Maybe The Wrong Guy Is Threatening To Run Third Party
December 19, 2015

So why exactly is this Washington Post story such a big deal?

Officials with the Democratic National Committee have accused the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders of improperly accessing confidential voter information gathered by the rival campaign of Hillary Clinton, according to several party officials.

Jeff Weaver, the Vermont senator’s campaign manager, acknowledged that a staffer had viewed the information but blamed a software vendor hired by the DNC for a glitch that allowed access. Weaver said one Sanders staffer was fired over the incident.

The discovery sparked alarm at the DNC, which promptly shut off the Sanders campaign’s access to the strategically crucial list of likely Democratic voters.

Charlie Pierce is right:

Let us stipulate a few things. First, the DNC, under the barely perceptible leadership of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has greased the skids for Hillary Rodham Clinton. (A debate on the Saturday night before Christmas, when half the country's on an airplane going to visit the other half? Please.)

... This is still just a cock-up by a technology company that evidently should be selling lawn sprinklers instead of data access.

... what admittedly sends my thoughts up a grassy knoll is how this relatively minor blip made it to The Washington Post in the first place. After all, the bungling was with the vendor, and with the DNC for hiring the vendor, so wouldn't the smart play have been to keep this whole thing in-house? Also, if this story survives through the Saturday night debate, let alone becomes an issue therein, and if the Sanders campaign is shut out from the national party data for longer than this weekend, I'm going to be very, very suspicious. Devious and clumsy are, after all, the hallmarks of the DWS era.

The Democratic Establishment is certainly trying to hobble Sanders, and even many of us who are generally supportive of Hillary Clinton agree that Wasserman-Schulz has truied to rig the contest in an absurd and anti-democratic way on Clinton's behalf. This may be the only time in the Murdoch era that I've ever agreed with even part of a New York Post editorial, but the first few paragraphs of this are hard to rebut:

Busy Saturday night? Probably, what with the NCAA bowl games, the Jets’ must-win battle in Dallas and opening weekend for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” So you’ll skip the Democratic presidential debate -- just as Hillary Clinton hoped.

Long, long ago, Clinton set out to ensure she wouldn’t be robbed of the nomination by some interloper, the way she lost to Barack Obama in 2008.

The party’s power-brokers played along, handing the Democratic National Committee to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a co-chair of Clinton’s ’08 campaign. Fix, in.

And so the DNC did its best to see nobody would watch the debates, lest voters dare think for themselves. Tomorrow’s is the second in a row on a Saturday night -- easily the worst evening for TV viewership.

This isn't just bad for the Democrats -- as it turns out, it's bad for Clinton. Did you notice her, earlier in the week, telling a supporter with a Trump-loving father that Dad should be told Hillary doesn't "have horns"? Well, maybe more people would realize that Clinton doesn't "have horns" if they watched her talk about issues -- y'know, like in a debate. She can seem awkward in isolated soundbites, stiff and singsongy in speeches, forced-sounding when she's trying to seem casual and relaxed -- but when you get her talking about issues without a teleprompter, she's sharp, on point. Also, she's not at all the scary, power-mad extremist/harridan of right-wing (and mainstream) caricature.

And the notion that Clinton's record is a serious vulnerability has been overtaken quite a bit by events. No, she's not a dove, and yes, she's long had ties to Wall Street. But economic inequities aren't the only issue in the Democratic primaries now. We're talking about terrorism -- and whether progressives like it or not, the Clinton approach to foreign policy might resonate at this moment for a lot of moderate Democrats. For those voters, Clinton certainly passes the "commander in chief test," while Bernie Sanders always seems to want to change the subject when talk turns to overseas affairs. And this is also the Black Lives Matter era, and while Clinton might not be the most stalwart ally of the movement, she has much greater support among African-Americans than Sanders.

I'd like to see more Democratic debates. I'd like them to be scheduled when viewers would watch. No matter who does best, debates would be good for selling and promoting the party as an alternative to the current insane Republicanism. I think the result would be a platform for the Sanders economic message, much of which Clinton is trying to co-opt in any case, and a platform for Clinton's other strengths, as well as a demonstration of her general reasonableness. What's not to like?

Instead, the party wants to conceal Clinton and shut out Sanders. It's bad for the party and bad for Clinton.

Sanders has leverage in this situation, though he clearly won't use it. He could be making threats to run third party just the way Donald Trump has. Given his passionate fan base, a Sanders third-party run would all but guarantee a Clinton loss.

I'll go to my grave hating Ralph Nader for his third-party run in 2000. But Sanders would be justified in using the threat of a third-party bid to demand more debates and better treatment. That kind of hardball isn't his style -- the fact that he lacks a taste for the jugular is part of the reason I'd rather have Clinton running against the thugs of the GOP in November -- but it's too bad. A threat to the party could be good for him, for Clinton, and for the country.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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