It’s a while since I’ve blogged about the presidential campaign, even though lots has been happening. Here are just a few notes on how I see things at this point.
On the Republican side, the odds are against the late-coming, near-frantic efforts of the anti-Trump forces. Their hope now seems to lie with a brokered convention, in which Trump, denied an outright majority of delegates on the first ballot, could then fall to a more conventional choice. This is the kind of scenario that you conjure up when you have nothing better, but it depends on too many things going just right. First, it requires that the Trump juggernaut will fail to win 50% of delegates before the convention opens. Then it envisions Trump with, say, 40-45% of the delegates on the first ballot, after which all the non-Trump delegates will be able to coalesce around an alternative (Who? Rubio? Kasich? Romney?) and maybe even lure away some of the Trumpites. But that optimistically assumes a political and ideological homogeneity in the anti-Trump camp that can’t be assumed. I think it just as likely that with Trump approaching a majority on the first ballot, there will be enough break-away Cruz and Rubio delegates willing and ready to put him over on the second. If, as seems likely, Trump beats Rubio in the Florida primary this weekend, the possibility of a brokered convention becomes all the more remote.
Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination. As a Sanders supporter, I never had any illusions about that; actually, Bernie has done rather better than I expected. But I never saw him as a POTUS: I saw him as a nudger and a trailblazer. He has nudged Hillary to the left and demonstrated that there is a powerful current in the Democratic Party that is not satisfied with the centrist liberalism of the last two Democratic presidents. In the White House, Hillary Clinton will at least occasionally have to look warily over her left shoulder, a necessity that hasn’t weighed on Barack Obama, who never faced a challenge from the left. And, hopefully, the Sanders campaign has energized new cadres of activists who will fuel the drive to a more aggressively progressive Democratic Party.
So, I’m glad Bernie’s still in the race, and I’m not terribly moved by the very credible liberal critiques of his campaign that have come from Paul Krugman, Paul Glastris, and others. Yes, Sanders has made a number of proposals that are politically unrealistic, and some of his numbers don’t add up. Those criticisms matter a lot if you see Sanders as a POTUS; they matter much less if you see him mainly as a change agent. What matters to me isn’t so much the specific policy proposals, but the direction of change that Sanders is promoting. Sometimes you need visionaries making unrealistic demands to push the pragmatists to do what is possible.