The Democratic Party is on Fire: How the 2020 Primaries Tore It Apart

Syd Smith

The departure of Senator Bernie Sanders from the presidential race was the last straw in the complete unraveling of the Democratic party. 

Currently, the only candidate is President Obama’s former Vice President, Joe Biden. Many moderates have embraced Biden, as the idea of bringing back the tone and style of the Obama administration appeals to them. However, for the young, more diverse group on the progressive side, Biden is unappealing and a poor choice for president. This has widened the gap between “establishment” Dems (moderates who oppose radical change within the party) and progressives (who generally want radical change). 

Establishment Democrats generally are more moderate and follow the neo-liberal political philosophy. Progressives lean more towards socialist concepts and are seen as more extreme. This primary has proven that those ideas can’t exist in the same party, and party unity and identity is suffering as a result. The Democratic party is having an identity crisis, and its future and influence is hanging by a thread.

The conflict between moderates and progressives is separating the party, making it impossible to unite and elect Democratic candidates. Despite their “common enemy” in removing Republican representatives from office, the details of each candidate have proven to be divisive and have resulted in a less cohesive voting force. A closer look at the current and former candidates highlight that intense divide and show just how disorganized this group is.

The most recent candidates are the best example of this, as they seem so similar yet are received in completely opposite ways. Biden is too far-right for the far-left, and the rest of the party hasn’t found a way to encourage them to come together as one cohesive force. If Democrats are unable to rally and come together, President Trump will most likely be reelected. Their dislike of Trump is the singular thread tying all left-leaning individuals together, so why isn’t it working?

It seems as though Bernie supporters and Biden supporters should be able to unite over policy issues. Both candidates support the Green New Deal, which contains a plan to switch the United States’ energy system into 100% renewable energy, among other dramatic environmental changes. They both wish to reinstate DACA (a program that protects undocumented people who immigrated as children from being deported), end family separations at the southern border, and more. All of these policies align with the general stance of the Democratic party. Now that Bernie is out of the race, it seems as if there’s a simple solution to the discord and divisions in the party. Unfortunately, a candidate can never be judged on their policies alone, and that is where progressives clash with moderates.

The opposition to Biden mainly centers around allegations of unwanted sexual advances and questionable behaviors over the years. Many progressives say that he’s just as bad as Trump in that regard, considering the severity and number of allegations against both men. Also, Biden’s past legislative action (and inaction) often controverted his new policies. Progressives cite his new policies as contradictory to his past, like with his plan to “end the forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East,” despite supporting the U.S.’s entry into the war in 2002; he also supposedly plans to promote racial justice despite refusing to disavow his work with segregationists earlier in his career.

Generally, at this point, one would consider voting for whoever is the nominee, but that is not an option for many progressives. Many argue that the “blue no matter who” ideology often supported by moderates is harmful, as issues such as outstanding assault allegations would be swept under the rug in order to elect a Democrat for the sake of being a Democrat. However, this concept can be comforting to some as the general connotation and feeling associated with the Democratic party is enough to determine one’s vote. 

Overall, the conflict within this party is growing rapidly and points to a disjointed, polarized future. Progressives and moderates will rarely agree on a candidate, which will most likely lead to the loss of the party’s large institutional power. The 2020 election will be a major factor in determining the future of the party, and only time will tell if Democrats can achieve unity and work towards their common goal.