After last year’s presidential election, I openly asked where Democrats should go from here. Dedicated readers of this column will recall my pointed — and at times caustic — preference for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in last year’s Democratic presidential primary.
Sadly, the divisions underscoring that primary did not heal in time for the general election, which foreshadowed the Republican win. And there are an increasing number of signs that the wound still festers and could hobble any attempts at Democratic or more inclusive, anti-Trump, cohesion in the short and long-term future.
After the election, Clinton retreated into the woods. With former President Barack Obama swimming somewhere in Polynesia, Sanders has become the most recognizable face of the Democratic Party that still contributes in any meaningful way to the national dialogue.
To put it lightly, he has angered lots of his ostensible compatriots in the past weeks.
First, Sanders flaked on supporting Jon Ossoff, the Democrat running in a special election for a Congressional seat outside of Atlanta. The moderate, who is running what could only generously be described as an uphill battle, was dressed down by Sanders, who made a point of deriding the supposed lack of progressivism in some Democrats; however, Sanders later endorsed Ossoff.
Next, Sanders caught flak from many for endorsing Heath Mello, a state legislator in Nebraska running to be the mayor of Omaha. Nebraska’s unicameral legislature is officially non-partisan, though Mello is widely known to be a Democrat. This enraged many on the left, as Mello has a history of pushing for an anti-abortion agenda.
The flare-up that accompanied these two incidents surely exposes some hypocrisy on the part of Sanders. But it also exposes that same hypocrisy on the part of many who find themselves on the “Clinton-wing” of the party.
To say that the Democrats lack any power nationwide would be a laughable understatement. Republicans control the presidency, Congress, the Supreme Court and the vast majority of state governments and local offices and judiciaries, but Democrats get the California attorney general’s office!
Running retreads of Hillary Clinton will not reverse that trend. But attempting to force Sandersism down the throats of all of America does not appear to be a splendid idea either. Instead, the only way the Democrats will come out of the wilderness is to endorse candidates with pragmatic positions to appeal to constituencies they are vying to represent.
Ossoff is not as militantly liberal on certain financial matters as Sanders. He wants to represent an affluent suburb of Atlanta, not Vermont.
Mello is considerably to the right of Clinton on the matter of choice. Nebraska is as well. Besides, the mayor of a moderately large city has no bearing on the composition of the federal court system.
It was three long years ago when I said in the pages of this newspaper that “purity tests stink in general but they are especially rancid when applied arbitrarily and capriciously among candidates.”
Both factions within the Democratic Party need to realize that not all of their compatriots agree with them on every issue. And if the Democrats want to be a national party again — and they’re not — they will have to accept representatives of diverse views.
The split between Sanders, Ossoff and Mello should be encouraging, not detrimental.
Horwitz is a first-year law student from Houston. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @NmHorwitz.