The best way for California Democrats to make their voices heard in this election is to vote for Bernie Sanders.
I’m not endorsing the Vermont senator. Columnists should not be in that line of work. And it’s not that I believe that Sanders would be a better president than Hillary Clinton. Quite the opposite.
But as voters go, if you’re predictable, you’re forgettable. If you want to matter, shake things up. And, for Californians, on June 7, this means voting for Sanders. If Clinton wins the state, it’ll be almost anti-climactic.
While New Hampshire and Iowa like to throw their weight around as early voting states, that’s not the California way. In fact, the nation’s most populous state is also – with regard to national politics – one of the most insecure. It’s never quite sure of its own power and influence.
When it comes to presidential elections, California often feels ignored and neglected. And it’s not dreaming. The Golden State always seems to get the short end of the stick.
For one thing, because its primary isn’t until June, California usually doesn’t get to participate in any meaningful way in the lead-up to the general election. The contests for both the Republican and Democratic nominations are usually settled long before the candidates make their way out west.
Also, California is a deep blue state that Democrats tend to take for granted at election time and Republicans typically write off. Democrats will usually come here only to raise money, in the liberal strongholds of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Then they turn around and spend it on television ads in more competitive “battleground” states such as Ohio or Virginia.
Lastly, because they’re in the Pacific time zone, California voters have learned to go to the polls in the early morning. If they wait to go after work, on election night in November, they might hear the race called one way or another on the car radio on their way to the polling station.
Come to think of it, California has a lot in common with Bernie Sanders. Neither gets much respect.
The Democratic establishment – i.e., Bill and Hillary Clinton, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as well as Democratic governors, senators, members of Congress and other elected officials who are going to the national democratic convention in Philadelphia as Clinton-leaning “superdelegates” – has been trying to pressure Sanders to drop out of the race for months. This, despite the fact that the senator has won primaries and caucuses in 20 states, raised more than $200 million and performed so well in delegate-rich California that he is now – according to a number of polls – locked in a virtual tie with Clinton.
A survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California found Clinton with only a slight advantage over Sanders among likely Democratic voters, 46 percent to 44 percent. And an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll had it 49 percent for Clinton, and 47 percent for Sanders. Both sets of findings were within the margin of error.
Sanders is on a hot streak. And so what’s the response of Democrats in Washington? They want him to drop out, insisting that Clinton has all but sewn up the nomination. As Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada put it recently in calling for Sanders to exit the race, “Sometimes you just have to give up.”
Now there’s an inspiring message. Not exactly Churchillian, is it? This is not the time for Sanders to give up.
Also, the mainstream media, much of which seem eager to have Sanders out of the way so they can focus on a likely Clinton-vs.-Trump matchup, have been none-too-subtle about trying to push the Democratic challenger out the door. The most recent narrative has been that, even if Clinton loses California, she will likely still win her party’s nomination that night by earning the required number of delegates. It’s as if the media want to dampen the enthusiasm of Sanders’ supporters by convincing them that the game is over.
Good luck with that. Sanders’ followers are devout, and many of them will not fall in line behind Clinton if they perceive that their candidate has been given the bum’s rush.
Don’t be surprised if Sanders wins California and, while losing the nomination, winds up in a great spot to negotiate for the ultimate consolation prize: a place on the ticket as Clinton’s running mate.
Never happen? Stranger things have already occurred in this bizarre election year.
Contact Ruben Navarrette at firstname.lastname@example.org.