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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 6:11 pm | Fair 59º


Susan Estrich: For Bernie, the Numbers Just Don’t Add Up

Math was actually my best subject, until seventh grade, when I was the only girl on the math team. As if it were on the intercom, I heard loud and clear that girls weren’t supposed to be good at math.

But today I’m still proficient enough to figure out how to add up to 2,383, the number of delegates you need to win the Democratic nomination, and Hillary Clinton already has 2,305.

That’s 97 percent of what she needs.

Or, for those who like to add and subtract, with 694 delegates at stake on June 7, including California and New Jersey, Clinton needs only 78.

Seventy-eight delegates.

I know, I’m including the “superdelegates,” and if Bernie Sanders were to win landslide victories in New Jersey and California, maybe those superdelegates would start changing their minds in droves on the grounds that Sanders had won the majority of pledged delegates.

There are many problems with this argument, beginning, again, with arithmetic.

According to all the sources I found (I’m relying on the AP here), the math dictates that Sanders would require landslide victories in all the remaining states.

Then Clinton’d still be ahead of him in delegates, and Sanders would still need superdelegates to move en masse, which they’re just not going to do.

Trust me. I may be old now, but once, when I was young, I coined the phrase “superdelegates,” precisely because I was against giving the power to determine the nomination to a bunch of stodgy, overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male members of the establishment so they could make sure someone like Sanders would never be nominated — that is, someone way to the left, who in their view would not only lose but also take the party down with them.

Mark my words. Bernie may win more primaries, but Clinton will get the 78 delegates she needs — and plenty more than that.

The race for the nomination is over. Done. Won. Lost. It’s not a “steep road,” as Sanders called it, but a dead end.

So why does he keep doing it?

He is, I suppose, the last person who will believe the numbers. He is surrounded by crowds of aides and advisers who will become pretty much irrelevant the minute he endorses Clinton and agrees to make a reasonable deal on the convention, and they’re probably telling him that he loses all his leverage on the platform and the convention the minute he gets out of the race.

And frankly, Democrats are famous for giving their chosen nominee a kick in the pants in the final contests that don’t count, maybe because they don’t count.

I’ve rarely had such fun as June 2, 1980, when Ted Kennedy, who could not win, beat Jimmy Carter, who could not lose, in both New Jersey and California. Send a message.

I get that. I’ve done that. I’m the girl who entered the negotiations with the president’s team with 44 minority reports (each entitled to 30 minutes of debate and a roll call) in my back pocket to trade for convention speaking time.

Yes, I’m proud to this day that civil rights, reproductive freedom and equal rights for gays and lesbians all appeared in the Democratic platform before they ever appeared on anyone’s congressional agenda, but I can’t even think of what the equivalent is here that Bernie-ites would want and Clinton people would say no to.

Free college? How about make the opportunity of college available to every young American who has shown they are qualified to attend. Couldn’t that be good enough? Is the difference really worth electing Donald Trump over?

Back in 1980, the Carter people never reached out to the Kennedy people — not until October. That is surely a mistake Clinton will not make.

More importantly, the attitude of many in 1980, as I remember, was that Ronald Reagan simply had no chance.

Here was a guy who believed pollution came from trees (he really did say that once). He was an actor, for goodness’ sake. We were free to fight, because our opponent could not win.

How wrong can you be? The people who say Trump can’t win sound painfully familiar — and equally wrong — to me.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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