Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Hillary Clinton — October 26, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Whatever happened to the Democrats’ “Big Tent”?


Remember when the Democratic Party was the party of the “big tent?” As of today it seems to have become a two-candidate party. But it certainly didn’t happen in an organic way, that is by voters hearing what each candidate envisions for the U.S. and why, and then winnowing out the candidates that lack vision, leadership skills, or more importantly the ability to win in the general election. Jim Webb, an estimable candidate, has now opted out of the Democratic race, Lincoln Chafee will soon be too broke to run, and Martin O’Malley has been so marginalized that the best he can hope for is a VP nod. VP Joe Biden will not get into the race. Left standing are Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, two candidates whose chances for winning the general election would depend on having a more moderate running mate along with motivating a huge voter turnout, perhaps not likely due to the public’s general contempt for politicians.

The first debate, the only Democratic debate so far, was so clearly managed to pit Sanders and Clinton against one another, that the perfunctory acknowledgment of the presence of the other candidates was not only blatant but irksome. It is likely that the number of viewers for the next debate will decline at least by half, this while the ever-antic Donald Trump and ever-bewildered Ben Carson will continue to rivet attention to the Republican Party. By the time the actual party candidates are chosen in the spring the Democrats will have been largely forgotten.

That Jim Webb, who has served both as a Republican in the Reagan Department of the Navy and as a Democrat representing Virginia in the Senate, felt forced out and may run as an Independent could pose serious problems for the Democrats. Webb’s distinguished military and legislative record, his foreign policy savvy, and his ability to attract Republicans and Independents along with male Democrats, makes him more formidable that some see at first glance. Webb is more populist than Clinton in some ways despite her new found interest in scolding Wall Street and providing free tuition at tax funded community colleges. He also appears more knowledgeable in the area of foreign policy and management of the military now that the GOP has successfully smeared Clinton’s credibility. Keeping Webb in the race would have buttressed the Democrats’ support for the military and identifying U.S. goals and operations in the world at large. But Webb was given little opportunity to present his ideas, some of which would have provided the balance needed to keep the Democrats viable.

Even if Clinton stands astride the Benghazi hearings in a superwoman suit with the dazed GOP conspirators lying crumpled at her feet, she will never be out from under the stink the right wing has sprayed on her, beginning back during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Yes, she’s been nudged left by the threat of a Bernie Sanders upset in the primaries, but it’s not her preferred spot, which she’ll retreat to eventually while simultaneously trying to keep more liberal voters, mostly single women, by emphasizing the significance of a first female president. Recently Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post cautioned Clinton not to overplay the “first female President card” because it could backfire by sounding a lot like the primary reason to vote for Clinton, and Marcus is correct.

Had Howard Dean, himself a liberal Democratic presidential candidate drummed out of the race too soon in 2004, remained the head of the DNC with his successful 50-State Strategy implemented in 2008, all five of the Democratic candidates would have been propped up at least until early in 2016. On the other hand, it has been clear from the outset that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is in Clinton’s camp and has consciously or unconsciously set up the debates to showcase Hillary, largely based on the assumption that Sanders cannot win in the general election with the word “socialist” after his name. “Hillary fatigue” is a reality. She knows it, too, which is why the first few months of her campaign were low key even though the conservatives were trying to get her to speak out on everything in order to secure that fatigue early on so their party could put on a “beauty pageant” with a cast of thousands. Clinton will be the bread to the Republican’s circuses.

The consequences of the Democratic Party’s premature and precipitous slide to the Clinton camp could have horrifying consequences for progressives if she is nominated and fails to win with substantial down-ticket wins as well. Here’s why: Gerrymandering. Read the entire piece to get a sense of what boulders, nay, landmines lie in the political road ahead.