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.
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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