Margolis: Sanders team leads in pushing idea of party selection conspiracies

Sen. Bernie Sanders fields a question Sunday from “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd in New Hampshire, site of Tuesday’s primary. NBC screenshot

Jon Margolis is a political columnist for VTDigger.

Let the whining begin.

Oh, too late. It’s already started. The Democratic candidates for president are complaining that they wuz robbed.

Worse, the conspiratorialists are at it, claiming not only that they wuz robbed but they are going to be robbed again because the powers that be are out to get them.

Relax, everyone. The powers that be have very little power.

Both the whining and the conspiracy-mongering are coming from a few campaigns. As soon as it was clear that Joe Biden had done poorly in the Iowa precinct caucuses, someone in his campaign mumbled something about going to court to stop the state party from releasing the results. After Pete Buttigieg won (or co-won?) in Iowa, a senior official of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign said a woman with Buttigieg’s background wouldn’t have done as well.

One of those wonderfully vague political statements that can be neither confirmed nor refuted.

But as usual most of the whining and most of the conspiracy delusions come from supporters of Vermont’s own Bernie Sanders, and this time from the candidate himself.

This whining is an outgrowth of a delusion now almost four years old: that Sanders didn’t win the 2016 nomination because the Democratic Party’s “establishment” (never defined) and specifically the Democratic National Committee (DNC)  “rigged” the race against him.

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That this is simply false is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of arithmetic. Hillary Clinton won the nomination because she got 15,565,922 votes in the primaries. Sanders got 11,883,210.

Or many fewer, as it is sometimes known.

She won because she beat Sanders by a 76%-to-23% margin among African Americans, who made up roughly a fifth of the Democratic primary electorate. She got those votes because black voters knew and trusted her. They didn’t know Sanders, and he couldn’t figure out how to connect with them.

Sanders came closer to Clinton in pledged delegates, thanks to … (wait for it) … the Democratic Party establishment and its rules, under which 12 states chose their delegates in caucuses. He did much better in caucuses, low-turnout events that tend to be dominated by the more intense ideologues.

It isn’t that the DNC did not try to put its finger on the scale. It did. It and its then-chair, Florida Rep. Deborah Wasserman-Schultz, were shamelessly pro-Clinton.

But the DNC didn’t and doesn’t have much of a thumb. Yes, it might have scheduled a few more debates at times when they’d get bigger audiences. But that would only have mattered had Sanders been much better than Clinton at those debates. He wasn’t. They were about even. It may have tried, but the DNC didn’t cost Sanders a single vote.

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event in Burlington late last month. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Now the DNC is being shameless again, changing its debate rules to allow former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg into the Feb. 19 debates in Las Vegas, a move assailed by Biden, by Andrew Yang and by Sanders, who called the move “an absolute outrage and really unfair.”

Unfair to whom? Not to the voters, who will get to see Bloomberg.

And why should Sanders be afraid to face Bloomberg in a debate?  Sanders is better at these forums. He has more experience. He’s more eloquent. He’s (a low bar here) more affable. He should welcome the chance to go up against Bloomberg. So should the others.

In the view of some Sanders supporters, the DNC changed those debate rules to benefit Blomberg because the party “establishment” is terrified that Sanders might win the nomination.

And why are these unnamed mysterious forces so terrified? Because they represent or are beholden to Wall Street bigwigs and billionaires who think a Sanders presidency would be bad for their bankrolls.

Not an entirely baseless analysis. The DNC needs donations from wealthy people, most of whom oppose Sanders.

But so do not-so-wealthy Democrats who worry that a Sanders nomination would be disastrous for their party. For instance, exactly one of the 47 Democratic members of the Iowa state legislature who endorsed candidates came out for Sanders. Iowa Democratic lawmakers are not tools of Wall Street. They do tend to know their constituents. Their opposition to Sanders is politics, not corruption or conspiracy.

Sad to say, the desire to conjure corruption and conspiracy where there is none transcends politics. Take the movie “The Irishman,” an Academy Award nominee. It was easy to miss amidst the many mumbled lines of dialog, but central to the plot was how disappointed the mob bosses were with President John F. Kennedy’s administration. They thought they’d have an in with the Kennedys because they and JFK’s father had all been bootleggers during Prohibition.

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A widely accepted legend. But there is zero credible evidence that Kennedy’s father was a bootlegger. As Patrick Nasaw notes in “The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy” (Penguin Press, 2012), not an uncritical biography, Kennedy was investigated by two Senate committees for confirmation to senior government appointments. If there had been any evidence of illegal activities, his political enemies (he had some) would have found it.

For whatever reason, though, some people find it comforting to believe that the world is controlled by mysterious cabals. Some of it may be. The battle for the Democratic presidential nomination is not.

There were and are mobsters. Now and then, through terror or bribes, they had influence over some politicians. They never nominated a presidential candidate of either party. Neither did the Democratic National Committee. This nomination is being rigged by the people who vote in the primaries.

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Jon Margolis

About Jon

Jon Margolis is the author of "The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964." Margolis left the Chicago Tribune early in 1995 after 23 years as Washington correspondent, sports writer, correspondent-at-large and general columnist. He was previously the Albany Bureau Chief for Newsday and has also been a reporter for the Bergen Record in Hackensack, N.J.; the Miami Herald and the Concord Monitor (N.H.). A native of New Jersey, Margolis graduated from Oberlin College in 1962. He served in the U.S. Army.

Email: [email protected]

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Karen McIlveen1

Sanders and eloquent in the same sentence, Mr Margolis that statement baffles me.

Hale Irwin

Sanders is the Left Wing Reflection of the Right Wing Trump. Either one will be bad for the country. Bernie, it is time to think of reality, the country and victory for Democrats in November. Back out and support a realistic candidate.

John Shaplin

Isn’t true,though, that Joseph Kennedy got back from being Ambassador to the UK with an idea to run against FDR to keep us out of the war (he’s already been meeting with Nazis on that count- as FDR’s spies found out) so FDR invited him to a friendly dinner in the White House and showed him a bunch of ‘incorrect transactions and filings’ that the IRS had dug up on him and that was that, unless you consider the bags of money he sent to ‘the boy’s in West Virginia and Chicago to pull the levers for JFK? If not, I guess I’m just a sucker for a good story.As far as it goes in this election, there ain’t nothing illegal about taking your own dough or the dough you collected from corporations and PACS and handing out to State Party officials and down ballot candidates so you’ll have some pals to count on if you get into office. It’s a PARTY after all, not just a loose cannons firing off blanks.

Chet Greenwood

Maybe the DNC wanted a Democrat as their candidate!

Jude Hazelton

I haven’t seen spinning like that since the Gravitron ride at the fair.

Larry Plesent

I enjoy your column Jon. However i was in Belize in the early 1990s. Went to Rum Point off Placencia and met Gracie who was Joe Kennedy’s lover and pregnant at 13. Met her son Whitey as well. Gracie is long gone now but her vivid stories about her relationship with “Hi I’m Joe!”, were very detailed and lucid. Joe Kenedy set up the transhipment operation and bribed the fishermans co op to assist. Apparently he was well liked and at the tjme still remembered favorably through Gracies many stories, details of which could not be faked. The Kennedy ‘s should get to know their Belizian relations.

Tim Mosher

Hmm, Seems like Margolis is angling for a columnist position at the New York Times or the Washington Post.
I wish opinion writers were required to back up their opinions with empirical information and footnotes citing their sources.
Until then, it’s all B.S.

Michael Van Dyke

Until Bernie actually JOINS the Democratic party he can start complaining. What a hypocrite!
In the demagoguery contest, he and Trump make a great pair.

Moshe Braner

“exactly one of the 47 Democratic members of the Iowa state legislature who endorsed candidates came out for Sanders. … They do tend to know their constituents.”

– um, looking at the Iowa results (now that they are finally available), I’d say they don’t know their constituents.

But the DNC seems intent on losing again (in November).

Steve Allen

The entire Democratic party needs a complete makeover, starting with the DNC. They are so far out in LEFT field they don’t even know the game is over. They could be doing so much better if they became the party of the middle, drawing in moderates instead of their current extreme leftist mentality.

sandra bettis

And, Mr Margolis, what about the delegates? You left that part totally out of your opinion piece.

Joseph Mirzoeff

Well why would Bernie’s people complain? Consider this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr28UXuckzQ&feature=emb_logo

Pete Novick

“…that Sanders didn’t win the 2016 nomination because the Democratic Party’s “establishment” (never defined) and specifically the Democratic National Committee (DNC) “rigged” the race against him….”

Here’s a revealing article about the stranglehold Corporate Democrats have on the Democratic Party – which is still largely run by HRC.

“Tom Perez Should Resign, Preferably Today,” by David Dayen, The American Prospect, February 7, 2020

“Tom Perez should never have been DNC chair. He was used as part of a proxy war between Barack Obama’s faction of the establishment and the rest of the party, which was fully ready to move on after the 2016 mess.”


After Iowa, Joe Biden, another Corporate Democrat, replaced his campaign manager with Anita Dunn, who ran HRC’s campaign in 2008.

Some conspiracy theories actually hold water…


Stephen L Crevoshay

“Now the DNC is being shameless again” – you said it, John.Kind of contradicts your premise?

Zeb Norris

A reminder for those who say “But he’s not a Dem! Gasp!” while clutching their pearls.
In 2005 Bernie was endorsed in his Senate run by Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, former Governor and then head of the DNC Howard Dean, and then Senator Barack Obama, who campaigned with Bernie.
Also; Dems alone can’t elect a President. They need Independents.
Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face.

Matt west

Donna Brazil, while working for CNN, gave debate questions to Hillary before the debate. She had to resign from the DNC because of it. It isnt a matter of opinion, people lost their jobs due to the collusion to try to get Hillary in versus Bernie. I’m not a Bernie fan, I am a libertarian but the very fact there was a conspiracy to influence the voters of the democratic nomination in 2016 made me root for him simply because I don’t like bullies like people who support Hillary Clinton.


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