In a column I wrote a couple months back, I listed five reasons why Donald Trump could actually win this election, to our everlasting national shame. Here’s reason number six: A Democratic party torn asunder.
This past Tuesday, after winning Oregon and losing Kentucky, Bernie Sanders told his tragically credulous acolytes: “We have a possibility of going to Philadelphia with a majority of pledged delegates.” The truth, to which he remains allergic, is that under the Democratic rules of proportional delegate allocation, he would have to beat Hillary Clinton by whopping landslides, 35-point margins or more, in each and every remaining primary. That is not going to happen. In reality, he has been burnt toast for so many weeks that his crust has the consistency of ash.
And yet — destructively so — he still wants his “revolutionaries” to believe. And because they believe, they continue to feed on the delusion that somehow Bernie is being “robbed” by a system that is “rigged,” despite the fact that Hillary has won three million more votes than Bernie nationwide. But unless or until Bernie grows up and talks to them as adults, they’ll take their delusions to Philadelphia and put their tantrums on national display. And every day that happens is a great day for Trump.
What happened at the Nevada Democratic convention gave us a taste of those sour grapes. The gist is that even though Hillary won the February caucus, 53 to 47 percent, Bernie’s followers went ballistic because they felt he didn’t win enough delegates. (Like, a majority.) They threw chairs, screamed obscenities at Clinton surrogates, and, in numerous texts and cell phone messages, threatened the life of the state party chairwoman.
“Despite their social media frothing and self-righteous screeds, the facts reveal that the Sanders folks disregarded rules, then when shown the truth, attacked organizers and party officials as tools of a conspiracy to defraud the senator of what was never rightfully his in the first place,” said Jon Ralston, the smartest political reporter in Nevada. “Instead of acknowledging that they were out-organized [by the Clinton campaign], the Sanders folks have decided to cry conflagration in a crowded building, without regard to what they burn down in the process.”
And this was a fight over the allegiances of only four delegates; it didn’t matter whether Bernie won them, because that’s a drop in his deficit bucket. Even political commentator Charles Pierce — who’s no fan of Hillary — is repulsed by the behavior of the “revolutionaries.” He writes that “the Sanders people should know better than to conclude what has been a brilliant and important campaign by turning it into an extended temper tantrum. I voted for Bernie Sanders .... But if anybody thinks that, somehow, he is having the nomination ‘stolen’ from him, they are idiots.”
And the idiocy is fed from the top. Bernie seems determined to play it ugly all the way to the convention, and to threaten further displays of wrath on the convention floor.
Some of us are old enough to remember the last time there was such a spectacle. I happen to remember it well, because it was my first convention as a journalist. The year was 1980, Ted Kennedy took his losing liberal insurgency all the way to the floor, exacerbating the breach with the forces committed to incumbent President Jimmy Carter. The resulting Democratic disunity helped fuel the autumn victory of Ronald Reagan, a guy who Democrats once derided as a joke.
Is that really the way Bernie wants to play it? Is he bent on becoming the next Ralph Nader?
Ed Kilgore, a longtime Democratic operative and commentator, wisely says that “the best step Sanders’ supporters could take to promote their long-term interests in the Democratic Party would be to get a grip before they wind up helping Donald Trump win the presidency. And Bernie Sanders himself has a responsibility to talk his devoted followers off the ledge.”
But Bernie seems averse to taking responsibility. Jon Ralston warns: “If what happens in Vegas happens in Philadelphia, the chances of a unified Democratic party in the general election are virtually nonexistent and the odds of a President Trump suddenly don’t look so long.”
That’s what I’m saying. Reason number six.
Dick Polman is a national political columnist and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at email@example.com.