Van Jones: I refuse to adapt to the craziness of what’s going on!
Anderson Cooper: Could you be more specific?
— CNN, tonight
Donald Trump has had a clean sweep in the today’s primaries, centred on Pennsylvania, and taking in Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Trump not only took all five, but he appears to have taken every congressional district and every county across all five — save for two rural counties in Connecticut, which fell to Kasich.
Trump’s win is not only impressive for the clean sweep, but for a new uniform level in his vote — every state was won by around 60% of the vote, with Cruz and Kasich winning 15%-20% each. That may be vital, especially in Pennsylvania, which is a “loophole” primary — the primary is a direct election of 71 delegates, 54 of whom can pledge support for a candidate but are not bound by that pledge, even on the first ballot. Some may be surreptitious Cruz supporters, but with a 60% vote, it will be hard for them to argue that they should “follow their conscience” — and polls show that around 70% of Republican primary voters believe that Trump should get the nomination, even if he falls short of the magic 1237 delegates.
For Cruz, the night, which was always going to be a bad one, has turned into a disaster. Cruz didn’t even roll the dice on being in any of the five states; he gave an early non-concession concession speech from Indiana, the next big contest. With all the east coast states out of the way, he was happy to start talking about “New York” values again, and, to bewildered cheers, say how great it was to be back in the “Hooser” state, which was getting the word wrong, and also made it sound like “losers”. In Connecticut and Rhode Island — to be fair, the latter state’s Republicans are three people, two named Vito, and one Chauncey — Cruz barely made it to 10%. Particularly significant was Cruz’s poor showing in Pennsylvania, 40%-plus of whose Republican voters identify as evangelical. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between, as they say. Cruz couldn’t get more than 20% of them.
The overall result would appear to give Trump a clean sweep of delegates — all 82 pledged delegates available, and strong moral sway over Pennsylvania’s 54 unpledged types. He hasn’t spoken yet, but he will most likely challenge both Cruz and Kasich to get out of the race, so he can get on with the business of destroying “Crooked Hillary”, as he has taken to calling her.
On the Democratic side, it was a more variable result. Clinton was projected as the winner of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, insofar as Delaware is even a state, and not simply Maryland’s garage (although, to be fair, the place has a strong sense of self. People from southern Delaware, which is farms, talk about “them fancy folks up north” by which they mean 45 minutes up the freeway). Sanders has won Rhode Island, 56% to 42%, and in Connecticut it’s been neck and neck; out of a total of 300,000 votes, the lead has been 200 votes swapping back and forth across the evening. Sanders would now appear to be pulling ahead.
None of that is a surprise. The southern three states are Clinton central — mixed black and white populations, a lot of socially conservative working-class people. The northern states are New England, tech and finance and students whose PhDs on Gertrude Stein have stalled for so long, they’ve opened a coffee shop and had a baby with their thesis supervisor. Bernie central. But two states is a good get, and it means that media questions to Bernie will only be 60% “when are you going to get out?” not 100%. Bernie’s people have announced they will “re-examine” the campaign, after this evening. In any other campaign, this would be a soft note about getting out, but Sanders appears to have made it clear that he won’t be doing that; that, as he said, that would deprive “California, the largest state in the union” of the chance of making a declarative vote for what they want. He still has tens of millions of dollars, while Clinton has to keep shaking the tin in Silicon Valley, Hollywood and New York.
Besides, Sanders himself is now pivoting: to building an organisation that would start to focus not just on the White House, but on Congress. Primaries don’t just take place for the presidential candidate of course; they occur for each congressional candidate, state house candidate, etc, etc. Most of the time, they’re dead letters, with a re-endorsed incumbent. But in 2010, the Tea Party demonstrated that such dead-run contests could be re-activated by a series of primary challenges to sitting members. In such challenges, it’s the midterms that are more important than presidential years.
So if Sanders can keep a formation within the party going, give it structure, then it’s 2018 when that would really come to the fore. Who would a “left platform” within the Democrats be challenging? Every lazy right-wing Democrat who is nothing other than a client of Big X or Y, whoever is Big in their district — machine politicians, come up through right-wing unions, right-wing ethnic groups, or sheer cash. Politicians who either never had a progressive moment, or if they had, long since lost it, in the permanent campaign to be re-elected. One great advantage of the wholly gerrymandered districting system of the US House of Representatives is that you can go to war in the primaries, with a reasonable confidence that if the Dems put up a paedophile broasted chicken, it would still win. The Bernie burn may flicker and die when Hillary wins; I don’t think it will. It has become the mainstream expression of the political will of the Occupy movement. Whatever happens from here on, I don’t think the Bernie Sanders movement stops when Hillary takes the crown in July.
It’s 9.45pm. Trump still hasn’t spoken.