Is the core concern of those who consider themselves ‘moderate Democrats’ that Warren or Sanders might win?
When something has been done one way for many years, and when doing things that way has made a certain group of people fat and happy, it is natural that that group of people will want to continue doing things that way. It is also natural that the much larger group of people who have been hungry and neglected for all those years as a result of the way things have been done will want to do something different. Eventually, the larger group, full of righteous anger, will win. But the fat and happy class will cling tightly to what they have for as long as their swollen fingers can hold on. This is essentially what’s happening within the Democratic party right now. The weak grip of the old guard is being broken, one finger at a time.
The election of Donald Trump and the sudden viability of Bernie Sanders as a candidate in 2016 were both enormous flashing billboards reading “THINGS ARE DIFFERENT NOW”. To fail to read these signs amounts to active, willful ignorance. Many people were surprised by the way things went in the last presidential election, but there is no excuse for being surprised by the same things again.
Four decades of growing inequality and a class war by the rich that has been too successful for its own good have pushed Americans toward political positions that would have been considered fringe back in the carefree 1990s. The extremities have waded into the mainstream. You don’t need to be a genius to understand this basic fact – you just have to watch a little Fox News, look at a few income inequality charts, and have a chat with a couple of uninsured people who are trying to pay the medical bills for their school shooting gunshot wounds via GoFundMe.
People’s patience with the status quo has worn away. Americans themselves understand this instinctively. Political polls confirm it. Donald Trump revels in it. The only ones who don’t seem to grasp it are the wizened establishment figures of the Democratic party, who are making calculations based on a picture of the world that no longer exists.
Joe Biden, the establishment, centrist Democratic candidate of choice, is weak. He’s old; he is showing clear signs of age-related mental decline; he’s an uninspiring speaker, he’s out of touch, and he can’t raise money from small donors. The candidates who can raise that money are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – unsurprisingly, the two people whose policies are most suited to our current reality. The last thing that the centrist Democratic party establishment, a power structure still rooted in the triangulating ideas of the Clinton era, wants are policies suited to our current reality, because the radicalism of such policies would necessarily place the old guard in the trash, at last. And so the old guard must desperately pine for a savior. And we all must endure months of pathetic casting about for a nonexistent Centrist Jesus to rescue the Clinton wing of the party from its inevitable fate. It is like watching a fish fruitlessly trying to flop out of a bucket before it suffocates.
Oprah reportedly “begged Disney chief executive Bob Iger to jump into the race”. Hillary Clinton backers hint darkly that she might still jump in. For those who crave an even more decrepit candidate, Mike Bloomberg and John Kerry’s names have been floated. And then there are the also-ran candidates at the back of the current pack, who are eyed like meat by wealthy donors musing over whether they can be effective Trojan horses for Goldman Sachs. Is Mayor Pete clean-cut enough? Can Klobuchar knife Warren while maintaining a sweet midwestern grin? The desire for some alternative to leftism is so powerful that even Michael Bennet, a man with no demonstrated constituency and the charisma of a cardboard box, is still lurching along, serving no purpose except to pipe up in off-hour cable interviews about how impractical Medicare for All is.
To some extent, this is a normal campaign season ritual: chasing the dragon of the imaginary perfect candidate. But this time, it is not hard to see that the motivation is more materialist than usual. The core concern of those who consider themselves “moderate Democrats” is not really that Trump might win – it is that Warren or Sanders might win. This is a political faction that finds itself caught between its aesthetic distaste for Trump’s social policies and its distaste for wealth taxes, public healthcare, and other policies contrary to their ambition to afford that lake house.
For decades, the Democratic party has been effectively controlled by the sort of people who work at an investment bank but also support gay marriage (at least when the polls say that it’s safe to do so). These people are almost as responsible as Republicans for our current political predicament. Even if they didn’t start the war on terror or the war on the poor, they utterly failed to stop them. The time has come to pay up for those mistakes. The price will be a large chunk of the fortunes that have been built over the past two generations. Those who view socialism as an awful fate are searching in every phone booth for a capitalist Superman to renew the tastefulness of the White House while also calming down the unnerving calls for the sort of equality that can cost a lot of money.
Sadly for them, superheroes don’t exist. There aren’t that many rich people out there. The only way they can maintain their political power is to buy it. They are now experiencing the shocking realization that, in an era of righteous popular rage, big money ain’t what it used to be. Let’s respect their trauma during this difficult transition. We can tolerate their antics for a little while. And then they can suck it up, make peace with the leftists, and pay more taxes, like responsible humans. Or they can take the mask off and vote for Trump. Either way, their disappointing time atop the Democratic party is over.