Here's Why Bernie Sanders' New York Loss Killed The "Momentum" Myth
After a spree of victories in more rural and delegate-impoverished states’ primaries, Bernie Sanders came up short in New York on Tuesday. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton was widely expected to win the state’s primary on April 19, but it wasn’t quite clear to what degree Sanders, a native son of Brooklyn, would chip away at her share of the delegates. The answer, it turned out, was not a bunch. While I think it’s a stretch to call the results – Clinton’s 139 delegates to Sanders’ 106 – a “blowout”, as The Washington Post did, they don’t leave Sanders with a whole lot of options.
Clinton now has 1,930 delegates; Sanders has 1,189. As ever, the magic number is 2,383. Of the 712 unpledged Democratic delegates who will be at the national convention in July, 502 have declared their support for Clinton. Those reportedly going to Sanders? Just 38.
Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver has been doing damage control, saying that a lack of delegates doesn’t really matter. But considering that delegates are how one earns the party's nomination, they actually do. Weaver also cited California — where Clinton is expected to win — as a potential source of life support for the Sanders camp. California, with all its ethnic diversity and major urban spaces, is really not a place where Sanders can realistically expect to look for salvation, considering that rural and whiter states tend to be more of his strong suit.
California's June 7 primary is indeed one of the last remaining opportunities for the Vermont senator to close what is an undeniably massive gap between himself and the former secretary of state, but I just don't believe he will pull off a Hail Mary in the Golden State. Regardless of what Weaver says, Sanders’ loss in New York tells us that whatever momentum we attributed to him in recent weeks was a kind of false positive, borne of the chronological grouping of rural white states like Wyoming, where he tends to do well. New York brought us back to reality, as will California when the time comes. Slate reported that Sanders even lost the Brooklyn block where he grew up. That is not the kind of momentum he was looking for in the Empire State.
Weaver essentially tried to say Clinton’s delegate lead was whatever, because Sanders would be able to bend the superdelegates to his will. "Nobody is going to arrive in Philadelphia with enough delegates to win the nomination," Weaver said to NPR of Sanders’ chances. "And the superdelegates don't vote until you actually get into the convention process. So there's been a lot of talk about how the Republicans are going into an open convention. Well, the truth of the matter is, it looks like the Democrats are going into an open convention as well."
This logic just doesn't hold water, in my opinion. I mean, has Weaver seen the pattern of Democratic superdelegate behavior in this election cycle? Again: Clinton has 502. Sanders has 38. How is this a good argument?
I get that Weaver has to say these things. And I get that the precise moment for Sanders to drop out has not quite yet arrived. But I also think Sanders should begin thinking about a way to end his campaign gracefully, in a way that doesn't divide the party any more than it has to, or has already. Many in his base may hate Clinton and be Bernie-or-bust, but I think they often forget the alternatives.