The Trials and Tribulations of Democratic Unity

Alex Dahlem ’20

Opinion Editor

In a party plagued by struggles to effectively streamline diverse viewpoints, the one thing that seems to unite every Democrat all over the country is the goal of defeating Donald Trump, the most unpresidential president in our nation’s history. As the Democratic primary field continues to narrow one thing has become increasingly obvious: there is seemingly no clear and unifying strategy for how to accomplish that coveted end goal. 

But why is this? Why is it so difficult to recognize that a unified Democratic party machine is Donald Trump’s’ greatest fear in this upcoming election? Why is it so hard to realize that the election of Donald Trump was a racially-driven cry for help from the xenophobic base of the “Republican” party?

Whether you are supporting Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg, or anyone in between, it’s likely that at least one of the reasons for your support is electability. Sanders and Warren tout their ability to excite and mobilize new voters into the Democratic coalition while Biden and Bloomberg run on restoring normalcy and decorum to our government. Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar have tried some variation of those two strategies.

In general, there is nothing wrong with making these electability cases, but the rhetoric and ideological grandstanding that has accompanied these strategies has gone way too far. Sure, the scope of the “Bernie bro” phenomenon can be debated, but Rep. Rashida Tlaib booing Hillary Clinton at a Sanders campaign event was not productive at all. At the same time, establishment Democrats have been unfairly mischaracterizing the significance of Bernie’s rise and the organizing success of his campaign. Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that “nobody likes” Sanders, the motivating statement for Tlaib’s chants, seemingly invalidates the opinions of an important wing of the Democratic party and the inspiring nature of Sanders’ message. This is equally unproductive.

While the argument can be made that this ideological war is a natural primary process meant to test the mettle of the Democrats best and brightest, the 2020 election is far too consequential to be playing petty games and threatening the long term strength of our own ranks. 

Furthermore, the ideological canyons that Democrats are creating between themselves on certain issues are far too exaggerated. Take health care as an example. All of the candidates can agree that the system we have now is not working. Better yet, they can all even agree that expanding Medicare is the best option in order to provide more Americans with affordable health care. That is a far more progressive stance than any Democratic candidate who has run in a general election ever before. Any of the policy differences beyond that baseline, such as destroying private health insurance, exist simply for agenda-setting purposes. The political hurdles that exist in Washington will decide the reality of these policies after the election, but only if Democrats are smart enough to get elected in the first place. 

It is time to learn the real lesson of the 2016 election: Hillary Clinton, one of the most unpopular politicians of all time, won. Her victory in the national popular vote and loss by razor thin margins in just a few key Electoral College swing states is plenty of evidence to support the feasibility of a 2020 Democratic win. 

One narrative promoted by Bernie and Biden supporters alike is that the other will lose the general election should they become the nominee. What neither side realizes is that if we coalesce around whichever candidate becomes the nominee, then that feared outcome of losing is impossible. In fact, if every person that loves to sit behind a computer and fight with others about the most recent debate just went to the nearest swing state in October and door-knocked for a few hours, then defeat would be nearly impossible. 

So stop the “Bernie or bust” and “nobody likes Bernie” rhetoric. Sure, it could be useful in a normal primary season, but 2020 is no normal year. Both ends of the Democratic spectrum need to accept the inherent value of the other side’s point of view on major issues. The only way to guarantee the ultimate defeat of Donald Trump in November is to come together, not to tear each other apart.      

bclark

Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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