flouted State Department rules in setting up the private server, despite her many claims it was allowed. By doing this, she violated two sets of rules. First, she had highly classified information on an unsecured server, which put it at risk for hacking. We don’t know if her server was in fact hacked, although the Romanian hacker Guccifer claims he got access, and some reports say the Kremlin has thousands of her emails.
Second, this arrangement made all of Clinton’s State Department correspondence unavailable for Freedom of Information requests. These requests are part of our system of government transparency to ensure officials are accountable to the citizens who elect them. However, if a FOIA search was done on State Department correspondence during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, nothing would show up because it was on a private, not government, server.
At this point we can only speculate why Clinton went to such great lengths to hide her correspondence from the public. However, we do know such actions were wrong, and that she is embroiled in two legal investigations for it, one by the FBI and one from the conservative group Judicial Watch. Either of those investigations could lead to an indictment or conviction.
As a Bernie supporter, I have to ask: Is there any precedent at any time in history for a major party to nominate a candidate who is under such active investigations? Is it wise for the party to stake this election on a candidate who is so hobbled? How can Clinton run an effective campaign against Trump while under such a huge cloud?
Third, you have a more reasoned choice. Bernie is not under any sort of investigation, and has no history of scandal, while the history of the Clintons is filled with scandal. Bernie is the only candidate in the election with a positive favorability rating. Clinton has the worst unfavorable ratings of any candidate in Democratic history, beaten only by the unfavorables of Trump.
Voters trust Bernie, but they do not trust Hillary. The reason is simple. Bernie has had the same positions on the issues for 30 years. If you listen to a speech by him in 1981, it sounds like a speech today. Hillary, on the other hand, has changed her positions on important issues many times.
It is one thing to evolve gradually on contentious social issues such as gay marriage. It is another to change positions on things like the Keystone pipeline and Trans-Pacific Partnership suddenly and under the bright spotlight of a presidential campaign. That is why when people are asked to associate a word with Hillary, the most common answer is “liar.”
Bernie has also consistently polled much more strongly against Trump than Hillary. Over the past six months, Sanders has polled 6 points to 17 points ahead of Trump in the head-to-head polls on Real Clear Politics, while Hillary has polled a maximum of 11 points ahead. However, Hillary’s lead against Trump has almost disappeared since March. She is now only 1.5 points ahead of Trump in the average of head-to-head polls, well within the margin of error. Sanders, by contrast, stands at 10.4 points ahead of Trump.
The general election polls count
When presented with this evidence from head-to-head matchup polls, Hillary supporters typically have three responses.
First, they say polls this far out mean nothing. However, research suggests otherwise. In an analysis of elections between 1952 and 2008, Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien found that matchup polls as early as April have produced results close to the outcome in November. In all five elections since 1996, matchup polls as early as February yielded average results within two points of the final outcome.
In other words, if Sanders is the nominee, his 10.4 point lead over Trump in May is probably safe, but if Clinton is the nominee, her 1.5 point lead is well within the margin of error. The takeaway is: If you want to be sure of beating Trump, the best choice is Bernie. If you choose Clinton, you are putting the nation at risk.
Second, it is said that Hillary is polling lower because Bernie is still in the race – that he is hurting her numbers and bringing her down. But that argument makes no sense when we are looking at single head-to-head matchup polls. The question is a two-way choice between either Clinton-Trump or Sanders-Trump. No poll asks about a three-way choice between Clinton-Sanders-Trump, so Sanders can’t be taking her votes. Clinton has been sliding in head-to-head polls against Trump since March, but that is likely due to the ongoing email scandal.
Yes, Bernie has been vetted
Finally, it is said that Bernie has not faced 25 years of attacks, while Hillary is a thoroughly vetted candidate. Certainly it is true that Hillary has faced an ungodly amount of criticism since her days as first lady in Arkansas, and much of this criticism has been sexist and gender-based.
However, it is not true that Bernie has not faced criticism. First, Bernie has been through 20 different elections from mayor of Burlington, Vt., to House member from Vermont, to senator from Vermont. During those elections, opponents have waged many negative campaigns against him. Bernie has overcome all of these attacks. In fact, history shows that negative attacks against Bernie tend to backfire against his opponent because voters like and trust Bernie so much.
Bernie has also faced plenty of criticism during the 2016 primary. The Clintons have criticized Sanders’ votes on guns, health care, college tuition, the auto bailout, abortion, and immigration, most of which have been widely debunked in the media.
Clinton’s SuperPAC Correct the Record, which coordinates directly with the Clinton campaign, has also gone after Bernie in more underhanded ways, for example by trying to link him to Hugo Chavez, and its director David Brock has spent $1 million to hire an online army to attack Bernie in comments on news stories and social media.
Trial by media
Finally, the mainstream media has had almost nothing but criticism of Bernie – when they pay any attention to him at all. Studies show the media has largely ignored Bernie. For example, the Tyndall Report found that in 2015 Bernie got 20 seconds of coverage on ABC News compared to 81 minutes for Trump – all while tens of thousands of people were attending Bernie’s rallies almost daily.
When the media does pay attention to Bernie, it is usually to misrepresent his platform and his plans. For example:
- The New York Times promoted four “left-leaning” economists who claimed that an economic analysis showing Bernie’s plans would result in economic growth was unrealistic -- even though all the analysis did was to run Bernie’s plans through the same economic modeling program used by the Congressional Budget Office.
- The Washington Post has cranked out constant negative stories about Bernie with headlines so slanted it is hard to tell if they are news or opinion. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found the Post at one point ran 16 negative stories on Bernie in 16 hours.
- Vox publicized a tax calculator that purported to show how much Bernie’s plans would cost the average household in taxes – but neglected to also incorporate how much his health care and college tuition plans would save the same households. Once that was incorporated, American households were found to save an average of $4,300 each.
- News outlets count superdelegates in candidate delegate totals, even though most declared an allegiance to Hillary before Bernie was even in the race and they do not actually vote until the convention. Nor do most media outlets differentiate between the number of pledged vs superdelegates – even though the Democratic National Committee asked them to stop this practice altogether.
Trump will attack Hillary -- and win
In short, Sanders has faced no shortage of criticism from Clinton, her campaign operatives, and the media, during this very primary. Meanwhile, Bernie has refrained from bringing up many points of criticism against Hillary that Trump will have no compunction about using. These include:
- The email scandal, FBI investigation, and possible indictment, discussed above.
- The Clinton Foundation. In the book Clinton Cash, Peter Schweizer of Stanford's Hoover Institution documents a troubling pattern during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state in which foreign governments and international businessmen made large donations to the Clinton Foundation, then subsequently got help from Bill or Hillary Clinton with initiatives such as arms deals or contracts to exploit vast tracts of natural resources. Although no quid pro quo is proven, there is an appearance of a conflict of interest. Even worse, this book is the basis of a documentary to be released before the November election. Clinton has never before faced detailed public scrutiny about the finances of the foundation, and there is no way this issue will not detract from her numbers during the campaign.
- Bill Clinton’s long history of affairs. New reports are circulating about Bill’s 26 flights with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein on the “Lolita Express,” but Trump is also bringing back scandals from the 1990s with allegations of affairs, harassment, and even rape – and he is alleging that Hilary enabled her husband by trying to discredit and silence the victims. Is any of this true? In most of these cases, it is impossible to know. But Trump will have no compunction about pushing this line of attack as far as it will go – and people will believe him, and Hillary will lose votes.
Although the conventional wisdom is that Clinton is the more electable candidate, all evidence points to a different conclusion. She has enormous negatives, an impending investigation, and ongoing vulnerabilities to Trump. Sanders has none of these negatives, and all of the positives.
An anti-establishment year
What’s more, 2016 is an extremely uncharacteristic year – it is not politics as usual. After 30 years of seeing their real wages stagnate, jobs shipped overseas, and standard of living fall, all while the top few percent get richer and richer, voters are extremely angry. They want change, and not incremental change but real change, and they want it now. It is an anti-establishment year, but Hillary Clinton is the poster child for an establishment candidate.
Sure, Bernie has been in Congress for a long time, but make no mistake – he is not an establishment candidate. Bernie does not have a SuperPAC and does not take money from large corporations. Hillary has several superPACs and spends much of her time fundraising. While 77 percent of Bernie's donations are below $200 each, only 17 percent of Hillary's are. Bernie now has 7 million individual donations averaging $27 each.
Although Trump is a billionaire, he is also an anti-establishment candidate. Why? Because he has largely funded his own campaign. That is part of why Trump is doing so well. Besides his despicable dog-whistle politics, many voters think Trump will stand up to corporate power.
Sensing the times, Trump is already running to Hillary’s left on economic issues like trade, preserving Social Security and Medicare, and health insurance monopolies. Does he mean anything he says about it? Probably not. But Hillary is not the right candidate to put up against such an opponent.
The stakes are too high
For all these reasons, I ask you to please consider carefully your vote in at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Normally I would be against any sort of overriding of the popular vote.
But given the factors that shaped this popular vote – the closed primary system, blackout and criticism of Sanders by mainstream media, and late election surges as voters get to know Sanders – as well as the strong negatives and legal investigations that continue to hound the Clintons, and the troubling issues sure to be raised during a fall campaign – I feel that this year there is solid ground for superdelegates, for the first time in history, to use their power to intervene during the convention and nominate the most electable candidate. That candidate is Bernie Sanders.
The stakes of the 2016 election are simply too high for the Democratic Party to put forward a hobbled candidate, when they could choose a strong candidate who can readily beat Trump. For the sake of the nation, the planet, and all life on it, please find it in your mind to objectively look at the evidence and facts, in your heart to think about what is best for your constituents, and in your soul the courage to do what is right. This is a unique moment in history, one that will not come again.
Please do the right thing and nominate Bernie Sanders for president.