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Sanders’s campaign manager previewed a very undemocratic strategy for the Democratic primary

Bernie Sanders Holds Campaign Rally At Penn State Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

There is, to say the least, a certain amount of tension between two of the arguments the Bernie Sanders campaign made today.

First, Sanders blasted New York's primary for being closed to independents. "Today, 3 million people in the state of New York who are independents have lost their right to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary," Bernie Sanders said. "That’s wrong."

But later that same night, Sanders's campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, went on MSNBC and said that the campaign's plan is to win the election by persuading superdelegates to dump Hillary Clinton.

This isn't the first time the Sanders campaign has previewed this strategy. They began talking about it in March, arguing that if they could finish the primaries strong, then even if they trailed Clinton in delegates they could use their strong poll numbers, tremendous small-donor fundraising, and general momentum to persuade superdelegates to switch sides and hand them the nomination.

And fair enough. It's an incredibly unlikely stratagem — superdelegates are the very definition of the Democratic Party establishment, which is why Clinton has an enormous advantage among them — but it's completely within the rules of the game.

It is, however, a bit unseemly for Sanders to blast New York's primary for barring independent voters only to have his campaign manager go out and say they're explicitly planning to use superdelegates to overturn the will of the voters.

But what turns this into an unusually difficult argument for Sanders is that early in the race, Sanders's supporters feared this is how Clinton would steal the election, and so they mobilized their supporters to demand that the superdelegates abide by the will of the voters. Even today, some Sanders supporters (wrongly) think Clinton's lead is the unfair result of superdelegates ignoring the voters and backing her campaign.

There's nothing new about seemingly principled arguments about process covering opportunistic jockeying for candidate advantage. But imagine if it were Sanders leading in pledged delegates and Clinton suggesting that New York's primary results weren't legitimate and her campaign would use superdelegates to win even if they lost the primaries. Sanders's voters would be furious, and rightly so.


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