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According to unidentified sources quoted in the big national newspapers, worried Democratic Party insiders have begun discussions about how they need to execute a pre-emptive derailing of Bernie Sanders.

He's a problem because of all those supporters.

Maybe Democrats could seek friendly advice from Republican Party insiders on how they managed to stop Donald Trump in his tracks.

This reported Democratic insider hand-wringing comes at a time when Sanders has taken the lead in a national poll from Emerson Polling--29-24 percent over Joe Biden.

It also comes after Sanders successfully executed a town hall on Fox News. The audience wound up cheering his notion for government single-payer health insurance, indeed his general concept of a democratic incremental socialism.

And it comes at a time when mainstream liberal Democratic groups tied to the Clintons are trying to brand Sanders a phony populist on account on his having published a book that made him a lot of money because people bought it.

It turns out that the greatest fear of the two major political parties is an independent-minded candidate.

And it turns out that the greatest rivals of the parties' establishment insiders are ... you know ... the American people.

Candidates in the modern era--from JFK onward, or at least from Watergate onward--have been more important than parties. But that's never been truer than today.

As others have put it, partisanship has never been stronger even as the parties themselves have never been weaker.

What that means is that the two party organizations exist mainly as donor repositories that use the large sums of money for two destructive purposes--to demonize the other side and thus fuel partisan disdain, and to use the leverage of that money to impose polarized party-line votes on what otherwise might be policy-inclined and solution-oriented officeholders.

Put another way: The parties do the dirty divisive work, but it's a candidate, and only a candidate, who can forge a positive voter connection.

And when a candidate comes along forging such a connection, the party apparatus finds itself irrelevant.

In the olden days, party bosses would pick the nominees. If that were happening today, Democratic insiders would foist on us Joe Biden and running mate Amy Klobuchar. They would take on President Marco Rubio and Vice President Scott Walker, whom the Republicans would have brought out of the back room three years ago to defeat ... well, the same Democratic ticket we had, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, which just goes to show what can happen to a party that loads its nomination race with super-delegates and dictates an outside decision from the inside.

Why are Democratic insiders more worried than ever about Sanders? It's because, in response to Sanders-driven criticism from 2016, they grudgingly agreed to change their nomination process and allow the hundreds of super-delegates--officeholders and party officials--to vote only if a contest remains unsettled after a first ballot.

No longer can super-delegates dictate. They can only help settle--not fix--a mess.

Consider further that, by rule, candidates in this big Democratic field can collect pledged delegates only with 15 percent showings in primaries and caucuses. And there will be no winner-take-all states.

Thus, surely you can see the reason for the Democratic insiders' panic. Sanders may not have enough support to lead tickets, at least consistently. But he has plenty to get 15 percent pretty much anywhere every time.

And even a strong Biden, which might turn out to be an oxymoronic term, couldn't knock Sanders out by finishing first in states, since there'd be no winner-take-all circumstances.

And don't forget that Kamala Harris will get a boatload of California delegates early.

Sanders is strong for the very reason party insiders oppose him--he unabashedly champions certain eventually vulnerable strong left-wing principles, such as higher taxes on the rich and single-payer health insurance, that a solid base of support rallies around and that thousands of small-level contributors underwrite in defiance of the traditional big-donor party sources.

Sanders' candidacy exacerbates both of the raging Democratic divides as liberals try to respond to the Preposterous Era. Those divides are left versus further left and old versus young.

The only possible comforting factor for Democrats is that, for all the Republican divisiveness he fomented, Trump became president.

That's because, as Mitt Romney so famously put it, the eventual general election nominations are occasions for shaking the Etch A Sketch and clearing the screen, no matter how hideous the image.

If presidential races are indeed all about competing national moods, then no two nominees better represent polarized moods of unbridled passion than Trump and Sanders.

Such a race conceivably is something the troubled nation will have to go through.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 04/18/2019

Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: Dems spooked by Sanders

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