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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 WarrenOn The Money: Biden .5T budget proposes major hike in social programs | GOP bashes border, policing provisions Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists POW/MIA flag moved back atop White House MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisPelosi planned on retiring until Trump won election: report How Kamala Harris can find the solution for the migration crisis White House unveils official portraits of Biden and Harris MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Gillibrand2024 GOP White House hopefuls lead opposition to Biden Cabinet Manhattan law firm named as lead in Cuomo impeachment investigation Senate Democrats call on DHS for details on response to Portland protests MORE (D-N.Y.), Cory BookerCory BookerThe first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally Top Democrat calling for expansion of child care support When it comes to the Iran nuclear deal, what's a moderate Democrat to do? MORE (D-N.J.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharLobbying world New small business coalition to urge action on antitrust policy Bottom line MORE (D-Minn.); former mayors Julian CastroJulian CastroMore GOP-led states risk corporate backlash like Georgia's More than 200 Obama officials sign letter supporting Biden's stimulus plan OVERNIGHT ENERGY: McEachin signals interest in Biden administration environment role | Haaland, eyed for Interior, stresses need for Native American representation | Haaland backers ask Udall to step aside in bid for Interior post MORE of San Antonio and Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegSunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge Buttigieg hopes cruises will return by mid-summer Biden to host bipartisan talks on infrastructure next week MORE of South Bend, Ind; Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard blasts new House rules on gender neutral language as 'height of hypocrisy' A vaccine, a Burrito and more: 7 lighter, memorable moments from 2020 Growing number of House Republicans warm to proxy voting MORE (D-Hawaii) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas); former Massachusetts Gov. Deval PatrickDeval PatrickTo unite America, Biden administration must brace for hate Biden faces pressure to take action on racial justice issues Biden selects Susan Rice to lead Domestic Policy Council, McDonough for Veterans Affairs MORE; and entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangEvelyn Yang pens children's book on sexual abuse, reveals she was sexually assaulted as a child Yang pitches plan to revive Broadway, live performances in New York Yang returns to campaign trail following kidney stone 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 SandersHillicon Valley: Amazon wins union election — says 'our employees made the choice' On The Money: Biden .5T budget proposes major hike in social programs | GOP bashes border, policing provisions Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists 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 BidenBiden eyes bigger US role in global vaccination efforts Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech Kemp: Pulling All-Star game out of Atlanta will hurt business owners of color MORE, the former vice president; 77-year-old Michael BloombergMichael BloombergThe truth behind companies' 'net zero' climate commitments The strategy Biden needs to pass his infrastructure plan Bloomberg, former RNC chair Steele back Biden pick for civil rights division 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 TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech 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.”