Editorial: Bernie Sanders put up a good fight

The Detroit News

Bernie Sanders started his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination season as the longest of long shots. He wasn’t even a Democrat. And yet the Independent Vermont senator whose name recognition was nil a year ago kept the overwhelming favorite Hillary Clinton from an early coronation and forced her to fight to the very end of the campaign.

Not bad for a cranky old socialist.

Sanders hasn’t yet given up his battle, despite Clinton’s apparent clinching of the delegates required to secure the nomination when Democrats convene in Philadelphia at the end of July. He’s been summoned to the White House today, where President Barack Obama is expected to twist his arm, and has had to lay off half his campaign staff. But as of Wednesday, he was still saying he’d stay in the race.

And perhaps he should. While for all practical purposes his hopes are finished, Sanders still believes he can convert enough Democratic superdelegates — party leaders who are not bound by the state primary and caucus votes — to prevail.

It’s possible. Democrats are in the unsavory position of nominating a presidential candidate who is the subject of an active FBI investigation into her improper use of a private email server while secretary of state, and that means anything could happen.

While it seems increasingly unlikely that Clinton will be indicted for her email server irregularities before the Democratic convention, or ever, if charges do come down, Sanders’ decision to stay in the race to the bitter end will end up as a shrewd political calculation.

Sanders famously expressed a lack of interest in the email controversy in the first debate. But as details emerged of how risky and self-serving Clinton’s actions were, that decision by Sanders seems like an opportunity missed.

He chose instead to hammer her for taking huge speaking fees from Wall Street firms. And in recent days he has raised legitimate concerns about the interaction between the State Department and the Clinton family foundation run by her husband, who accepted donations and speaker fees from foreign interests with business while Clinton was secretary of state.

And then there’s the matter of the polls. While Clinton’s lead over presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump falls within the margin of error in most surveys, Sanders trounces the Republican.

That’s a reflection of how voters feel about Trump and Clinton, both of whom post negative ratings approaching 60 percent. So why wouldn’t Sanders feel as if he has a legitimate case for the nomination?

His impact on the Democratic race is undeniable. Although he lost California Tuesday, he picked up a win in North Dakota and performed well in other states, despite an oddly timed declaration Monday from the Associated Press that Clinton had sewn up the nomination.

Sanders’ strength exposes the lack of enthusiasm Democrats have for Clinton, as well as her inability to appeal to independent voters. He drew in millions of new, young voters not previously committed to the Democratic Party, and not likely to stick with it once their hero has departed.

While there’s basically no chance he will prevail in the nominating contest, Sanders has earned himself a strong platform at the Democratic convention. And you can bet he will use it to keep pulling the party and Hillary Clinton toward his agenda.

That’s quite an accomplishment for a stuck-in-the-’60s hippie.