We are just days away from the first political contest of the 2020 presidential election. From Iowa, the race will snowball to Super Tuesday in March. There will be political carnage. The media will hype every move and every breathless moment of the scramble for votes on the ground and the disruption caused by billionaires spending to swoop-in from the airwaves. There will be maps and charts and hot new cable television graphics laying it all out in nauseating detail.
None of it really matters. None of the big questions of the season matter at this point save one: Will the Bernie Bros and the Warren Warriors join forces to unite the Left and wrestle control of the Democrat Party from the remaining beleaguered moderates?
The recent spat between Warren and Sanders which boiled over into this week’s final Democrat debate before the Iowa Caucuses is a critical moment in the campaign. One of these two candidates is poised to go the distance. Each of them have benefitted from the failure of other candidates on the left to survive the contest thus far.
Sanders and Warren are polling 19.2 and 16 percent respectively. Their bloc of votes together, however, could reach more than 40 percent, especially since Yang and Booker supporters are likely to transfer to a candidate on the left as the contest progresses.
If the two leading candidates on the Left unite their forces, they can be the most significant force in the Democrat Party. If they fight among themselves, they will fail to gain enough traction.
Some continue to post the theory that Democrats are overall more moderate than either Sanders and Warren so they are still outliers within the Party. Four or eight years ago, that may have been true, but the Democrat primary voter is further to the left today than ever before. The Left, with its hordes of activists and grassroots infrastructure, has the enthusiasm in the current contest, not moderates or right-of-center Democrats.
Bloomberg is hoping for chaos between Sanders and Warren, forcing their supporters to turn to him as a compromise candidate while he peppers moderate Democrats with ads about his supposed more common-sense approach to governing.
Here’s the catch. Bloomberg won’t be able to buy the real enthusiasm that both Warren and Sanders have long worked to earn from millions of left-wing Democrats. That drop-off in energy could be significant, even if the former New York City Mayor manages to blanket the airwaves enough to make it a race to the convention. An enthusiasm deficit can also be devastating during a general election.
Biden and Buttigieg can appeal to moderates, along with Klobuchar. So can Bloomberg by obfuscating his radical positions on a host of issues (money buys perception). Far fewer Democrats, however, would be willing to engage those campaigns with real passion, especially given a strong economy and job market.
Much is being made about the Democrat Party’s leftward sprint in recent years and for good reason. The ideas of both candidates speak to a growing segment of our politics that looks to complete Barack Obama’s “remaking of America” in a fashion the majority of us realize would leave our country virtually unrecognizable.
A possible Warren-Sanders pact would be a political earthquake. While the candidates have their differences, there is more that unites them than divides them. A consolidation of their political power and infrastructure would unite the Left and signal a new era for Democrats. Their radical platform would ultimately cost them the presidential election but give both Warren and Sanders influence over the machinery of the party and its ideological direction for years to come.
All the current political theater and forecasting for the primaries will mean little if they shake hands again and move on together. If they don’t, the consequences make a Trump victory even more likely.
Tom Basile has been part of the American political landscape from Presidential campaigns to local politics. He served in the Bush Administration from 2001-2004, as Executive Director of the NYS Republican Party and has held a range of senior-level communications roles in and out of government. Basile's critically-acclaimed book, "Tough Sell: Fighting the Media War in Iraq" (Foreword by Amb. John R. Bolton), chronicles his time in Baghdad fighting media bias and driving fairer coverage of the Iraq war. In 2011, he was featured in Time Magazine's Person of the Year spread about political activism around the world. Basile is an adjunct professor at Fordham University, a local elected official and runs a New York-based strategic communications firm. He is a member of the New York Bar and sits on a number of academic and philanthropic advisory boards. Learn more about him at TomBasile.com or follow him on Twitter @Tom_Basile. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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