Hillary Clinton Won Super Tuesday, But Bernie Sanders Won the Future

The millennials have spoken, and they overwhelmingly chose Sanders’ radical change over Clinton’s incremental reform.

Joel Bleifuss

On March 1, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) walks onstage in Essex Junction, Vt., to greet supporters after winning the Vermont primary on Super Tuesday. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Judg­ing from Super Tuesday’s results, Sen. Bernie Sanders has a long row to hoe if he is going to over­take Hillary Clin­ton and become the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee. By and large, the mar­gins of her vic­to­ries were larg­er than the mar­gins of his. And as In These Times Deputy Pub­lish­er Christo­pher Hass report­ed last week, it is in the size of these mar­gins that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic stan­dard bear­er will be determined.

With Clinton moving closer to the nomination, it looks like we're sitting down to a pretty lean victors banquet. Where is “change” on the menu? Next to “crumbs”?

But the race for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion is not only a con­test between Hillary Clin­ton and Bernie Sanders. It is also the venue for com­pet­ing ideas about how social change is made, in which two visions for the future have been offered.

Look at how the debate over health­care has played out. Sanders is an unabashed sup­port­er of get­ting insur­ance cor­po­ra­tions out of the health­care busi­ness and estab­lish­ing a sin­gle-pay­er, Medicare-for-all sys­tem. Clin­ton has cam­paigned to defend the Oba­macare sta­tus quo, and tin­ker about the edges. Dit­to with bank­ing. Sanders promis­es he will break up banks that are too big to fail. Clin­ton wants to — well, she says she will hold Wall Street account­able and reduce risks, but we don’t exact­ly know what her agen­da is, since she has refused to release the texts of speech­es she gave to the bankers who have fund­ed her. As for mak­ing col­lege afford­able, Sanders wants to pro­vide free tuition for stu­dents who attend state insti­tu­tions. Clin­ton wants to make com­mu­ni­ty col­leges free and reduce costs at pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties. The list goes on, but you get the pic­ture. The choice is between rad­i­cal change and incre­men­tal reform.

Again and again we hear the same mea­sured cau­tion from can­di­date Clin­ton, her cam­paign sur­ro­gates and her cheer­lead­ers in the lib­er­al cor­po­rate media. Bet­ter to eschew rad­i­cal solu­tions (no mat­ter how ratio­nal) and sup­port Clinton’s doable, com­mon­sense alternatives.

Dreams are for the future.

We are told: Enjoy the feast. Half a loaf is bet­ter than none.

Sanders, is hav­ing no truck with such a mea­ger meal. He put it this way on the stump in Fort Collins, Col­orado, on Feb­ru­ary 28:

I believe that if you start your cam­paign and run on a plat­form call­ing for a full loaf, at worst you’re gonna get a half loaf. If you start your cam­paign talk­ing about a need for a half loaf, you’re going to get crumbs. And the Amer­i­can peo­ple today do not want, do not need crumbs. They need the whole loaf.

In the short-term, with Clin­ton mov­ing clos­er to the nom­i­na­tion, it looks like we’re sit­ting down to a pret­ty lean vic­tors ban­quet. Where is change” on the menu? Next to crumbs”?

But in the long-term, who is the real win­ner? Who has put ideas on the table that her­ald a future that tran­scends the sta­tus quo? As he has done before, on Super Tues­day, in state after state, Sanders won a major­i­ty of Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers under the age of 30. Clin­ton may yet win the nom­i­na­tion, but the future of the par­ty belongs to Sanders.

The kids in the Sanders’ move­ment are not clue­less dream­ers. The harsh real­i­ties of employ­ment pre­car­i­ty, debt, low wages, inequal­i­ty, cli­mate change, etc., have forced young Amer­i­cans to reassess their cir­cum­stances in a cold, harsh light.

If life in Amer­i­ca is basi­cal­ly peachy keen, then the small-bore reforms pro­posed by Clin­ton and the neolib­er­al tech­nocrats who helm the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty make a lot of sense.

If, on the oth­er hand, the sta­tus quo is intol­er­a­ble — as it is for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans — then what Sanders calls polit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion” becomes a moral imperative.

Clin­ton and Sanders offered America’s mil­len­ni­als two futures. They made their choice. 

Joel Blei­fuss, a for­mer direc­tor of the Peace Stud­ies Pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri-Colum­bia, is the edi­tor & pub­lish­er of In These Times, where he has worked since Octo­ber 1986.

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