Highway to the Danger Zone

Count me as someone who does not believe there’s some scheme to undercut the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in the event he defeats Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire next month.

It’s one thing to suggest that so-called “establishment Democrats” will suffer heartburn if a candidate who is (in the words of former Democratic Representative Harold Ford Jr.) an “avowed socialist” steamrolls over Clinton in the opening stages of the Democratic primary. It’s quite another to suggest that those “establishment Democrats” are somehow plotting to ensure that someone other than Sanders ultimately secures the Democratic nomination.

Let’s face it: if some secret cabal of “establishment Democrats” did try to derail a surging Sanders campaign by recruiting Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry or (as progressive commentator Thom Hartmann recently suggested) former Vice President Al Gore to “take over” for Clinton as the anti-Sanders candidate in the race, such a move would only serve to divide, if not thoroughly destroy, the Democratic Party. Who would benefit from such an effort (besides Republicans, of course)?

It’s simply impossible to imagine Biden concluding his political career by joining some bizarre effort to kneecap the Sanders campaign (especially after Biden’s recent complimentary remarks towards Sanders). It’s equally impossible to imagine Kerry or Gore agreeing to derail the campaign of a man who shares their passion for addressing climate change. “Establishment Democrats” may have certain issues with Sanders, but I can’t see those “establishment Democrats” hating or fearing Sanders so intensely that they would hatch some harebrained plot to suffocate his campaign in the event he wins Iowa and New Hampshire.

The “plot to stop Bernie!” argument is built on the apparent premise that “corporate Democrats” (or, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow used to call them, ”ConservaDems”) are scared to death of a President Sanders chastising them for their ties to special interests, and moving the Democratic Party in an excessively anti-corporate direction. Of course, if Sanders wins the presidency and Democrats regain the Senate and make gains in the House (or, against all odds, actually win the House back), “ConservaDems” will still be a part of the mix on Capitol Hill–and a President Sanders would have to deal with them as he tries to implement his agenda.

There is also the argument that “establishment Democrats” would rather not have Sanders as the Democratic nominee because they believe that he cannot survive a right-wing media onslaught in a general election. That argument, however, is profoundly nonsensical: didn’t Barack Obama prove that Democratic presidential nominees can survive right-wing media onslaughts?

If “establishment Democrats” tried to recruit another anti-Sanders candidate to stop the Vermonter from vaulting to victory, it would simply tick off the presumably-not-insignificant portion of the electorate that regards Sanders as the best option to complete President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s unfinished work. In other words, such a strategy would divide the Democratic Party’s house against itself. You might remember what a certain Republican president said about a house divided…

UPDATE: More from Chris Hayes, Lawrence O’Donnell, the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Young Turks.

SECOND UPDATE: Michael Bloomberg to waste his money by jumping into the race as an independent?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.