Will Clinton Democrats Vote for a Progressive Against Trump?
History, they say, doesn't so much repeat. It rhymes.
The campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination appears to be an exception. Once again, the contest appears to be coming down to a choice between a "centrist" establishmentarian corporatist with institutional backing (Joe Biden) and a left-leaning populist progressive (Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders) preferred by Democrats, of whom 3 out of 4 voters self-identify as progressives.
In 2016, the Democratic National Committee smooshed their thumbs all over the scale, brazenly cheating the insurgent progressive Sanders so they could install their preferred choice, the right-leaning Hillary Clinton. They won the battle but lost the war. Fewer than 80% of Democrats who supported Bernie in the primaries voted for Hillary in the general election. Disgruntled progressive voters -- especially those who sat at home on Election Day -- cost her the race.
Who's to blame for President Donald Trump? Democrats have been arguing about this ever since.
Centrists call Bernie's backers sore losers and say leftists are myopic beyond understanding, untrustworthy supporters of a man who never officially declared fealty to the Democratic Party. Why didn't progressives understand that nothing was more important than defeating the clear and present danger to the republic represented by Trump?
Progressives counter that after decades of dutifully falling in line after their candidates fell to primary-time centrist-favoring chicanery -- Ted Kennedy to a sleazy last-minute change in delegate rules, Howard Dean to a media-engineered audio smear, John Edwards to censorship -- the party's sabotage of Bernie was one crushed leftie dream too far. Democrats, progressives say, had to be taught a lesson. The left isn't a wing; it's the base. Anyway, who's to say that Trump is so much worse than Hillary would have been? At least Trump doesn't seem to share her lust for war.
The fight for the Democratic Party matters because it informs dynamics as well as the strategic logic of the current primary clash. At this writing, pollsters are calling it a three-way race between Biden, Warren and Sanders, but this campaign is really a repeat of 2016: Biden versus (Warren or Sanders).
(If Warren or Sanders drops out, it's a safe bet the surviving progressive receives the exiting contestant's endorsement and his or her voters.)
Democrats tell pollsters they care about electability, i.e., choosing a candidate with a strong chance of defeating Trump. But who is that? Biden or Warren/Sanders?
In current theoretical head-to-head matchup polls, Biden beats Trump by 12 points, Warren wins by 5, and Sanders bests the president by 7. But it's a long way to November 2020. At this point, these numbers are meaningless except to say that there's a credible case for any of the top three as viable challengers to Trump.