No, that’s not Bernie Sanders about to bitch slap Joe Biden, although I hope that happens in 2020 if both of them run for the Democratic Party presidential nomination… (Above is Sen. Sanders being sworn in by then-veep Biden in January 2013 in a re-enactment.)
Salon.com’s Andrew O’Hehir laments that Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders thus far are the top two front-runners for the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination.*
A Sanders-Biden throwdown would rip the scabs off old wounds, inflame entrenched divisions and cast the party in the worst possible light, making clear on a bunch of levels that it doesn’t know who it represents or what principles it stands for. At a moment when Democrats finally seem to be moving toward the future, this would make them appear stuck in the past.
At least O’Hehir correctly identifies the top two front-runners.
Nationwide polls of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters taken over the past month indeed all show Bernie and Biden as the top two front-runners, both of them in the double digits, while some pundits (most of them identity politicians) actually claim that their favored candidates, who can’t even break into the double digits in the nationwide polls (such as Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and even Beto O’Rourke), actually are in the top tier. (Again, that’s not reporting the facts; that’s trying to get your own candidate into the top tier by lying about the facts.)
That said, I think that O’Hehir unfairly lumps Biden and Bernie together. While Biden doesn’t have much (if anything) more than “Vote for me — I was associated with the last popular Democratic president, Barack Obama,” Bernie has written books about who he represents and what principles he stands for. (Granted, books by most presidential politicians are pretty boring, but you cannot factually claim that Bernie hasn’t put his beliefs, values and ideas out there. He has. Repeatedly.)
Even after O’Hehir proclaims that Bernie being in the race would “[make] clear on a bunch of levels that [the Democratic Party] doesn’t know who it represents or what principles it stands for,” he acknowledges that
[Bernie] is the standard-bearer for the resurgent progressive movement, who galvanized a rising generation and almost single-handedly pushed Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, free college and other issues of economic justice to the forefront of the party’s agenda after 30 years of managerial neoliberalism.
So Bernie is an actual Democrat.** Horrors!
A Bernie-Biden match-up would, however, I agree, very potentially “rip the scabs off old wounds” and “inflame entrenched divisions.” (As far as “[casting] the party in the worst possible light” is concerned, does O’Hehir actually worry about what the Repugnicans think about the Democratic Party? I sure the fuck don’t. Nor do I much care about what the low-information “swing” voters think, even if we need their votes, truth be told.)
A Bernie-Biden match-up would be, to a large degree, a Round Two of the Bernie-Billary match-up: the progressive (the actual Democrat) against the sellout establishmentarian “Democrat,” the one who, when he or she must, can pay lip service to some progressive ideas but who, once in office, does little to nothing (just like Obama did and just as Billary would have had she won the presidential election).
If the conflict between the progressives and the Democrats in name only persists (and it does) it’s because it’s yet to be settled. Things move slooowly in politics. We Berners are dead-set on taking over the Democratic Party, frankly. We began the work no later than with Howard Dean’s candidacy in the 2004 cycle.***
We’re in it to win and we’re in it for the long run.
O’Hehir and others may lament all they want that Bernie and Biden are the front-runners, but thus far (according to the nationwide polls) they are the people’s choice, and in a democracy, that’s all that matters.
It will be the primary elections and the caucuses that choose the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nominee, not any pundit or blogger.
O’Hehir and his ilk apparently believe that what excites them personally — making a relatively nationally unknown but (at least relatively) young, non-white and, preferably, female candidate the presidential nominee — will win the 2020 presidential election.
All American voters, not just the identity politicians who align themselves with the Democratic Party, will vote for president in November 2020.
And given the demographics of all American voters — American voters (i.e., those who actually vote) remain older and predominantly white — it’s probably actually the most strategic to run Bernie or even Biden against “President” Pussygrabber.
The percentage of voters who are white is dropping and the percentage of non-white voters is growing over time, and as today’s youth become tomorrow’s older voters, the nation will, I believe, become more and more Democratic (and, hopefully, more and more progressive) over time. (Indeed, the Repugnicans wouldn’t need to cheat blatantly if they were in a strong position.)
But we’re not there yet.
We’ll get there if we work with what we actually have in the national electorate, not with what we wish we already had.
As president Bernie Sanders can and would, I believe, set us in the right direction toward getting to that promised land.
*Salon.com has gone way, way downhill over the years — I now prefer Slate.com — but I still will read O’Hehir, whose writing is decent enough even when I disagree with him. (He used to write film reviews but then moved into writing about politics.)
**Even though he casually lumps Bernie and Biden together, O’Hehir acknowledges:
It might sound ludicrous to say that Joe Biden is a male cognate to Hillary Clinton with fewer (or at least different) electoral negatives, but that’s approximately true. In fact, whatever populist, mid-Atlantic street cred he may possess, Biden is almost certainly less progressive than Clinton on core economic issues, and not much different in terms of hawkish foreign policy.
Biden is the only prominent figure in the prospective 2020 field to flat-out oppose Medicare for All, a.k.a. single-payer health insurance. He is lukewarm at best on other structural and economic reforms favored by progressives, and has long been a supporter of Clintonite 1990s-style financial deregulation and free-trade policies. (He’s from Delaware, a state whose economy is largely driven by quasi-predatory lenders perched in sinister office parks.)
As a matter of dogma and doctrine he is certain to stake out a range of non-confrontational, “moderate” positions aimed at luring in repentant conservatives and not alienating the donor class. I mean, that worked out great for Hillary, so why not?
***Full disclosure: I didn’t support Howard Dean in 2004, but supported John Kerry, because I saw Kerry as the best candidate to take on George W. Bush and because Dean’s record and personality suggested to me that he’s a fraud, and his subsequent actions and words over the years have proved me right; for years now he has toed the establishmentarian, not the progressive, line.