In the bizarre world of some Bernie Sanders supporters, our meaningless presidential primary was yet more evidence that Hillary Clinton is stealing the election. The rift in the Democratic Party might be even bigger than the GOP’s before this strange campaign is done.

Share story

Sign of the perilous political times: Even our meaningless presidential primary has become fresh fodder for conspiracy theorists who believe the election is rigged.

Last Tuesday, the state reported the results of our mail-in primary. Donald Trump won on the Republican side. Somewhat surprisingly, Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders for the Democrats.

That’s where the problems began. To some Sanders supporters, who believe everything from the newspaper to the vote-counting machines are against them, this result was not just surprising. It was literally unbelievable.

“She hasn’t won anything — you mean STOLE the primary,” one Sandersnista wrote on the Seattle for Bernie Sanders Facebook page, which gamely reported that Clinton had at least chalked up a symbolic victory.

“It’s not about who votes, it’s about who counts them,” asserted another.

“I don’t know a single person who voted for this woman. NOT ONE!” wrote a third. “I have posts and posts of people showing their ballots for Bernie. I don’t trust it, I absolutely don’t trust anything anymore.”

In March, Sanders defeated Clinton in a Saturday caucus here (which the state Democratic Party officially recognized for the awarding of delegates). In fact he walloped her, by 46 percentage points.

The party is ignoring the primary results from Tuesday, so they don’t officially matter. But awkwardly, Clinton won by 5 percentage points. That’s an incredible 51-point swing from March to May.

Now to me the likely explanation is that so few voters participated in the March caucus (230,000) that it was unrepresentative of what the broader public actually thinks. About 785,000 voted in Tuesday’s Democratic primary — more than three times the caucus turnout.

That isn’t an explanation that goes over well in Sandersland.

On a national Sanders site, a Bernie activist from Tacoma wrote that Sanders voters in Washington were disenfranchised. The online tool at the state where you can track your ballot (myvote.wa.gov) was showing that some Sanders voters weren’t even listed as registered, the post contended.

“Crooked Hillary strikes again,” was one response to that.

“Crap like this is what pushes people to do irrational things,” wrote another Sanders backer. “When they are pushed and pushed …”

Good grief, people! Is it that difficult to imagine Clinton might do better in a much higher turnout mail-in election, one that doesn’t require activists to line up in gymnasiums on a Saturday?

When Stephen Colbert joked two months ago that Sanders promised he’d stay in the race through all 50 states — “or 51, if you count the state of denial” — he probably had no inkling how right he would turn out to be.

“It seems like now she has to steal things that don’t even really matter, except for whatever spin the MSM will give it,” another Sanders backer wrote about our primary, using the abbreviation for “mainstream media.”

Here goes some MSM spin: I asked the state Elections Department to check out the reported ballot problems. Stuart Holmes, an Election Systems Supervisor, said the state hasn’t had a single complaint.

So I sent him the names of every local Sanders voter I could find who said on Facebook that their ballots weren’t counted. He entered them in the database and found that all their ballots were counted (except for one, who didn’t appear to exist — it might have been a fake Facebook name).

Holmes said there can be delays at times updating the state’s MyVote tracker. So sometimes you have to check back.

Zzz. But of course he’d say that, because the state’s in the tank for Hillary, too! So instead of checking back, why not just cork off and call Hillary a criminal?

I don’t know when politics got this tribal and blinkered. Maybe it’s always been like this, except people who once were raving to themselves in their basements are now raving to everyone on the Internet.

But this Sanders-Clinton matchup seems especially reality-challenged.

Some Sanders backers simply refuse to accept that Clinton has so far won the most total votes and also, nationally, the most pledged delegates. And when they do, it’s because it must be rigged. Or that Clinton’s voters are dumber than they are.

Sniffed one at the Seattle for Sanders site: “Primaries favor the uninformed voters’ choice.”

You know who loves all this? Donald Trump.