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 WarrenWarren slams Trump over Proud Boys comments Ocasio-Cortez, Warren pull out of New Yorker Festival amid labor dispute The Hill's Morning Report - Fight night: Trump, Biden hurl insults in nasty debate MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisDebate commission adding option to cut candidates' mics: report Debates panel says changes under consideration 'to ensure a more orderly discussion' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Country reacts to debate night of mudslinging MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandMeeting Trump Supreme Court pick a bridge too far for some Democrats Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election MORE (D-N.Y.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerPreventing next pandemic requires new bill's global solutions Meeting Trump Supreme Court pick a bridge too far for some Democrats Warren won't meet with Barrett, calling Trump's nomination an 'illegitimate power grab' MORE (D-N.J.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Minn.); former mayors Julian CastroJulian CastroSanders says Democrats should have given more speaking time to progressives Castro says DNC should have put more Latino speakers on stage from beginning Jill Biden defends husband's cognitive ability from Trump attacks: 'It's ridiculous' MORE of San Antonio and Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegCindy McCain joins board of Biden's presidential transition team Billionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - GOP closes ranks to fill SCOTUS vacancy by November MORE of South Bend, Ind; Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardRepublicans call on DOJ to investigate Netflix over 'Cuties' film Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses slate of non-Hispanic candidates Gabbard says she 'was not invited to participate in any way' in Democratic convention MORE (D-Hawaii) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas); former Massachusetts Gov. Deval PatrickDeval PatrickRalph Gants, chief justice of Massachusetts supreme court, dies at 65 It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Top Democratic super PACs team up to boost Biden MORE; and entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangThe shape of guaranteed income Biden's latest small business outreach is just ... awful Doctor who allegedly assaulted Evelyn Yang arrested on federal charges 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 SandersDemocrats say Biden survived brutal debate — and that's enough The Hill's Morning Report - Fight night: Trump, Biden hurl insults in nasty debate Trump, Biden clash over health care as debate begins 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 BidenPrivacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus Trump crowd chants 'lock her up' about Omar as president warns of refugees in Minnesota MORE, the former vice president; 77-year-old Michael BloombergMichael BloombergThe Hill's Morning Report - Fight night: Trump, Biden hurl insults in nasty debate Battle over voting rights of felons intensifies in Florida Feehery: Are you better off now than you were 47 years ago? 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 TrumpTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus 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.”