You have to be both flummoxed and disappointed at the Democrats right now for behaving badly. At a time when they should be engaging their Republican opponents, they’re instead spending that time in a civil war of sorts guaranteed to expose nothing but the soft underbelly of its eventual nominee. Yesterday, the Bernie Sanders campaign took the Democratic National Committee to court over the latter’s decision to temporarily freeze the former’s ability to have access to voter information believed to be key to a successful primary election. The Sanders team was furious that it could no longer gain access to information about its own supporters.
The Sanders campaign had incurred the DNC’s wrath when its officials surreptitiously purloined data belonging to the Hillary Clinton campaign, and although the matter has been resolved in the short term with the DNC lifting its ban order, the brouhaha over the theft is still threatening to eclipse tonight’s primary debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, among the three of the party’s candidates, including Martin O’Malley who has not been doing well in the polls.
First, the Clinton camp has every right to take umbrage at the unseemliness of its opponent’s act. The Clinton campaign has been wronged, and grievously also. But the DNC, led by Debbie Wasserman Shultz, demonstrated incompetence by its failure to deal with the problem initially at a subterranean in-house level, and by its decision to instantly impose the kind of penalty that left the Sanders campaign with no option but to seek redress in court.
Until the temporary truce was reached by all parties late Friday, the DNC’s hammer had ended up only fueling the crisis further and giving it some kind of shell life the Republicans would be so elated to exploit later on. Nothing pleases them more than another Democratic “scandal” in this campaign season. Look for them, therefore, to pour more gasoline on the crisis by ginning up a theory that the DNC’s earlier imposed penalty was, after all, an orchestrated conspiracy against the “outsider” Sanders by the Establishment Democrats. The Republicans must have been very delighted to see Sanders go to court and, from there, even consider an independent run should matters not get resolved in a manner pleasing enough to the candidate eventually.
Sanders is an honorable man, no doubt. We have seen that repeatedly on the campaign trail, and at the debates so far. Several times, he has balked at using the contrived Hillary Clinton “email scandal” against her even when the Republicans, the media, and the top guns running his campaign preferred him to. Considering it morally abhorrent, Sanders also does not run a campaign super pac like the other candidates do, instead relying solely on small campaign contributions from the little people. His campaign message which inveighs against the top 1% of American society for greedily cornering the lion share of the nation’s wealth while leaving the remaining 99% invidiously shortchanged, has found reception among a swelling sea of adoring supporters.
Yet, what the Sanders camp did this week by stealing data belonging to a rival campaign goes against the tenets of its staunchly professed moral political high ground. It has dented its credibility and soiled its beautiful name. But the man to blame for this is not Sanders, but the senior men and women who run his campaign, from Tad Devine on down to everyone there steering the campaign down this increasingly shameful path by using tactics infamously associated with the GOP. They should remember never to forget that the Democratic Party demonstrated love and acceptance when it allowed Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, to run as a Democrat in the first place.
By adroitly surfing the waves of progressive populism, Sanders has energized a lot of old liberal Democrats and even brought into the system new ones. He has also helped to redefine some of the pertinent issues that could determine the outcome of November’s presidential election. However, there is no overstating the fact that the septuagenarian’s place in the current Democratic primary poses inherent danger for the party’s chances of victory next year. If he ends up being that nominee, it is hard to see how he wins the election, for no presidential election in modern times has ever been won at the margins where he is. The Republicans root for him to be that nominee. Nor will it even be easy for Clinton should she become the nominee: Sanders has succeeded in pushing her further and further away to the left, making it difficult for her to tack back to the middle where general elections are won or lost.
As has been said already, the DNC has allowed the Sanders campaign to resume access to the Democratic database which contains information about its own supporters. Sanders’ handlers are claiming victory over the temporary truce. Meanwhile the Clinton campaign is left in a precarious situation because its data treasure trove has been breached. While we expect both Clinton and Sanders to spar over that at tonight’s debate, it is not out of place to let Sanders and his advisers know that they have done enough damage to the Democratic chances already. It is about time they stopped this game.