The Future of the US Left Is in the Balance as Warren & Sanders Share Debate Stage

July 29, 2019

Buttigieg, Klobuchar, O’Rourke & Five More Round Out Night One on Tuesday

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By Al Giordano

Night One of the second round of Democratic presidential debates tomorrow night likely won’t have the level of fireworks as Night Two promises on Wednesday, but an important question about the future of American politics may get settled on Night One: What direction for the US Left?

Will Bernie Sanders’ vision of a left that subjugates what he has called “identity politics” in the name of class struggle – while re-centering that unicorn-like creature, the “working class white voter,” as the main target audience – continue to be considered the definition of “progressive” in the media? Or will Elizabeth Warren’s vision that persists on insisting that civil and equal rights are intertwined with economic rights – and must be kept front and center with them as equal partners in the platform – surpass it?

My money is on the latter: Warren is simply a better communicator (and according to new polling data, the candidate more voters say they “want to have a beer with,” and therefore, more “likeable”). She entertains you, not berates you. Sanders is something out of the 20th Century (the 1970s, really, when his style of politics killed the American left once already by drowning it in purity tests and sectarianism). Warren’s version is more sharply in tune with the 21st.

Among voters who are already paying attention they’ve been flocking toward Elizabeth and away from Bernie. She’s the newer and shinier candidate (who is also drawing similar support from 2016 Clinton voters as well). As more voters start join the ranks of those paying attention count on that trend continuing.

Meanwhile, Sanders Is Telling Supporters He’s “Gonna Win” Iowa, New Hampshire – & California

Part of Sanders’ speech the other day on video from Santa Monica, California has raised many eyebrows.

There, he told his supporters how he would win the nomination. Get this:

“I need your help to win the Democratic primary in California. I think we are gonna win in Iowa and New Hampshire. I think we are gonna do very, very well in South Carolina and in Nevada. And then we come to California which is bigger than all the rest. I think it is a fair statement to make that the candidate who wins here in California is going to win the nomination and with your help let’s do it.”

Let’s unpack that. “I think we’re gonna win in Iowa and New Hampshire.” That’s a risky promise because right now he’s not winning in either. In RealClearPolitics’ aggregate of polls of Iowa Democratic caucus voters, Sanders is behind Biden with 24 percent on average, Warren with 16 percent, Harris with 15 percent and Sanders is stuck in fourth place, and, worse for him, at 14 percent he’s not even meeting the threshold to get delegates out of it. This is a state where he got 49 percent of the vote in 2016. They’ve left him.

In New Hampshire it’s a similar story. Sanders won 60 percent there in 2016’s primary. But today he’s behind Biden with an average of 24 percent and Harris with an average of 18 percent. At 16.3 percent Sanders also has Harris and Buttigieg in his rear view mirrow with 13 percent and 9.7 percent respectively. Fewer than 10 percent of New Hampshire voters are undecided. Where does Sanders get the votes to win New Hampshire given those numbers. From “centrist” Biden’s voters? Nah.

Then, after declaring he’s “gonna win” in two states whiter than the filling in a Hostess Twinkie he said of South Carolina’s majority black primary and Nevada’s largely Hispanic caucuses that he would “do very, very well” in those places. In other words, he doesn’t see himself winning there. If you’re reading this and you’re black or Latino you already know the problem with those two statements together. If you’re white and see it, good for you. The message he just sent Democrats of color is I expect to lose your votes and win this nomination with white ones. Little has changed since he did the same in 2016, except that white voters have also moved on to other newer candidates.

Then he said, just as he said in 2016, he will win California, the home state of Kamala Harris. And he gave her campaign a nice unwitting gift when he said, “I think it is a fair statement to make that the candidate who wins here in California is going to win the nomination.” Oh my, words that will later have to be eaten only now every Kamala Harris supporter will be throwing it back in his face.

The problem is that the Bernie-or-Bust types that are still in his dwindling base and are programed to blame any loss on “rigging” and other factors external to the candidate’s inabilities or the running of a bad campaign. But that provides context for how Sanders approaches this debate. He apparently is kept by his team in such an echo chamber that he believes he can win even in the state of a candidate currently beating him nationwide! He really seems to believe his 2016 voters will come home to him and thus the endless repetitive power rotations of the slogans recited back then. His campaign is a nostalgia tour.

A Direct Warren & Sanders Clash Is Unlikely

What I do not expect tomorrow night will be any kind of direct confrontation between them…

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