The media pundits say Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has all but locked up the Democratic nomination based on supposedly impressive victories in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
The lifelong socialist and recent convert to the Democratic Party has certainly racked up the largest vote percentages of any candidate so far.
But peel back the numbers (journalists famously aren’t good with them), and it’s breathtaking to see how few voters are behind this supposed political avalanche.
In Iowa, Sanders was the candidate ultimately chosen by 27% of voters participating in the caucuses. How many participated? Just 172,655 — a little less than the population of Oceanside.
In New Hampshire, Sanders was chosen by 26% of voters. How many voted? Just 298,523 — a little more than the population of Chula Vista.
Then came Nevada. In this caucus state, Sanders supposedly pulled into a commanding lead with 40% in the second alignment. How many participated? Just 96,108 — a little less than the population of El Cajon.
Do the math, and you’ll see that Sanders’ voters and caucus supporters so far total around 160,000 people out of a U.S. population of 327 million. And those voters and supporters, coming mostly from Iowa and New Hampshire, are not particularly diverse and representative of America.
In his classic book “Democracy in America,” published before the Civil War, French intellectual Alexis de Tocqueville famously warned against the “tyranny of the majority” in a Democratic society. The idea was the a majority could run roughshod over the rights of a minority.
But in the 2020 race for the Democratic Presidential nomination, we appear to have the opposite — a tyranny of the minority.
Luckily South Carolina is next. It’s a bigger state than Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada, and the most diverse yet. And then there’s Super Tuesday, with states like California and Texas with millions of voters.
Just for comparison with the three tiny states that have already voted, California has 20.4 million registered voters, of which San Diego County alone accounts for 1.8 million. Compare each of those numbers to the recent vote and caucus totals in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
This isn’t to argue whether Sanders is the right candidate or the wrong one, but we shouldn’t be unduly influenced by a tiny minority — and a not very diverse one at that — in choosing our presidential candidates.
Whatever happened in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, it’s a trend based on very, very small numbers.
Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of Times of San Diego.