Now that Bernie Sanders has come out on top in New Hampshire, after a strong showing in Iowa, Democrats are supposedly panic-stricken at the prospect of the senior senator from Vermont getting the party’s nomination.

I’m not sure what it is — that we are approaching the most important presidential election in American history? — but supposedly there’s widespread distress at what’s going on in the primary cycle.

Excuse me, but what were we expecting, a coronation like the Democrats had in 2016 with Hillary Clinton?

It’s a primary. There have been, until recently, a lot of candidates. (How many Republican primary candidates were there in 2016?) There have been several televised debates and town halls.

This morning’s talk of a “fractured party” and a “mess” sounds like the kind of empty-headed rhetoric we often hear from TV talking heads trying to fill air time.

It’s primary season, and so far only two states have conducted theirs.

I understand that Trump proved again this week — proves again every day — that he and his supporters in Congress and corporate America pose a grave threat to our democracy. I understand that Trump’s reelection could spell the end to any semblance of a progressive government — and specifically, health care for millions of low-income Americans and people with pre-existing conditions; a conservative federal judiciary and Supreme Court for decades to come; more indifference to climate change — but it’s time to chill a little and watch how this plays out.

First of all, instead of cringing at the idea of the socialist Bernie Sanders being the nominee, consider the possibility that he picks a moderate running mate, that he continues to sow support among people of color, that he excites young people, that he gets people who usually don’t vote (the poor, for instance) to turn out on Election Day. People who think Trump will have Bernie for lunch underestimate him. He’s a tough bird. And he can easily expose Trump’s “socialism for the wealthy” on a debate stage.

The smart and polished Pete Buttigieg of Indiana is right there with Sanders, but, like Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, he is yet to prove he can appeal to a more racially diverse, more urban voter.

Then there’s Mike Bloomberg, looming out there with his billions, and he appeals to a lot of Democrats who fear Sanders and the left wing of the party. But the story that is out today about Bloomberg’s Aspen Institute comments on stop-and-frisk could be a major setback in his appeal to all-important black and Latino voters. He probably needs to give another major speech — an act of contrition — on criminal justice if he hopes to recover from this.

The brilliant Elizabeth Warren is most at risk today of dropping out of the race. If that happens, her support probably moves to Sanders or Klobuchar. 

Joe Biden? It’s hard to see him making a comeback, but who knows?

I don’t call this a mess. I call it a primary.

And if Trump continues to behave like an autocrat, I don’t care how strong the economy is going into the fall, voter turnout — the absolute all-important factor — could be even stronger. That is not wishful thinking. I don’t believe Trump can add to the votes he scored in 2016. But Democrats can. Weak turnout in certain states hurt Clinton. But remember what happened in 2018. Turnout was key, and the theme was simple: Trump is going to kill health care, he must be stopped. That is one of Bernie’s major themes. Supposedly Medicare-for-all scares people, and thus Bernie scares people. But the prospect of Trump and the hard-core conservatives blowing up Obamacare altogether is even scarier.

It’s early. It’s primary season. Democrats need to chill and focus, and volunteer to help a candidate for president, the House or Senate. Don’t panic. Do something.

One thought on “Stop with the panic talk, it’s primary season

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