As the Democratic nomination process begins to sort itself out, all sides of this big-tent party need to calm down.
After essentially tying in Iowa and winning New Hampshire, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders now holds front-runner status to win the presidential nomination of a party to which he doesn’t belong. The senator is fiercely independent, leftist and considers himself a democratic socialist. Middle-of-the-road and conservative Democrats worry that makes Sanders vulnerable come November.
Even as Sanders surges, though, it remains possible that a moderate Democrat still could win the nomination. Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg might continue his improbable rise, or Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s momentum from New Hampshire could keep her in the top tier — she finished third behind Sanders and Buttigieg.
Even former Vice President Joe Biden, who has run a terrible campaign, could see his fortunes revived in South Carolina, where many voters hold him in high regard.
In the wings is ex-New York City Mayor (and former Republican) Mike Bloomberg, who won’t be on ballots until Super Tuesday in March. He is skipping the first four contests — a move that, if successful, could upend the traditional nominating process.
As he watches, Bloomberg is blanketing primary states with effective, smart TV ads designed to make voters familiar with his name. He essentially is buying his way into the race; as a billionaire, he can afford it.
For many progressives, the thought of what they view as an “establishment” Democrat winning is enough to make them stay home come November. Many find Bloomberg — whose stop-and-frisk policy policies as mayor are particularly troublesome — the most offensive.
It’s possible that Democrats, rather than rallying to defeat a would-be authoritarian, will tear each other to shreds before the election. That must not happen.
The nominating process must play itself out, with Democratic candidates and their supporters resolved to unify for November. Forget about trying to figure out who might be most electable. Primary voters can’t predict what voters will want come November. Democrats must vote their hearts, be grown-ups if their candidate loses and resolve together to make whoever emerges a winner.
Former Missouri Secretary of State and military veteran Jason Kander had this advice for voters on Twitter: “Stop asking who can beat Trump and start asking: ‘If I could make one of these people President tomorrow, who would I pick?’ If we all do that, the man or woman we nominate will also be the one who — with our help — has the best chance to beat Trump.”
No one is making the stakes clearer than former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a conservative Republican who just dropped his own quixotic campaign against Trump for his party’s nomination.
“I would rather have … a socialist in the White House than a dictator, than a king, than Donald Trump,” wrote Walsh on Twitter last week.
Unlike too many actual Democrats, Walsh has the good sense to say he will vote for any Democrat over Trump. He wrote in the Washington Post that, “Challenging Trump for the GOP nomination taught me my party is a cult. Real conservatives think for themselves. Trump Republicans have been brainwashed.”
It’s ironic that a Republican stalwart can make the case for any Democratic nominee better than Democrats are doing themselves, but such is the case in the upside-down world of U.S. politics today. Here are a few reminders why Walsh is correct.
Just this week, Trump’s Justice Department asked a federal judge to revise the proposed prison sentence for longtime Trump friend Roger Stone — a move that caused four prosecutors to quit the case in protest. The request came after a Trump tweet decrying the length of the original requested sentence.
The president also has been swift to punish those who testified against him during his House impeachment hearing, pushing Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman out of White House duty and removing an ambassador. Most recently, Trump suggested the military should discipline Vindman. He’s just getting started.
The message is clear, writes Peter Baker in the New York Times: “In the days since he was acquitted in a Senate trial, an aggrieved and unbound president has sought to even the scales as he sees it.”
The drive for revenge will not end anytime soon — unless, that is, the American people vote Trump out of office. Joe Walsh gets it. If only Democrats did.