Over the coming months, the fight within the Democratic Party will be complicated by the fact many believe the eventual winner will have to appeal to a more moderate general electorate than those who vote in Democratic primaries. Some will call that selling out; others will call it a winning compromise.
There are five candidates so far in the primary race: Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb. Except for Webb they are on the liberal side. Currently the race is Clinton against the others. She remains far ahead in the national polls over her closest rival Sanders by about 50 percent and in the Iowa caucuses she leads Sanders by about 35 percent in the latest Iowa polling average. He is much closer in some Iowa polls and in New Hampshire. The other candidates lag far behind.
The result is Clinton and Sanders are taking the air out of the atmosphere for the other candidates who are having a hard time being heard. That may change in six debates sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee.
The reason the primary is complicated is supporters of the leading candidates are often at each other’s throats and in most elections there is one winner and a lot of losers. In some ways this primary is different. There will be one winner but it is hoped the Democratic Party will win because of the big ideas being debated. Many believe Sanders, actually an independent running in the Democratic primary, is doing so to push some of these big ideas. He is gaining in some polls and his supporters believe he can win. The main icon of the party’s left wing is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). When she chose not to run, Martin O’Malley was setting himself up to be the most left candidate and challenger to Clinton. But when Sanders entered the race most of Warren’s supporters jumped on his bandwagon, which left little room for O’Malley.
Some don’t believe a passionate Hillary Clinton supporter like me really appreciates Sanders. I recently posted on Huffington Post where I was complimentary to Sanders but brought up some of the differences between he and Clinton on gun control and immigration. I quoted Sanders claiming he is a socialist.
As I write this, well over 3,000 people indicated they like the column but there are more 220 comments, most I assume from Sanders supporters, who have attacked me for being a phony when I said I like much of what Sanders is saying. They objected to my characterization of Clinton and Sanders having similar positions on many issues. They clearly believe Clinton is just pandering to the left rather than believing her positions.
The vitriol was interesting since it is not how Sanders is campaigning. Sanders is sticking to the issues he has fought for as an independent and articulating them well. While not believing he is the better candidate, I can still appreciate what he is saying. Therein lies the complex nature of this election.
Sanders could have run as an independent rather than in the Democratic primary. I believe he chose this route because he doesn’t want to be the next Ralph Nader turning the White House over to a Republican.
So what those 200 commenters and those supporting other candidates in the primary should accept is we will all need to come together and support whoever is the Democratic standard bearer in 2016. I believe it will be Hillary and will speak out on why it should be. I expect Sanders supporters will do the same for him and supporters of the other candidates will do that for their person.
But in doing so it is crucial to be civil to each other. We should agree if a Republican gets in the White House and nominates the next Supreme Court justices, that it will change our lives for the worse for decades. A Republican would likely reverse many of the executive orders President Obama signed on immigration and LGBT rights and reverse regulations his agencies are promulgating on environmental and health issues.
We need to come out of the Democratic primary united for whichever candidate wins or we will undermine everything we believe in and will hurt the people we all claim to be fighting for — workers, immigrants and everyday Americans. We will set back the fight for women’s rights and any chance of making progress in securing civil and human rights in both law and in the culture for all Americans.