Looking beyond the candidates: Understanding what's important in the Democratic Primary | What's Left

by Editors (What's Left) last modified 2016-06-15T16:55:53-04:00
A healthy democratic system is one that evolves and changes, but the American system for nominating and electing Presidential candidates is a dinosaur (and not the fun kind).

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This week, Hillary Clinton won the California Primary and, in doing so, has essentially clinched the Presidential nomination for the Democratic Party.

This, of course, is not official until the vote is held at the convention in July, and Sanders supporters can hold out for a miracle, but the reality is that it's been a long time (40 years) since either the Republicans or Democrats determined their candidate at the convention.

There has been a lot of frustration with the process and the media coverage on both sides of the Democratic race. Sanders supporters are upset that super delegates and party insiders seem to have been tilted against their campaign from the get-go, while Clinton supporters are annoyed that Sanders refuses to bow-out so the party can focus on Clinton versus Trump. The media has been calling the nomination for Clinton since the beginning, rightly pissing off the Sanders campaign, while the media's attacks on Hillary Clinton's performance have showcased a good deal of old-fashioned sexism.

Every political campaign ever has had frustrations and problems. But, there are some important things to take away from this particular contest. A healthy democratic system is one that evolves and changes, but the American system for nominating and electing Presidential candidates is a dinosaur (and not the fun kind).

So much of the aggravation felt by both candidates and their supporters was not the other candidate's doing, but the direct result of the convoluted and confusing rules and processes that exist. Clinton is frustrated that Sanders refuses to follow the unwritten customs of the Democratic Party and concede, while Sanders rails against the written rules that the establishment has employed to disenfranchise young and new voters.

The Democratic Party's supporters need to turn some of this angst and frustration with the nomination process into a campaign to make the process more straightforward and accessible. After all, most Americans who participate do not even understand how the primaries work – a process that, by its very nature, has been designed to keep regular people out.

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There are deep-seated biases that remain embedded in American society -- as there are in every other society. And, you better believe that Clinton has faced unfair scrutiny and criticism simply because she's a woman.

Her treatment in the media and online has been appalling and not just because Sanders is her opponent. There is still a large segment of the American population who are not ready to vote for a woman for President. It is deeply troubling, but it shouldn't be surprising that they'd vote for the "old white guy".

The fact that some from this group have voted for Sanders should not stain his legacy. Sanders has a diverse and progressive following and is deeply committed to social justice. Attacking the candidate because some of his supporters are hateful assholes is a poor tactic for addressing this struggle. Systemic sexism needs to be challenged at its roots.

If Clinton manages to beat Trump, she will become the first woman President of the United States. That is not an accomplishment that anyone should brush aside. However, for many, that accomplishment does not outweigh their desire for a more progressive, more grassroots, socialist candidate. Those people were voting for Sanders not because he is a man, but because he represents a different vision for the country.

Sanders has put his vision on the table, as much because he wants to be President as he wants to have a national discussion about important issues like universal medicare, economic reform, and free post-secondary education. And these issues are resonating, being discussed, and, if only in small ways, forcing Clinton to move to the left. With that in mind, it is understandable that Sanders would continue his campaign right into the convention it's his best chance to ensure these issues get into the spotlight.

While Clinton's campaign may represent a challenge to sexism, Sanders' campaign challenges the worst aspects of US capitalism and big money in politics. Both issues remain incredibly pervasive and destructive. Unfortunately, using the candidates as figureheads to debate ideas and political positions is only useful to a point. As always, no matter what happens in July, the real work will be done by activists in their communities, union halls, and in the streets.

Once the delegates have finally been counted and the nominee has been chosen, the battle for a better and more inclusive politics continues. For the Democratic Party's activists, the nomination system needs to be part of this work in the fight for social justice and a better world where prejudice, corruption, and inequality are no longer the status quo. Oh, and whoever the democratic nominee is, they better beat Donald Trump to smithereens.

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