Just as the wild melee at the Democratic convention in 1968 led to the election of Richard Nixon, a predicted fight at the 2016 Democratic convention could make Donald Trump the next President of the United States. It could happen.
First, let’s admit Hillary Clinton is a flawed Candidate. Certainly the most qualified of all the 20 or more who threw their hats in the ring this time around, she is viewed as pushy, strident — things a woman needs to be to fight for a previously all-male position. Never mind that men with those same characteristics are praised for being ambitious and forceful. But she has been painted as unpleasant, untrustworthy with a sense of entitlement and that has stuck. Her disapproval numbers are through the roof. Almost as bad as Donald Trump. So despite her qualifications, she starts out at a disadvantage.
Along came Bernie. Moving in from the left, he appeals to the same angry voters Trump does from the right (or wherever). But Bernie’s attacks on Hillary amplify her weaknesses. She doesn’t want to disclose what she said to Goldman Sachs and it highlights a sense of entitlement. Why should she have to release private information? Meanwhile Trump refuses to release his taxes and he brushes off reporters’ questions with “It’s none of your business” and his supporters love it.
But Bernie has gone on so long, it has become clear it is no longer about getting the nomination. Hillary has millions more primary votes and it is nearly impossible for him to overtake her in delegates. But he pushes on. He’s after a different goal: to influence the party’s direction, whatever it takes.
He has appointed two men to the platform committee who are sure to stir things up. Cornel West, a political firebrand who is a prominent member of the Democratic Socialists of America, and James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute. Think there will be a battle over where the Democrats stand on Israel? Think it will be kept out of the media? Fat chance. So we can look for a platform battle over a very sensitive issue when party platform issues are usually ho hum affairs. And however it winds up, it will spill over to the general election.
And there is even talk of demonstrations at the Democratic Convention. There have already been unruly protests at the Nevada convention and his supporters have secured permits to hold a four-day series of rallies near the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. What does Bernie do? He offers to debate Donald Trump — a sure win-win situation for the Republicans. Trump does well in the debate and he shines. He makes Bernie look good and it prolongs the inevitable. (As Rachel Maddow suggested, it would be like President Obama debating Newt Gingrich just as Mitt Romney closed in on the nomination in 2012.)
Bernie has had a good run and he has definitely added to the conversation. But remember what happened last time the Democrats faced such a turbulent convention. Santayana famously said those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
I fear that means us.