Paul Hampton

Why not let Democratic voters pick the nominee?

Paul Hampton
Paul Hampton SUN HERALD

Establishment Democrats have their own Trump. His name is Bernie Sanders.

You won't hear Sanders call women pigs. He won't feud with anchors, TV networks, cameramen ... he won't take his ball and go home.

There aren't many parallels between Donald Trump and Sanders. But there's a big one.

Just as the Republicans underestimated Trump, the Democrats never saw Sanders coming.

And now, Sanders is scaring the party pantsuitless.

Ever since Sanders announced, Hillary Clinton's supporters have been assuring us with the certainty of the uncertain, that Sanders has no chance. It is, after all, Clinton's turn. The national media has been a more than willing accomplice in that narrative.

Sanders formally announced his candidacy on April 30. The NBC News website posted an analysis the same day: "Bernie Sanders won't win. But his ideas might."

That drumbeat has been steady since. By October, the Washington Post had boiled it down to: "Why Bernie Sanders isn't going to be president, in five words." I can boil their argument down even further, Democratic Socialist. That's the reason the Democratic elite doesn't want Sanders as its nominee.

You'd think the Grand Ol' Party would love to have Sanders as their opponent. They don't. They're as sure as a Democrat that Sanders won't win. They barely mention him in debates. And if they do, it's only to remind voters Sanders doesn't have a chance.

But Sanders continues to draw Trump-like crowds. The Democrats counter by scheduling their debates on the weekends. Democratic National Committee chairwoman and Hillary Clinton supporter Debbie Wasserman Shultz says that was a conscious effort to increase viewership. The Sanders team said, and Politifact agrees, "baloney."

And Sanders continued to draws big crowds. And started creeping up in the early polls.

So naturally, as his prospects rose, his campaign hacked into Clinton's campaign data, and the DNC started acting like it has found its Benghazi and punished Sanders by taking away his access to voter data. Until he threatened to sue, and, you know, asked to see the evidence.

And Sanders crept up further in the polls. By now, the good ship Denial is taking on water. Saying it isn't so isn't making it not so.

It's the Trump quandary. Sanders has captured the hearts of the Democratic base, the more left leaning members of the party, the ones tired of the Democratic establishment and its establishment candidate. And, he's appealing to the young folks, who have looked around, see a rather large snowball headed their way, and have begun to wonder if perhaps the situation calls for some radical thinking.

So the gloves drop. What about Sander's health? How's he going to pay for all those promises? (Yes. You're reading that correctly. Democrats. Worried about how to pay for something.) What about the poll that says most Americans won't vote for a socialist? (Nevermind the polls that put Sanders ahead of most of the GOP field.)

And what about Clinton's email server? All that money she's taking from Wall Street and big pharma? And, wait, Microsoft, a big Clinton supporter, is giving the Democrats software to tally the Iowa Caucus results?

I miss the good ol' days when the Democrats were laughing at the GOP food fight and holding themselves up as an example of how to have a serious discussion of the issues. But then the Sanders challenge to the party structure started to look real. And the food fight looked like so much fun.

And here we are, with both parties wondering how a couple of outsiders (neither Sanders nor Trump were strong adherents to their respective parties until last year) are kicking their butts. It couldn't be that more and more Americans are tired of old-school party shenanigans.

I've had old-school Democrats tell me they'll vote for a Republican if Sanders is the nominee.

And Vice President Joe Biden thinks the GOP field is a "gift from God."

Contact Paul Hampton, politics editor of the Sun Herald, at 896-2330 or jphampton@sunherald.com. Follow him on Twitter @jpaulhampton.

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