Democrats, it’s Super Wednesday.
By Thomas L. Friedman – Opinion Columnist – The New York Times
Super Tuesday is the biggest election day on the Democrats’ primary calendar.Credit…Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
I’m writing this column well before Super Tuesday is over, but that’s OK because, in my view, all that matters now is what happens on Super Wednesday.
Let me explain. I approach the Democratic primary contest with three core tenets:
First, if your party doesn’t have an awesome presidential candidate — and the Democrats don’t in this election — then your party better have an awesome coalition. That means a party that is united as much as possible — from left to center to right — so it can bolster the nominee against what will be a vicious, united and well-funded Trump/G.O.P. campaign. It’s going to take a village to defeat Trump.
Second, if that Democratic candidate is Bernie Sanders — that is, if the Democrats nominate a left-wing populist like Sanders to run against a right-wing populist like Donald Trump — Sanders might win, but there’s zero possibility that he’d get anything done with his uncompromising “democratic socialist” ideas.
And there’s a strong possibility that Sanders would lose in a landslide and Trump would be re-elected with a House, a Senate, the White House and a Supreme Court majority in his pocket, enabling him to govern with even more impunity than now for four more years. That is not a chance I want to take with our country.
(Pay attention to what just happened in Israel, with Bibi Netanyahu’s surprise last-minute right-wing surge. Israeli politics is to American politics what off Broadway is to Broadway. Trends start there in miniature and then often come here. Be careful.)
Which leads to my third tenet: Super Wednesday is super important.
Because Bernie has to lose the nomination to a moderate Democrat, but he has to lose fair and square. The nomination can’t be stolen from him. He and his supporters are too important to a winning Democratic coalition in November. They need to be on the team.
That’s why on the morning after Super Tuesday, i.e., Super Wednesday, my fantasy is that Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton invite Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren into the Capitol, lock the door and tell them that no one gets out until they agree on a single candidate to represent what is clearly a majority of the Democratic Party — the moderate center-left — so that that person can run head-to-head against Bernie the rest of the way, and beat him fair and square.
That’s how you defeat Sanders’s left-wing populism for the nomination and Trump’s right-wing populism for the White House. You do not want a brokered convention with superdelegates tipping the scales against Sanders. In this age of Twitter, that would be a prescription for a wild, angry, fractured convention.
My preference to lead this unity coalition would be Mike Bloomberg, because I think he has a campaign machine that is built to last and stand up to the pummeling from Trump, but he may not have enough grass-roots support in the party. If it’s not him, then the obvious choice would be Biden, whose campaign really has been re-energized. So far, Warren has not shown enough breadth of support.
(Disclosure: Bloomberg Philanthropies has donated to Planet Word, the museum my wife is building in Washington, to promote reading and literacy.)
If the Democrats can rally behind a consensus center-left candidate, he or she will be in a strong position to beat Trump for two reasons — one new and obvious, one deep, less obvious, but very powerful.
The first has to do with the coronavirus, which is reminding people why good government matters. So many people voted for Trump the last time because they wanted a disrupter who would shake things up. Well, he’s sure done that, running through multiple chiefs of staff and secretaries of defense and directors of national intelligence, not to mention four secretaries of homeland security and five national security advisers, not to mention reckless attempts to slash the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not to mention constantly denouncing the professional “deep state” civil servants whom we need now more than ever to protect our laws.
This epidemic is going to remind people how dangerous it is to have a disrupter with no ethics and no discipline. It is going to remind people that the G.O.P. laugh line — “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” — and other efforts to trash and weaken the federal state are not at all funny. It is going to remind people how important it is to have a president who appoints and values qualified people, not just loyalist hacks.
But the coronavirus and its aftermath also remind us how important it is to have not only a proven leader in the White House, but also one capable of pulling together a broad coalition of support. We will not defeat this virus as a house divided; we will not do anything important as a house divided.
Which is why I believe the hunger for a leader who can reunite the country is a stronger issue than experts realize. A Democratic candidate who can speak to that, inspire it and model it with his or her cabinet plans — by bringing together a broad range of moderate and progressive Democrats and moderate Republicans — will win.
Yes, the Democratic candidate should run on improving Obamacare, promoting common-sense gun-control laws and funding more affordable housing and education. But the overarching message has to be unity — unity in the party and unity for the country.
It is Trump’s biggest vulnerability. Because there is actually one lie even Donald Trump can’t utter: “I tried to unify the country.”
After three years of Trump WrestleMania rallies across America — denouncing Democrats, the media and government experts, public servants and patriots — Trump simply cannot run as a unifier. Trump chose a strategy of divide-and-rule and trying to win with his base alone. The Democratic candidate has to choose unite-and-govern.
I was talking about this the other day with Tim Shriver, the longtime head of Special Olympics, and he remarked to me: “I interact with enough Republicans and Democrats through Special Olympics to know how starved they both are for the country to be pulled back together, so we can do big stuff together again.”
The disunity in the country, Shriver noted, “is literally making people sick and depressed.” Today, he added, “a huge number of Americans have a family member, work colleague or friend whom they are not talking to because of politics.”
It’s just not who we want to be.
“How could it be,” Shriver asked, “that the country that produced an Abraham Lincoln, who, in the middle of a civil war, could utter the words of his second inaugural” — “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds” — “is now a place where the more politically engaged you are today the more you hate your neighbor?”
That’s why, more than anything else now, Shriver argued, “we need leaders and ideas that unite us. A lot of Americans are starving to be part of something larger than ourselves, something that loves us and needs us, like building America together again, solving big problems together again, dreaming big dreams together again.”
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