Is the Democratic Party United?

It is time for the Democratic Party to stop making it harder to be a moderate Democrat at a time when they should be making it easier.

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Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with attendees at the 2020 Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) Legislative Conference at the Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel in West Des Moines, Iowa. January 18. 2020. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

In spite of COVID-19 somewhat derailing the U.S. election process, including the Democratic primary, the show will go on in November. Both parties will make certain the long-awaited, much-anticipated moratorium on Donald Trump’s presidency takes place on schedule.

Democrats are feeling confident.

Joe Biden, a moderate willing to work with progressives- at least in theory- has been essentially named the Democratic nominee. Favorable polls have shown Joe Biden beating Donald Trump handily. Important, well-known Democrats- including Joe Biden’s chief rival for the nomination Bernie Sanders and his former boss former President Barack Obama- have endorsed Biden in a unified front.

Trump is dealing with the nightmare of COVID-19.

But polls lie; as they did in 2016. And polling methods haven’t been much improved since then. Progressives who wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders, and have been denied the opportunity twice, aren’t all onboard with Joe Biden.

Joe Biden is now facing a serious sexual assault allegation. And though many on the left are inclined to write it off, they are fools if they think this will be as easy as dismissing the claims as politically motivated and refusing to discuss the matter further.

But “What should Democrats do about the sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden?” As progressive stalwarts like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have said, we can’t just ignore it for the sake of expedience and hope it goes away.

Doubting Biden accuser Tara Reade’s sexual assault claim because Reade supported a series of Biden’s rivals for the nomination won’t cut it, either. Who else would she support? Would the New York Times find Reade more or less credible had she supported Joe Biden?

There are cracks in Democratic unity. And they are best viewed in contrast with the Democratic Party’s chief political opponent; Donald Trump.

Republicans love Donald Trump. He has a 94% approval rate. Republicans who signed the “Never Trump” letter in 2016 warning voters that Trump would wreck the economy, start WWIII, and authorize the U.S. military to use torture are either converts to the Trump agenda or they have been relegated to obscurity and banished outside the beltway.

Enthusiasm on the voting right is at a record high; even more-so now that the economic stakes are so much higher and fortunes have been so quickly reversed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, on the left, there is an enthusiasm gap wider than the one that failed to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016.

There is also much dissension in the ranks, and Democrats aren’t doing much to manage it. Progressives in the Democratic Party have been quietly waging war on their moderate colleagues for three years, mounting serious primary challenges against incumbents and withholding their party dues.

The moderates might not go as quietly. A Georgia Democrat and State Representative publicly broke ranks with the Democratic Party this week, much to the dismay of party leaders in that state.

“It’s very simple to me. President Trump’s handling of the economy, his support for historically black colleges, and his criminal justice initiatives drew me to endorse his campaign.”

“I’m a Georgia State Representative and lifelong Democrat. But in this election, I’ll be casting my vote for @realdonaldtrump. I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The Party left me.” —Georgia State Rep. Vernon Jones

Democratic Party leaders in Georgia have been scrambling to respond, and have sounded an ominous public note. But it is difficult to see what, if any, influence state party leaders can exert over Jones.

“I am aware that Rep. Vernon Jones has endorsed Donald Trump. This is in no way acceptable. Action will be taken at @dekalbGADems steering committee meeting on Thursday. I will address this more later.” — John Jackson, DeKalb County Democratic Party chairman

Jones is the latest Democrat to break rank, but he is not the first. More voters than Democrats would like are joining movements to abandon the Democratic Party. There is a feeling, especially in African-American and Hispanic communities, that Democrats haven’t made good on enough of the promises they make campaigning.

Last year, Democrat Jeff VanDrew switched parties over his disagreements with House Democrats over their grounds for impeaching Donald Trump. Van Drew, from a swing-district, is not the only moderate Democrat to resist the leftward lurch away from the “kitchen table issues” voters care about; the economy, health-care, jobs, and health-care.

Under the influence of new, harder-line progressives who brook no dissension in liberal ideology, party moderates have chafed. They are always at risk of either offending the overwhelmingly moderate voters in their districts or offending the vocal minority of hard-line progressives in the party who mount aggressive primary challenges against dissenting Democrats.

As the Democratic Party continues its leftward lurch, more Democrats may find themselves in danger of following VanDrew’s lead and switching parties, especially if Van Drew wins his reelection campaign as a Republican.

If Democrats in moderate districts look likely to lose their reelection bids, they might start looking for a way out.

Yet, the New York Times thinks that the what the world needs now is a Joe Biden unity cabinet. If political elites and opinion columnists who live in New York City think U.S. voters are currently listing “unity” on their list of concerns, they are just as blind as they were in 2016.

If not more willfully so now.

What the American people, and voters around the world, want more than anything right now is not unity. It is politicians willing and able to do a good job for the limited constituencies they represent, without making such a fuss about it.

If Democrats make it impossible for moderate Democrats in swing districts to do this as Democrats, moderates will have to adapt or lose reelection.

It is time for the Democratic Party to stop making it harder to be a moderate Democrat, at a time when they should be making it easier.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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