The Democratic Bash Won’t Matter

July 28, 2016

Though the slogan for the first day of the Democratic National Convention was “United Together,” the party appeared to be anything but. Hacked emails dumped online by WikiLeaks had confirmed the worst suspicions of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s supporters. The Democratic establishment had been working all along to defeat their man, even discussing whether to plant stories that Mr. Sanders, who is Jewish, doesn’t believe in God.

After Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced her resignation, she was rewarded by being named an “honorary chair” for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Sanders supporters were hardly satisfied. On Monday the Bernie Bunch booed Ms. Wasserman Schultz off the stage. They demonstrated their frustration in the convention hall, and on Philadelphia’s streets, demanding votes on their candidate’s proposals on trade and the party’s rules.

The following day the comedian Sarah Silverman admonished Sandernistas from the podium: “To the Bernie-or-bust people, let me tell you, you are being ridiculous.” Standing at her side, Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) nodded as Sanders delegates screamed their disapproval. The two Hollywood intellectuals were followed on stage by Paul Simon, who warbled “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” Convention organizers should have tried to get the song’s original vocalist, Art Garfunkel.

These expressions of disaffection from the Democratic Party’s Birkenstock-and-granola wing are entertaining, yet they are not Team Clinton’s principal strategic challenge. Sure, some Bernieites could defect to the Green Party’s presidential nominee, Jill Stein, or even to Donald Trump. Others might skip the polls and spend Election Day composting. Still, Mrs. Clinton’s bigger problem is that she personifies the status quo in a year when the dynamic is strongly tilted toward change.

Gallup reported last week that only 17% of Americans are satisfied with the country’s condition, the same figure as at this point in 2008.

A July 13 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that a mere 18% of registered voters believe the country is “headed in the right direction,” while 73% said things are “off on the wrong track.”

The same survey found 56% favor someone for president “who will bring major changes to the way government operates even if it is not possible to predict what the changes may be.” Only 41% back “someone who will bring a steady approach to the way government operates even if it means fewer changes to how things are now.”

A June 26 Pew Research Center survey found that 24% of Americans are “satisfied with the way things are going in this country today”; 71% are “dissatisfied.” Fully 77% of voters say Mr. Trump would “change the way things work in Washington” (though only 33% think it would be for the better). Just 45% say Mrs. Clinton would bring change (and 20% say it would be for the better).

President Bill Clinton’s speech Tuesday night didn’t significantly alter this dynamic. Even his political talents couldn’t transform his wife into a “change-agent,” a phrase he repeatedly invoked. If anything, Mr. Clinton reminded voters that Mrs. Clinton has been a political fixture for decades.

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