No, Democrats aren’t “losing our damn minds,” James Carville. But growing fatalism about selecting the wrong nominee is unhelpful and unnecessary. As Pete Buttigieg echoed his supporters in New Hampshire, the mantra instead ought to be: “Vote blue no matter who.”
It’s true the candidates are different in personality and substance. There are the authentic progressives: populist Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. And there are the pragmatic center-left candidates — Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
The commentariat insists that party faithful are stuck in the middle and have to pick one side. Don’t believe it. Despite their factionalism, Democratic voters, and the throngs of independents who oppose President Donald Trump and his reelection, have a way out: reconciliation.
A populist and a pragmatist
The only way Democrats can beat Trump is with a ticket that credibly represents the interests of voters across the spectrum of their party. That means one candidate who resonates with the idealistic populist cohort, tempered by one with practical tendencies. Sanders and Warren likely can’t win together; nor can Bloomberg and Buttigieg.
But there are abundant mix-and-match possibilities among the crop, such as Sanders-Klobuchar or Biden-Warren. There are also matchups that go beyond the field: Buttigieg or Bloomberg picks Stacey Abrams of Georgia. Klobuchar picks populist Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Warren picks North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper or Sen. Jon Tester of Montana.
More important than the candidates’ geographic proximity to the Electoral College battlegrounds is ensuring that a ticket can speak for an overwhelming majority of the Democratic Party and America. Hillary Clinton’s worst flaw was the hubris to ignore the millions of Sanders voters in selecting in Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a similarly corporatist molded vice presidential candidate. Again neglecting the will of millions of voters will doubly fracture the party.
This climate of instant viral political ammunition makes cohesion difficult and will hinder the ability to unite at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee this summer. The Sanders campaign has released an attack on “Pete’s billionaires,” while Buttigieg attacks Sanders’ “my way or the highway” philosophy on policy. Meanwhile, Biden has dismissed Buttigieg’s eight years as South Bend mayor — “You’re no Barack Obama” — and Sanders’ New Deal democratic socialism.
At last week’s debate, the attacks were tamer, and that’s a good sign. A united chorus to support the nominee and blast Trump’s lies instead of insulting fellow candidates is the way forward. Obama famously called this the “silly season” in 2008 when seeking to quell incoming fire from his establishment opponent, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, during his first presidential primary.
A Hollywood convention finale?
The Democratic factionalism has, however, led to the real possibility of a brokered convention without a candidate crossing the needed delegate threshold. Whether a candidate has reached the requisite number of delegates by the time of the July 13 convention, it will be imperative for the top delegate-getter to take into account who the candidate with the second most delegates is.
The party’s best hope actually comes from Hollywood. On the fictional NBC show “The West Wing,” Democrats nominated Matt Santos, a fresh face who unifies them at the fictional contested convention with a rousing speech and by tapping a more moderate establishment figure as his vice president.
Brokered Democratic convention? Trump showed conflict, chaos can produce great TV and a winner
“Don’t vote for us because you think we’re perfect,” Santos declares. “Don’t vote for us because of what we might be able to do for you only. Vote for the person who shares your ideals, your hopes, your dreams. Vote for the person who most embodies what you believe we need to keep our nation strong and free. And when you have done that you can go back … with your head held high and say, ‘I am a member of the Democratic Party.’ ”
There is no perfect nominee. But the alternative to Trump will invariably fight against big money corruption, economic inequality, authoritarianism, instability and the vast weakening of our national morale. If no candidate becomes the presumptive nominee by the time of the convention, it could be that the orator who can rally the convention hall —and the viewing public — will win the day.
Then, he or she will have choice: Tap a running mate who unifies the party and country, or lose in November.