How Sanders lost New Hampshire
Bernie Sanders supporters were understandably happy that their candidate had a crushing electoral victory over Hillary Clinton. Sanders won more votes than any other candidate in a presidential primary. Three times more than Obama in 2008 and 31% more than the previous record holder Republican John McCain back in 2000.
But he did not win the all important Democratic delegate count in the New Hampshire Primary. This is because the party controls “Superdelegates”, most of whom were pledged even before the first ballot was cast. Sanders will get at least 13 delegates based on the votes that he got. But Hillary will get at least 15 based on her votes plus her super delegates. And in case you have forgotten your high school civics class, votes don’t matter in terms of who gets nominated, delegates do.
It is worth noting (as Nate Silver does in his clever piece on superdelegates) that unlike the delegates, which come from votes in a primary, super delegates can change their minds. Here is what happened in 2008 when the majority of super delegates were pledged to Clinton and then Obama took off in the primaries.
But as Silver points out, this is far less likely to happen with Sanders.
Clinton begins with a far larger superdelegate lead over Sanders than she ever had over Obama. It’s easy to imagine why they might resist switching, furthermore. Unlike Obama, who was perhaps roughly as “electable” as Clinton, Sanders is a 74-year-old self-described socialist. Unlike Obama, who had the chance to become the first black president, Sanders is another old white guy (although he would be the first Jewish president). Sanders wasn’t even officially a Democrat until last year. I’m not saying these are necessarily great arguments, but they’re the sorts of arguments that Clinton-supporting superdelegates will make to themselves and one another, in part because the superdelegate system was created precisely to help nominate candidates considered more electable by party leaders.
The superdelegates system has existed in what is basically its current form since 1984. It was inspired by the desire to keep outsiders (like Trump and Sanders) from securing the parties nomination. And in this year’s election, this is exactly how it is working. It may well lead to Trump splitting from the Republican party, which would likely shatter that party’s chances to win the presidency.
This system is in place to make sure the party controls which candidate gets nominated. Perhaps you think this is unfair. Welcome to politics in America.