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Can Democrats avoid a civil war?

Can Democrats avoid a civil war?

Every political party claims internal solidarity and promises to work to unify the nation.  Sometimes it is true – but more by accident than action.  We already know that the left and right – the Democrats and Republicans – are as divided into warring camps as any time since the Civil War.

We have also seen a worsening of the internal division in the GOP that has been on the rise since the 1960s when the conservative wing started its march to dominance over those known as “Rockefeller Republicans.”  Today the division is between the mainstream Trump supporters and the old guard establishmentarians composed of so-called moderates and disgruntled one-time conservatives.

But what about the Democratic Party?  Is it putting together a winning coalition – or is the party of Jackson (Andrew, not Jessie) on the verge of internal conflict?  With so much attention on the partisan divide and the intramural battling within the GOP, we may be overlooking the movement of the philosophic tectonic plates within the Democratic Party.

Will Rogers once jested that he did not belong to any organized political party.  He was a Democrat.  Would that joke make sense today?

Like the Republicans, the Democratic Party is divided between the pragmatic moderate establishmentarians and the radicals – on the left in the case of the Democratic Party.  The significant difference is that the pitchfork bearers in the GOP took over from the establishment.  That process started with the election of President Reagan and reached a heightened level of fulfillment with the election of Trump.

On the other hand, Democrats survived an assault from the left in 2016 with the primary victory of Hillary Clinton over Senator Bernie Sanders.  Progressive disappointment and anger were at least a factor in the defeat of Clinton in the General Election – with the anti-establishment Democrats staying home or even crossing over to vote for Trump.

This year the establishment wing of the Democratic Party again prevailed over the left-wing revolution of Sanders – and again the hardcore radicals are disappointed and angry.  But maybe not so much.

We must keep in mind that Trump did not win because he was so popular.  He won because Clinton was even more unpopular – although it should not be ignored that she did win the popular vote.

Many argue that the popularity issue now shifts to the Democrats’ advantage.  Those pundits argue – with some credibility – that Trump is more unpopular than the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Joe Biden.  That does not mean that it will be the case when voters start casting ballots.

Our Revolution – which was a wholly-owned political support organization launched by Sanders for his 2016 presidential bid – was left to go to seed after his defeat.  It barely played a role in the 2020 campaign.  Even worse, the assets – lists, donors and volunteers – recruited for the 2020 Sanders’ campaign are not being merged or shared with the Our Revolution folks.  According to some reports, there is open hostility between the old Our Revolution crowd and the 2020 campaign team.

While some of the new players in the Sanders’ campaign are jumping aboard the Biden bandwagon, it is yet to be a seismic shift in allegiance – or even much more than lip service. Supporters like Winnie Wong alleges that “A lot of Bernie’s very active base are really enraged and pretty horrified.”

What has their feathers rustled is a lack of commitment to progressive issues by Biden in return for the support of the radical left.  The former Vice President’s proposals are still centrist – at least within the parameters of the Democratic Party.

While Biden has promised to “work closely” with such far left icons as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – and dangles such left-wingers as Senator Elizabeth Warren or Senator Kamala Harris as possible vice presidential picks – the left fears that such statements are political wallpaper.  When push comes to shove, they believe it will be one of the centrist women, like Senator Amy Klobuchar, who gets the nod.

The members of the left-wing Sanders’ base are not coming to the negotiating table with a lot of strength, however.  They have a candidate who is a two-time loser – and with no future personal potential to lead the crusade in a future campaign – and none of their radical left candidates for Congress were among the Democrat winners in 2018.  The left’s potential assets are offset by potential liabilities.  Which is greater is debatable.

Sanders did not deliver his voters to Clinton in 2016 because he could not. We may be seeing a repeat of that situation in 2020 – maybe even worse.  The issue for the radical left is whether they hate Trump more than they hate being iced out of the prize again in 2020.

Bernie Bros are not dyed-in-the-wool Democrats.  They are what Sanders is — a radical left-wing socialist.  Many see the options between the Republican candidate and the Democrat candidate as a Tweedle Dee/Tweedle-Dum choice – both are pro-corporate capitalists, in their view.

Democrat unity seems to be banking on those on the far left to hate Trump more than they hate Biden.  But that does not take into consideration the potential of a retaliatory vote.  In 2016, there were a lot of Sanders supporters who cast a vote for Trump – not because he was their second favored choice but to teach the folks at the Democratic National Committee not to screw them over again.  Apparently, DNC Chairman Tom Perez did not get the memo.

Biden can talk unity all he wants, but if he does not deliver serious concessions to the left wing, he risks a revolt.  On the other hand, if he does, a lot of those moderate Democrats – especially members of the industrial unions – who are currently leaning slightly to Biden may well teeter back to Trump.

The moment of truth will happen with the approval of the Democrats’ 2020 party platform. The Sanders’ people are the kinds of policy wonks who actually think the political platforms are important to future governance.  Rather than expressing the unified policies and aspirations of the Party, the most significant byproduct of these platforms is the production of heated debate and the exposure of deep fissures within the ranks.

Biden and Ocasio-Cortez can hold hands in public for symbolism’s sake all they want, but if the voters on the far left feel they are once again being locked out – or even dissatisfied with the extent to which the Democratic Party has already shifted to the left – there is a real chance that it will be 2016 all over again.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Lowell

    “He won because Clinton was even more unpopular – although it should not be ignored that she did win the popular vote.”

    Clinton did not win the popular vote, she won the dead vote, the harvested vote and the alien vote

    • Larry Horist

      I understand the partisan sentiment — and I share it — but I deal in facts — even those I do not like. There has no more basis than saying Gore won the election. What can be said is that Clinton won the popular vote because of overwhelming majorities in two states — California and New York. We can be thankful that we have an Electoral College system that prevents a couple of big states from talking over the country.

  2. iitywybad

    “What can be said is that Clinton won the popular vote because of overwhelming majorities in two states — California and New York. We can be thankful that we have an Electoral College system that prevents a couple of big states from talking over the country.”

    Hallulujah, NO ONE has ever made a statement of greater truth than this. If it were in the New Testament, it would be in RED letters. It is equally as true that large numbers of votes in those states are not valid. Republicans should get smart and never release the numbers from their strong holds until the final numbers are in from democrat controlled big city welfare refuges. That would prevent them from “finding” bags of uncounted ballots.

    “We must keep in mind that Trump did not win because he was so popular. He won because Clinton was even more unpopular – although it should not be ignored that she did win the popular vote.”

    I do not agree with this statement – Donald Trump won because he worked harder, inspired more voters from the opposing side, and had a better message that appealed to more people. I knew his late brother, Fred Jr., in 1959 when I was casting my first vote for JFK and Fred was casting his first vote for Nixon. We celebrated our 21st birthdays together and lost touch in the early 60s, but I have followed Donald’s career from the beginning. Donald Trump was unpopular only with the phony elite, the pseudo-intellectuals and their only reason was they knew they could not buy him, control him, nor intimidate him. Everything he advocates today, he advocated in the 80s. I became a Republican with Ronald Reagan when I learned that Fred Trump Sr. and Donald Trump were supporting him, and I’ve been hoping that Donald Trump would run for President since he attended the 1988 Republican National Convention as the guest of George H.W. and Barbara Bush. It was rumored that he would be Bush’s choice for Vice President, but he put that idea to rest in his interview with Larry King. I’m an octogenarian, I’ve seen a lot in my lifetime, and Donald J. Trump is the best great hope for the survival of our country. I know people that had never voted in their life, and others that had never voted for a Republican, and they came out to vote for President Donald J. Trump. THAT is why he won.

  3. American Patriot

    If any Socialist Democrat ever gets power over this country, it looks like all the Democrats want this in the 2020 elections, they all want gun control, and want to control every aspect of your life, tell you what you can do, what you can eat, and waste all your tax money on green new disaster, would only be two class of people the Rich (the Socialist) and the Poor (YOU). This will start Civil War in the USA as soon as one of these idiots is ever elected. No red blooded American will give up their guns, Freedoms, and the American way of life to the Socialist Democrats. No Mercy to any Socialist Democrat, and any supporters, you will be given death for your treason against the United States of America (firing squad, or hanging in public), this will be a lesson for any other groups that try to overthrow our country for Socialism, and our freedoms.