Let’s go ahead and get an unpleasant fact out of the way: In just about every poll out there, Hillary Clinton is beating Bernie Sanders. Full stop. Since Joe Biden opted out of a run for the president, Clinton has gained 3.6 points in national polling, compared to Sanders’s gain of 1.7 points.
Polling averages in New Hampshire, where Sanders once enjoyed a decisive lead, show the two in a virtual tie. In Iowa where, as recently as September, the two were running neck and neck, Clinton now enjoys a 20 point advantage. Clinton enjoys a 2 to 1 advantage in Nevada and a 45 point lead in South Carolina.
None of this is surprising. According to the conventional narrative, Clinton enjoyed a remarkably good month of October. While the news in August and September was dominated by stories about a “struggling” Clinton campaign and a Sanders “surge,” now the story is that Clinton has managed a remarkable turnaround. The sheen of inevitability is back. The conventional story is that Clinton won the first Democratic debate. (Personally, I think that claim is not entirely accurate — in that debate, both Clinton and Sanders accomplished exactly what they set out to do, but my personal perspective doesn’t shape the conventional narrative.) Later in the month, the Benghazi hearings were a huge gift to the Clinton campaign. Republicans came off as petulant children compared to her measured performance. And the final bit of good news for the Clinton campaign came from the Joe Biden’s decision not to seek the nomination.
It now appears that Biden voters are slowly breaking for Clinton. This should come as a shock to no one. In polling, prior to Biden’s announcement, when he was excluded from the options, Clinton always enjoyed a noted bump. And of course, she did. On the issues, Biden and Clinton are very close. Clinton’s sudden opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership represents the only significant issue of disagreement. In reality, the appeal of Biden is that he was the candidate for people who like Clinton’s policies but don’t much like Clinton. Biden is Google+ to Clinton’s Facebook. With him gone from the race, a boost to Clinton’s numbers was an inevitability.
To all these facts, supporters of Sanders have a number of reactions. Polling, in the immediate wake of the first Democratic debate, has been questioned. The surge in donations to Sanders’s campaign has been noted, as has Sanders’s domination in the world of social media. And Sanders supporters never tire of pointing out that, in terms of crowds, fundraising, and polling, Sanders is doing better in 2015 than Barack Obama was in 2007. All of those things are true, but they are not likely to have a concrete effect on either the conventional narrative nor the trajectory of the race. Wordy justifications and explanations aren’t what’s needed at the moment, especially since they’ll inevitably be treated by non-Sanders supporters as “whining and complaining”.
This Is Not 2007 And Bernie Sanders Is Not Barack Obama.
This, to be blunt, is a period for action. For doing things to actively help Bernie gain the needed steam to catch Hillary in the polls.
There are still three months before the first round of primaries and caucuses. And, make no mistake, the results in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina will be decisive! If Sanders doesn’t pull out a win in at least two of those states, his campaign is, barring a miracle, likely to be over. But three months, in the political world, is a long time indeed. It took but a single month of good news for the narrative to shift on the Clinton campaign and her to begin to reverse her trajectory in the polls. So there is no reason that the narrative cannot shift once again.
The Month Of November Is Of Vital Importance To The Sanders Campaign.
The longer the current narrative has to crystallize, the more it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Clinton is inevitable once more.” “Sanders has peaked.” As the mainstream media continues to hammer these messages home, it will start to filter down to the less involved members of the electorate — to those whose knowledge of the campaign is restricted to the numbers in the national horse-race.
If those voters start to internalize the narrative of Clinton’s inevitability, they will either jump on her bandwagon or stay home during the primaries. The task for the Sanders campaign (and his supporters) is to reach those voters and to change the narrative! The coming debates may certainly help — the more chances Sanders has to engage with a national audience, to draw a clear distinction between his policies and those of his opponent, the better.
…But that is not enough to ensure Sanders catches Clinton.
It is up to the masses that support Sanders to work to alter the current trajectory. Yes, Sanders has a fervent following on social media. And this following is perhaps, at times too fervent.
Reacting to the negative news stories by circling the wagons and sharing encouraging memes in the echo chamber will accomplish little. Yet, that’s the exact reaction we have seen over the last few weeks. Trumpeting that Sanders is doing better than Obama, at a similar point in the 2007 campaign, accomplishes nothing because this is not 2007 and Bernie Sanders is not Barack Obama.
The time has come to leave the comfortable world of Facebook groups and Twitter feeds and mailing lists, to turn off the computer, and get out into the REAL world. If every one of the tens of thousands who attend Sanders rallies starts knocking on doors and making phone calls, there will be a noticeable impact.
Sure, Hillary Clinton is currently leading in the polls, but that doesn’t mean she has won the Democratic nomination. If Sanders’s supporters step up, stop being defensive, roll up their sleeves, and start doing something to actively aid his candidacy, the character of the race will change.
You have three months, Sanders supporters. Get to work!