Whatever Happened to the Democratic Race?

A few of our neighbors have planted “Bernie ’16” signs in their lawns, enough of them that we pass by one on any route out of Riverside, but otherwise we might have plumb forgotten that the Democratic party is also having a presidential primary race. The only mention of it we’ve seen lately in the press was Foxnews.com’s report on how the press isn’t mentioning it, and the matter rarely comes up in conversation.
There are perfectly innocent explanations for this, of course. Conventional wisdom and the most up-to-date polling hold that Hillary Clinton’s coronation is all but inevitable, and the Republican race has the attention-grabbing presence of Donald Trump, so it’s understandable that any editors with an eye on circulation figures or overnight ratings would go where the action is. Still, there’s something slightly suspicious about all that silence from the Democratic side.
We’re always suspicious of conventional wisdom and up-to-date polling, for one thing, especially when it doesn’t quite jibe with the anecdotal evidence we encounter in everyday life. Just about every Democrat we know is for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, his yard signs and bumper stickers and lapel pins seem to vastly outnumber Clinton’s around here, and we haven’t yet heard anyone express anything resembling enthusiasm about a potential Clinton presidency. Even if those up-to-date poll numbers are correct the Clinton lead isn’t so large Trump’s in the Republican race, and the conventional wisdom hasn’t yet resigned itself to his inevitability, so for now at least her nomination doesn’t seem any more a foregone conclusion than it was the last time she ran.
As recently as last summer there was a flurry of news about Clinton’s use of a private and unsecured and most likely illegal e-mail server, which led to a renewed interest in her failed Libya policy and the resulting murder of an ambassador and three other Americans in that anarchic country, and the big and enthusiastic crowds that Sanders was drawing was also a hot topic. The e-mail scandal continues to unfold, and there was some slight attention paid to the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation assuring that a strictly apolitical criminal investigation also continues, which seems a rather big deal, and so far as we can gather from scattered local newspaper reports Sanders is still packing the young folks in and racking up a large war chest from small donations, which is slightly reminiscent of the last time Clinton ran and turned out to not be inevitable, yet the stories have stopped.
Last summer’s coverage of the Clinton campaign was so uncharacteristically harsh that we assumed it was intended to clear a path for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Vice President Joe Biden or any other remotely credible Democrat to get into the race, but Warren and Biden both bowed out and there was a sudden realization that there are no other remotely credible Democrats, even by Warren and Biden standards, and ever since we’ve heard only that deafening silence. Better by far to focus on the Republican race, and to give Trump 25 times the attention paid to the rest of the field, and to make sure all coverage has that familiar sorrowful tone about it. The Democratic party’s big-wigs are doing their part by scheduling few debates, scheduling them against the most popular sports broadcasts on Saturday nights, and making sure the candidates are both boringly nice to one another. With Sanders pitching in by stubbornly refusing to go negative, despite the target-rich environment Clinton offers, and despite an anti-establishment sentiment among the Democratic base is that every bit as palpable as the more widely remarked one on the Republican side, we don’t expect to hear much about the Democrats until convention time.
It might work, but we can’t recall the last time any party won a national election by staying out of the news.

— Bud Norman