Members Only | December 2, 2019 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Democratic Unity Matters More Than Any One Democratic Candidate
Don’t worry about turnout. Don’t worry about electability.
We have entered a stage of the election cycle in which the Democrats are pushing and shoving, trying to make themselves stand apart from the rest. Up to now, this has been natural, healthy, and even productive. “Policy entrepreneurship,” by which candidates expand policy views to grow new “policy markets,” is a good thing mostly. It can give voters options in context and, therefore, the ability to rethink their policy preferences.
It’s a good thing—until it’s not. The closer we get to Iowa and New Hampshire, the more that pushing and shoving is going to hurt, not help. Policy entrepreneurship can turn quickly into a circular firing squad if we’re not careful. I don’t mean to suggest the candidates shouldn’t compete as hard as they can. I do mean to suggest the rest of us should remember the big picture. The big picture looks exactly like Donald Trump.
Differences matter, but not that much.
Let’s be honest. No matter who the nominee is, that person is going to enter the general election next fall with the same electorate that every Democrat has had since 2004. Whether it’s Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders or Fill-In-The- Blank, the Democrat can rely on the same cross-section of the nation. That person will have, at the very least, the states Hillary Clinton won no matter the policies proposed.
It’s productive to debate the pros and cons of Medicare for All versus something more incremental, like building on Obamacare with a “public option.” But while we’re debating, its unproductive to lose sight of the larger goal: unseating a demi-despot.
The president cheated to win in 2016 and has cheated again. His party is following his descent into the bile of Kremlin propaganda, which promises to dislodge trust in everything from democratic institutions to the truth itself. Even if a Democrat wins, Trump will rip the last bit of bark off the Republican Party’s id. You thought the “Tea Party” reaction to the first black president was bad? Wait ’til you see what comes next.
Let’s be honest about something else. No one knows the answer to the Democratic Party’s most vexing question. Should the party nominate a “moderate” to attract Trump voters or a “progressive” to energize the party’s base? Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has lots of “evidence.” But no one knows which is correct. Not really. There is no single reason why candidates win or lose. Elections are multiverses of causality.
For this reason, there isn’t much point, beyond a certain point, in debating Medicare for All or any of the sound, valid and legitimate policy positions now taken up by the candidates. Embracing free college, for instance, won’t lead, by itself, to electoral victory or defeat. Same with not embracing free college. Like I said, there isn’t much point beyond a certain point. That point is now, I’d say. It’s time to roll the dice.
Don’t think about. Don’t worry about turnout. Don’t worry about electability.
Just pick a Democrat.
Then, after the results have come in, everyone who cares about liberal democracy, economic justice, civil rights, the environment, the US Constitution and the rule of law—i.e., patriots who stand for the American way—everyone needs to get behind the Democrat no matter who it is. People against Sanders must compromise. People against Biden must swallow their pride. People against Warren must get over themselves. People against any Democrat, same. Trump is the biggest threat to the republic in our lifetimes. Everything on the liberal agenda is subordinate to victory.
Everything is subordinate to victory.
Some will say defeating Trump requires picking an unorthodox candidate who will motivate people who haven’t voted before, or who sat out last election. OK, fine. If that’s who ends up winning the party’s nomination, I’ll take it. But what if it not? What if the nominee is, say, Joe Biden? Am I suppose to accept, given the dangers we face, that it’s OK for voters to stay home? Are we to believe that it’s the party’s fault for not picking the right kind of nominee? I think the better question is: why does it take the “perfect” presidential nominee for some people to recognize their basic duty to vote?
I don’t know the answer to that question (though I have opinions). Whatever it is, it lies at the heart of the current infighting among Democratic candidates and their followers. Odds are the differences between them won’t matter much come 2020. What’s going to matter more than anything is party unity and love for our country.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.