Democratic unity in balance as Biden and Sanders battle it out

Democratic unity in balance as Biden and Sanders battle it out
© Greg Nash

The success of Joe BidenJoe BidenOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump| Esper orders hundreds of active-duty troops outside DC sent home day after reversal | Iran releases US Navy veteran Michael White Davis: 72 hours cementing the real choice for November OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs order removing environmental reviews for major projects | New Trump air rule will limit future pollution regulations, critics say | DNC climate group calls for larger federal investment on climate than Biden plan MORE on Super Tuesday and his odds as the likely front runner alleviated, at least temporarily, the concerns of centrist Democrats, who were fearing that the moderate vote would be split between several candidates, allowing Bernie SandersBernie SandersOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs order removing environmental reviews for major projects | New Trump air rule will limit future pollution regulations, critics say | DNC climate group calls for larger federal investment on climate than Biden plan Google: Chinese and Iranian hackers targeting Biden, Trump campaigns Sanders: Police departments that violate civil rights should lose federal funding MORE to clinch the nomination with a slim plurality. By all measures, the resurgence of Biden has been encouraging. The stock market rallied briefly the morning following his Super Tuesday victory and, as the race is now down to two candidates, the party seems to be on track to nominate the candidate who may well be the strongest contender to face President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal plan to contain Washington protests employs 7,600 personnel: report GOP Rep calls on primary opponent to condemn campaign surrogate's racist video Tennessee court rules all registered voters can obtain mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 MORE in the general election.

With that said, it is best for us to state our own bias here. Having worked proudly as pollsters for Michael Bloomberg, who had endorsed Biden after Super Tuesday, we share the view of the former New York City mayor that the most important thing for the Democratic Party now is to unite behind a candidate who can defeat Trump and is backed by the will of the voters. Following the results of Super Tuesday, it became clear that this candidate is Biden. So we join with millions of other moderate and liberal Democrats in supporting his candidacy unabashedly. With the recent uncertainties in the financial markets and, sadly, with many public health concerns about the coronavirus, Trump appears more vulnerable each day.

Nonetheless, we still face real challenges uniting Democrats. With Bernie Sanders slightly trailing Biden in the delegate count, with his significant victory in four states including the biggest prize of California, it is clear that Sanders is not going away anytime soon. Furthermore, his combative rhetoric and attacks on Biden, which then began immediately after Super Tuesday, suggest that there could be a fight at the convention, as well as before, for the nomination. Assuming as we do, perhaps prematurely, that Biden clinches the nomination, it then raises the question of how he will unite a divided Democratic Party to win back the White House.


On one hand, it would seem that after the lessons of the 2016 election in which Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMark Cuban says he's decided not to run for president Trump official criticizes ex-Clinton spokesman over defunding police tweet Poll: Biden leads Trump, Cunningham neck and neck with Tillis in North Carolina MORE lost crucial support from voters across the Midwest, Biden would want to have a moderate suburbanite, particularly a woman, on the ticket. So in this case, the clear choice would be Amy Klobuchar, whose endorsement on Monday night proved to be so helpful not only in her home state of Minnesota, but throughout the country, along with the endorsement of Pete Buttigieg. However, the prospect of a possible vice presidential nomination of Klobuchar raises the question of how Sanders and his supporters would react to two moderates on the ticket.

To instruct us on the possible impact of a revolt from the left, we can look to Chicago in 1968. It was back then that the left, for a variety of reasons including the Vietnam War, took to the streets when the nomination of Herbert Humphrey seemed clear after the tragic assassination of Robert Kennedy and the defeat of Eugene McCarthy. There is no indication now that people will take to the streets in Milwaukee, but there is no evidence that there will be a coming together between Biden and Sanders of the type we see in most elections and under general circumstances.

Indeed, given the online behavior of some of the Bernie bros, there is probably reason to worry that the convention in Milwaukee will not be a seamless one. With that said, all of this is speculation given how early we are in the nominating process, with a majority of the delegates still to be selected. However, there must be consideration given to the possible vice presidential nomination of a progressive who supports Sanders.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez certainly would generate enthusiasm among these voters, but she is too young. Stacey Abrams, who lost the Georgia gubernatorial election two years ago, could motivate progressive voters around the county while bringing diversity to the ticket. Of course, Biden selecting Elizabeth Warren, who dropped out of the race last Thursday, could assuage progressives, despite the personal and political differences between the two politicians. Warren ran on a platform of uniting the party while pushing “big structural change” and a progressive agenda, and her selection for the ticket would undeniably engender party unity.

The very large and arduous task of bringing Democrats together after a spirited and potentially divisive contest for the nomination does raise the specter of challenges that could be destructive to the electoral fortunes of the party. While we join with the millions of other moderate and liberal Democrats in supporting the candidacy of Biden, there are also millions of people who are equally as passionate, if not more so, in supporting the candidacy of Sanders and a progressive agenda far on the left.

Indeed, melding progressives and their agenda of Medicare For All, free college tuition, and elimination of student loans, among other things, with the more moderate to liberal agenda of Biden, will be a challenge, as well as bringing the two factions of a fractured Democratic Party together. It is a tremendous challenge, but success in November depends on it.

Douglas Schoen is a pollster and the president of Schoen Consulting. Carly Cooperman is a pollster and chief executive officer of Schoen Consulting. They were advisers for the presidential campaign of Michael Bloomberg.