The establishment scam of ‘unity’

Unity doesn’t mean what you’ve been led to believe.

Think about it. Where do we hear calls for unity in politics? The term has been thrown around regularly during the current Democratic primary and was pervasive too during the 2016 election.

It is almost always used to express a concern that some progressive upstart is going to harm the Democrats’ chances in the general election, usually by committing the sin of challenging the establishment’s preferred candidate in the first place.

Running against the establishment’s pick, and even worse, pointing out where that pick’s past statements and votes went against the interests of Democratic voters, is considered out of bounds.

Unity consists of, preferably, not running in the first place, but if you must run, the race must be kept solely focused on personality. Never the issues. Never the votes. Certainly never the identity of which individuals and corporations these candidates depend on to fund their campaigns.

The establishment would likely consider the above description to be unfair. They’ll say they merely want candidates to be fair to one another. To treat each other with respect. And, most importantly, to come together when a primary is concluded to focus on winning the general election. In practice, though, it never works like that.

If Bernie Sanders or Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) point out a politician like Joe Biden’s past support for the war in Iraq, the cries for unity come pouring in. But that is not the case when a representative of the Democratic political establishment feels the need to put their thumb on the scale.

Last November, reports indicated President Obama was considering speaking up to stop Bernie Sanders from becoming the Democratic presidential nominee. Leaks just this week indicate he is once again considering doing so. Obama’s former campaign manager Jim Messina spent this week attacking the front-runner as the “worst candidate,” defying both logic and all public polling. 

The one-way war between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) might be the ultimate example of this. Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton’s latest, vicious attacks against Sanders continued a pattern of behavior we have seen repeatedly for years.

Let’s briefly note that every word of Hillary Clinton’s petty attack was untrue. “Nobody likes him?” Not only do people like Senator Sanders, but he regularly polls as the most popular politician in the country. He’s certainly the most popular Senator, and despite the centrist war cry that “he’s not a real Democrat,” he has the highest favorability rating of any candidate pursuing the Presidency. But I digress.

Where is the unity in these constant attacks? Where is the concern that these smears will eventually weaken Bernie Sanders in the general election if he becomes the nominee?

They’re absent because that’s not how unity works. Calls for unity silence progressive critiques. For the establishment, though? Anything goes.

Here’s the thing, though. As sullied as the term has become in recent years, I do still believe in unity. Just not the establishment’s concept of it.  Here is what unity should look like in a Democratic primary.

It is in all of our best interests to conduct a vigorous, substantive, fact-based primary where the various candidates’ actions and policies are fully explored, vetted, and compared. We should do this free from the overly corrupting influence of a Democratic party apparatus that all too often feels that elections are formalities designed to shepherd their chosen candidate through to the finish line.

It should be free too from overwhelming amounts of campaign spending, drawn from special interests and the extremely wealthy, which ensures that candidates appeal not to potential Democratic voters, but potential bundlers and PACs.

This process is our best shot to choose a candidate who reflects the actual desires on the electorate, and that is well-positioned to inspire a unified electorate to engage during the election passionately. 

If candidates want to compare their records along the way, that should be encouraged. If one candidate has a record filled with incomprehensible and indefensible votes, that’s on them. It isn’t their opponent nor the media’s job to protect them from accountability. 

For unity to mean anything, it cannot consist of shielding voters from the truth, but in coming together after this process is concluded in a fair, productive, and fundamentally democratic way.

That is clearly what is best for the voters and the Democratic party’s chances come November. 

John Iadarola is the host and producer of the daily political news show The Damage Report on The Young Turks network.

Tags Bernie Sanders Democratic Party Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Progressivism in the United States Tulsi Gabbard

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

More Campaign News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video