Bernie Sanders supporters remind me of Virginia Republicans except for the fact that rather being knuckle dragging Neanderthals who relentlessly said (and continue to say) the only way for the Virginia GOP to win is to run "true conservatives" while Sanders' crowd says only running an extreme liberal - a socialist in fact - will lead to a Democrat victory in November 2020. Obviously, the 2019 Virginia elections demonstrated that the far right GOP line of reasoning was false as the GOP ran reactionary candidates and suffered a huge defeat. Similarly, in 2018, outside of liberal strongholds, moderate Democrats fared better than extreme liberals in the 2018 mid-term elections. These objective lessons in reality continue to be lost on both the GOP far right and the Democrat far left. So far, the two Democrat rounds of the 2020 nomination process have similarly shown that the vast majority of voters want a moderate candidate. A column in the Washington Post looks at this reality and suggests that the media claims that the Democrat Party has moved far left is a media trope. Here are column highlights:
For all the thunder on the Bernie Sanders left, the most interesting trend in the Democratic campaign this year may be the reemergence of the moderate wing of the party, led by charismatic new voices: former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
In our barbell view of politics, where all the weight seems to be at the two ends, this reality may be obscured: Far more Americans (42 percent) described themselves as independents than as Democrats (27 percent) or Republicans (30 percent) in the most recent Gallup survey of party affiliation. The percentage of people who see themselves in this broad middle has rarely been higher.
The Iowa caucuses fiasco robbed Buttigieg of the impact of his victory there. But it was a startling performance by a young, relatively inexperienced candidate whose strongest message has been the impracticality of social programs proposed by Sanders and other progressives.
While Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, posted a win Tuesday in New Hampshire, the bigger stories there, arguably, were Buttigieg’s strong second-place showing and Klobuchar’s breakout performance in finishing third. The two moderates together carried 44.2 percent of the vote, compared with Sanders’s 25.8 percent. Even if you add Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 9.2 percent to Sanders’s total, the balance is toward the center, not the left.
The more voters have looked at progressives’ expensive programs, the warier they have become. Warren never recovered from her embrace of compulsory Medicare. Voters see former vice president Joe Biden as a spent force, but they still want a pragmatic candidate who can beat President Trump. That yearning for a strong moderate helped Buttigieg and Klobuchar, but the next beneficiary could be former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg in the March 3 Super Tuesday primaries.
Here’s another theme that’s often overlooked: The 2020 successes of moderate Democrats are a continuation of the 2018 midterm election results. The left wing of the Democratic Party, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), got the attention then. But it was the centrist candidates who swung Republican districts into the Democratic column and thus delivered the House for Democrats in 2018.
“Moderate” is one of those limp political descriptors, like “centrist” or “bipartisan,” that suggest a soggy lump in the middle. But the campaign proposals from Buttigieg, Klobuchar and even Bloomberg offer significant change — and in achievable ways. They get that the status quo isn’t working for most Americans. Their proposals for dealing with climate change, wealth inequality and health care share a common virtue: They could actually be implemented without busting the budget or further polarizing the country.
Trump seems to think he can win reelection by dividing the country even more savagely. But for a frazzled, fatigued electorate, maybe this is the season for the “fix it” faction that offers realistic plans for solving problems.
The Democrats can blow this election, for sure. Moderates may have the numbers in the aggregate, but aggregates don’t win elections. Sanders has passion, and unless Democrats can coalesce around a pragmatic rival, the Milwaukee convention could be a bloodbath and the November election a blowout for Trump.
Trump tosses new stink bombs every day. His fans love this carnival of resentment, but polls have shown since the beginning of his presidency that a majority of Americans don’t. Trump World is about raw power, to be sure. But there are some interesting, easily overlooked signs early in this 2020 campaign that maybe the shouters won’t win.
Convincing Sanders' base of this reality may prove as impossible as convincing the GOP far right in Virginia that their extremism is their biggest obstacle to electoral victory.