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Losers Need Love Too: Why Voting for Bernie Is Still So Important

Bernie's voters aren't just voting for Bernie. We are voting for the causes he supports and the solutions he aspires to. Bernie's path to the nomination is all but closed now, but the path to strengthening his message is still wide open.
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Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks at a news conference in Washington, Sunday, May 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks at a news conference in Washington, Sunday, May 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Everyone likes a winner.

I would know; I've never been one.

If any group lives by this mantra, politicians do. And everyone wants to be on a winner's team.

That's why so few people were willing to run against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. As the presumptive favorite and expected winner, no one wanted to get on her bad side. Keeping a winner happy in politics is powerful currency. It's why superdelegates lined up behind the Secretary as soon as she announced her candidacy. They anticipated a Clinton victory in the primary (and in November), and early adopters will likely have her in their corner. Smart politics.

The desire to be associated with a winner is also why, by mid-May of 2008, superdelegates began defecting from then-Senator Clinton and throwing their support behind then-Senator Obama. As the tide began to shift and it began to look like he would be the nominee, a lot of those winner loving politicians began to cozy up to the future President.

The electorate does it, too. When it became clear that John McCain would win the Republican nomination in 2008, voters gave him decisive victories in the last 36 contests. Mitt Romney didn't lose a primary after March in 2012. With the single exception of John Edwards winning his home state of NC, voters chose John Kerry in every state after he swept Super Tuesday. And, it looks like Donald Trump's margins of victory are ever increasing this year. Voters like to side with the winner, too.

But there's a strange phenomenon happening on the Democratic side this year. Bernie's voters aren't going away.

I feel the Bern. I voted for Senator Sanders and I'm proud to support him. But, we have to be honest: barring some unlikely, earth shattering, (and it would probably have to be supernatural) event, Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination. I believe she will be a great candidate. I believe she will be a great President. I'm with her.

That said, ignore the trend of backing the winner! You should still vote for Bernie!

Bernie can still win.

No. No. I'm not contradicting myself. Bernie isn't going to win the nomination. But there's more than one way to skin a cat, and Bernie could end up with more power and influence than the eventual President, even still.

Mr. Sanders went to Washington in 1990. He came into the House as what The Washington Post called "the first socialist elected to the House in decades," and his opposition to the political parties in Washington didn't win him any friends. Secretary Clinton is right to point out that in his quarter of a century in Congress, Sanders has introduced very little successful legislation. Of course, without party support and influence it's pretty tough to get much one, and for years even Democrats in the House and the Senate have been able to write Bernie Sanders off as a fringe congressman with wild ideas that could be ignored. Not anymore. Every vote for Bernie in the primary is a signal to the Democratic establishment that the voters in the party want more progressive policies and more attention brought to the issues that Bernie is talking about. He can't be written off anymore. But that's the obvious stuff.

Because of continuing support that hasn't faded in the wake of his loss, Sen. Sanders will score major victories in Philadelphia when the Party is developing its platform. Votes he wins in later states like California and Oregon and Indiana and New Jersey will translate into delegates, and delegates translate into power when it comes to determining the direction of the party in years to come. The "movement" that has grown stronger because Bernie has given it a voice has been full of Americans who have said that we are tired of corporate money in politics, tired of tax breaks for the 1% and tired of unbearable debt for college education. That movement needs to stay strong and have as many delegates at the party convention to guarantee that the Democratic Party carries that message forward and stands for what progressives want and the country needs. Every vote from here on out just strengthens Sanders' clout at the convention to do ensure that.

Bernie's also got position coming his way. With Trump or Cruz at the top of the ticket, the chances of the Democrats taking back the Senate grows exponentially. As Ranking Member of the Budget Committee in the Senate, Sen. Sanders is in line to take over one of the most powerful committees in Congress, and with it wield massive influence over the types of programs that get funded in this country. As powerful as a committee chairman typically is, a committee chairman with massive name recognition and a mandate from millions of loud and active supporters has a formidable bully pulpit. Every vote Bernie gets builds on that.

Despite a spirited primary, I fully expect Sen. Sanders will vocally support Sec. Clinton in the general election and likely campaign on her behalf. He'll hold her accountable on the trail to talk about the issues that are important to him and his supporters. With the increased attention and clout that he'll gain in the Senate as a result of every vote cast for him in the primary, he'll be holding her accountable in office. Hillary Clinton has now said in debates with Bernie that she supports a healthy raise in the minimum wage. From his new perch of influence in the Senate, Bernie is going to be able to draw attention to that again and keep her on track on those promises she's made. I certainly don't think she would do so, but just let a President Hillary Clinton try to appoint a Treasury Secretary who's cozy with Wall Street and big banks. Try to get that past Sen. Bernie Sanders and his national profile, powerful position, and legions of vocal supporters. Not gonna happen. Votes for Bernie, even though they won't make him the nominee, will still make him a big and powerful bulldog in Washington.

And so will money. Very little can motivate a member of Congress to do something more than campaign donations can. Powerful fundraising is what get Speakers and Majority Leaders elected to their positions. It's what gets legislators to sign on as co-sponsors of bills. All too often, it even gets them to vote a certain way. Congressmen who can fundraise can govern, and boy can he fundraise. Given his overwhelming popularity in Vermont, Bernie's Senate seat is pretty safe. That means he can encourage and direct his supporters to support those Representatives and Senators who support a truly progressive agenda. We've seen how fast those $27 donations can add up to historic numbers. Bernie is about to have a lot of friends in Washington. So don't just vote for him, send him another $27.

Bernie Sanders' voters aren't just going away in the same way that losing candidates' voters have disappeared in the past once their viability was gone. A big part of that has to do with the fact that Bernie's voters aren't just voting for Bernie. We are voting for the causes he supports and the solutions he aspires to. Bernie's path to the nomination is all but closed now, but the path to strengthening his message is still wide open. Even though he's not likely to be the nominee nor the President, Bernie's agenda will not die as long as his supporters stay with him. So, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Indiana, Mew Mexico and all of the other states who still have a chance to vote your issues, do not be deterred. If voters in the states with upcoming primaries continue to go to the polls and #berntheballot for Sen. Sanders he well may come out of this process a bigger winner than if he had won the nomination.

Let's get Ready for Hillary in November!

In the meantime, though, keep lending your muscle to the message and the movement. VOTE BERNIE SANDERS.

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