Let’s get down to brass tacks. For Democrats the presidential election is not going to be about a revolution. Rather, it will come down to protecting the domestic legacy of Barack Obama and the myriad of progressives who preceded him and extended equality and opportunity to millions of minorities, be they of color, religious sects or gender, not to mention the tens of millions of middle class families of all backgrounds created by legislation and regulations that supported and protected workers. A Republican victory, whomever is the GOP standard bearer, would roll back 80 years of progressive legislation and enforcement.
So the question boils down to, which Democrat has the best chance of keeping the Oval Office blue: Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton or Martin O’Malley?
O’Malley might be a good man. He has not aroused any semblance of passion behind his candidacy. On the other hand, as much as Sanders engenders passionate followers his phenomenon is reminiscent of the debacles fostered four decades ago by anti-Vietnam War candidates Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern. Perhaps it is because too many Democrats are too young to remember or have not been taught the consequences of a quixotic candidacy, they are ignorantly eager to adhere to Sanders’ banner. They would follow him to sure defeat in a presidential election even against a divisive Republican such as Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. I’m sorry, but the country is simply not ready for a Social Democrat, a Jewish Social Democrat, born in Brooklyn, to be president.
Clinton is not an ideal candidate. But her pluses outweigh the minuses. Last time out in 2008 her campaign engendered more passion. Fatigue might have set in this time among many of her supporters, but as November grows nearer I believe they will be re-energized by the prospect of electing the first woman president, especially someone who has the wide-ranging experience she possesses.
Her challenge once securing the nomination will be to bring into her tent disaffected Bernie-backers. Otherwise, as Hubert Humphrey and the nation found out, a less than solidly unified Democratic Party will result in a Republican victory and this time the winner would be much more regressive than Richard Nixon.
Nixon had to work with a Democratic Congress and Senate. Both houses will be Republican in 2017. Imagine the social network legislation, the worker-consumer-environmental protections and the civil rights laws that would be gutted by a triumvirate of conservative Republicanism. (Are you shuttering at the prospect? I did when writing that sentence.)
Most importantly, the next president may well have the opportunity to nominate two to four Supreme Court justices and countless lower court judges. If you cherish the advances of the last 80 years you cannot countenance the prospect of a judicial system tilted to the right for decades to come.
So as Iowans go to their caucuses Monday and New Hampshirites troop to the polls eight days later let’s hope they have perspective. Bernie has been a useful diversion, especially in this age of Trump when crazy passion seems to be restricted to Republicans.
Hillary doesn't need a coronation. But the party, the nation, will not benefit from sidetracking her nomination.