Sen. Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton by 12 points in last Tuesday's Oregon Democratic primary. It was an unusual victory in that Clinton's nomination is already a done deal.
Sanders has no hope of catching the Democratic establishment's chosen champion. Even he knows superdelegates, party guardians of the status quo, are not going to defect from a candidate who has the most votes and earned delegates.
Yet not only did Oregon reject Clinton at this late stage, but Kentucky, viewed by most as a relatively safe state for her, very nearly went to Sanders as well. Her 1,900-vote, 0.5 percentage-point margin will probably hold. But it's not a ringing endorsement, more a resigned acceptance of the lifeless Democratic queen anointed long ago by the party episcopacy.
On their own, Tuesday's results and Sanders' recent wins in Indiana and West Virginia might not signify much. But combine this with the bitter chaos that enveloped the Nevada Democratic convention last weekend, and suddenly Democrats seem to be at risk from a party-unity problem not unlike that afflicting Republicans.
Democratic voters are mounting their own insurrection against the apparatus and appatchiks. It's not unlike the one mounted by the Republican rank and file that has handed Donald Trump his final victory.
In Nevada last weekend, supporters of Sanders hurled obscenities, charges of corruption, and even chairs as Clinton claimed 20 of the 35 delegates at stake. Party officials were then berated on the phone by voters feeling the Bern. The riotous scene nearly got the event booted from its venue before the final votes were taken and the gavel hastily banged down.
Sanders, called upon by Democratic leaders to calm his supporters, instead responded with a no-apologies statement that amounted to incitement. "The Democratic Party has a choice," he wrote. "It can open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change ... Or the party can choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy."
He went on to insinuate political dirty tricks (mentioning that his staffers' apartment complex had been broken into) and listed specific grievances about how officials hijacked the process on the convention floor.
Sanders has vowed to take his fight all the way to the convention, no matter how much it weakens Clinton for the general election. The problem has become sufficiently serious to bestir Vice President Joe Biden into denying that it exists (a sure sign of trouble), saying, "There is no fundamental split in the Democratic Party."
He's entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts, which don't seem to bear him out. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., seemed closer to the truth when she expressed her hope that Sanders would end his campaign after the last states vote on June 7. She said, "I think it would be most regretful if there becomes a schism. It's the responsibility particularly of Sen. Sanders to see that that doesn't happen."
Clinton is a lamentably unattractive candidate, ill-suited to uniting Democrats. Her unfavorability is now reaching an all-time high, even worse than that of Trump on the GOP side. Unpopularity is not a vice, but it often reflects a candidate's vices. Clinton sowed mendacity, insincerity and venality and is now reaping dislike, disdain or at best indifference.