Though I ultimately voted for Clinton in my primary, I was an early Sanders supporter and still subscribe to the theory that his candidacy moved the political conversation in the Democratic Party leftward. I think this is a good thing.
The pendulum of U.S. politics had swung way too far to the right, beginning with Reagan and continuing with Bush I. President Bill Clinton slowed it down, but Bush II accelerated it again. President Obama arrested the rightward motion and turned it back.
Now we need to build on that and achieve a period of liberal ascendency, and we need to expand it beyond the federal level to retake state governments. That’s too big a job for one person. That sort of sustained effort takes a party.
One concern I had about Sanders’ candidacy, and particularly the tone the senator took after being routed in New York, was that the young voters he was attracting were lightly affiliated with the Democrats. But there are heartening signs that this may not be the case.
Josh Marshall at TPM has more about the Harvard Institute of Politics poll (alluded to in Anne Laurie’s morning post here) that explored millennials’ political leanings in depth. Here are some of the findings:
— Among 18 to 29 year olds, Clinton beats Trump 61% to 25% to 14% undecided
— In spring of 2015, this age group wanted the Democratic Party to win the next presidential election by 15 points (55% to 40%); a year later, that spread has increased to 28 points (61% to 32%)
— For the first time in five years, the number of self-identified Democrats is higher than self-identified independents (Dem 40%-Indy 36%-GOP 22%)
Marshall points to other evidence in the polling data that suggests younger voters are becoming not only more liberal but more Democratic and concludes: “the primary process itself – as divisive as it has sometimes seemed – has deepened young voters’ identification with the Democratic Party.”
I don’t know about you, but for me, reading that is a tonic after a week of hearing comments that echoed the disastrous run-up to Nadergeddon 2000, e.g., “duopoly” and “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference,” etc.
The Democratic Party isn’t perfect, but it is the vehicle we have to effect change. Secretary Clinton, who will be our nominee, understands this better than most. That may make her the perfect woman for this particular time in history.
Here’s hoping Senator Sanders’ younger supporters won’t wait for Secretary Clinton to court them but rather will roll up their sleeves and take on the hard tasks of party building to create the political future they want to see. Because it takes a party.
ETA: J-TWO-O is keeping a running tally of Democratic Party primary and caucus vote totals. Secretary Clinton’s lead increased to more than three million last night.