It is often said that we should be careful what we wish for. For months, Democrat leaders have been wishing that the unusually large field of presidential candidates to get winnowed down. They finally have their wish – and it is not a pretty picture. The field has been left to two old geezers supported by bases that seem to have a particularly strong dislike for each other.
The animosity is less based on differences over issues than an entire cleavage on principle. Despite his descriptive as a “moderate,” former Vice President Joe Biden leans quite far to the left – much further to the left than the pre-Sanders Biden. There is little doubt that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has dragged the Democratic Party to the left.
If the differences between Biden and Sanders on the broad range of overarching issues are relatively small, they are extremely intense. The two camps do not like each other. The question is not which leader will represent a party with a unified philosophy – but rather, which faction will control the Democratic Party to the detriment of the other faction. It is truly a fight for the heart and soul of the Party.
Issues aside, Biden represents the establishment that has controlled the Party for generations. Sanders represents an insurgent faction determined to displace the old guard. The Sanders campaign is – as he describes it – a movement … a revolution. In many ways, it is the 2016 Republican contest all over again.
The factional battle within the Democratic Party is not a recent dynamic. From the very start of the presidential season, it has been the Bernie Bros against the Democrat establishment. It never mattered who would be the standard bearer for the old guard, it was to be –and is – a fierce battle between opposing political tribes.
As the political season dragged on, there developed a discernible “stop Bernie” movement. The us-against-Bernie battle line was seen when virtually all the other (establishment) candidates began dropping out and jumping on the Biden bandwagon. The Democrat establishment is no longer divided. They have their champion in Biden.
Can Biden stop Sanders from getting the nomination? Probably, but not absolutely certain. The more important question is, however – at what price?
Uniting the two political bases is not an equal challenge. The nature of the bases is quite different. Should Sanders be nominated, establishment leaders and voters are likely to coalesce – albeit reluctantly — behind his candidacy. They see their mission as defeating President Trump and gaining power for the Party.
The Sanders base, however, is not as likely to come to the Kumbaya table. They are not PARTY loyalists, but rather Bernie acolytes. One of the factors that played into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s defeat was the large number of Sanders’ voters who stayed home on Election Day. They were not only disappointed in his loss – they were furious.
In 2016, there was a general feeling that Sanders was defeated by a rigged system. The emails that were revealed as a result of the hacking of the Democrat National Committee substantiated their belief.
The current seething animosity between the two bases was evident on CNN, when Chris Cuomo interviewed a Sanders and a Biden supporter – Nina Turner and Hilary Rosen, respectively. It turned into a catfight with the combatants screaming at each other.
The gloves have been coming off between the candidates themselves. Biden has gone on the attack against Sanders for his enormously expensive proposals and even his lack of history as a Democrat. For his part, Sanders argues that Biden has been on the wrong side of history – support for the Clinton crime bill and voting for the Iraq War — among other things. Both claim the other is unelectable.
For the next few weeks, the battle will be fiercely enjoined from primary to primary. If anyone gains the prerequisite 1991 delegate votes to secure the nomination before the convention, it is likely to be Biden. That will mark the end of the Sanders Revolution. There is no other Bernie Sanders as an understudy. The socialist revolution will be over for the foreseeable future.
If neither Biden nor Sanders secures the 1991 delegate votes before the Democratic National Convention, there will be a battle royale in Milwaukee – with the potential for chaos – on the streets and in the hall — not seen since Democrats gathered in Chicago in 1968.
Ironically, the best way to keep the Democratic Party as united as possible in the campaign against Trump may be to nominate the man least likely to beat Trump – Bernie Sanders.
So, there ‘tis.