Steven Spielberg’s 1975 flick Jaws features one of the great jump-scares in movie history. Roy Scheider, playing landlubber Police Chief Brody, is blithely chumming the ocean waters for a shark he barely expects (and certainly doesn’t hope) to show up. Then –BOOM!– the biggest great white any of them had ever seen pops out of the water, gaping mouth and plentiful teeth hungry for flesh.
Chumming the waters can be a dangerous business, as our three shark hunters learned in the movie. One ended up dead in a most gruesome fashion (two of them in Peter Benchley’s original book), and the two who barely survived found themselves stranded at sea, trying to make their way back to shore, after the shark destroyed the boat.
Anyway, that jump-scare is what popped into my mind as we’ve all watched the Democratic establishment bring out the long knives for Surgin’ Bernie Sanders: Are they just chumming the waters for a shark bigger than they can handle?
(I’ve dotted this column with tweets from Sanders supporters showing just how intense their support really is. And by “intense” I might mean “deranged.”)
— Jawnathan Pawts (@JawnathanP) January 27, 2020
The anti-Bernie panic came into full view on Monday, when NBC senior digital politics reporter Alex Seitz-Wald wrote a piece headlined “‘Oh my God, Sanders can win’: Democrats grapple with Bernie surge in Iowa.” The lede sentence pinged my radar. Seitz-Wald wrote, “The greatest trick Bernie Sanders ever played was convincing the world the chance he could win didn’t exist.” Was he aware that he was comparing a Sanders win to Satan’s trickery? If so: Well played, Mr. Seitz-Wald; well played.
Iowa Democrats caucus on Monday to pick the first winner in what might be a long nominating process — and Sanders shows a slight lead over Joe Biden, as Liz Warren continues her long, slow fade into well-deserved electoral oblivion. He’s showing increasing strength in New Hampshire, where primary voters go to the polls just eight days after Iowa.
Hispanic here 🙋♀️and fully supporting Sanders regardless of what political stunt other Dems pull. He's got my vote 🗳️#Sanders2020
— Beatriz Aurora Pinzón Solano (@boho_87) January 29, 2020
Seitz-Wald quotes rival Democratic operative Ian Sams complaining, “None of his opponents have attacked him.” He added, “There had been a supposition all last year from media and the political class that there’s no way Bernie way could win, which was a pretty faulty assumption.” And Pete Buttigieg warned in a fundraising email that “there’s a good chance [Sanders] wins the Iowa caucuses.”
Obama ran and won as a progressive.
He lied, but it worked.
Warren tried the same, but we can spot the fakes now.#Sanders2020
— Viva la Political Revolution (@GrandmasHGArt) January 28, 2020
The real scare for beat-Trump-at-any-cost Democrats is that Sanders is radical enough to appeal to the party’s super-energized left wing, but far too radical to win against Donald Trump in the general election. Or as centrist Democrat Matt Bennett warned, “Sanders could win the nomination and would likely lose to Trump.” And as you might remember, the Obama camp let it be known a while back that Barack isn’t exactly feeling the Bern. Even the New York Times joined in the anti-Bernie pile-on, publishing a piece by the ever-nasty Michelle Goldberg headlined, “Bernie Could Win the Nomination. Should we be afraid?”
Behind the scenes, the Dem establishment is making moves against Sanders much as they did in 2016 to tip the scales towards Hillary Clinton. The Hill’s Jonathan Easley reports that the Sanders camp is fuming “at DNC Chairman Tom Perez over his initial appointments to the committees that will oversee the rules and party platform.” Those just installed by Perez include longtime Clinton cronies Barney Frank and John Podesta. The Sanders campaign accused Frank last time around of being an “aggressive attack surrogate for the Clinton campaign.” And Easley reminds readers that “Podesta’s hacked emails from 2016 showed him asking a Democratic strategist where to ‘stick the knife in’ Sanders.” Presumably, they’ll be part of the DNC-approved team trying to write Sander’s far-left agenda out of the party’s election script.
The establishment is moving against Sanders publicly and behind the scenes, but what I see is a lot of chum being tossed into the water behind the leaky boat known as the S.S. Democratic Chances.
Sanders supporters are incensed that their party would try to cheat their guy out of the nomination for a second time. John Kass wrote earlier today that “Sanders’ base hasn’t forgotten how the Democratic National Committee rigged the nomination for Hillary Clinton last time.” And speaking in Iowa earlier this week, fellow Dem-Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez warned, “Things are going to get crazy.”
The key takeaway is that rapacious corporate and financial elites, whose interests are profoundly hostile to those of the American people, 'scramble' to stop democracy in its tracks. #Sanders2020 #BernieBeatsTrump #BernieSanders2020 https://t.co/4Y3CvN0zZR
— amazon4amazon.org (@amazon4amazon) January 28, 2020
Last week I wrote a column asking if Bernie had the fire in his belly to win the nomination, after pulling his punches against Biden and Warren in recent weeks — a virtual repeat of his infamous pulled punch against Hillary Clinton in ’16. But maybe the Old Man Who Shouts at Clouds is right to play it low-key against his opponents. Why should Bernie be his own attack dog, when the Dem establishment is doing its accidental best to keep the Bernie Bros all riled up? Sanders seems to be sitting back a bit, watching the Establishment chum the waters, while he waits for the feeding frenzy to begin. Maybe, like Chief Brody, chumming the waters won’t leave the Establishment much more than stranded out at sea.
If that happens, the giant toothy grin won’t belong to a great white shark — it’ll be all Trump’s, from ear to ear.