Remember just a few weeks ago when it was the Republicans who faced a divisive national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 18-21?

All sorts of plots were under discussion to prevent Donald Trump from gaining the nomination. There were predictions of multiple ballots before delegates settled on a nominee, a process so disruptive that some political prognosticators predicted it would split the Grand Old Party. Instead Trump has dispatched all challengers with his unconventional and often non-conservative campaign. With remarkable speed, Republicans are lining up behind their presumptive nominee, national polls indicate.

It is the Democrats staring at potential chaos when they gather in Philadelphia on July 25-28. Unlike Trump, Hillary Clinton has been unable to close the deal. Clinton built her delegate lead largely with huge electoral wins early in the primary process in places the party is unlikely to win in the general election — across the Deep South. Since then Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders have largely fought to a draw. The Clinton campaign wants Sanders to go away so its candidate can turn her attention to Trump.


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Sanders, driven by deep-seated beliefs and leading a political movement that has generated far more excitement and shown an unprecedented ability to raise money through small donations, has no incentives to do so. He is on a mission. Sanders sees a Democratic Party that has become too friendly with the Wall Street class on which it depends, like Republicans, for big donations. In the process, it has drifted away from its roots as the party of the working class, in the Sanders' view.

Sanders has problems with the Democratic Party, pointing to its use of "super delegates" — elected leaders and other party insiders — that could provide Clinton a margin of victory for the nomination that she could not secure through the primary process alone. He has a fair gripe that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the Democratic national chairwoman, has not been a fair broker in the primary process but sought to manage it instead to favor her preferred candidate, Clinton.

So while the Clintonites want Sanders to bow out, he is fighting to capture a majority of the 475 pledged delegates at stake in California on June 7. That would give his movement greater political leverage to fight for their ideals heading into the national convention and for reforms in the primary rules. If not addressed prior to the convention, the Democratic divisions will be on display. Clinton wants a united coronation of her nomination.

Sanders also holds out slim hope of convincing super delegates he is the better option against Trump. Polls show Clinton neck-and-neck with Trump, but with Sanders comfortably ahead of Trump. Sanders has good approval numbers, opposed to the large negative views voters have of both Trump and Clinton. Then there is the FBI email scandal looming over Clinton.

This newspaper endorsed Clinton over Sanders in the April 26 Connecticut Democratic primary, a contest she narrowly won. With her experience as a senator, secretary of state and a politically active first lady, she is the best qualified candidate. Her policy proposals are nuanced — tax reform, lower interest rates on college loans, tax credits to encourage corporations to boost worker compensation, aggressive use of existing Wall Street regulatory reforms — but also more politically realistic and far less costly.

But it is her fault, not that of Sanders, that she has not secured the nomination. It is her challenge to unite the party, not his obligation.

Clinton needs to find a way to inspire.

First, defeat Sanders in California. Then pursue common ground — perhaps a free community college plank, a tougher approach to Wall Street regulation, and primary reforms — with the vanquished challenger and his supporters.

Trump is not qualified to be president. His combination of arrogance and policy ignorance make him dangerous. But he has proved an effective political demagogue. If Clinton cannot find a path to unite Democrats, Trump could pull this off.

– The Day (New London, Conn.), May 23, 2016