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It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process

It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process
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At the height of the Democratic presidential primary process, millions of voters were intrigued and excited by the campaigns of candidates such as Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force Club for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Biden's political position is tougher than Trump's MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' MORE (D-N.Y.), Cory BookerCory BookerDangerously fast slaughter speeds are putting animals, people at greater risk during COVID-19 crisis Senate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs MORE (D-N.J.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (D-Minn.); former mayors Julian CastroJulian CastroJulian Castro announces relaunch of 'Adios Trump!' shirts to raise money for young immigrants Sanders says Democrats should have given more speaking time to progressives Castro says DNC should have put more Latino speakers on stage from beginning MORE of San Antonio and Pete ButtigiegPete Buttigieg'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' Biden's win is not a policy mandate — he should govern accordingly MORE of South Bend, Ind; Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardSix people whose election wins made history Next Congress expected to have record diversity Native Americans elected to Congress in record numbers this year MORE (D-Hawaii) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas); former Massachusetts Gov. Deval PatrickDeval PatrickThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Calls mount to start transition as Biden readies Cabinet picks Merrick Garland on list to be Biden's attorney general: report Ralph Gants, chief justice of Massachusetts supreme court, dies at 65 MORE; and entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangGroups seek to get Black vote out for Democrats in Georgia runoffs Media and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk Andrew Yang: Democrats need to adopt message that government is 'working for them' MORE.

These were candidates who reflected the diverse Democratic electorate. They truly could identify with many voters in a number of positive ways and, ultimately, gained their support. The large number of candidates — more than two dozen for a while — seemed to underscore the party’s struggle with fragmentation throughout this process.

Early on, the Democratic candidates were impressive, richly diverse, highly experienced and accomplished. They were men and women who fought against racism, sexism and bigotry; served the nation with distinction in the military; worked on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised; and held office in governments or ran businesses.

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During that primary process, the Trump White House must have been worried about facing someone popular and charismatic such as Harris, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Yang or Gabbard. These candidates, along with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Inequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift In defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism MORE (I-Vt.), certainly spoke to the diversity and youth movement infusing the Democratic Party.

And yet, toward the end of that curious primary process, just four candidates were left standing: 77-year-old Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE, the former vice president; 77-year-old Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden's great challenge: Build an economy for long-term prosperity and security The secret weapon in Biden's fight against climate change Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE, the former New York mayor; 78-year-old Sanders; and 70-year-old Warren. And from among those white septuagenarians came … drum roll, please ... Joe Biden as the presumptive nominee. It should be noted that Gabbard, 38, also remained in the race until March, though with a lower profile than the others.

How could this happen?

If we think back to just before Super Tuesday on March 3, Biden seemed to be falling so far off the party’s radar screen that some expected him to pull out of the race. 

But then, as if by some political sleight of hand, the young, diverse, talented slate of candidates had completely disappeared in a puff of stale, white smoke. When that smoke dispersed, there stood Biden, alone on the stage with his awkward smile, preparing to take on President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE in November. Gone even were Biden’s contemporaries, first Bloomberg, then Warren and finally Sanders. 

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When Hollywood finally returns to work, maybe a creative screenwriter will offer up a script in which a pro-Trump double agent infiltrates the hierarchy of the Democratic establishment and convinces them to make decisions that ultimately benefit the Trump campaign.

Seriously, what else explains the process that would sweep aside a diverse slate of candidates who spoke to millions of Gen X and millennial voters, in favor of Biden with his gaffes and political baggage? The fact is, the United States is more than ready for a female president. It is more than ready for another president of color. It is more than ready for a president from the LGBTQ community. It certainly would welcome a ticket that combines any or all such candidates.

From a liberal perspective, on paper at least, the Democratic primary process offered up several outstanding candidates who might have broken the female, color and/or sexual-identity barriers. That won’t happen this time — although Biden still could choose a woman of color or candidate with other diverse qualities as his running mate.

Still, many progressive Democratic voters must be disappointed, wondering what happened to the promise they foresaw in late 2018 and early 2019 when candidates such as Warren, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Buttigieg and Booker announced they were in the running. 

No matter what the polling might say at the moment, I challenge anyone to find a majority of Democrats who believe in their hearts that Biden has a chance to defeat Trump in November. (Some Democrats still might not believe that Biden will be their nominee come fall.)   

Yes, something certainly appears to have sabotaged the Democrats’ best laid plans for big change come November, and the party now seems to be painted into a corner of self-created despair. 

Douglas MacKinnon was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration. He is the author of “The Dawn of a Nazi Moon: Book One.”