The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at The Wall Street Journal written by the editor, James Taranto.
Inevitable, Eventual, Irritable
With Donald Trump getting all the attention, hardly anybody has noticed Bernie Sanders has been on a bit of a winning streak. In the last set of nomination contests, on March 26, he won three caucuses—in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington, as Politico noted to yawns. The closest of the three was the Aloha State, where he had only 69.8%, to Hillary Clinton’s 30%.
Four days earlier, as the Oregonian noted, Sanders had won caucuses in Utah with 80% and Idaho with 78%. Mrs. Clinton eked out a 58% victory in Arizona’s primary, giving her a 1-5 record. If the polls in Wisconsin hold up, by tonight it’ll be 1-6. Then comes a period of 13 days with no Democratic primaries or caucuses—the longest such period since the 2,799 days between the 2008 Montana and South Dakota primaries and the 2016 Iowa caucuses. (We’re not counting contests in which President Obama was effectively unopposed.)
Two weeks from today New Yorkers vote. The New York Post reports that Mrs. Clinton and Sanders “are locked in a surprisingly competitive battle” for the Empire State—which she claims as her home even though he is a natural-born New Yorker. Her birthplace was in Illinois, which almost borders Canada.
To be sure, the poll the Post cites, from Quinnipiac, gives Mrs. Clinton a double-digit lead, 54% to 42%—though he does slightly better than she in general-election match-ups with the remaining Republican candidates. But as the Post notes, the 12-point lead is “a dramatic shift from two polls earlier in March—an Emerson College survey that showed Clinton crushing Sanders 71-23 and a Siena College poll with her ahead 55-34.”
Little wonder she’s growing increasingly irritable. As the Associated Press reported (on April 2, so you know it’s true):
Hillary Clinton snapped at a Greenpeace protester. She linked Bernie Sanders and tea party Republicans. And she bristled with anger when nearly two dozen Sanders supporters marched out of an event near her home outside New York City, shouting “if she wins, we lose.”
“They don’t want to listen to anyone else,” she shot back. “We actually have to do something. Not just complain about what is happening.”
After a year of campaigning, months of debates and 35 primary elections, Sanders is finally getting under [Mrs.] Clinton’s skin in the Democratic presidential race.[Mrs.] Clinton has spent weeks largely ignoring Sanders and trying to focus on Republican front-runner Donald Trump. Now, after several primary losses and with a tough fight in New York on the horizon, [Mrs.] Clinton is showing flashes of frustration with the Vermont senator—irritation that could undermine her efforts to unite the party around her candidacy.
According to Democrats close to Hillary and former President Bill Clinton, both are frustrated by Sanders’ ability to cast himself as above politics-as-usual even while firing off what they consider to be misleading attacks. The Clintons are even more annoyed that Sanders’ approach seems to be rallying—and keeping—young voters by his side.
Between Mrs. Clinton and the hard left, the antipathy is mutual, as Salon’s Connor Lynch notes:
Sanders is symbolic of a left-wing resurgence, and he has certainly made [Mrs.] Clinton’s life harder with his impressive grassroots campaign. But the left has always been repelled by the Clintons, with or without Bernie. Ever since Bill and Hillary skyrocketed to political stardom in the early ’90s and helped transform American liberalism, those on the left have regarded them both as unprincipled careerists who are willing to say just about anything to get elected. President Clinton’s administration frequently proved this to be the case, and there is little reason to think Hillary Clinton, who has shifted her rhetoric to the left during the primaries, won’t revert back to the center-right when all is said and done.
The difference between today and the ’90s, however, is that the left is no longer in its last throes, as it was when the Clintons emerged as America’s most powerful couple.
This is a bit confusing. Does Lynch mean to say the left is dead? Because if it was in its last throes, as he says it was back then, its quick demise would be—inevitable.
Mrs. Clinton’s dyspepsia is starting to remind us of the Republican front-runner. As the Washington Post reports:
In a private document that was circulated over the weekend and obtained by The Washington Post, Trump campaign senior adviser Barry Bennett revealed the mounting frustrations among the billionaire’s top aides as they closed what had been a tumultuous week.
Entitled “Digging through the Bull [expletive],” Bennett’s memo urged Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski—who was charged with battery last week for allegedly yanking a reporter—and others to ignore critics who have questioned whether Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has waned.
“America is sick of them. Their idiotic attacks just remind voters why they hate the Washington Establishment,” Bennett wrote, citing tracking poll data favorable to Trump.
Mrs. Clinton even stumbled trumpily over the abortion question. She “ran afoul of both the pro-life and pro-choice sides of the abortion debate Sunday when she said constitutional rights do not apply to an ‘unborn person’ or ’child,’ ” the Washington Times reports, adding: “Describing the [unborn child] as a ‘person’ or ’child’ has long been anathema to the pro-choice movement, which argues the terms misleadingly imply a sense of humanity.”
At least no one will ever accuse Mrs. Clinton of implying a sense of humanity.
None of the foregoing should be taken—nor, for that matter, should anything ever be taken—as casting doubt on her status as the inevitable, albeit eventual, Democratic nominee. Only once in history has a Democratic candidate failed to win the nomination after being the inevitable nominee. (That was in 2008.) And as The Wall Street Journal shows in a nifty graphic, Mrs. Clinton has a huge lead over Sanders, 1,712 delegates to 1,011. He’s 1,372 short of a majority; she, just 671. That means he’d need more than two-thirds of the remaining delegates to win.
Her lead among pledged delegates—those at stake in primaries and caucuses—is far narrower, 1,243 to 980. The bulk of her advantage comes from “superdelegates”—Democratic officials who cast votes at the convention without regard to voter preference. Mrs. Clinton has pledges from 469 superdelegates, vs. a paltry 31 for Sanders.
Mrs. Clinton’s dependence on the superdelegates has Lanny Davis, who surprisingly is backing her for the nomination, on the defensive. “Clinton Has 2.5 Million-Vote Lead, So Who Is More Popular?” asks the headline of his column at Real Clear Politics. His argument is that Mrs. Clinton has received more votes than Sanders—a function of his doing better in caucuses, which have lower levels of participation. (Davis’s numbers can’t be exact, since in some caucuses, such as in Iowa, raw vote totals aren’t even reported.)
Davis’s argumentum ad populum runs into difficulty, however, when he gets to the superdelegates, who, as noted above, are pledged to her without any input from the voters. He gets around that problem by pointing out that many of the delegates have themselves received votes at some time in the past:
Super delegates hardly can be described as anti-“democratic.” To the contrary. I was a Democratic National Committee member elected by hundreds of Democratic committee members from Maryland in 1982 when super delegates were first created. We did so by a large margin—I believe the vote was nearly unanimous—precisely because we believed elected governors, senators and House members, who received millions or hundreds of thousands of votes, were far more representative of the broad electorate—racially, economically, religiously, ideologically—than the relatively small fraction of eligible Democrats and independents who participated in party primaries and particularly the low turnout caucuses.
By that logic, why not just let Barack Obama decide?
Anyway, as Al Gore noted in 2000, the election is more than a popularity contest. For Mrs. Clinton, it is about finally receiving what is her due. Two decades ago she sacrificed her integrity to help her party. We’re sure Lanny Davis would agree it’s time the party paid her back, and far from gallant for Bernie Sanders to stand in the way.
For more “Best of the Web” from The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto click here.