Last week, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, in an interview with Bernie Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver, expressed surprise that Sanders would take his fight all the way to the Democratic National Convention. Matthews wondered openly how Sanders could use that platform to rally Democrats around Hillary Clinton if he was still hoping to get the nomination himself, a puzzle Weaver seemed unable to resolve.
Well, the reason it makes no sense is because Sanders doesn’t appear to have any intention of throwing his support behind Clinton. Despite facing extraordinary odds, the Vermont senator still believes that he will face Donald Trump in the general election.
“Hillary Clinton will not have the requisite number of pledged delegates to win the Democratic nomination at the end of the nominating process on June 14,” he told reporters on Saturday. “Won’t happen. She will be dependent on superdelegates.”
Superdelegates have been a point of significant contention among Sanders supporters this year. These are delegates unbound to the will of their state’s voters, and many of them pledged to cast ballots for Hillary Clinton long before a single vote was cast in the primaries. This gave Clinton a huge lead right off the bat, a situation that naturally struck many Democrats as unfair and undemocratic.
“The Democratic National Convention,” said Sanders, “will be a contested convention.”
The road to victory for Sanders is – to say the least – a steep one. Clinton isn’t just ahead in superdelegates; she leads Sanders 1,769 to 1,501 in pledged delegates as well. That lead could narrow after Tuesday’s primaries, especially if Sanders can pull off a major win in California.
“We understand that we have a steep climb,” said Sanders. “I’m not here to tell you that tomorrow we’re going to flip 300 superdelegates. But I am saying we are going to make the case.”
Democrats in Washington and in the liberal press are practically begging Sanders to concede the race, worried that his nonstop battle for the nomination will hurt Hillary’s chances in the fall. But even if Sanders concedes this week, next week, or the week before the convention, it may not make much difference. His supporters don’t just love him; they despise Hillary. They despise Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC. They despise business-as-usual establishment politics.
The powers that be think that once Sanders delivers a “Rah, Hillary” speech, all his supporters will come on board. Maybe. Maybe they will.
Or maybe they’ll just see him as a sellout and vote for real change in November.