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Petty tribalism has no place in the 2020 cycle…

July 7, 2019, 10:52 AM

Here we go again.

The 2020 election cycle is very much underway, and one of the top-tier candidates is Bernie Sanders.  Sanders, you may recall, is an independent senator from Vermont who ran in the 2016 election cycle, and came in second place to Hillary Clinton, who went on to lose in November.  Back in 2016, we saw a lot of people saying, “Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat,” and they used that as a reason that people should not vote for him, and how if he wants to run as a Democrat, then he should join the party, for whatever that’s worth.  In any case, with hindsight, you can see how well all of that petty tribalism worked out.  The Democrats ended up nominating the worst possible candidate in Hillary Clinton, and she ultimately lost the race to Donald Trump, who should have been an easy candidate to defeat, because he’s a complete buffoon who had no experience in government.  One could write volumes about what went wrong in 2016, including the complete shutout of the Sanders constituency after the nomination was secured, the choice of a boring vice president who added nothing to the ticket, and so on, but the bottom line is that the Democrats lost, and lost pretty badly.  Sure, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but the popular vote unfortunately is not what gets someone into the Oval Office under our system.

And then recently, when a friend posted an article from Business Insider titled “25% of Bernie Sanders’ supporters don’t trust the Democratic National Committee to run a fair 2020 primary“, it generated the following comments:

“Well since he is not a Democrat… or is he now… One cannot run or control something of which one refuses to be a part.”

“If one wants to criticize the DNC process and be taken seriously, one should be a member of the party.  It’s their primary, so they get to set the rules.”

How quickly people forget the lessons from 2016.  People played the tribalism game then, and it didn’t serve anyone very well. It would behoove everyone to drop that narrative as quickly as possible, because it will only serve to divide, and the Democrats need unity right now more than anything.  A divided party with hard feelings all around, as happened in 2016, will result in a second Trump term, and we don’t want that.  The whole idea of petty tribalism also is fairly contrary to what the Democratic Party is supposed to be: the “big tent”.  When the Democrats moved away from the “big tent” metaphor in 2016 and started shutting out different groups, they lost.

My stance about Bernie Sanders’ candidacy is that by virtue of his running in the Democratic race, he is, for all intents and purposes, a Democrat.  Considering the way that our electoral system currently operates, it locks in two major political parties, and third parties have little to no chance to prevail.  Thus if you are actually in it to win it, and not just trying to get attention, you pick one of the two parties and run with them.

The question really should be, what makes one part of a political party?  You don’t pay dues to a political party, so that sort of measurement is out.  Using voter registration to determine membership is also out, because 19 states don’t ask voters to declare political party at all in the registration process.  So by that metric, there are no members of any political party in those 19 states.

Additionally, in the states with closed primaries, what one registers as may have nothing to do with actual political beliefs.  I initially registered as an independent when I moved to Maryland, but later switched my registration to Democratic because of how heavily Democratic Montgomery County is.  Thus if I wanted a say in who was running my local government, where the Democratic primary is typically the deciding contest and the general election is a formality, I had to be a registered Democrat.  When Elyse and I voted in the primary in 2018, the guy behind us was a registered Republican.  I couldn’t help but think how his vote counted for nothing because of how strong the Democratic party is in MoCo.  If it tells you how weak the GOP is in MoCo, our Republican governor, Larry Hogan, completely ignored the guy running for county executive on the Republican side (Hogan, meanwhile, was reelected with 55.4% of the vote).

Then, in his home state of Vermont, Bernie Sanders won the Democratic senatorial primary all three times that he’s been up for election, getting 90-some percent each time.  Thus Sanders was the official Democratic nominee for senator each time he’s been up.  Considering that he also caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate (i.e. for purposes of determining the majority party, Sanders is considered a Democrat), I’d say that Sanders has a pretty good claim to being a Democrat, despite his “independent” label.  Makes these people who engage in petty tribalism because of Sanders’ independent label look pretty silly, if you ask me.

In any case, the Democratic primary race is looking like it’s going to be pretty interesting.  There are 25 people vying for the nomination on the Democratic side.  Mind you, with a field like that, you can probably split it into two tiers, i.e. the ones that are likely to last longer than a couple of primaries and those who won’t.  For instance, John Delaney, the former congressman from Maryland (and my representative for about a year), despite having declared in 2017, still has very little name recognition, and so I place him in the lower tier.  I’m guessing that he will be out before Super Tuesday.  Also, Trump has been primaried, as former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld is running on the Republican side.  That gives the Democratic party a major advantage, since history shows us that when a sitting president gets a primary challenge, they usually lose in the general election.  Thus it behooves the Democrats not to screw it up.  That means that they need a unified party and a really solid candidate.  After the way 2016 went down, I don’t know if I can trust the Democratic party to not screw it up.  I am still backing Bernie, as I did in 2016 (I’ve been a Bernie fan for about twelve years now), but I would also be content with Elizabeth Warren or a few others.

But in the end, whoever wins the nomination has to work a lot harder than Hillary Clinton did in bringing everyone together.  The left is a fickle bunch, and will stay home if they’re unhappy.  Hillary Clinton was content to let the more leftist wing of the Democratic party leave the “big tent”, and she lost.  The next Democratic nominee has to do better, and keep everyone engaged, if they’re going to unseat Donald Trump.

Categories: National politics