In my last column, Don’t fall for the Republicans’ Big Lie, I accused most of the Republican candidates of creating a myth about “the world being on fire.“ Actually only the Democratic Party may be going down in flames.
In some ways, this reminds me of 1968 when Democratic President Lyndon Johnson was running for re-election four years after being elected by an historic majority. Johnson had led the country through social change — Medicare, voting rights — that was popular and transformative.
But the country was horribly divided over the Vietnam War. Johnson barely won the New Hampshire primary over Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota. Shortly after, President Johnson announced from the Oval Office that he would not seek re-election. For a man who thrived on power, it was a selfless act for his party and country.
Like President Johnson, Hillary Clinton is still the Democratic front-runner, with a solid, well-deserved base of supporters within the Democratic Party. No one doubts her qualification to run for president. She probably will win South Carolina’s primary on Saturday, but a CNN poll has her and Sanders tied in the Nevada caucuses.
Nevada was not supposed to be close because of Clinton’s historical support among its Hispanic voters.
I said a year ago that Clinton was not campaign-ready and was centering her candidacy on inevitability. Now real votes have been counted, and the results from New Hampshire and Iowa cannot be ignored. The United States is still 69 percent non-Hispanic white, and Sen. Bernie Sanders trounced her among every subset within that demographic group with the exception of people over 65.
Notwithstanding the embarrassing attempts by Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem to shame young women into supporting her, Clinton even lost women voters by 12 percent. Sanders carried millennials by an astounding 60 percent, emphatically underlining that Clinton represents the past, not the future. When the primary season rolls around to industrial states such as Ohio and Michigan, working-class voters might drive her candidacy into the ground.
The sad part is that we already know what the Clinton campaign is going to do. Her campaign methods have been quite predictable. Surrogates for the campaign will savagely attack Sanders while claiming that he is the one going negative. She will change campaign advisers, but all that really means is recycling a different group of sycophants. They will send out President Clinton, ignoring the fact he looks shockingly frail and has been uninspiring on the campaign trail.
The truth is, just as there is antipathy to another Bush in the White House, voters know Hillary Clinton and they just don’t like her.
Failing with real voters, the campaign is already falling back on the argument that super-delegates will not support Sanders. That might be true right now, but those same super-delegates, many of whom are elected officials, are in a state of panic.
None of this even takes into account the persistent questions about Clinton’s private email server and her bothersome speaking fees, two pesky issues that do not seem to go away.
Normally I would think this is great stuff, because I believe in a lot of things that Sanders is saying. I also like that he is authentic, not ethically challenged and inspires a future generation of voters. Given the current choice, I will vote for him in the Florida primary.
However, I worry that he has not been an effective member of Congress and, most of all, that the country is not ready for him.
The most alarming statistic to come out of the New Hampshire primary was that 40,000 fewer people voted in last week’s Democratic primary than in 2008. Unlike Republican voters, mainstream Democrats are not excited about their candidates. It would be a sad coda to Clinton’s career if she limps into the general election and loses to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, two people who are diametrically opposed to what she stands for.
It is not too late for her to perform one final service to the Democratic Party by withdrawing from the race. Such a move would not concede the nomination to Sanders, but it would reset the whole nominating process so that Democrats may consider a more mainstream candidate as its nominee. The mechanics are difficult, but it is not impossible.
If she is unwilling, Democratic elected officials, party leaders and donors should press her to do so and not be tone deaf to deep rank-and-file reservations.
Mike Abrams is former chairman of the Dade Democratic Party, a former state legislator and currently a policy adviser to Ballard Partners.