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The Democratic demolition derby

Greg Nash

Infighting within the Democratic Party was a major contributor to the first Trump victory, and it could pave the way to another. The wrecks from this year’s Democratic demolition derby are the biggest obstacles to the party’s victory in November.

A recent national survey by Quinnipiac University matched up the Democratic candidates in trial heats against President Trump. Support for the Democratic candidates ranged from 48 percent to 51 percent, and all of them led Trump. But the most striking thing about the survey was that Trump was struck in a very low and narrow range, from 42 percent to 44 percent. These numbers reflect the fact that the president’s job rating has been struck in the low 40 percent range for most of his presidency. If all the Americans who oppose him stick together and vote against him in November, Donald Trump will not win a second term.

The battle between the aggressive progressives and the moderate pragmatists in the Democratic Party rages fiercely, and it’s time for both sides to cool their jets and tone down the incendiary rhetoric. Both wings of the party will share the blame if the president wins his reelection campaign.

Any attempt by the Democratic Party establishment to gang up on Bernie Sanders will backfire.

If party bigwigs manipulate the party apparatus to block the senator from Vermont, it will increase his support now and alienate his supporters, who might not vote this November is another candidate wins the nomination. Research conducted on the  2016 election indicates that about a tenth of voters who supported Sanders in the nomination fight went for Trump in November 2016. That figure doesn’t include the Sanders supporters who didn’t even vote, or voted for a third-party candidate, in November 2016. These defections and inactions contributed greatly to Hillary Clinton’s failure to win the electoral votes she needed in the industrial Midwest.

The former first lady’s recent attacks on Sanders’ 2020 candidacy are a godsend to Trump. Her claim that no one likes Sanders may be true in her circle of friends but clearly ring hollow to the millions of voters who adore him. The 2016 Democratic nominee is in a better position than anybody else to say “I told you so,” since she warned Americans four years ago about the threat that Donald Trump posed to American democracy and human decency.

Clinton would do herself and her party a great service if she focused her fire on the president and not fellow Democrats. When she criticizes Sanders, she sounds like a sore loser. When she attacks Trump, she comes across as the clairvoyant who was wise enough to see the threat posed by Trump, which sadly became reality.

Some of the ardent Sanders supporters would also be well served if they dialed down the rhetoric a few notches.

The bright blue line for this year’s nomination battle is support for Sanders’ single-payer “Medicare for All” proposal or for a public option to expand the reach of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Some Sanders supporters have accused former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of being closet Republicans because of their opposition to Medicare for All.

But both Democrats support an expansion of ObamaCare that would horrify any Republican in Washington. While the president and congressional Republicans have done everything they can to gut ObamaCare, Biden and Buttigieg are taking friendly fire for fighting to expand the program. It just doesn’t make any sense to fight any proposal that would bring health insurance to the millions of Americans who gained it under Obama but lost it under Trump.

The Culinary Union in Nevada was the target of vicious attacks from Sanders supporters for saying that members would be better off with their hard-won union health insurance benefits than they would be with Medicare for All. The Culinary Union in Nevada has been the foundation of progressive politics in the Silver State for decades, and the insults that leaders of the union endured from Sanders supports are beyond the pale.

All Democrats should commend Sanders for asking his supporters to refrain from abusive and insulting attacks. Even one of the Vermont senator’s most ardent supporters, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), acknowledged that it would be difficult for him to get Medicare for All through the Senate if he becomes president. So Sanders supporters might want to cut Biden and Buttigieg a little slack on health care.

The president has done everything he can to move America backward. All the Democratic candidates want to move the nation forward. The only question is, how far forward and how fast?

During the summer, I walked on a beach with a sign that warned people against throwing trash in the ocean. My version of that warning would be that the candidate you trash now will be the candidate you will have to swim with in November. If Democrats don’t hang together this year, we all will hang separately over the next four.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Deadline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.

Tags 2020 presidential campaign Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Medicare for all Pete Buttigieg Political positions of Bernie Sanders Progressivism in the United States quinnipiac university

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