The race for California’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Cleveland six weeks hence is tighter than Dick’s hatband, and nobody’s head hurts more than Hillary’s.
Win or lose, she will clinch the nomination because the rules dividing the California spoils will give her enough new delegates to wrap up the prize she and Bubba have plotted for since they were classmates at Yale Law School. But if Bernie Sanders wins the final chapter of an endless season, the fun, the passion and the heartache (as well as the headache) begins.
The public-opinion polls here are effectively tied, and that bespeaks serious trouble in River City. Hillary should be ahead by 20 points, and she was, only a fortnight ago. Bernie is closing fast and election night usually rewards the candidate who burns barns in the final days.
Hillary picked up more delegates over the weekend in Puerto Rico, where nobody can vote for president, and that might supply an aspirin or two for the headache on the way. California is the finale of the primary campaign, leaving the two parties stuck with a crook and a clown, neither of whom anybody much likes. Never have so many noses been pinched against the stench en route to the voting booth.
Bernie Sanders has pushed the Democrats so far to the left that Hillary, clinging to the precipice, could only defeat a blowhard determined to insult and shun everyone trying to figure out a way to like him, and maybe not succeed. The old Socialist from the boutique of Vermont has rallied just about every fruit and nut in the land, as so many Californians were called in the old “day of the locust,” to put together a coalition that smells like success. Win or lose, that amazes everyone here.
“The Sanders campaign is absolutely destroying us,” a spokesman for California’s Green Party tells Mother Jones, the left-wing weekly that captures the essence of California at the edge of the cliff. “They intentionally went after our voters because they’re the low-hanging fruit on the issues. I am so disgusted with this.”
The Green Party estimates that it has lost thousands of voters over the past year down from 110,000 voters to 78,000 voters as Bernie Sanders shifted his unlikely campaign into overdrive. This is only a tiny fraction of the state’s 18 million registered voters, but it’s a fraction that roars, and illustrates how Bernie has captured the liberal, left-wing, progressive daydreamers.
And not just the Greenies. California has not only a relevant third party, but a fourth party, the Peace and Freedom Party, and it has lost almost 10 percent of its 75,000 members. “We think it’s great that that Bernie has opened the door to talking about socialism, free education for everyone, open healthcare,” says Debra Reiger, the party’s state chairman. "All these things we’ve been talking about for years.”
Measuring success by the size of his crowds has misled many a candidate who thought he was setting fire to a barn, only to learn that he was merely scorching his fingers with the matches, but Bernie has been drawing big numbers over the past 10 days. Thousands turned up at Oakland on Memorial Day. Estimates of the crowd ran from 20,000 to 60,000, which only demonstrates how few observers can actually put a credible number on the size of a crowd, but the Oakland throng spilled out of Ogawa Plaza and on to neighboring streets. A rally in Sacramento drew a similar crowd, energizing the 74-year-old candidate who shouted imprecations against wicked capitalists until his voice grew tight and hoarse.
He spent the final hours of the campaign in San Francisco and environs, which are friendly to the dreamers of a Utopian never-never land who march two inches off the ground to the sound of a drummer that no one else can hear. Hillary stayed in Southern California, where the likes of Ronald Reagan, George Murphy and Pete Wilson once ran up impressive Republican majorities. Looking smart in a flowered smock, she finally agreed to talk to reporters, for the first time in a month, and took questions for eight minutes. This hardly exhausted her and the brevity of the encounter reassured aides wary of attracting the dreaded Gaffe Patrol.
Bernie, in the open shirt and rolled-up sleeves that have become his fighting clothes, took a few questions on election eve, too. The young lady from The New York Times wanted to know whether he was being a sexist by staying in the race beyond the limits of gallantry. Bernie gave her a withering stare and asked, “Are you serious?” Indeed she was.