Will Clinton Democrats Vote for a Progressive Against Trump?

George McGovern. (Associated Press) ** FILE **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 three out of four voters self-identify as progressives. In 2016 the DNC smooshed their thumbs all over the scale, brazenly cheating the insurgent progressive Bernie 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 Trump? Democrats have been arguing about this ever since.

 Centrists call Bernie’s backers sore losers and say leftists are untrustworthy supporters of a man who never officially declared fealty to the Democratic Party, and myopic beyond understanding. Why didn’t progressives understand that nothing was more important than defeating the clear and present danger to the republic represented by Donald 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 vs. {Warren or Sanders}.

 (If Warren or Sanders drops out it’s a safe bet that 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.

 2016 clearly illustrates the risk of nominating Biden: progressives probably won’t vote for him. Some might even defect to Trump, as did a substantial number of Bernie voters in 2016.

 If anything, Biden is even less appealing to the progressive base than Hillary was. Clinton offered the history-making potential of a first woman president and a sharp mind; Biden is another old white man, one whose repeated verbal stumbles are prompting pundits to wonder aloud whether he is suffering from dementia. Assuming he survives another 14 months without winding up in memory care, Biden will probably lose to Trump.

 If Biden secures the nomination, centrists will again argue that nothing matters more than beating Trump. I see no sign that progressives will agree.

The real question is one that no one is asking: what if Warren or Sanders gets the nod? Will centrists honor their “blue no matter who” slogan if the shoe is finally on the other foot and the Democratic nominee hails from the left flank of the party?

 There isn’t enough data to say one way or the other.

 The party’s silent war on Bernie Sanders broke out into the open earlier this year. “I believe a gay Midwestern mayor can beat Trump. I believe an African-American senator can beat Trump. I believe a western governor, a female senator, a member of Congress, a Latino Texan or a former vice president can beat Trump,” said Jon Cowan, president of then right-wing Democratic organization Third Way, said in June. “But I don’t believe a self-described democratic socialist can win.” On the other hand, he is the “second choice” of most Biden supporters.

 As Sanders stalls at the 20% mark, self-described capitalist Elizabeth Warren continues to receive more media coverage and thus increasing popular support. But would Bidenites show up for her in November? No one knows.

 Progressives haven’t had a chance at the brass ring since November 1972 when George Mc Govern suffered one of the unfairest losses in American electoral history, to a warmongering sleazeball who was forced to resign less than three years later over a Watergate scandal that had already broken out. It was a bitter conclusion to a campaign that was in many ways ahead of its time. McGovern wanted universal healthcare. Like Andrew Yang, McGovern proposed a universal basic income to lift up the poor.

 Even after the party convention centrist Democratic leaders like John Connally formed Democrats for Nixon, an oxymoron if there ever was one, to try to undermine McGovern’s candidacy. It’s hard to imagine their modern-day counterparts resorting to such brazen treason. More likely, they would withhold their enthusiastic support for a progressive like Sanders or Warren.

 If Biden withdraws from the race—a real possibility given his obviously deteriorating mental state and the long arc to next summer’s nominating convention—centrists will have to choose between four more years of Donald Trump and atoning for the sins of 1972.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

6 thoughts on “Will Clinton Democrats Vote for a Progressive Against Trump?

  1. Hillary a war monger? She promised regime change in Russia and Syria on Day 1 in the 3rd debate, after which, the world would have been very, very peaceful.
    If one reads the New York Times, every comment is by a Yellow Dog Democrat. None who work at the New York Times can admit to voting for Trump and keep their job, and one Republican says, if it’s Warren or Sanders, he’ll stay home, otherwise, he’ll vote Democrat.
    So, in terms of electability, I don’t think it makes any difference whom the Democrats nominate: everyone will be voting For or Against Trump.

    • > everyone will be voting For or Against Trump.

      Yeh, that’s how I see it. Taking down Trump is a priority at this point. I’d prefer he go down HARD, preferably through impeachment – but I doubt that’d work regardless of whether the House democrats finally find a spine.

      Secondary to that dream would be a YUGE loss in the primary. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look all that likely either.

      I’d be content if he just goes, I’d even be willing to vote for Biden to see it happen.

  2. I don’t think anyone on this site would strongly disagree with the thesis that billionaires (and even impoverished multimillionaires like the brie-and-white-wine crowd who own the New York Times) don’t like Bernie and don’t want him in the White House. Further, everyone running the show at those two august publications understands exactly what is–and is not–permitted to be said.

    The 2020 democratic primary cycle isn’t being assessed accurately ab initio. Do a Google search for Katie Harper’s scathing FAIR article on the NYTimes’ Sydney Ember and the Rolling Stone article on the Pinocchio kerfuffle at the Bezos Post about Bernie Sanders’ comment on bankruptcy due to medical illness.

    The polls, upon which so much of the (as already shown) distorted coverage is based, have long been decried as being a tool that provides the paying customer with exactly the results he or she wants. Fivethirtyeight, a “best and brightest” sort of site devoted to polling and “number crunching,” got the Coronation of War Criminal Hillary wrong. But still they persist. Right now, they have Joe Biden ahead of Bernie Sanders by one percentage point in New Hampshire. A poll from less than a week ago has Biden ahead by eleven points. This is, roughly, akin to saying that Jared from Subway is eleven points ahead of Mr. Rogers in the “leave your kid with me overnight” poll.

    I think a lot (not all) of the people who backed the childkiller Hillary Clinton in 2016 are trapped in a feedback loop. To back Sanders now would require an admission of error. In that admission, they would be taking responsibility for Trump. And like a whole lot of abusers, they are furious that their progressives-victims have wised up and packed their bags. I am constantly amazed at how the “woke” can’t grasp this. Yes, I’ll let the house burn to the ground–and I’ll dance around the ashes singing songs–because I was mistreated in some way in every single room of that house that you insist I remain inside. And they don’t want to admit that they were the ones swinging their fists every step of the way.

  3. We tend to get hung up on THE reason Hillary lost. Fact is, there are many reasons.

    Bernie Bros & Bernie Brats are indeed part of it.

    So is her gender, many people who would have voted for her if she were male did not simply because she’s a girl.

    So is GOP voter suppression.

    And yes, despite all the noise, the Dastardly Russians did, indeed, have an effect. A recent study by the University of Tennessee has shown that Trump’s popularity ratings increased while the trolls were active.

    Lest I be misunderstood: I am still not claiming that Russia threw our election: only that they tried.

  4. I suspect that Bernard Sanders will be prevented from wiinning nomination as the Democratic candidate for US president in 2020, just as he was in 2016. Elizabeth Ann Warren, however, might make it – the billionaire class have much less reason to fear her than they do Mr Sanders, whose record, unlike Ms Warren’s, shows his consistent opposition to the manner in which they run the United States. In the event Ms Warren does win the nomination of the Democratic Party, I suspect she has a fairly decent chance of defeating Mr Trump ; after all, «Pocahontas» is likely to lose its efficacity somewhere around the 350th tweet.And many people will vote for her due to her gender – at least as many, I suspect, as will vote against her for the same reason….

    One can’t but wonder whom, in the event, Ms Warren would pick as her running mate – one of the male governors who now have dropped out of the running ? Surely not Joseph Robinette ?… 😉