Editorial: Primaries are messy, Bernie's in the lead, deal with it
We have an authoritarian in the White House who, this week, is undermining the very foundation of our judicial system, interfering with justice in the courts on a case-by-case basis and telegraphing his desires to a corrupt Attorney General — and yet, liberal pundits around the country are panicked about what to do if Bernie Sanders is the Democrat’s nominee. Seriously?
Get a grip, pundits — and many Democrats.
First, Sanders has long held an advantage in New Hampshire, as well as in Iowa due to his name recognition, large numbers of loyal supporters and a grassroots campaign ideally suited to the Iowa Caucuses and to a small-state primary like New Hampshire. In 2016, he beat Hillary Clinton in the Granite State by 22 points. His win there is not a shocker.
Second, the race has just begun; we shouldn’t know who the Democratic nominee will be after hearing from just the first two states. Relax. Take the long view and quit the horse race coverage as if every vote is make-or-break. Moderate Democrats, in fact, should be reassured by the surging candidacies of Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. They are refreshing voices from the moderate base of the party. Combined, they represented 44 percent of the vote in New Hampshire compared to Sanders’ 26 percent.
On the other hand, Vice President Joe Biden’s star is falling. He had every advantage in the early going, yet has done far worse that expected in Iowa and New Hampshire. If his message and personality are not resonating with the voters now, that’s public wisdom as expressed at the ballot box. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is in a similar boat. We’ll see after the tallies in Nevada, South Carolina and Super Tuesday on March 3, what the future holds for them.
As for pundits sounding the alarm that Democrats are in for a long, messy primary that could have been foreseen a year ago when two-dozen candidates entered the race. Assuming the race was ever going to be anything other than an indecisive brawl through the spring has always been a false storyline.
To that end, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni had this to say after the New Hampshire primary: “Now what? I keep hearing Democratic friends grouse that the party’s members need to get on the same page, as if they can be magically muscled there. I keep seeing references in the media to the Democratic establishment and to party leaders, as if those are meaningful forces with indisputable impact. Maybe they once were, but Trump’s political ascent — which happened, remember, in defiance of the supposed Republican establishment and Republican leaders — demonstrated that the era of an external, elite authority being able to impose its will was over.
“That era preceded the explosion of social media. That era was less pessimistic about the country’s trajectory, less cynical about politics and politicians, more faithful on various fronts. That era was less suited to a disruptive iconoclast like Trump — and to a disruptive iconoclast like Sanders.
“Sanders will be a major force in the Democratic race until the end. He’s perhaps the only candidate about whom that can definitively be said… (Yet) younger voters are much more taken with him than older ones. His dominance in the primary at present hinges on the scattered affections of less progressive Democrats. And this movement isn’t driving voters to the polls in the manner that he and his allies have vowed that it would…
“That means that Sanders, so strong, has weaknesses, just as Buttigieg, so weak in a few ways, keeps flexing unexpected strengths. Mixed signals, a muddle of moderates and Biden on political life support: That’s the Democratic primary, which refuses to conform to predictions or follow any tidy script. Get comfortable with your discomfort. I suspect you’ll be feeling it for a while.”
The Democrats’ panic, of course, is framed in the belief that Bernie’s nomination would be a disaster for the party and, according to more than a few Democratic leaders and political columnists, for the country. Or that Buttigieg, while articulate, bright and charismatic, is too young at 38.
But look again at who’s in the White House. The nation’s Justice Department is being corrupted before our eyes and Republicans in power are trying to pretend it either isn’t happening or — their favorite lie, “it’s nothing that every other president hasn’t done before.” On the contrary, Trump’s vindictiveness mirrors that of Putin’s Russia, where it’s common to take out one’s enemies. Fear of retribution is what gives dictators like Putin his power. Trump is imposing a system in the same mold and Senate Republicans are already too afraid to object.
Democrats, Independents and moderate Republicans are right to worry that Trump might well be re-elected and that Democrats need to nominate their strongest candidate, but there is no reason to fear any of the top Democrats would be anything less than a godsend, compared to Trump.
Sanders has taken most of such heat, and unfairly so. The political thrust of Bernie’s campaign and his movement is economic equity with the simple belief that the nation’s wealth has been skewed too heavily in favor of those at the top. He wants to put policies in place to build up America’s middle-class, provide the ability for those in the lower class to become successful, and finance those efforts from the extreme wealth that sits in the hands of the very few.
Facts support the justice of those policies.
Nor is Sanders a megalomaniac. He is belligerent, self-absorbed and cantankerous, but his heart is noble. He would spread the wealth, address the dangers of climate change, and, among other policies, seek to provide health care as a right of human decency as is expected in the democracies of Europe and Scandinavia. Those countries have made such policies affordable; it should be possible here as well.
Democrats and pundits can argue that Sanders is not the best candidate to defeat Trump. But to argue that his policies or his presidency would be detrimental to the nation is an injustice — and could well serve to undermine the Democrats’ ability to defeat Trump come November. Like it or not, Sanders is in the lead, he has money in his campaign, and he has an avid core of supporters across the nation. In short, he has a real shot at representing the party in the General Election.
If that’s uncomfortable, deal with it, but, above all, help him, or whichever Democrat wins the primary, capture the White House by supporting the justice of the message, and that he or she would lead the nation out of the cesspool of special privilege and cronyism Trump has created and rightly restore a more democratic balance of power as the Constitution intends.