How Sanders wins

The weakness of both parties today is caused by the natural decline or decay of the political parties as we enter the fourth postwar generation in America. By ridding themselves of the Bush dynasty and its accoutrements — media, culture, hangers-on and apparatus — Republicans have begun to finally cross the tightrope to the generations ahead. And although they may seem lost in the woods right now, they have the advantage over the Democrats, who are still stuck in their old generations.

But there is still the tendency for the Republicans to turn around, to turn back, thus the misguided insurgency planned to spring 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney or his first lieutenant (and former running mate) Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year MORE (R-Wis.) in convention mischief in hopes of denying tycoon Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems flip Wisconsin state Senate seat Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP rep: 'Sheet metal and garbage' everywhere in Haiti MORE the nomination. The price will be high when Trump retaliates — and he always retaliates.

If they want to spring something on Trump at the convention to engage the new thinking and the rising generations, bring back Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year Despite amnesty, DACA bill favors American wage-earners MORE of Kentucky or former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, both former presidential candidates, or spring South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteLessons from Alabama: GOP, throw out the old playbook The Hill's 12:30 Report Explaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid MORE or the most impressive Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada, whom President Obama pitched for the Supreme Court simply to keep him from running for president. Any of these would aim the Republicans in the right direction, but Ryan will not. He is too linked to the old regime and half steeped in its agenda.

Strangely enough, both parties today are in the same painful process of leaving the past behind and awakening to new forms, but Republicans have taken the first vital steps to new horizons. They have been brought to it these past dozen or so years by the likes of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Judge Andrew Napolitano, 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and the first honest strivings of the Tea Party before it was hijacked by establishment party people and talk radio ideologists. They offered a refreshing new approach to government more attuned to libertarianism than to traditional conservatism.

And that is the Clinton Democrats' problem. They have not been engaged in any new thinking at all. The early slogan "Ready for Hillary" presumes that we have been waiting for Clinton until now, and that now we are ready — which of course, we are not. For all this time they have been in a benign state, with plans only to return the old political camp to power. And it is almost time to say today that the Democrats have instead been waiting for Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersMellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) Former Sanders campaign manager: Don't expect email list to be shared with DNC Adult film star: Trump and Stormy Daniels invited me to 'hang out' MORE (Vt.).

That Clinton would win a race against Trump in November was a given. It was suggested all around, and her 10-percent-and-more lead in the earlier polls advanced this thinking. Trump would be easy work.

But not everyone agrees.

"I think Trump could beat her like a tied-up billy goat," the astute political prognosticator Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, who is supporting Sanders, told Politico recently. "There are many areas in key swing states like Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that look like Sherman went through and didn't burn anything. Empty factories, empty buildings, few opportunities for young people. It's sad. It should be no surprise to anybody that voters in those areas are gravitating to Trump."

Then something happened over this past weekend. Sanders stormed the Northwest in a dramatic takedown of Washington state, Alaska and Hawaii, leaving Clinton in the dust. As of today, and as of early March with the dramatic win in Michigan — where Clinton had a 20 -point lead in polls, before losing — Sanders has taken the momentum.

"Sanders's win in Michigan was one of the greatest upsets in modern political history," wrote Harry Enten in FiveThirtyEight.

Sanders has taken the initiative. And it doesn't even matter now if Clinton wins or loses the nomination. She is, to use a phrase heard constantly in the Sixties, "irrelevant." Sanders has commandeered the will of the Democratic Party and its future.

Sanders comes now as an awakening. He brings Democrats to a new era, much as Trump may be bringing the Republicans a new era. And these two are destined to go forward together in history, perhaps, like the Emperor and the Sith, which always arrive together according to "Star Wars" lore. But which is the Emperor and which is the Sith?

Sanders's momentum will continue to rise. Clinton will continue to recede. But the superdelegates, we are told, are committed to Clinton, and will prevent a Sanders victory.

Or will they? Sanders could, in the end, win the popular vote. Giving it instead to Clinton through superdelegates would bring a firestorm. I doubt the Democrats would do it. It would destroy their party. And like the Republicans planning a clandestine attack at the convention, it would backfire with the people. It would appear to be a coup.

But delegates can be changed. It will be clear by the end which way the Democrats' world is heading, and delegates are professional enough to ask themselves: Am I on the Bernie bus or off it? Because that is now the only ride in town.

"I think the momentum is with us," Sanders told CNN on Sunday. "A lot of these superdelegates may rethink their positions with Secretary Clinton."

In the end, if Sanders is ahead by even one vote, he wins. And the Democrats can begin again. But they start again with Bernie Sanders now or they don't start at all.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at