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Feuding among the left distracts from the main fight

Democratic presidential hopefuls Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (L), former Vice President Joe Biden (C) and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders participate of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images - Credit: AFP via Getty Images

The fall out between American progressives will only help Trump, aruges BONNIE GREER.

While most registered Democrats and just plain “We’re voting Dem in November because we want to beat Trump” people are paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr’s speech at the 1963 March on Washington (“Impeached at last! Impeached at last! Thank God almighty Trump’s impeached at last”), the progressives are at war. Again.

In 2016 it was over throwing in the towel, being pragmatic and going with Hillary, or staying true and sticking with Bernie, even though it was apparent that he was not going to get the nomination.

The die-hard Sanders people did not waver, even when the man himself came out in support of Clinton. There was that lump-in-the-throat moment when, on the convention floor, Sanders gave her his full-throated backing.

People like me cheered because we like happy endings, but the ‘Bernie Bros’ – its male and female divisions – were not pleased. I know some and they did not campaign for the nominee. One even voted for Trump.

Supporting Sanders and then heading out and voting for Trump was not politics but stamp-your-feet-on-the-floor cultism, something that we are not unused to here in the UK. So Trump was elected and it all came to pass as foretold.

Now, we are once again near the time of the Iowa caucuses – the first of the campaign and a significant moment in setting the tone for the contests to follow – and the progressives have erupted again. This time it is over a ‘he said/she said’ in regard to whether a woman can beat Trump. The media reported that Bernie Sanders had said to Elizabeth Warren – his left-wing rival for the Democratic nomination – back in 2018, that he did not see a woman at the top of the ticket as a winning proposition – the implication being that no woman would get down into the muck and mire that the president will create in what will pass for 2020’s election campaign.

Sanders vehemently denied saying this. In fact, he pointed out, the statement on its face was absurd, since Clinton beat Trump
in the popular vote by three million.

Warren stayed cool, even when a woman journalist asked her point blank, on a live televised debate in Iowa, if what Sanders was alleged to have said was true. She brushed it off until after the debate was over when she declined to shake Sanders’ hand and was caught on a hot mic accusing him of calling her a liar on national TV.

Since then reports have emerged of various smear campaigns waged by Sanders supporters, workers and acolytes against Warren.

Sanders has stepped up to the plate and slapped down anyone involved with him doing anything of this kind. Yet some of his surrogates and supporters continue to brief against the senator from Massachusetts by saying that only the ‘elite’ support her and that ‘ordinary people’ do not.

Their defence for doing this is that many Sanders supporters believe that Warren is insufficiently deep in the trenches in the class war that they see is at the bottom of the major problems in American society.

That many Americans – maybe even most – do not see themselves vis-à-vis ‘class’ is irrelevant to their analysis. They also continue to ‘Hillarize’ Warren, reheating the criticisms they made against Sanders’ 2016 opponent.

Before the televised Iowa debate, a Sanders supporter emailed the press with the message: “Goal: Take the high road.” Now, the gloves are off.

The “we trusted you!” cries from some Sanders supporters in 2016, when Warren decided to endorse Clinton, can be sensed once again. There are reports of pro-Sanders Twitter accounts – no one knows how many are bots – calling Warren a “snake”.

This term of abuse harks back to the Taylor Swift-Kim Kardashian online throwdown of 2016. But, of course, the stakes are much, much higher than that, and the timing of this falling-out amongst the progressives is important.

While Iowa is not representative of the demographic of the United States (it is 90.6% white, for instance, a much higher proportion than the country at large), the state and its caucuses matter.

This is because it provides the first measure of electability. Barack Obama, a young, relatively unknown, African American senator, came out of the 2008 one the winner. Unfancied outsider Donald Trump came a close second to Ted Cruz in 2016. The caucuses is a strong indicator of how a candidate will fare.

The procedure itself is unusual. What you have to do is persuade a room full of people to vote for you. And then they stand up and say that they will. This encourages candidates to pound the streets, buttonhole potential supporters everywhere and anywhere they can.

As the fateful day for the caucuses of February 3 approaches, both Warren and Sanders – and their other Democrat rivals – are doing just this. Yet the question remains, will the progressive left be able to get itself together and achieve its first stage goal – not beating Trump, but Joe Biden, the Democrats more centrist candidate.

Meanwhile, Biden himself carries on – a 100% old-school retail politician. The guy shakes hands in diners; he travels in a big, loud battle bus; he kisses babies; talks about music on “record players”; makes gaffes; gets into verbal fights with the public at town halls. The entire thing.

His campaign ad is effective: it shows Trump saying “Biden” over and over and over and in many circumstances. Anyone with ears to hear and eyes to see knows that Uncle Joe lives rent-free in Donnie’s head. This is good enough for many Dems. It means that maybe they can end the ‘Orange Reign’.

But for many progressives, the fact that Trump may actually fear Biden, is not enough. They want ‘something else’ to prevail. Another ‘system’ to come into being. This can take up a great deal of time and explanation on the doorstep.

How do you explain the ‘Green New Deal’ when most folks are concerned about their health coverage?

The fact is that most Americans do not generally see themselves in a ‘class’ way. They do not, for the most part, respond to class issues. Americans are culture-orientated: ethnicity; gender; guns, etc. For many Americans, wage inequality has more to do with who you work for then the evils of capitalism. And this could make Sanders’ perceived ‘woman problem’ and his contretemps with Warren fatal. Because women are the base of the Democratic Party.

This week begins the impeachment trial in the well of the Senate of the United States of the nation’s 45th president. The chief justice of the Supreme Court is presiding. As much as Trump and his supporters want to reduce it to a circus, the proceedings are serious and solemn.

Senator Kamala Harris, herself a candidate for the Democratic nomination until dropping out last month, made an address to the chamber dressed in a “suffragette” white jacket. This is the mindset now of a typical woman of the Democratic Party. This is how we think.

Meanwhile there is Trump, the ultimate wild-card uber male, untethered and unbound, locked and loaded on his phone, tweeting out.

But unless Sanders can effectively erase the stench of the ‘Bernie Bros’, unless he can somehow deploy the women who support him to step up and appeal to the rest of us, his result will be the same as it was in 2016.

Warren, too, must demonstrate that she is not the candidate of the well-educated and well-heeled, no matter what her politics say.

They can fight amongst themselves, but most Dems just want something very simple: to send the impeached Donald John Trump to Florida.

For good.

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