The odds may be against it, but let’s say that lightning strikes (or the FBI does) and Hillary Clinton somehow manages again to be denied the opportunity to bless the nation with her exceptional leadership talents.

All the attention has been on the Republican race, where if the polls are to be believed, the only thing between Donald Trump and the party’s presidential nomination is a half-dozen pages on the calendar.

That premise still has to be tested in actual voting. But if he’s the one Republican voters want, he’s the one they will get, and we will all live with the consequences.

However, there also remains some question about whom the Democrats might nominate if Clinton reprises her 2008 success in triumphantly snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.

Right now, assuming the hubris that dogs the Clintons has something in store for her soon, the eyes of Democratic voters would perforce come to rest on her sole credible opponent, Sen. Bernard Sanders.

That worthy gentleman, a proud socialist leading strongly in New Hampshire polls and rising in Iowa, may seem to have little chance of election, but there are doubts about Clinton’s odds, too, even if she gets her party’s nod.

But if she doesn’t, the former “Republican” mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who could buy Donald Trump and have multiple billions left over, is making noise about an independent run.

Some backers apparently think he could garner votes on the right with his fiscal and anti-crime record, while his attacks on firearms rights and his Big Nanny campaigns against snack foods could appeal to leftists.

Still, such stands could also be turnoffs on both sides. But his recent pledge to invest $1 billion of his own money if he decides to run makes him a credible threat, at least at the Ross Perot level. Heck, he’d probably carry Maine.

But a decision has to be made soon. Most states’ deadlines for getting on the November ballot expire in a month or so.

All of which brings us back to Sanders, who certainly seems like a throwback to a more simple age.

The nation has seen overt socialists run for president before. Eugene V. Debs made a splash a century ago, running five times and topping out at 6 percent in his fourth try. The fifth time he ran from behind bars, having irritated President Woodrow Wilson for opposing World War I.

I myself heard his successor, Norman Thomas, a six-time socialist presidential candidate, when he came to speak in Maine a few years before his death in 1968. His best showing was 2.23 percent of the vote in 1932, and most years he didn’t even rise to 1 percent.

Sanders, should he be the Democrats’ nominee, will do better than that. But it’s hard to believe Americans will ever vote an avowed socialist into office. If it didn’t happen in the Great Depression, it’s not going to happen now.

Besides, since then we have seen socialism in practice around the world, and the results aren’t pretty. Its unwarranted and unbridled faith in government beneficence is the opposite of freedom, and it has left a record of economic failure and cultural decay, often ending in oppression and war, wherever it has been seriously attempted.

Even looking at the so-called “mixed systems” of modern Europe shows us many nations controlled by democratic socialist parties that are on a downward spiral of unemployment, debt and demographic decline that has no future.

Nevertheless, even after this nation’s debt has doubled from $10 trillion in 2008 to an estimated $20 trillion by the time President Obama leaves office (one reason why the words “former President Obama” have such a sweet ring to them), Sanders proposes doubling it again.

According to estimates by The Wall Street Journal, Sanders “is proposing an array of new programs that would amount to the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history. In all, he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade … a sum that alarms conservatives and gives even many Democrats pause.”

And as The Atlantic magazine noted Jan. 20, “Last summer, a Gallup poll found that 50 percent of Americans would refuse to vote for a socialist for president – lower even than a gay candidate, a Muslim or an atheist.”

But Democrats voting in primaries may be less squeamish, especially if Clinton’s many vulnerabilities trip her up.

My guess, if Clinton does a face-plant before the ballot deadline closes, is that we’ll see some new entries in the race. A Joe Biden-Elizabeth Warren ticket would please many now doubtful about November.

But if she collapses later, Mr. Free Stuff For Everyone Because the Rich Will Pay For It is ready, willing and utterly unable.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]


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