Vox notices an old ad for George McGovern, and notes that it explains the appeal of Bernie Sanders:
Of course, the same points would equally explain Donald Trump's current popularity, although it would not be in Vox's nature to notice that. Never mind.
Lost in all the lamentations about campaign finance, "special interests," and ideological purity is this: Democracy is inherently transactional, because humans, who thus far constitute 100% of voters, are by their nature transactional. Some would say that is our great strength as a very violent species that might otherwise have killed ourselves off long ago. The more democracy you have, the more transactions you have. The United States has more democracy than anybody, given our almost unbelievable number of local, state, and national elected offices, so we have more transactions in the formation of our government. Those transactions range from the tawdry -- I'll introduce this bill if you give me or my SuperPAC a big contribution -- to the swapping of earmarks or substantive compromises in momentous legislation. Regardless, democracy as a system does not accommodate either moral or ideological "purity" because neither allow for the transactions necessary to resolve disputes within a democracy. The dreams of liberals and conservatives alike will be forever frustrated, just as the disenchanted youth who nominated George McGovern in 1972 or the rebellious conservatives who dumped Rocky for Goldwater in 1964 discovered to their horror come November. In our system, ideological purity always leads to defeat, as Lyndon Johnson and even the sainted Ronald Reagan knew very well.
None of that means that ideologues cannot change the terms of debate on some subject, but it can -- again -- only be done by transactional compromise. In Mitt Romney, the GOP had the most hawkish candidate on immigration that it is ever likely to nominate, yet a huge number of conservative voters stayed away because they did not like his religion, or his nuanced stance on healthcare, or any number of other imperfections. Will conservatives make that same mistake again?