KOKOMO  — I rarely find myself giving unsolicited advice to the Democrat Party, but this may be the time to offer some based on my real life experience. After all, if you don’t gain wisdom as you age and gather experiences, both good and bad, what the heck are you doing? The advice that I have to give is in regard to the current effort by Democrat Party insiders to nuke Bernie Sanders as a threat to win the nomination to be their party’s standard bearer in the 2020 presidential election.

Here is my advice for those actively pursuing the “Never Bernie” strategy: Don’t even think about it!

It sends shivers down the spine of every insider Democrat to imagine what President Trump might do to Sanders and down ballot candidates in a head-to-head campaign. They see not only another loss to Donald Trump, but also the loss of their House majority and a potential strengthening of the Republican majority in the United States Senate. Yes, a Sanders candidacy even potentially spreads disaster down to state and local election levels. After all, how would you like to be a reasonably moderate candidate for state representative in Moose Heel, Minnesota, and have your election jeopardized by political ads focusing on the Sanders/Castro lovefest?  

I know, I know, Bernie has never been a “real” Democrat. He runs as an independent, a Socialist or a Democrat Socialist to suit his needs. He’s as old as Methuselah, has health problems and doesn’t play nice with others. He makes opposition research amazingly easy because of his many pro-Communist comments and his verbal attacks on Israel, the free enterprise system and other beliefs that many Democrats hold as dear as most Republicans.

There are a hundred reasons to conspire as a party to deny Bernie Sanders the nomination and only one to not do it. The sole negative reason is that it will shatter the Democrat Party in two.  

I intimated earlier that I have some experience on this issue. In 2016, Donald Trump was not my favorite Republican candidate. In fact, he was not even in my top 15. I found his personal demeanor to be repugnant and boorish. Trump surprisingly started piling up wins and delegates and his opponents started dropping one by one. “Big ears” Marco Rubio, “Low Energy” Jeb Bush and “Ugly” Carly Fiorina all folded under Trump’s verbal insults. By the time the Republican circus came to Indiana, all that were left in addition to Trump were “Lyin” Ted Cruz and John “I don’t even rate an insulting nickname” Kasich. This was when most Republican establishment types had a real “WTF” epiphany and tried to launch a much-too-late effort to stop Trump.

I personally felt that Donald Trump could mean the end of the Republican Party. In an interview with Politico.com before the Indiana primary, when asked if there was any way that I could see myself voting for Donald Trump I answered, “Well I suppose if Satan was the Democrat Party nominee, then I might consider it.” This somewhat innocent response came at the end of a very long interview, but you can guess how Politico framed it with their headlines. Let’s just say that my comment received undo attention from Trump supporters, about 3,000 of them, who flooded my emails, voicemails at work and voicemails at home. These were not particularly nice emails although a few did not end with the perfunctory, “I hope you die in a flaming car wreck with Ted Cruz, John Kasich and the rest of your disgusting family.”

By the time of the May primary, some strategists were plotting to steal the nomination from Trump at the Republican National Convention. I was approached by some of these operatives, but after Trump won Indiana in a landslide, I resigned myself to the inevitability of his ultimate nomination. To continue the folly of trying to deny Trump the nomination in the face of his huge popular vote would have been the destruction of the Republican Party in presidential politics for decades. Better to go down in defeat in the 2016 election than to lose for the rest of my lifetime.

What should have been a fun and thrilling convention in Cleveland was a somewhat depressing coronation. Sure, I held up signs, clapped and cheered on cue, but my heart wasn’t in it as I felt the party of Lincoln and Ronald Reagan was rushing for the edge of the political cliff.

My turning point on Donald Trump came as Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton as their candidate. Well, in this good ole boy Hoosier’s humble opinion, the Democrats didn’t nominate Satan, but they did nominate a close associate. This is what finally got me on the Trump Train.

As time unfolded, in my capacity as both a Republican county chairman and Indiana 4th District chairman, I came to see the potential benefit of bringing into the polling booths an army of new voters who had previously distrusted the system as rigged and hopeless. I believed that someone voting for the first time because of Donald Trump might just vote for our United States Senate candidate, Todd Young, and our governor candidate, Eric Holcomb, not to mention all of the rest of our Republican candidates.  My suspicions were correct. In fact, by the morning of the November election, I predicted to a long-term political friend that Republicans would make a clean sweep of both the presidential election and the key state and local elections. My reason, the pro-Trump energy had united and energized everyone.

It appears to me that the typical Bernie Sanders wild-eyed supporter is just the opposite side of the same coin as the typical Donald Trump faithful. They are people who were or are unhappy with the status quo and who were or are looking for a radical answer to the many problems that our country faces. They are an army of what the sociologist Eric Hoffer called “the True Believers.” They are a most valuable component of any meaningful mass movement. They are also not a force to trifle with.

My transformation from a stop-Trumper to a pro-Trump advocate has evolved not because he showed he could beat Hillary and turn out new voters. Yes, that was my early cynical view. My support for Donald Trump is now based solely on results. I still get a little squeamish at his Twitter comments, boastfulness and personnel management.  

That being said, he has strengthened our national defense, reinvigorated our economy, cut and slashed government red tape, transformed both the appellate and supreme courts with outstanding appointments, and reversed decades of the exportation of American jobs to our fiercest competitors. Trump is a disrupter in an amazingly successful way!

This brings me back to Bernie Sanders. Democrat leaders are faced with the unenviable choice of nominating Sanders and risking devastating losses at the November polls or interceding to stop Sanders and risk fracturing the Democrat Party beyond repair. To those Democrat string-pullers who are tempted to interfere in the nomination process, take it from one who has stared into the abyss and then stepped back, if you are considering using your institutional muscle to deny Bernie Sanders the nomination, don’t even think about it! 

Dunn is the former Howard County Republican chairman.