The silky smooth tongue of Pete Buttigieg at the latest – and most devastatingly divisive – debate of the 2020 election calendar perfectly described the Democrats’ newest and most urgent dilemma in their quest to take down President Trump.
After openly admitting that the socialist who wants to ban billionaires – Bernie Sanders – and an actual billionaire who has poured hundreds of millions of his own dollars into political ads, leftist causes, and the Democratic Party itself – Michael Bloomberg – may be the only ones left standing after the 14-state Super Tuesday extravaganza just around the corner, clever young Mayor Pete laid it down: “We shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn the party down and another who wants to buy it out.”
It’s the part about buying the nomination that is particularly damaging for a party that lost its way – and its mind – when Trump was elected and hasn’t come close to regaining either. Beyond simply adding a whole new layer of division to an already deeply divided party, this has produced the most significant sea change in the race, one that may well seal the fate of the presidential election.
The spotlight has now shifted 180 degrees from Trump to the Democratic Party.
The process began with the inexplicable meltdown in the Iowa vote and exploded at the Nevada debate. With this new fissure about the very identity of the party, it now raises the new and single most important question regarding this presidential race, which Democrats hope and pray the voters will not ask: Why should we vote against President Trump if you can’t even get your own house in order?
This is precisely what Democrats did not want to happen. Their personal attacks on the president have been full of sound and fury but, to date, have accomplished nothing other than boosting Trump’s popularity. Despite this, the ongoing strategy – representing, perhaps, the only chance for a Democrat victory – revolved around the ability to at least attack the president from some semblance of moral high ground, hoping against hope that something, anything, might eventually stick.
But now they don’t even have that. The emergence of Bloomberg forces Democrats to put out a five-alarm fire in their own house before attacking the architecture of their neighbor’s abode. It’s beyond challenging to condemn your ultimate opponent when you must first process the rapid rise of a candidate to oppose him with precisely the same vulnerabilities.
Of course, Bernie is on a roll and may well win the argument in a party whose base has gone harder left than ever. But this fundamental dispute between capitalism and socialism, which previously raged between the two parties, is now taking place within the Democratic Party.
It is hard to overstate the importance of this narrative reversal. The Democrats’ entire strategy of turning up the heat on Trump has been effectively neutralized with the emergence of a candidate in their own ranks who would be run out of town on a rail if he were a Republican (which, of course, he used to be). Bloomberg is a candidate who has done things abhorrent to the party’s leftist base. He supported invasive police tactics in his signature stop and frisk program, which targeted almost exclusively people of color for over 12 years, and he has faced multiple charges of sexual misconduct and harassment at his mega-company. One woman cited at the debate claimed he said, “I could do you in a second.”
Think of the labels the left has attached to Trump that would be swept off the table if Bloomberg were nominated: sexist, misogynist, racist, white supremacist, inhumane, greedy, and all the rest. The ex-mayor is what the left calls “obscenely wealthy.” He has publicly stated that all crime in his city occurred in black neighborhoods and that young black men should be singled out in a general warrant, willfully violating their most basic civil rights. And of course, he called farmers simpletons. Good luck in the heartland, Mike.
To nominate Bloomberg would be to alter the fundamental character of an ever more dysfunctional Democratic Party for who knows how long.
But think of the prevailing issues if Bernie gets the nod: burning down a robust economy with the Green New Deal, a full government takeover of health care (and industry writ large), taxpayer-funded health care for illegals, free everything for young people. Genuine socialism.
Talk about a rock and a hard place.
Read more from Tim Donner.