After Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucus, suddenly vituperative comments were made about the Vermont senator being a “Democratic Socialist.” As the description took hold, the charges went from credible to scurrilous in the speed of a text message. When Sanders made some factual statements bout Cuba and the late Fidel Castro, he was described as the new Vladimir Lenin.
Surprisingly the worst came from Democrats, eager to boost the fortunes of former Vice President Joe Biden. Chris Matthews, before he self-purged himself from his cable program, went ballistic against Sanders and Donna Shalala, a representative from Miami, shed crocodile tears for her Cuban constituents who would be placed in emotional distress because of Bernie’s comments. You could hear the remarks about “parlor pinks” and “Com-symps” coming from the Georgetown Club and you did hear it on Morning Joe.
Fortunately you heard very little of it coming from Biden who held his tongue and was rewarded by an impressive victory on Super Tuesday. Perhaps Joe was well-schooled in the art of restraint. Sure enough his prudent instincts were confirmed when no sooner Biden re-established his position as front runner, Republicans began referring to him as a “so-called moderate.” Democrats must be wary of taking up familiar GOP smears as a weapon against Sander, because it will be applied to Biden.
Ask Michael Dukakis, who ran as a mainline Democrat and accepted support from those who smeared Jesse Jackson’s candidacy in 1988. After George H.W. Bush’s sappers got through with Dukakis you would have thought he was a flag-burning radical who would have permanently endangered American security. He was none of those things — yet Lee Atwater and his gang shamelessly tagged him with every epithet in their already tawdry playbook.
This Biden understands, is that Republicans will stop at nothing to stop him, including lying and distortion. And, this will not all be done to support Donald Trump. As in 2016, the usually morally pious Republicans defended him after the Access Hollywood tapes. They reason was they wanted to keep the House and Senate, and they stayed behind their candidate. Their only problem turned out to be is that Trump shrewdly out maneuvered those regulars who thought themselves superior to their nominee. Now Trump reigns over the GOP, but he’s not above employing old tactics against Biden.
Biden well knows he needs Sander’s support if he wins the nomination. Biden, who will not pick Sanders, will nevertheless treat him with respect. Democrats do not need accusations of fixing the process, it is bad enough when rules are changed such as the one leaving Tulsi Gabbard off the debate stage.
So far, however, the former vice president has handled his Super Tuesday triumphs well and carefully. Unlike well meaning supporters who advocated that Sanders quit, Biden refused to endorse any early withdrawal by his opponent.
Biden proved he could be a gracious winner and that will go along way in uniting the Democratic party.