Moderate Dems and Independents: Don’t Fear the Bern!
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures/Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan.
For months, we have all unquestionably assumed that Joe Biden was the anointed front-runner in the Democratic pack. Biden has now taken a shellacking in two state contests in the last couple of weeks, while self-proclaimed socialist candidate Bernie Sanders has risen to the top from his long-standing second- and third-place standings from last year.
No doubt, many moderate Democrats out there are freaking out over the recent Sanders’ ascendancy.
He’s “too socialist,” moderates say. His policy prescriptions are too “pie-in-the-sky” and “unrealistic.” How’s he gonna pay for Medicare for All? Or for free university education? The American public is “just not ready” for these kinds of changes. Bernie’s just too “unelectable.”
Et cetera. Et cetera.
If you are a moderate who is distraught at the thought of being stuck with Bernie as the Democratic pick for the general election, here’s an encouraging thought. In politics, none of us ever gets everything we want.
Victors (who in this scenario would be the progressives) usually wield this as a taunt to beat losers over the head. Here’s the thing, though: this truth cuts both ways.
Even if Sanders wins the general, even if he gets a Democratic Senate to accompany the now-Democratically held House, we progressives won’t get everything we want. Unlike the current resident of the White House, Sanders does not see himself as a king possessed of the divine right to shove his policy preferences down the throats of his fellow countrymen like it or not. Moderate Democrats and independents still hold seats in the halls of Congress, including many of the presidential candidates who represent the moderate side of the Democratic spectrum (Klobuchar, Harris, Booker, etc.). They haven’t died or disappeared, and neither have you, the voters who support them. If progressives want to get anything done, they will have to win approval from moderates, and I guarantee you, the end products of such political trading will by necessity look different than what progressives will say they wanted.
That means you, moderate Dems and independents, can still be a constructive voice in a Sanders administration, if you want to have one. You will always be part of the Democratic coalition. We progressives may not always like what you say or do, but you are still part of the Democratic family (which, as we all know, has ever been a fractious, dysfunctional family of squabblers since time immemorial). Your beliefs still have weight, and like it or not, we progressives will have to, at times, curb our enthusiasm and listen to your concerns as respectfully as we can, even as we chomp at the bit for deep, structural change to America’s economic and political systems.
This may also mean that—to the extent that progressive control of the White House concerns them—moderates will have to be more vigilant and politically active in the future than perhaps they have been in past years. Of course, that shouldn’t be too hard, as a lot of us on all sides have stepped up their political game since the beginning of the Trump era.
So, if Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar all flame out in the end, leaving Bernie as the last man standing in the primaries, don’t forget two important things: he’s still way better than Trump; and you still will have influence as moderates in a Sanders administration.
Remember, moderates, who your real allies are in the fight against rightwing tyranny, and don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. Vote for the better man, which is anyone other than Trump — yes, even Bernie — and we progressives will try our damnedest to do the same if fortune turns the other way.