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April 11, 2016 05:38 PM UTC

Give Me Night or Give Me Blucher

  • by: Voyageur

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Hard pressed by Napoleon at Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington cried: “Give me night or give me Blucher!” In the end, Blucher’s hard-marching Prussians fell on the French rear and won the day for the allied armies.

Hillary Clinton can be forgiven for voicing similar sentiments as she reels from a string of seven Bernie Sanders victories that have eroded, though far from erased, the lead she ran up in Southern primaries capped by her one-day sweep of Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida, followed by a convincing win in Arizona.

But as the venue shifted to the West. Sanders showed his mastery of the caucus process where, after losing the first pair in Iowa and Nevada, he swept the next ten, including his recent wins in Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Hawaii. This weekend, he also won a symbolic 55-44 percent win in Wyoming, although the two rivals split the 14 pledged delegates 7-7, according to the Washington Post.

Even more important, Sanders won the Wisconsin primary, the political equivalent of Marshall Ney’s furious charge against the stalwart British squares at Waterloo. [Pardon me for belaboring the metaphor.   I’ve been to Waterloo where an observation tower lets you look out over the battlefield while surrounding you with a mural of Ney’s charge. For all its valor, that assault failed to break the British squares, just as Hillary retained a lead of at least 214 pledged delegates after Wisconsin.]

But as the embattled former Secretary of State casts a practiced eye about the battlefield, she no doubt notices that the terrain is about to change drastically. First of all, the caucus fights are just about over.   Only North Dakota remains on the list of state caucuses, on June 7.   Now, the battle shifts to primaries, where Hillary has won 15 of 21 contests. Even more important, five of the next six primaries are closed primaries, where only Democrats can vote.   Sanders has never beaten Clinton in a closed primary. Even in Wisconsin, Clinton and Sanders were even among Democrats, with Bernie’s 13-point victory margin coming solely from Independent or Republican crossovers. Hillary likewise bested Sanders among Democrats in Michigan, with Bernie gaining the victory by winning more than two-thirds of crossovers.

Those crossovers can’t help Sanders in New York, where the deadline for switching registrations passed almost unnoticed last Oct. 9 – yes, Oct. 9! — though new registrants could sign up as late as March 25.   This closed primary is reinforced by the fact that New York and other mid-Atlantic states have higher percentages of minority voters. Sanders has never beaten Clinton in a state with more than 25 percent minorities. About 46 percent of the New York vote could come from minorities.

If Wisconsin gave Sanders momentum in New York, it seems to have been short-lived. Friday the Emerson poll gave Hillary an 18-point lead. Fox followed Sunday with a 16 point lead for Clinton. Monday, the Monmouth poll showed Hillary up by 12 while an NBC/WSJ/Marist poll gave her a 14-point edge.   Certainly both Sanders and Clinton have beaten polls in the past. But the closed primary system makes it hard for Sanders to generate the surge of new voters and cross-overs that led him to victory in Michigan and Wisconsin.

If Hillary is optimistic in New York on April 19, where analyst Nate Silver now gives her a 96 percent chance to capture a majority of its 291 delegates, her odds look even better a week later when five more states weigh in on April 26. Pennsylvania has 210 delegates, Maryland 118, Connecticut 70, and Delaware, 31 delegates – and all are closed primaries as well as hosting the kind of diverse electorates that have so far favored Clinton.   Only Rhode Island, with 33 delegates, allows limited crossover voting.

That’s 753 delegates chosen in the next two weeks on battlefields very favorable to Hillary Clinton. Even a 10 percent plurality of them would wipe out all the gains of Sanders’ western campaign and return her to an edge of some 300 pledged delegates. Sanders almost certainly wouldn’t quit because he will doubtless go on raising huge sums from his faithful. But as a practical matter, he’d be fighting more to give a voice to the new and idealistic troops he’s raised to the Democratic banner than for any realistic hope of winning the 2016 nomination.

When Napoleon’s Old Guard made its final doomed charge at Waterloo, it marched to the motto, “The Old Guard dies, but never surrenders.”

Bernie’s New Guard will likewise never surrender. But they don’t have to — because the young have the privilege of living to fight another day. Like the cadres Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy raised in 1968 and George McGovern rallied in 1972, Bernie’s proud irregulars can take their place beside the aging Democratic legions of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to beat Donald Trump or Ted Cruz this fall – and stay to shape the future of American politics for generations to come.


18 thoughts on “Give Me Night or Give Me Blucher

  1. How the heck does New York not allow people to change registrations since last October? That's nuts. Looks like that's the rule, though.

    If true, it would indeed make it almost impossible for Sanders to gain any delegates in New York. However, the Sanders camp has been on this like white on rice. Plus, new and first time voters had until 3/25/16 to register. I'm guessing that many did, many for Sanders, and that they probably weren't counted in those polls you cite.

    We will see, as always.

    And, "Bernie's proud irregulars"? Seriously? Way to de-legitimize and trivialize all Sanders supporters. Not the way to win voter loyalty for Hillary.

    Maybe you're stretching that Battle of Waterloo metaphor just a tad too far.

    Still, another very well-written, informative post.

    1. Cool down.  Insurgent militia are always irregulars, as distinct from long-sservice professional soldiers, called " regulars."  I was in the "regular Army" with RA in my serial number because I enlisted.  Draftees were designated U.S.

      As to polls, the toughest part is always finding who is likely to vote.  A proper sampling will catch new registrants but a screen like "did you vote in the last primary " won't.  That Oct. 9 deadline is amazing.

      1. Thanks V. I've got a set of antique cigarette cards featuring the uniforms of various British units and a French one or two ( English cards) that participated in the Naploeonic wars. Love history and that was a favorite subject of mine for years. I unfortunately have way too much of my memory bank taken up by late 18th/early 9th century battle tactics, the interaction of infantry squares, the different kinds of cavalry and artillery. And of course the then relatively new rifles. Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series is a great supplement to the non-fiction for creating the visuals for all of that and an understanding of the details of a British soldiers daily life that the straight histories don't provide and he always provides an afterward to tell you what really happened as opposed to the historic fiction version. His Saxon Tales are great, too, for Vikings/early English history fans.

    2. I would think Bernie supporters would wear the label "irregulars" proudly since they're all about being outside the political establishment which, in the implied metaphor, would be the "regulars". I mean we're talking about the supporters of a candidate who has been a proud indie, not a Democrat. It's an insurgency, a plucky band takin' it to the man yadayadyada….. right?

      1. That was actually the intent, BC, to compliment the "proud irregulars" of Bernie's army.  Like you, I adore the Sharpe series and the other Cornwell books.    The dance of column, line, square, fascinates me.   My alternative narrative for Hillary the Fair at this point in her campaign was going to be one of Cornwell's shield walls, but I finally went with Waterloo because "Give me night or give me Blucher." was irresistible.   In fact, there were no irregulars at Waterloo though some of Napoleon's "levee en masse" was pretty green.  The other Wellington quote I love was his description of those stalwart musketeers: "Scum of the earth, enlisted for drink."

        I was a history nut as a kid and then the Army sent me to West Point, which was like sending an alcoholic to the Coors brewery.   Whenever possible, I'd sneak out to Kosciusko's garden, smell the honeysuckle, and dream of grander days.



        1. My reply about your use of "irregular' was to mama.  And my major complaint about the TV series Vikings, which is highly fictionalized and based on semi-history, semi-legend in the first place so I have no complaints about it not being "accurate", is that I was hoping to see the kind of great big shield wall battles described in the Saxon Tales. Instead they only do small shield wall battles and the big battles have everyone running around chaotically from the get go because I guess that's more cinematic. The actor who plays Rollo running around shirtless is, I'll grant you, quite deliciously cinematic so there's that. 

          Recently a series based on the Saxon Tales completed its first 10 or so episode first season of The Last Kingdom. My major complaint about that one was not that it wasn't just like the novel. I know how page to screen works and don't mind reimaginings, compression, composite characters etc. as long as the result is good. But they have a drop dead gorgeous and pretty small actor playing Uhtred. I don't care if you make Uhtred dark instead of fair (BBC made Sharpe blonde years ago but he was still a great Sharpe) and I'm not opposed to eye candy but smallish?  Every time I saw him surrounded by a crowd of bigger tougher looking men and talking to his leading ladies at pretty much eye level it really aggravated me. It completely changes the  character into kind of a plucky puppy who wins with luck and heart. Can't wait for the next novel with the Uhtred we know and love. He's getting old. Can't be too many more.


      2. I am about to become an unaffiliated voter, after 44 years as a registered Democrat. I have had enough of arrogant establishment Democrats acting like they own the party and they get to determine what it means to be a Democrat. Corporatists like Frank Underwood should be happy they are driving away all of us little newbie idiots that don't think the way he does.

        From this point forward I will set myself to the destruction of the Democratic party as we know it. I will do everything I can to convince as many Democrats as possible to leave the party.

            1. You do know that the more you succeed the longer will be the reign of conservative GOP hegemony which we actually have the opportunity to crush if we don't divide and conquer ourselves for them.

              1. and, of course, the corporate establishment wing of the party bears absolutely  no responsibility for alienating millions of voters…

                It is like I said a few days ago, BC, to all those who expect Bernies' supporters to fall in line…

                Want some respect?….show some.

                1. And, of course, what could be more respectful than Jeff Weaver claiming Hillary Clinton literally made a pact with Satan.   Weaver is a class act — low class.

                2. And you must have ignored my reply because I never said Bernie's suporters should fall in line. Go ahead and fight for the nomination. It's a good fight and and has done progressive causes a lot of good.

                  I've just said if he loses and HRC wins you should follow the example of the overwhelming majority of HRC supporters and join the fight against the GOP by supporting the D nominee, whoever that turns out to be. Unlike you, most HRC supporters have promised to do that.

                  Or you can let the rest of us get your asses out of a sling by fighting that fight for you while you carry on about how noble and principled you are. And no, I don't respect that stance. But it's your choice. If we have to beat the GOP without you we'll do so. 

                  You're welcome.

        1. Welcome to the saner world of we Unaffiliateds…

          …doesn't really matter how you get here — we'll treat you as an equally valued and respected member at our next statewide convention!

  2. A little historical trivia: Wellington got his Blucher and the Norwegians got theirs. The German heavy cruiser Blucher blew up on April 10, 1940, in Oslo fiord, after being struck by two 11" shells from coastal batteries and hit by two torpedos launched from shore. The wreckage remains there to this day in 200' of water. The Germans were delayed long enough to allow the Norwegian royal family and government officials to get out of Oslo.  

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