For some unknown reason, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party seems to have a long-running death wish. Whether because of ideology, naivete or just plain stubbornness, progressives keep pushing candidates who never in a million years could be elected president of the United States.
This year their fave rave is a cranky, 74-year old Democratic Socialist with an undistinguished Senate record.
Yet Bernie Sanders has attracted the kind of left-wing adulation normally reserved for rock musicians and sports stars. He’s your hectoring grandad who tells you what’s best for you, whether you like it or not. And that seems to be going over with a lot of voters, particularly millennials, who are among his biggest fans. Yet maybe these youngsters need a shot of reality and a refresher course in American history, since a recent poll found that more Americans would vote for an atheist than a socialist, and the history of American political campaigns is littered with the rubble of failed left-wing candidacies. To name just a few:
▪ 1968, Eugene McCarthy – the Minnesota senator and Vietnam War critic announced he would run against then-President Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic nomination. Early victories in the primaries forced Johnson to announce he would not run for re-election. But McCarthy’s campaign eventually crashed and burned. Hubert Humphrey, the eventual nominee, then lost to Richard Nixon in the general election.
▪ 1972, George McGovern – the South Dakota senator and anti-war candidate ran against Richard Nixon in the general election. McGovern carried exactly one of the 50 states, losing in one of the biggest landslides in U.S. history.
▪ 2000, Ralph Nader – the consumer activist ran for president as the nominee of the Green Party and won just 3 percent of the vote. But because of his totals in closely contested states like Oregon and Florida, many Democrats accused him of effectively giving George W. Bush the presidency.
▪ And there’s this. Eugene V. Debs, easily the most famous, and charismatic Socialist this country has ever produced, ran for president five times between 1900 and 1920. Yet in 1912, in a four-way race among him, Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, he received only 6 percent of the vote, his highest total ever.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve voted Democrat my entire life and am in agreement with several of Sanders’ proposals, particularly universal health care and reining in the “too big to fail” banks. But I’m also a realist, and I recognize that some guy who looks like he got lost on his way to a hootenanny, who seems to get nastier and more petulant the more it looks as if he is not going to be the nominee and who would be Red-baited from Day One if he were ever nominated is simply not a guy you want running for president.
Not that this seems to bother a significant number of his supporters, a good 33 percent of whom have stated they will not vote for Hillary Clinton – admittedly a hugely flawed candidate – if she is the Democratic nominee. The fact that she is actually electable seems to be lost on these folks.
To that I say, if you want a racist demagogue named Donald Trump as your next president, go ahead and opt out. Stay with the Bern until the bitter end, and deal with the undoubtedly horrid consequences.
Years ago, Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Given that definition, I think it’s safe to say the progressives in the Democratic Party are clinically insane.
Lewis Beale is a journalist in Raleigh.