The shocking and illegitimate victory by Donald Trump ten months ago had an unexpected – and never talked about – impact on the left. It was the liberals who led the charge in pushing back against Trump from the start of his tenure. That perpetual crisis mode has prevented the left from ever stopping to deal with the fallout from its own contentious and misunderstood 2016 Democratic primary race. Now comes Hillary Clinton’s book, forcing us to honestly revisit what really happened.
With the Trump crisis ongoing and no imminent end in sight, there was never going to be a good time for the left to deal with its own internal bleeding. But it’s the kind of thing where, if it doesn’t get squared away before the start of the next election, it will sink the entire left. That makes now the least inconvenient time to deal with these issues, before the next round of elections gets underway, before the lasting false impressions of the 2016 primary become set in stone, and before they become fatally toxic later. Hillary’s book is causing an immediate reckoning.
The mere continued existence of Hillary Clinton is antithetical to those on the left who insist that the Democratic primary race was rigged in her favor. The cold, hard, fact-based, easily demonstrated reality is that this was simply never true. Nothing was rigged in any way, shape or form. Yet that lie has been repeated so often for so long, with so many phony conspiracies and outright lies fed into it, that many on the left have come to honestly believe it no matter whom they were rooting for. They see Bernie Sanders as a martyr, when he wasn’t one. They blame the entire Democratic Party leadership for it. They want vengeance against any Democrat who dares to run for President in 2020 – and all based on something that simply never happened.
The arrival of Hillary’s book is prompting the same old lies about a “rigged primary” to be trotted out once again in full force. This may actually be a good thing, because it gives the rest of us a chance to counter by trotting out the facts and demonstrating what really happened. This way, at least the bystanders on the left can be set straight, even if the Bernie die-hards never do accept the facts. It didn’t fully hit me until respected MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid, who was very positive toward Bernie during the primary race, finally put her foot down today. She tweeted “I am 100 percent OVER the self-pity, conspiracy theorizing, moaning and foot stomping demands of Sanders bitter enders. Like, DONE.”
Reid went on to spell out that the Democratic Party made the unprecedented move of allowing Bernie Sanders to run in the Democratic primary race, even though he wasn’t (and still isn’t) a registered Democrat. There was no harm and no foul with the debate schedule, which for the record was established at a time when Hillary’s most formidable opponent was expected to be Lincoln Chafee. Anyone who knew how to read a national poll at the beginning of the primary race knew that Hillary would end up with around sixty percent of the popular vote and Bernie would end up with around forty percent of the vote, and that is in fact how it turned out.
There was no rigging, there was no conspiracy, there was no surprise. Millions more people wanted Hillary from the outset, and so even after her underdog opponent got a year’s worth of national exposure, Hillary still won. That’s just how things work. Bernie simply didn’t do enough to win over those voters who had initially wanted Hillary. You don’t have to like how people voted, but that’s how they voted. Hillary won the primary by millions of votes – actual people showing up and voting – and neither delegates nor superdelegates ever had a damn thing to do with it, no matter how many times cable news dishonestly invoked those words.
It’s not necessarily the fault of anyone on the left if they got caught up in believing the lies about the supposedly “rigged primary race.” The media, cable news in particular, pushed this lie endlessly in order to generate phony controversy and thus ratings. The media knew Hillary would win by millions of votes anyway, so they decided to screw with the narrative. The media didn’t change the outcome of the primary; it just stirred up a lot of lasting resentment over imaginary things that never happened.
Then there was “Bernie or Bust” crowd, which spent the entire primary season spreading these same lies across social media just to cause trouble, before going on to vote for Jill Stein or Donald Trump in the general, because they never cared about Bernie to begin with. There was an endless stream of false claims coming from all directions, propping up the phony notion that the primary was rigged. But the factual reality is that, if you supported Bernie in the primary race, you were on the minority end of a 60-40 popular vote split. Your large crowds at his rallies did not translate to actual votes, in the same way that large crowds for rock concerts don’t translate into album sales. They’re not the same thing.
So if you’re still a Bernie Sanders supporter, that’s all well and good. If you want him to run again in 2020, that’s your prerogative. But if you’ve been under the impression that Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party somehow rigged anything against him, it’s time to let go of that fiction. The facts are all right there in front of you, and they always have been. The only difference is that Hillary’s new book is forcing the kind of discussions that help allow the record to be set straight.
We’re still a long way away from the 2020 election. The fate of the nation hangs in the balance between now and then in so many ways, it would be difficult to list them all. But now is in fact a good time for the left to go ahead and deal with the hardest of truths about the 2016 Democratic primary race, while it still can. If the left goes into 2020 Democratic primary race while still believing all the phony conspiracies and silly media lies about the imaginary rigging of the 2016 primary, the end result will be four more years of Republican control of the White House. It’s better for the left to swallow that medicine now and get past it.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report