Earl Ofari Hutchinson
The third Democratic presidential candidate’s debate got a distant second ranking in headline news to the very public warfare between Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders and the Democratic National Committee. The charges and countercharges between Sanders and the DNC over access to voter data were bad enough. But it was made even worse by the now near manic calls from Democrats far and wide for DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s scalp for take your pick: clueless mismanagement, incompetence, and massaging and micromanaging the DNC and the debates to coronate Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee. The public soap opera within and without the DNC, Democrats and the candidates almost matches that of the GOP presidential contenders at times laughing stock circus act.
But the big and far more serious question is whether this could ignite the same type of implosion that’s oft talked about with Trump and the GOP. There’s a real hazard here. It starts and ends with Sanders. He has virtually single handedly revved up a huge part of the Democratic base that to be charitable has tepid, lukewarm and passing interest in Clinton. The far less charitable is that a big swatch of that base has flatly said that it would stay home on Election Day, or write in Sanders name if Clinton is the party’s nominee. Legions of progressive Democrats relentlessly pound Clinton as a GOP lite, centrist, and hawkish and Wall Street beholden Democrat. No matter what Clinton says and tries to do to dispel that notion, or even how often the line is repeated: “Would you rather have Trump, Cruz, Bush, or Rubio sitting in the Oval Office?” it hasn’t been enough to evaporate the deep anti-Clinton loathing among countless Democrats.
Many Democrats smugly bank that the GOP’s nasty and public cat fighting with Trump and the other contenders and the voter numbers dominance the Democrats supposedly have with Blacks, Hispanics, middle income, middle class women, LGBT, and the millennials are the iron clad guarantee that a Democratic White House win is in the bag in 2016. That’s a dangerous mistake. Obama forged his winning coalition based less on political interest than his charisma and passion for him. He stirred the feeling that his election was a big break from the stodgy, back room, good ole boys, big money controlled, politics of Washington bureaucrats and hacks. This is why many disconnected voters came out in messianic droves in the 2008 and 2012 elections and tipped several of the crucial swing states to him. Without their numbers those elections might easily have been real cliff hangers, if not a Democratic defeat especially in 2012.
As for the GOP imploding, that’s even a bigger mistake. The GOP now controls the majority of state houses and legislatures, will have a king’s ransom in campaign cash, a well-oiled RNC campaign machine, lots of media outlets behind it, and if the nominee is Cruz, flocks of energized ultra conservatives and especially white protestant evangelicals cascading back to the polls in torrents. None of this will assure a GOP win in November, but it could sweat the Democrats hard and turn the contest into a real horserace.
Sanders is the key to assuring that the millions the Democrats need to show up at the polls in November 2016 actually do show up. He’s a true party loyalist and if he doesn’t get the nomination he’ll endorse Clinton. However, that’s only pro forma. The real test will be how the Clinton campaign treats him. That tracks right back to how the Democratic National Committee treats him. If they marginalize, humiliate, or kick him to the curb, this will simply reinforce the harsh criticism that the DNC and the Clinton campaign is handmaiden of corporate special interests, and is anything but democratic. Even in the best of circumstances, if the DNC wines and dines Sanders, and hoists him to a party throne, this won’t necessarily placate the worst of the disaffected and alienated potential Democratic voters who Obama successfully brought to the polls for his election from Clinton.
Clinton will have much fence mending to do with Sanders. How much and how effective it will be is an intangible. That’s only because Clinton is in truth the rock solid Party establishment Democrat that much of Sander’s base or supporters are suspicious of or can’t stomach. She’ll walk a tightrope trying to appease both the major Democratic corporate donors and bundlers and Sander’s very anti-corporate donor and bundlers. His populist, economic remake is anathema to them. This comes back to the DNC. It will walk the same tightrope between the two to placate Sanders and his supporters.
The 2016 race will again be a numbers and a passion game. Clinton will need all of both that she can get just as Obama did. Those numbers and that passion can only come from one place, and that’s from Sander’s supporters. The DNC treads on perilous ground with Sanders.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is Trump and the GOP: Race Baiting to the White House (Amazon Kindle). He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network