The Best Democratic Primary Conspiracy Theories, Explained

Who’s conspiring with whom? And why is Bernie really so smooth?

Circles and arrows drawn over a photo of Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar greeting one another onstage before a debate.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty/Joe Raedle.

It’s been over a year and a half since the first Democratic candidate announced his candidacy, and we’ve since managed to whittle the field down to a still-incredibly-alarming 11 candidates. In addition to making the debates mostly pointless, such a large primary field also inevitably means more feuds, more screw-ups, and more opportunities for wild, often unfounded suspicions.

Never was this more apparent than during last week’s Iowa caucuses with their Dreaded App. In case you’ve somehow, mercifully forgotten, much of the trouble started when the new app that was supposed to help precincts report results failed miserably, forcing volunteers to attempt to call in results to phone lines that would leave them on hold for hours. The app maker and the nonprofit that owns it, Shadow and Acronym respectively, both have names that sound like a too-on-the-nose Black Cube parody and boast ties to the Pete Buttigieg camp, Clinton World, and the Democratic establishment in general. Naturally, accusations of rigging in any number of directions flourished, despite the most likely explanation being simple, profound incompetence.

But isn’t chaos itself a tactic to conceal the true order of things? Surely there is a pattern—or patterns—to be found in the Democratic disarray. To help you make sense of the various Truths to which you must open your eyes or risk being a pawn in the Democratic National Committee’s globalist game, we’ve collected some of the more prominent conspiracy theories from this election cycle.

Andrew Yang

The theory: Andrew Yang’s mic was cut during June’s Democratic debate.

After Andrew Yang’s first Democratic debate, he logged onto Twitter to share a few thoughts with his faithful followers. Among his reflections was this:

His fans were outraged. “Wait what?! Your mic was off? OMG they taking this to a whole new level. We’re gonna have to do something about this!” wrote @Zhangomango1. “If that’s the case. Make a scene of it next time and accuse them of rigging it which they did anyways. Walk in front of your podium and ask for your mic to be turned back on,” wrote @ADarkSoulAtWar. But Yang’s supporters offered more than just kind words; they also provided proof, sort of.

In the video, you can see Andrew Yang raise his hand and say “excuse me” as Kirsten Gillibrand, too, attempts to get a word in. Meanwhile, Joe Biden looks toward Yang, presumably upon hearing his interjection, before finally turning to face Gillibrand, who continues speaking undisturbed.

According to the Yang-heads among us, this is the precise moment that proves their math daddy’s mic was cut.

A still of July's Democratic debate shows Biden looking toward Yang to his right

In the video’s comments, one user wrote, “Biden isn’t next to Yang but Biden turns to Yang and looks at Yang as Yang starts speaking because Biden can hear Yang. Yet the mic is silenced. It’s obvious. #LetYangSpeak #CancelComcast.” User msanto, too, saw what was afoot: “Biden even looks over at him as if to acknowledge him speaking. Then he realizes what’s going on.”

What Yang might have been attempting to say is difficult to decipher, particularly since his mouth never actually seems to move after the clearly heard “excuse me.”

Still, Yang himself told supporters directly following the debate that he’d been silenced, according to Politico:

“There were also a few times, FYI, where I just started talking, being like, ‘Hey, I’d like to add something there,’ and my mic was not on,” Yang told his fans. “It’s not like if you start talking it all of a sudden takes over the convo. It’s like I was talking and nothing was happening.”

NBC, meanwhile, denied that anything was awry, telling the Washington Post, “At no point during the debate was any candidate’s microphone turned off or muted.”

Case closed, you might be thinking.

You trusting fool.

Mike Bloomberg

The theory: Mike Bloomberg is either a DNC plant or an avatar of the archangel Michael in fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

The presence of a Jewish billionaire media mogul with an established disregard for rules (as they apply to him) and a thirst for power certainly seems like internet conspiracist catnip. And yet most of the theories around Bloomberg center on his self-interest and his potential role as a DNC plant, only occasionally touching on his potential role in the coming New World Order.

The extent of and motivation for Bloomberg’s alleged collusion with the DNC vary from conspiracist to conspiracist. On the lesser end, we have the president positing that he somehow convinced the DNC to let him stand on a height-enhancing box for his upcoming debut in a presidential debate.

And on the more sinister (but also much more plausible) end, we have the idea that the DNC is actively backing Bloomberg. After all, it did change the debate rules in a way that specifically favors Bloomberg, and the former mayor does have two surrogates on the DNC rules committee, as reported by investigative outlet Sludge. So it’s not all that surprising that some, like Reddit user bch2478595, believe he’s a DNC pawn meant to spark a brokered convention:

The current goal of the DNC elites is to have no clear winner. They want the majority of pledged delegates will go to “No one”, resulting in a brokered convention.

Once the first ballot, or vote, has occurred, and no candidate has a majority of the delegates’ votes, the convention is then considered brokered; thereafter, the nomination is decided through a process of alternating political horse trading—(super) delegate vote trading—and additional re-votes.[1][2][3][4] In this circumstance, all regular delegates (who may have been pledged to a particular candidate according to rules which vary from state to state) are “released” and are able to switch their allegiance to a different candidate before the next round of balloting.

The chances of “No one” winning are pretty good. See here.

The DNC will try to unwind the superdelegate reforms they passed in 2017, allowing superdelegates to vote in the first round.

At the convention, the Chosen candidate (probably Bloomberg) will receive a lot of these superdelegates in the first round, not enough to win outright, but enough to tip enough votes in the second round.

On the second round he will receive the most votes and will be crowned as the nominee.

It won’t be “fraud” because this is the way the winner is decided in a contested convention.

On the other hand, perhaps it’s simply divine intervention, as suggested by one user on conspiracy forum GodlikeProductions.com.

Screenshot of a forum post suggesting that Bloomberg will be the next president in accordance with biblical prophecy

When asked to comment on both possibilities, longtime Bloomberg spokesperson Stu Loeser said, “Theologians point out that Michael appears in the Jewish Scriptures, the Christian New Testament and the Muslim Quran. So when Mike Bloomberg says that he can bring Americans together to replace Trump, is he secretly referencing the archangel? I can neither confirm nor deny.”

However, Loeser conspicuously ignored the question of whether Bloomberg was involved in some sort of DNC scheme. Curious, indeed.

Elizabeth Warren

The theory: Warren knew the mic was on when she confronted Bernie after January’s debate, and/or she was conspiring with CNN.

Considering this was part of one of the more excruciating controversies this election cycle, I apologize for even bringing it up. I am, of course, talking about Sanders and Warren’s tiff over whether or not Bernie had told her in private more than a year ago that a woman wouldn’t be able to win the presidency.

The feud between old friends peaked during CNN’s January debate, when Sanders denied ever making the comment, contradicting Warren’s insistence that he had. At the end of the night, viewers got to see a noticeably tense exchange between the senators, but it was not until the next day that audio of their conversation surfaced.

In the clip, Warren approaches Sanders and says, “I think you called me a liar on national TV.” Sanders, taken aback, responds, “Let’s not do it right now. You wanna have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion,” before adding, “You called me a liar. You told me—all right, let’s not do it right now.” Both then turn away.

Because the original report about the past conversation was based partly on “two people Warren spoke with directly soon after the encounter,” there had already been suspicions in more Sanders-friendly circles that Warren’s campaign might have been behind the actual leak. Add in the fact that she was the one who first approached Sanders after the debate, and close observers couldn’t help but wonder.

YouTube comments ranged from “She knew she was mic’d up” to notably more elaborate theories: “More theater from Warren. She knew she was being filmed. This whole chain of events has been carefully orchestrated between Warren, her Obama/Clinton advisors, and CNN to undermine Sanders days before Iowa. And it’s disgusting.”

Anderson Cooper himself seemed to imply there was some intentionality behind the confrontation: “It’s also interesting, Jeff, because they were miked. It was literally the debate. You know, the applause was still going on, and they were aware they were miked. And Senator Warren went over and had this exchange with the camera moving right past them.”

Even parenting forum DCUrbanMom.com got in on the action, with one user writing, “This whole kerfuffle was obviously planned. The only questions I have are 1) who’s she working with? and 2) to what end?”

According to CNN White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny, though, the provenance of the audio clip is much more benign than anti-Warrenites might have hoped:

My colleagues here at CNN spent the day looking through backup audio. It was not recorded from the primary audio system. It was a backup, separate system, and they found it late today.

And not everyone was convinced. Toward the end of that same DCUrbanMom.com thread, a different user notes, “The clip shared shows too people annoyed with each other. You think politicians do not yell at each other?” This raises the real question: What exactly is this DC Urban Mom or Dad trying to hide?

Amy Klobuchar

There do not seem to be any substantial conspiracy theories involving Amy Klobuchar, which is in itself incredibly suspicious.

Bernie Sanders

The theory: Bernie Sanders got cosmetic treatments so that he might have a perfectly smooth, wrinkle-free forehead.

The quickly dubbed Smooth Bernie theory first appeared on conservative news site Free Beacon in a post titled “Bernie Sanders Flaunts Suspiciously Smooth Forehead at Democratic Debate.”

The article seemed to imply that not only was Bernie getting secret forehead injections of some sort, but his alleged heart attack might also have been a ruse: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who made his second appearance in a Democratic primary debate since suffering a heart attack on Oct. 1, was looking spry as ever on the stage in Atlanta—a little too spry, in the opinion of some medically curious observers.”

The debate in question was indeed a mere few weeks after Sanders announced he’d suffered a heart attack, and the 78-year-old senator’s forehead did indeed appear smooth and baby soft, as evidenced by the photo below.

Bernie Sanders, midsentence, holds his arms out on the debate stage
Bernie Sanders at the Democratic presidential debate at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, on Oct. 15, 2019. Win McNamee/Getty Images

And for those still unconvinced about Sanders’ smoothness, a closer look:

A zoomed-in image of Bernie Sanders' remarkably smooth forehead
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Whatever you might think about the reasons behind the smoothness, it’s impossible to deny that, compared with other Bernies like the one below, the above Bernie is in fact remarkably smooth.

A zoomed-in shot of a noticeably wrinkly Bernie Sanders forehead
Bernie Sanders at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa, on Aug. 20, 2019. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

There are, of course, a number of possible reasons for a sudden apparent change in forehead smoothness, namely photoshopping. And in a discussion of Bernie’s impossibly supple skin in r/The_Donald, Reddit’s largest pro-Trump forum, one user wondered if it might not be the man himself, but an image “digitally enhanced like an Instagram filter.”

Unfortunately for Reddit user InVirtute, a spokesperson for Getty quickly shot this particular variation on the theory down, telling Mashable, “Plainly, no this image was not edited. We adhere to strict editorial guidelines and are committed to editorial principles, practices and process.”

One could easily attribute the change in forehead texture to mere makeup and lighting tricks, or to the relaxation that comes with being a front-runner. When asked for comment, the campaign pointed me to this tweet from Sanders’ press secretary, Briahna Gray, in which she says, “I’m just glad people are finally recognizing that Bernie is, in fact, smooth.”

Pete Buttigieg

The theory: Pete Buttigieg is a CIA plant.

This one has been floating around the internet with varying degrees of earnestness for months now and is largely based on Pete’s status as an establishment darling despite his relative newness. For instance, despite having no foreign policy experience (there is, after all, very little reason for a small-town mayor to dabble in international affairs), Buttigieg has racked up endorsements from a number of former CIA officials.

Now, Buttigieg denied any present connection to the CIA in an Atlantic interview elaborating on his time spent at McKinsey (“No, he told me, he was not in the CIA.”). And while the CIA didn’t grace Buttigieg’s list of clients from his time at the consulting firm, McKinsey itself has worked with the CIA in the past.

That last point point, paired with Buttigieg’s initial refusal to discuss exactly what it was he did at McKinsey, was enough for at least one conspiracy-minded blog. From a post on TheCultureChronicles.com, which also ended up making the rounds on Reddit’s conspiracy forum:

So at this point in the story, we have Buttigieg’s only private sector job being a short stint at a CIA connected consulting firm. Then immediately he jumped to Naval Intelligence, where his job description is very vague and he joked that most of what he did was simply to be a driver. If all of this sounds like someone who is trying to obfuscate their true career path, you wouldn’t be alone in thinking that. Buttigieg’s constant deflections about the true nature of his work at Mkinsey and in Naval Intelligence reeks of someone trying to hide their clandestine past.

“Seems the obvious answer is, very likely,” said one unusually cautious Reddit user in response to the post’s title, “Was Pete Buttigieg groomed by intelligence since his time at Harvard?” Exactly how involved the CIA supposedly is in Buttigieg’s candidacy—and how it might plan to use him—seemed less certain. One Reddit user wrote that “the CIA rigged Iowa. If by some miracle they fail to steal the election, they will assassinate Bernie. We are at war, and both parties are the enemy. The US is occupied by a fascist shadow gov’t.” Another seemed to imply that while Pete may not be a direct plant himself, his presence is still being used by the deep state for nefarious ends (aliens): “I am starting to firmly believe he’s there to protect CIA secrets that top candidates on the democratic side would release (aliens). Maybe not groomed and selected, but aided and connected. A company man.”

But, then again, is any of this really new?

Screenshot of a series of posts on Reddit claiming that every president has been part of the deep state

It would seem that no, it is not.