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If you’ve been following anything even remotely related to the 2016 Democratic presidential campaign, you probably realized that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is on a roll. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is doing everything in her power to ignore him in her speeches, with her campaign openly saying that they won’t debate before New York’s primary.
However, people are saying that his grassroots supporters are donating much more than hers. In fact, Sanders even managed to snatch some points in the latest poll in the next big state, Wisconsin, which is due to vote next Tuesday. And he’s not leading by 0.01%, mind you; he’s got a four-point lead. Should he win (like the New York Times predicted earlier this week), the race will move to the mid-Atlantic states voting in late April – the number of delegates in New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania is definitely not something to be ignored.
The majority of mainstream analysts are focusing on the delegate math, explaining that Sanders has to win at least 56% of the pledged delegates from all remaining states. They also say that math currently favors Clinton, who does better among wealthier Democrats and in states that are more racially diverse. These are exactly the states that will be voting on April 19 and a week later along the eastern seaboard.
The states are among those at the top of the national chart for highest household incomes. Maryland had slightly over $70,000 while Pennsylvania had over $50,000 in 2015. The residents of these states also have the most disposable income. The fundamental question here is, although most analysts smoothly dodge discussing it in public, whether the region’s middle and upper middle-class Democrats will heed Sanders’ warning that big steps have to be taken to offset class-based inequalities.
The first thing they would have to address would be the economic injustices by forcing Wall Street to pay higher taxes. Will they proceed with the idea, or will they just reject him because they are financially doing better than the nation as a whole? Or in other words, there are some Democrats who have figured out how to make more money than other people. Are they willing to shake up the status quo?
Sanders was definitely willing to shake everything up, especially when he railed against the super-rich and targeted the wealthiest Americans for higher taxes. His proposal to boost Social Security benefits by forcing people making more than $250,000 a year to pay income taxes for the program like those now making under $118,500 was an ingenious move. But the problem arose when the wealthiest Americans remembered how avaricious they actually are, and refused to take any part in his plans.
You can expect that Sanders won’t change his rhetoric at all, as it’s been his hallmark ever since the beginning of the campaign. Reporters who have followed him around have noticed that he modulates his topics ever slightly as the audience changes, like when he talked more about criminal justice reforms while speaking to African-Americans in the South.
Whether Sanders’ anti-establishment propositions will be rejected by Democrats who have invested in that same establishment is a question whose answer will echo far beyond the Democrats’ 2016 nominating process. Will these Democrats be willing to mutually pay a tiny transaction tax if it will be used for making public colleges and universities tuition-free and lowering college loan interest rates? Will they be willing to pay slightly higher taxes and help create the national health-care program Sanders claims will cost them $500 more a year while cutting annual coverage costs by thousands? All this remains to be seen.