The Die Is Cast
There’s no turning back now. Last week saw the fundamentals of the Democratic race shaken to their core. Bernie Sanders is leading the movement to transform the Democratic nomination in a way that until now only close observers and die-hard progressives have seen coming. Successive blow after blow hit the Democratic establishment and corporate media until they were forced to recognize the new reality: Hillary Clinton is no longer the inevitable candidate and perhaps she never was.
It began with polling data showing the race rapidly tightening in Iowa as an NBC Poll showed the race for the first in the nation caucus within the margin of error between Sanders and Clinton. Members of the press covered this with shock, but were then shocked even more by a blistering and in some ways chaotic series of attacks launched at Sanders by Clinton and all of her many surrogates on television. This was taken by the media as the Clinton camp becoming worried and potentially has internal polling that confirms a Sanders surge as voting time nears.
Then the news and polling blitz began. Monmouth releases a New Hampshire poll showing a double-digit lead for Sanders. Around the same time MoveOn.org, the massive political organization with more than 8 million members endorses Bernie after a historic vote with 79% of members choosing him over Clinton. MoveOn then organized over 70,000 early state volunteers to boost the Campaign’s organization immediately. Later in the week, a New York Times poll showed Bernie leading in Iowa and the very respected Des Moines Register found a virtual tie in their Iowa poll. The Democratic race suddenly became the center of media attention and with every bit of news showing Bernie’s momentum, Clinton Surrogates increasingly flooded the media with more and more lines of attack. They attacked him on guns, on healthcare, on not having a tax plan, on Wall Street, on his age. These attacks if done strategically, could have blunted Sanders’ momentum, but coming all at once, the media couldn’t help but see this new strategy as desperate and a sign of anxiety inside the Clinton machine.
Chelsea Clinton was even sent to attack Sanders’ Medicare-For-All plan and accused bernie of aligning himself with republicans to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Bringing Chelsea into this flurry of attacks was another shock to establishment media players and much of her arguments were found to be false or misleading. Even Politico admitted that these attacks have a serious chance of backfiring badly for the Clinton campaign, but it was too late to stop the freight train and the NBC Democratic debate was only 2 days away.
The NBC debate on Sunday was the last debate before the Iowa Caucus, in fact there is no debate on the Democratic side until after the New Hampshire primary. However now, it is Clinton who desperately needs more debates. She needed to win this debate decisively in order to stop the Sanders’ surge; in that she failed. She levied the same attacks her surrogates launched earlier in the week, but Bernie was able to brush them aside and pivot to his core message that money in politics and corruption are the root causes of gridlock and that he will fight to end them. His message only became more and more popular with the South Carolina audience and now put Clinton’s “southern firewall” in jeopardy. Clinton’s fall back was to wrap herself in Obama on multiple occasions, claiming Bernie would dismantle the president’s legacy by fighting for more direct reforms. It seems from focus groups in South Carolina however, that that attack did not stick and seemed disingenuous.
Last week may be a historic moment for this campaign and tthe democratic party. This fight has now become a high-profile war for the heart, soul, and future of the party. Bernie strength with young voters and the passion of his supporters means he may already have the party’s future locked down.