Maybe, like me, your personal feed is still filled with Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE versus Bernie SandersBernie Sanders Texas House Republican tests positive for coronavirus in latest breakthrough case In defense of share buybacks Progressives seething over Biden's migrant policies MORE squabbles, with hardly any break since spring 2016. Seemingly every story has the potential to cause a flare-up, like the greasy meal before the pimple: news of a Russian company’s Facebook buy, Clinton’s new book, Sanders’s “Medicare for all” plan, and a constant stream of 2020 stories. Even news of Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE teaching a course at Brown University caused a Clinton-Sanders fight between my Facebook friends and their friends of friends.
It’s exhausting. But is it real? That is, are Democratic voters overall, not just paid operatives and the most active of activist, still divided? The polling suggests not. In fact, Democrats are far more united than Republicans. First, Democrats are overwhelmingly united in their opposition to President Trump, while Republicans are more mixed. From his first days in office, Trump’s numbers with Democrats have been abysmal. Gallup notes even recent presidents have not had such low numbers across party lines so early in their first terms. And Trump’s numbers among Democrats have barely budged. Much was made of this and similar headlines about Sanders and Trump voters, seemingly validating a common pundit theme that their voters are nearly identical.
Second, Democrats are united on the country’s major political issues, far more than are Republicans. Whether it’s support for gay marriage, abortion rights, or stronger gun laws, recent polling from Gallup, Pew Research, and my own work show Democrats overwhelmingly agree, while Republicans are far from monolithic. Republicans are more likely to support abortion rights than Democrats are to oppose them. Just under half of Republicans support gay marriage, a new high and nowhere close to unanimous in either direction. And even a plurality of gun owners want to see stronger gun laws.
On health care or tax policy, similar patterns emerge. Pew Research found Democrats mostly agree, at 81 percent, that the government has a role in providing health care to all Americans, and 30 percent of Republicans are aligned with Democrats. On taxes, the parties are not even that different, with 41 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of Republicans oppose reducing the corporate tax rate, even if middle-class taxes were also cut, and majorities of both parties think corporations are taxed “too little.”
Third, far from a toxic family feud, Democrats are actually quite united on both Sanders and Clinton. Just last month, the WSJ/NBC poll found Clinton to be less popular than Trump, causing a massive wave of negative headlines. But thanks to my friends at Public Opinion Strategies for running the numbers just among Democrats, we learned she is just about as popular with the base, at 62 percent positive and 17 percent negative, as Sanders, at 70 percent positive and 7 percent negative. Other recent polling from HuffPost/YouGov shows a majority of Democrats are favorable toward both Clinton and Sanders, with the “Clinton wings” and “Sanders wings” each numbering in the teens.
And while Clinton’s new book, “What Happened,” has prompted many to write stories suggesting Democrats are angry at Clinton for her visibility, the polling doesn’t bear that out. Clear majorities of Democrats think every tested potential role for Clinton is appropriate, from book-writing and charitable fundraising to “continuing to influence the Democratic Party.” (Thanks to my friends at Morning Consult for running crosstabs from their recent collaboration with the New York Times.)
Trump is so destructive, so disappointing, and so erratic that it’s natural to want to find something, anything, to blame. And 2016 was obviously intense, making it understandable that operatives are still reeling. In my own house, we still haven’t completely recovered. My husband, Julian Mulvey, was the creative director of Sanders’s television ads, including one Clinton herself called “poetry” in a debate.
I was neutral in the primary, spending months trying to balance my job calling polling balls and strikes, my personal excitement about a first woman president, and my pride in the beautiful moving ads my husband created. Even now, campaign talks come right after our conversations about whose turn it is to give the kids a bath. But watching your fights about Clinton and Sanders is like hanging out with the always-bickering couple or the siblings who relitigate their rivalry year in and year out
The good news is most Democratic voters don’t feel like you. They’re united and ready to take on the real threat: President Trump, his congressional enablers, and the dysfunction and cruelty they promote. As someone once said in another context, there are some very fine people on both sides of this Democratic debate. Let’s follow their lead.