Op-Ed: No surprise that some Dems tried to derail Sanders bid

Posted Jul 25, 2016 by Nathan Salant
Does it really come as a surprise to anyone that establishment Democrats tried to derail the upstart presidential primary campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Ver.)?
Bernie Sanders (R) and Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton appear together a...
Bernie Sanders (R) and Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton appear together at Portsmouth High School on July 12, 2016 in New Hampshire
Darren McCollester, Getty/AFP
That's how politics is played in the United States, and most likely in other robust democracies around the world, when an upstart candidate challenges the traditional order, as Sanders did in opposing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's ultimately successful march to the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination.
So why the expression of outrage that emails posted by Wikileaks and others showed Democratic Party leaders tried to figure out how to short-circuit Sanders' unexpected rise in the polls, according to the Associated Press?
It's simply naive to think that modern national presidential campaigns don't engage in behind-the-scenes efforts to unsettle opposing campaigns, and we have contemporary recent examples of just such activities — think late Sens Edmund Muskie (D-Mass.) in 1972 and and Gov. Michael Dukakis (D-Mass.) in 1988.
Candidates are always tasked with doing what they need to do to win elections; the system doesn't work any other way.
And it doesn't matter whether they are considered sweet like challenger Sanders, or a professional politician like establishment champion Clinton.
Clinton is by most measures among the most-qualified candidates ever to seek the presidency.
But yes, she has loads of baggage — not all of it her fault.
She was Barack Obama's first secretary of state, thrust into world crises — many resulting from policies pursued by the disastrous administration of George W. Bush.
And she was first lady to President Bill Clinton when his administration nearly collapsed in scandal.
So, the release of thousands of emails from Democratic Party insiders demonstrating how those insiders tried to undermine the Sanders campaign shouldn't come as a shocker to anyone who has been paying attention.
Sanders himself has been saying exactly that for months, even at the risk of coming across as shrill.
But it turns out he was exactly right.
Democratic Party officials apparently even considered questioning Sanders' commitment to his religion, as if a two-term senator's spiritual ideology had suddenly become more relevant to a presidential campaign than that senator's legislative record and proposals.
There is religious freedom in this country, and has been for many years.
Have leading Democrats suddenly forgotten this? It doesn't make sense.
Even if they did not forget, they are Democrats, and Democrats do not behave like that, even in an unexpectedly competitive presidential campaign.
One high-ranking Democratic Party insider suggested accusing Sanders of being an atheist to "make several points" with voters,. the AP said.
Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver even said party staffers had planted negative stories about the candidate with other religious leaders in different states.
Starting untrue rumors about Jews? What could possibly go wrong with that?
Of course, Clinton has one giant deficit to overcome — she doesn't sound particularly authentic, and American voters crave authenticity above just about everything.
She's always been a champion of women's and children's rights, and of the underdog, since graduating from Yale Law School in 1973, yet her commitment to fairness and equity has been under constant attack fire since she lost the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination to Barack Obama but agreed to be his secretary of state in 2009.
Maybe she can fix that deficit problem, and maybe she can do it sooner rather than later.
There is a national election looming in November, and the 2016 election season promises to be the most significant in decades.
So, it's on, and political operatives are going to do what political operatives do.
The Republican Party has chosen its candidate, and the Democrats are about to choose theirs.
This is no time to get queasy about politics.
The future of the United States and its role in the world is at stake.