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I'm for Bernie Sanders and closed primaries
Bernie Sanders exhorting supporters in Paducah 5/15/16 Photo by Berry Craig

I Felt the Bern Tuesday, but I don't share my candidate's disdain for closed primaries.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to a Washington Post story, said Hillary Clinton won in Kentucky because it's one of those states with "a closed primary, something I am not all that enthusiastic about, where independents are not allowed to vote."

With her squeaker victory in my home state, Clinton is 11-for-11 in closed primaries.

Anyway, Sanders challenged the Democratic party to "do the right thing and open its doors and let into the party people who are prepared to fight for economic and social change," the story also said.

This left-leaning, union card-packing Democrat and lifelong Kentuckian is delighted Sanders, a Vermont independent, switched to my party to run for president. I've been a Sanders fan for years. I hope he stays a Democrat.

I'm not what some Clinton supporters scorn as a "Berniebot." I know my candidate is losing because Secretary Clinton is getting more votes, not doing Sanders dirty.

Charlie Pierce, the sometimes irascible--like Bernie and me--Esquire columnist--also voted for Sanders. "But if anybody thinks that, somehow, he is having the nomination 'stolen' from him, they are idiots," he recently wrote.

If--okay, when--she gets the nomination, Clinton will get my support and vote.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to see Sanders forcing Clinton to tack to the left--back toward my party's New Deal and Great Society roots. FDR handily carried Kentucky four times--with the votes of my late maternal grandparents. Bobo and Granddadden carried union cards, too.

At the same time, I don't see anything undemocratic about closed primaries in which Democrats go to the polls and nominate Democrats--and Republicans nominate Republicans.

It's no secret that in open primary states, some Democrats vote for Republicans out of mischief, and vice versa.

I imagine in some open primary states, more than a few Democrats voted for Donald Trump, figuring he'd be a pushover in the general election--a decision they may come to rue. Evidently, some Trump supporters in West Virginia voted for Sanders to get back at Clinton.

I remember in 2008 right wing radio's Rush Limbaugh urged his Republican Dittoheads in open primary states to vote for Clinton over Barack Obama to prolong the fight for the Democratic nomination, thereby hurting the party. Limbaugh called his plan "Operation Chaos" and suggested resurrecting it against Sanders "depending on how the Democratic hierarchy seeks to treat him."

Such "tactical voting" is legal. But it subverts the purpose of a primary: to let rank-and-file party members--not party bigwigs in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms--choose their party's nominees.

"Not allowed to vote?" In states with closed primaries, independents choose to disenfranchise themselves by registering as independents. They are, of course, free to vote for whomever they wish in general elections.

So here's a little constructive criticism for my candidate who is also one of my favorite lawmakers in Washington: Complaining about closed primary states where you are 0-for-11 sounds like sour grapes. (My wife the Clinton supporter says Sanders' cantankerousness reminds her of her senior citizen spouse of going on 38 years.)

And let's be honest: Sanders, the champion of open primaries, hasn't mustered much disdain for caucus states--where activists in meeting halls, not rank-and-filers in voting booths, choose nominees, and where he's done well.

Meanwhile, I hope the Democratic party will "do the right thing and open its doors and let into the party people who are prepared to fight for economic and social change" -- as Democrats.

I'd welcome them with open arms. I'm pretty sure Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, would, too. She's also the Kentucky Democratic party chair.

In a primary election night statement, she congratulated Clinton for bagging the Bluegrass State, if barely. She also praised Sanders.

""We are fortunate to have two highly qualified candidates [italics mine] who each have innovative plans to create jobs, provide healthcare and prepare our workforce for the future. They both stand out as clearly better choices than the presumptive Republican nominee."


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