With the New Hampshire primary tomorrow, some of the would be Democrat 2020 presidential nominees seem to have forgotten a few basic principals: trashing your opponents (i) it invites return fire from your opponents, and (ii) in the long run likely only helps Donald Trump, a many who poses an existential threat to America and its democracy. Among the worse offenders? Bernie Sanders, of course, followed by his followers who bear a frightening resemblance to Trump's MAGA followers when it comes to blind zealotry (many refused to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and, by default, voted for Trump - four years latter, they seemingly have learned NOTHING). Making matters worse, Sanders is not even a Democrat but rather is feigning to be a Democrat based on what's in it for him. Trump, no doubt is watching and applauding the Democrat's self-inflicted injury. A column in the Washington Post looks at this disturbing phenomenon (a second piece in the New York Times found here does the same). Here are excerpts from the Post:
A few years ago, I was on a research trip to Belarus, a country known as “the last dictatorship in Europe.” The government is led by Alexander Lukashenko, an autocrat who rules by fear, repression and violence. Minsk — the capital and a living urban museum for the Soviet Union — is still crawling with secret police.In the shadow of brutalist Soviet-era buildings, I met with several major figures from the Belarusan opposition. From presidential candidates to activists, they had all correctly identified the problem: Change was impossible until Lukashenko was toppled. So long as he was in charge, all was lost. Nevertheless, every time I mentioned one opposition candidate to another opposition figure, the response was similar: “She’s not part of the real opposition” or “He’s basically the same as Lukashenko.” . . . . When election day rolled around, they would stay home rather than vote for their tarnished second or third choice.
Authoritarian regimes teach a crucial lesson: So long as the opposition attacks itself, the ruler survives. Divide and conquer is an effective strategy for incumbents to remain in power — but it works best if the opposition devours itself first.
The United States is obviously not Belarus. We’re still a democracy. But we are facing an unprecedented challenge to our long-standing institutions. If Democrats don’t learn the right lesson, President Trump will win, too.
Yes, it’s important to get the right candidate — and that candidate needs to be battle-tested in a competitive primary. And in ordinary elections, you should vote for any plausible candidate that most matches your ideological and policy preferences. But the 2020 election is no ordinary contest. It’s an emergency. If you’re being driven off a cliff, you don’t need to find your favorite Formula-1 driver. You just need someone to take the wheel and stop the impending carnage.
Trump’s reelection would constitute an existential threat to our republic. He has already tried — repeatedly — to subvert our free and fair elections. He will do so again. When democracy itself is on the ballot, pro-democracy forces don’t have the luxury of just winning the argument. They have to win the election.
In 2016, Trump took a scorched-earth path to the White House. He understood that he could never win over much of the country. But he could try to torch his opponent so much that millions of voters would see him as the lesser evil, vote third party or stay home. It worked — just barely.
In early 2020, Trump’s approval ratings are underwater in eight crucial swing states: Michigan (minus 12 percent), Pennsylvania (minus 6), Wisconsin (minus 6), Arizona (minus 4), Florida (minus 4), Georgia (minus 5), Iowa (minus 5) and North Carolina (minus 7). He’s barely afloat in Texas. Trump will lose to a highly motivated and unified opposition that nominates a candidate who can win in those crucial states. If Democrats let Trump divide and discourage them — or Democratic voters refuse to be ruthlessly pragmatic in picking a candidate — he will stay in power.
To win, Trump needs Democrats to be complicit. They have to turn on each other. They have to administer endless purity tests. And they have to stay mired in petty spats rather than reminding voters of the felonies, the vulgarities, the racism, the sexism, the endless scandals, and the high crimes and misdemeanors of a wannabe despot. Heading into New Hampshire’s potentially decisive primary, Trump has so far found quite a few willing accomplices.
[I]n a recent Emerson poll, just 53 percent of Bernie Sanders supporters and 50 percent of Andrew Yang supporters said that they would vote for a Democratic nominee who wasn’t their favored choice, compared to 90 percent of Warren supporters, 87 percent of Biden supporters, and 86 percent of Buttigieg supporters. I understand that frustration. But if you don’t like the eventual Democrat at the top of the ticket, at least vote for democracy.
Sadly, I remain convinced that Sanders cannot win. He should not even be running as a Democrat. Likewise, some others languishing in the polls and the Iowa vote need to stop the attacks on those who might be able to defeat Trump.We have to keep laser-focused on the big picture: Donald Trump is an unprecedented threat to the republic. Democrats need to lay out a strong and positive vision that contrasts with Trump’s divisiveness and chaos. In the meantime, they cannot afford to blow up their opponents’ blemishes into disqualifying disasters. Democratic voters need to pick someone who can win and then unify behind that person. Unless that happens, we all lose.