Editorial: What Dem candidates should pledge before Super Tuesday
The next stop in the Democratic primary is this Saturday, Feb. 22 in Nevada, and it will likely add confusion not clarity in terms of defining the party’s leading nominee. That’s begs a new question: If the Democratic primary remains competitive with the top four or five candidates through the spring, is the party weaker or stronger for it?
After two lower-tier candidates have surprised voters in the first two contests, this week’s caucus in Nevada’s may give Vice President Joe Biden a needed boost. But it’s no slam dunk. It’s anybody’s guess which candidate will emerge victorious and get the boost going into South Carolina’s primary and then on to Super Tuesday on March 3.
What’s interesting is how fluid the race remains. New national polls show Sen. Bernie Sanders moved into the lead over Biden for the first time in this campaign. Sanders now edges Biden, 24 percent to 23. What’s surprising, however, is that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whom the media declared a washout after New Hampshire, is polling third in the national poll with 14 percent; Michael Bloomberg is at 10 percent; and the superstar underdogs of Iowa and New Hampshire — Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar — are far back at 9 and 5 percent.
Which is to say that many people in Nevada (and most other states) hardly know anyone other than Biden and Sanders (who have the highest name recognition), and that Bloomberg’s big ad buy in Nevada (and elsewhere) is likely to have an impact.
On the other side of the aisle, Trump is drawing large crowds — a worrisome sign for Democrats. That makes their focus on electing a candidate who can beat Trump even more crucial.
But one question may be even more important, and that question ought to be answered by the Democratic candidates before Super Tuesday: Will you support the party’s nominee for president 100 percent, even if you fail to gain the party’s nomination?
Sanders continues to get part of the blame for Hilary Clinton’s loss against Trump because of what the media has implied was his lackluster support. Objective observers can argue that Sanders supported Clinton over Trump and encouraged his followers to do the same, even though he could have campaigned vigorously. (Don’t forget, however, that most observers expected Clinton to win and support for her didn’t seem necessary until the final days.)
This presidential contest is much different. Odds-makers are surely placing their bets on a Trump repeat. Still surging on the sugar high of a $1.5 trillion stimulus from the Trump tax cuts to the super wealthy, the economy is expected to continue its 11-year growth-cycle, even as the economy slows and the national deficit goes through the roof. And Trump supporters are by now inured to all of his many faults and, most discouraging, seem to love him all the more for them.
If Democrats, therefore, can’t expect to draw Trump’s supporters from him through logical arguments and reason, their only hope is to have greater turnout at the polls — against Trump, but also for their nominee.
What matters, then, is two-fold: 1) that the Democratic nominee must be able to unite the Democrats’ broadest coalition, plus dismayed Republicans who are anti-Trumpers, and Independents, who still see the nation as best guided by the rule of law, not by a self-anointed autocrat; and 2) that the nominee (and party) has a clear message that excites those supporters.
That may take a while to determine. To that end, if the Democratic primary looks to extend well into the spring and each candidate develops a loyal following, they should pledge now to do everything they can to join forces for the candidate who prevails, and be active — not passive — supporters of that nominee. Because it is only with everyone’s unequivocal support that Trump can be defeated. If any Democratic candidate can’t make that pledge with 100 percent sincerity, voters should consider backing another candidate.
Political progressives and moderates likely represent the largest voting block in the country, but whether those factions can work together to defeat Republicans in the all-important swing states and national elections is another question. A pledge to work together among the candidates on the Democratic stage today would go a long way in answering that question.