After New Hampshire, Sanders in Focus

In what is being hailed as a “victory for outsiders”, Bernie Sanders, the underdog in the U.S. Democratic nomination race, stole a march on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the first primary elections of the season, in New Hampshire, and controversial property billionaire Donald Trump captured the most Republican votes. Mr. Sanders, a Senator from Vermont, won 60.4 per cent of the primary vote in the State, leading Ms. Clinton by nearly 22 points. In doing so, he scooped up 15 delegates to her nine and almost instantly attracted a wave of donor funding to his campaign, to the tune of$6.4 million. Although New Hampshire is preponderantly white, the self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” won a thumping majority across a variety of demographic cohorts, except for those over 65 years of age and for households earning more than $200,000. While he may have benefited from New Hampshire sharing a border with Vermont, this early upset in Ms. Clinton’s presumed-unassailable lead has thrust Mr. Sanders’s campaign into fourth gear and energized his supporters across the U.S. Importantly, his victory has put the Democratic Party establishment, which until now has thrown its weight behind Ms. Clinton, on notice. Although the party’s “super-delegates” are supporting Ms. Clinton over Mr. Sanders by a margin of 355-14, they may well switch their support to Mr. Sanders if he continues to snatch victories in other States.

Yet, by no means is it obvious that Mr. Sanders’s call for a “revolution” will thus sway every State. At the national level Ms. Clinton outperforms Mr. Sanders in the support she enjoys with minorities by 71 to 20 per cent. She has vigorously courted the African-American demographic, with a recent visit to Flint, Michigan, to discuss its water-poisoning crisis; she has announced joint campaigns with the families of unarmed African-Americans who died in controversial encounters with law enforcement; and post-New Hampshire she will likely focus her campaign on systemic racism, criminal justice reform, voting rights and gun violence. Mr. Sanders, who will face his first big test with the African-American vote in the mixed demographics of South Carolina and is possibly aware of the weak link in his campaign strategy, met this week with civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton to amplify his message of support to this community. It is unclear what dividends such late man oeuvres could yield. The other critical factor is the rise and rise of Mr. Trump. Although he is the philosophical antithesis of Mr. Sanders, they share certain similarities: their attacks on dark pools of campaign finance dominating U.S. elections; their rejection, albeit for different reasons, of the notion of American exceptionalism; and their anti-establishment positions, including distrust of the mainstream media. If these two men float to the top through the primary races, that must reflect Americans’ frustration with the jaded politics of Washington. But equally they must know that each man holds firm to a radically different vision for reshaping their country.



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