Somehow, the word “delusional” seems inadequate to dead-enders who insist that Bernie in fact ran a brilliant campaign that was thwarted by completely unforeseeable events:
Over the last two decades the Seattle Mariners have done NOTHING wrong. By any possible metric — selection of PNW microbrews, mascots with antlers, having a street named after a Hall of Fame DH — they have been the most successful franchise in Major League Baseball. pic.twitter.com/AoTqLVK7gv— Scott Lemieux (@LemieuxLGM) April 6, 2020
And what’s telling is that Bernie’s campaign seems to agree that their strategy was flawless, it’s just
the voters the Establishment that was wrong:
Sanders advisers told the New York Times they believed they had been on the precipice of sweeping to victory on Super Tuesday, until Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg dropped out and endorsed Biden. Ben Tulchin, a Sanders pollster, claimed the candidate was “on the brink of winning until the most unprecedented event in the history of presidential primaries occurred.”
It is hardly unprecedented for the fifth- and sixth-place candidates to drop out of a race after four primaries. Yet Sanders himself has fixated on this decision as evidence of an Establishment conspiracy. Appearing on ABC’s This Week several days later, he described it as “the power of the Establishment to force Amy Klobuchar, who had worked so hard, Pete Buttigieg, who had really worked extremely hard as well, out of the race.”
From Bernie’s perspective, dropping out of a race once you have no chance of winning is peculiar behavior that can only be explained by the work of a hidden hand. For most politicians, though, it is actually standard operating procedure. Only Sanders seems to think the normal thing to do once voters have made clear they don’t want to nominate you is to continue campaigning anyway.
The idea that Klobuchar and Buttigieg dropping out was an “unprecedented” roadblock turns reality precisely on its head. After South Carolina, Buttigieg was polling at 10% nationally and Klobuchar was polling at 3%. Neither campaign had significant remaining resources or any path whatsoever to the nomination. Not only is it not “unprecedented” for candidates like that to drop out, it would be extraordinary for them not to drop out at that point. Even the 2016 Republican primary — which seemed to be the basis for the campaign’s belief that a factional campaign could work, despite the having multiple characteristics (winner-take-all voting rules, a sui generis candidate who could completely monopolize media coverage, a much less internally popular party establishment) that make it a null analogy — was for all intents and purposes a two-person contest after South Carolina.
The brutal truth is that the 30% strategy was just very, very stupid. Mark Penn-level political malpractice. It relied on a bunch of extremely implausible things happening, and had no Plan B when they very predictably didn’t happen except to blame the campaign’s rivals for not going along with their harebrained scheme although it wasn’t in their interests to do so. In 2024 or 2028, I really hope the most viable candidate from the left wing of the party uses a metric of “most votes” rather than “best memes” or whatever to judge the success of their campaign, and also considers getting Jim Clyburn’s endorsement as being more important than getting Joe Rogan’s.
Cf. also this good Yglesias thread about how you can’t win the Democratic nomination by running against the Democratic Party.