The Democratic trouble with Bernie and Hillary

James Taranto:

Sometime [last] week the signal went out to the liberal media ant colony, and the drones moved in unison to protect their queen. This report is directly from the Hill:

As the fallout from last weekend’s Nevada Democratic convention spreads, sharply critical pieces about the White House hopeful and his campaign have appeared in progressive outlets such as Mother Jones, Talking Points Memo and Daily Kos within the past 48 hours. …

The Sanders campaign has also taken hits from progressive CNN contributor Sally Kohn, who endorsed the Vermont senator from the stage at a massive rally in New York City just before the Empire State’s April primary.

Kohn wrote an article published Wednesday for Time magazine that was headlined, “I felt the Bern but the Bros are extinguishing the flames.” …

“The one thing I do keep wondering about is what happened to Bernie Sanders,” writer Kevin Drum opined in Mother Jones. “Before this campaign, he was a gadfly, he was a critic of the system, and he was a man of strong principles. He still is, but he’s also obviously very, very bitter. I wonder if all this was worth it for him?”

At Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall said he had been wrong to think that the “key driver of toxicity in the Democratic primary race” had been Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver. Instead, he wrote, “it all comes from the very top”—from Sanders himself.

Homer nods: Kohn would be a soldier, not a drone.

There’s more. “Bernie Sanders is playing a dangerous game,” warns the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson—whose earlier work helped guide the Internal Revenue Service in suppressing conservative speech: “If he and his campaign continue their scorched-earth attacks against the Democratic Party, they will succeed in only one thing: electing Donald Trump as president.”

“With a scorched-earth campaign against [Hillary] Clinton, Sanders is risking his party’s nominee, its coalition, and his message,” echoed Jamelle Bouie of CBS, writing in Slate. There’s that “scorched earth” again. These ants are nothing if not unoriginal.

One of the few liberal pundits not in a full-blown panic is Jeet Heer of the New Republic. “There is no reason to panic,” he insists. “After all, the Democratic primaries were much nastier in 2008, and yet the party won the White House.” Of course no one remembers that far back, so Heer offers a history lesson:

The problem in 2008 was the racial tinge to [Mrs.] Clinton’s last-ditch defense: that Obama was a doomed candidate because of his alleged inability to win over white voters. On May 8, she argued that “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” and cited an article whose findings she summarized thus: “Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.” The contrast between Obama’s base of black voters with the “hard-working” white Americans supporting Clinton, made on the eve of a primary in West Virginia, carried clear racial overtones. …

[Mrs.] Clinton’s rhetorical strategy of insinuating that Obama was too black to be president was echoed by her campaign. … Perhaps the most disturbing comment … came from Hillary Clinton herself, who in late May 2008 justified staying in the race by saying, “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.” This came after months of worry that Obama, as the first black candidate with a serious shot at the presidency, would be a target for assassination. Two weeks later, on June 7, she finally suspended her campaign.

There’s no reason to panic at all. After all, it’s not as if the Democrats are about to nominate a candidate with a history of saying racist and disturbing things. Oh, wait. Uh-oh … To be sure, nobody will remember the things Mrs. Clinton said in 2008, unless perhaps Trump uses them in a campaign ad. True, Heer just reminded us of them, but who reads the New Republic anymore?

The trouble is that Mrs. Clinton is, was and ever will be a dismal candidate. “The conventional wisdom holds that Trump’s astronomically high disapproval numbers should make him unelectable,” Robinson writes. “On paper, this should be a cakewalk for any Democrat with a pulse” (metaphor alert). Of course that’s what the Republicans thought, and he dispatched 16 of them.

Still, if any Democrat is poorly positioned to beat Trump, Mrs. Clinton is. A new Fox News poll finds that Mrs. Clinton now outperforms Trump on the revulsion scale. As the Weekly Standard’s Chris Deaton sums up:

The former secretary of state is viewed negatively by 61 percent of registered voters in a new Fox News poll, up from 58 percent in March. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has a 56 percent unfavorable rating—dramatically better than his 65 percent measure in March—and a 41 percent favorable rating, the first time he’s cracked 40 percent in that measure. …

Other highlights from the poll include:
• [Mrs.] Clinton is viewed as more corrupt than Trump, 49 percent to 37 percent;
• Two-thirds of registered voters think Clinton (71 percent) and Trump (65) percent will say “anything to get elected”;
• and more registered voters say Trump is a strong leader than they do [Mrs.] Clinton, with 59 percent saying the designation describes Trump and only 49 percent saying it describes [Mrs.] Clinton.

If the election were held today, a large number of voters would regard it as a contest between evils—a contest that, according to the poll, Trump would win narrowly, 45% to 42%. Of course voters could come to see one or the other candidate more favorably—likelier Trump than Mrs. Clinton, we’d venture, since they’ve known her for decades but are still getting used to the idea of him as a politician.

A new New York Times poll still has Mrs. Clinton leading Trump, albeit by single digits (47% to 41%). The Times observes that Trump is “saddled with toxic favorability ratings” and Mrs. Clinton is “widely disliked by voters.”

That “toxic” vs. “disliked” is more anthill behavior. From Russell Berman at the Atlantic last week: “The biggest warning sign for Clinton is that as toxic as Trump has proven for women and minorities, Clinton herself is nearly as disliked by white men.”

Meanwhile, you know who’s neither toxic nor disliked? Bernie Sanders—even though he’s a simple-minded exponent of monstrous ideas. That Times poll has him leading Trump in a hypothetical general-election match-up, 51% to 38%. Even in the Fox poll Sanders is ahead of Trump, 46% to 42%.

The Democrats ought to panic—not over Sanders but over Mrs. Clinton. If they want to make Donald Trump president, they could hardly do better than by going up against him with a nominee who makes Richard Nixon look like a Boy Scout and Michael Dukakis like a rock star.

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