10/04/2016 16:19 BST | Updated 11/04/2017 06:12 BST

Sanders Might Not Win the Battle, But He's Won the War


Thirty-six primaries down and 21 to go and the race to be the Democrat's presidential nominee is really hotting up. Not that you'd know it of course from the British media who seem to be reading straight from the script of the Clinton campaign. According to them every Hillary win takes her a step closer to the White House whilst every victory for Sanders is a blip in what is otherwise an inevitable story.

It takes some gall to spin this story out when the facts are saying something quite different. Sanders has won all six of the last primaries and as the elections head northwards, and away from the southern belt of America where his campaign expected to take a knock, his confidence and his brand continues to rise. It also overlooks what is going on inside the campaigns. Sanders' political strategy means his campaign can grow exponentially. It works by empowering local organisers, giving them the skills and tools they need to become self-sufficient and train more and more supporters to become local leaders and messengers. Clinton, by contrast, has relied on a much more traditional, centralised campaign with the standard mix of telephone banking and canvassing from established members. All that can really grow now is the Clinton warchest and even that is being overtaken by the wealth of the Sanders campaign.

So, whilst support for Sanders - "the movement" - will continue to grow up til June, we've already hit peak-Clinton. She has to hope that the level she is at is sufficiently high enough in enough states to tip her over the line.

Why have papers ignored this narrative? Part of the reason is down to honest maths. Although the number of states won so far by the contenders is very close (20 to 16) Clinton has the advantage of having won the states with the largest number of delegates so far contested - Texas and Florida. In contrast, Sanders has won three out of the five smallest states. This naturally puts him at a disadvantage when it comes to securing the 2,383 delegates needed for victory.

But, I think there are wider and more systematic reasons why Clinton continues to be presented as the inevitable victor in a contest which remains wide open.

Firstly, if the experience of recent events both here in the UK and over the pond in America has taught us anything it is that the media are not exactly ahead of the curve when it comes to the changing political landscape. Apparently from nowhere came the success of the Yes campaign in Scotland and Corbyn's leadership bid. The idea that a radically different alternative to the usual political narrative could be popular still takes many by surprise. Neoliberal economics is supposed to be predominate and it is hard to shake that impression.

Secondly, much of this change is coming from below the radar. Communities are building their own campaigns from the bottom up, giving members the right and opportunity to shape their own futures and to talk about the issues that matter to them. This isn't being picked up by the commentators in the media whose ears are mainly tuned into Westminster and Washington. When Sanders says his campaign is not about electing Bernie Sanders but about the people of America he means it: it's why he has been so successful.

So, whilst it is still quite possible that Sanders will not win the battle - if the battle is the Democrat nomination - he is winning the war when it comes to making a mark on the future of American politics. Like Obama before him he has fundamentally changed the way campaigning is done and enfranchised a whole community of people who will never again be satisfied with only having a voice every time a politician needs their vote at election. He has successfully raised awareness of the crooked nature of the political system and awakened Americans to the possibility of much bigger change than that being offered by Clinton. Whoever is elected President will have to deal with this legacy.