The results of the voting yesterday, Tuesday, in the United States are almost universally portrayed as a crushing victory for Hillary Clinton on the Democratic party side and Donald Trump for the Republicans. It’s not that simple.
Voters were taking part in the “Super Tuesday” elections in 11 states to decide which candidate their party should put forward for president.
Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist did better than much of the media suggests or predicted. He also showed last weekend that he can still mobilise people for his “political revolution”, with thousands of people joining pro-Sanders marches in over 40 cities and towns.
Sanders won four of the 11 states where Democratic contests were held— Oklahoma, Colorado, Minnesota, and his home state of Vermont. He virtually tied with Clinton in a fifth state, Massachusetts.
Clinton’s wins yesterday in seven states were often by large margins. They were also in bigger states. She therefore won more delegates overall than Sanders to the convention that will decide the Democrats’ presidential candidate in July.
But, in a great abuse of democracy, Clinton can always fall back on her massive lead of 425 to 22 among the “super delegates”—members of Congress, state officials, and other party insiders.
This gives her a combined total of 1,001, still under half way to the number required for nomination, while Sanders has 371 delegates in total.
Sanders continues to do very well among young people.
As Tom Cahill wrote for USuncut, “Even in the states where Clinton won handily, like Texas, Virginia, and Georgia, Sanders still won with his core constituencies — voters aged 18 to 29, first-time primary voters, and independents.
“According to NBC News’ exit polls, Sanders won young voters by a 30-point margin in Texas, 39 points in Virginia, 13 points inin Georgia, and even captured the youth vote in Clinton’s home state of Arkansas, where Bill Clinton served as governor, by 24 points.”
At his victory rally in Vermont, Sanders said, ““At the end of tonight, 15 states will have voted. Thirty-five states remain. Let me assure you that we are going to take our fight for economic justice, for social justice, for environmental sanity, for a world of peace, to every one of those states.”
His weakness has been among black voters in the southern states, who have backed Clinton in vast numbers. This is despite her record of supporting welfare cuts that have hit black people particularly hard, and her support for mass incarceration policies that have seen so many black people jailed.
Clinton has prospered from the near-universal support of black Democratic office-holders, and her many years of work in the Democratic Party in the south.
Sanders has won the support of such important campaigners as Erica Garner the daughter of Eric Garner who was killed by police. But he is not well-known as a national figure and has only recently become identified strongly in the media with battles against racism and police brutality.
Sanders remains exciting because he is the partial expression of a rising mood of revolt in the US. His limitation will always be that he is running for the Democrats, one of the historic parties of US capitalism and imperialism.
Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, says, “The biggest problem with Bernie, in the end, is that he's running as a Democrat--as a member of a political party that not only capitulated to right-wing demagoguery but is now owned and controlled by a relatively small number of millionaires and billionaires.”
On the Republican side, the party establishment is now really panicking that the thuggish Donald Trump could win the candidacy.
Trump won seven states while his closest rival, Ted Cruz, took three. The third-placed Republican, Marco Rubio—who is now the party establishment’s choice— came in with just one.
In the last few days some Republican high-ups have taken to attacking Trump. They fear he will be unelectable or a maverick.
Last night Rubio called on voters in the next set of primaries to ensure that “the presidency of the United States will never be held by a con artist”.
But Trump is not backing off. At a press conference last night he was asked about attacks from some Republicans for his refusal to reject support from racist Ku Klux Klan figure David Duke.
He utterly rejected the criticism and the warned House Speaker Paul Ryan that if he crossed President Trump, he would “pay a tremendous price”.
Martin Wolf in the Financial Times newspaper writes, “Mr Trump is a promoter of paranoid fantasies, a xenophobe and an ignoramus. His business consists of the erection of ugly monuments to his own vanity.”
But, as Wolf himself concedes, Trump is not some departure from modern Republican Party values but an embodiment of its racism, utter devotion to the super-rich and contempt for any sort of real democracy.
The Occupy movement of 2011, the Black Lives Matter movement, the fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage, the climate change agitation and recent workers’ struggles are the background to Sanders’ rise.
They are also the sort of battles that will be needed to deal with Trump or whoever else the Republicans put forward.
How are US presidents elected?
The US presidential election takes place every four years, and the next one is scheduled for 8 November.
The Republicans and the Democrats choose their candidate through a long process of primaries and caucuses.
Primaries are ballots open to all of the party’s supporters in a particular state.Meanwhile caucuses are more like party meetings.
They both elect delegates to party conventions, who vote on the candidate.But there are also unelected delegates.
The precise process differs between parties and states.
The next round is on 5 March where there are Democratic primaries or caucuses in four states—Kansas, Louisiana, Maine and Nebraska.