While fielding questions at a youth leadership townhall in Germany, former US President Barack Obama bemoaned the infighting and ideological purity contest among those fighting to carry the presidential ticket of the Democratic party. 

The former President likened the intra-party battles to "a circular firing squad" in which there will be no real winners.  The bone of contention? Just how 'progressive' should one be. The newly elected legislators from ultra-blue districts are trying to force uber-liberal initiatives that are neither palatable in swing districts nor practical to the American people. 

Espousing these views are now what makes one a progressive or ideologically pure on the left. Any deviation or demurring can turn out to be politically fatal as a few former veteran congressional leaders found out when they suddenly got primary challengers and lost their seats. Much to the chagrin of many observers, this new yardstick is now a staple in the Presidential nomination contest. And it is against this background, that Obama felt the need to come out and sound the alarm. Sadly he is not alone and this phenomenon is not new.

Asked by a reporter to give an assessment on the political divide between the Democrats and Republicans, former President Bill Clinton once gave this ominous observation: "When it comes to elections, the Democrats are extremely critical and self-destructive, often looking for a candidate that they can fall in love with his or her soul, while the Republicans just lineup behind whomever is the party's nominee. No ifs and buts." 

Obviously, the two leaders have something in common and that something  is called winning. The two have firsthand experience of being at the forefront of the political theater and can, therefore, tell when they see things taking a turn for the worst. 

In 2016, the Republicans lined up behind a  novice with no political experience and consigned to the political slaughterhouse, the hitherto white knight in former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a man who was born to be President! Jeb had it all, a platinum last name, executive experience, a former Governor of a critical swing state in Florida and an enviable pedigree. But the voters chose Trump.

As the 2020 Presidential nomination contest takes shape, petty chasms are already visible and are quickly gaining traction. Sadly, they are not coming from the incumbent, whose penchant for barbs is legendary. No. Former Representative Beto O'Rourke is being pummelled for allegedly playing it safe while in Congress and for reaching across the aisle to work with a Republican. Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Amy Klobuchar are being excoriated for not embracing Universal Health Care and tuition-free four-year college plans.  Both plans are utopian to the majority of Americans and have been widely panned as unnecessary tax-hiking initiatives.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is contending with fresh murmurs of an unsatisfactory apology over his handling of a Senate hearing that occurred thirty years ago. Allegations of invasion of privacy lodged by those who have endorsed one of his competitors are also surfacing. Not to mention the fact that much to the ire of progressives, Biden is touting a moderate record which is essentially the antidote to those who want Democratic socialism.

The progressive wing of the party is behind this wall-to-wall carpet bombing aimed at eliminating competition. They want all the other candidates to sign on to the Democratic socialist ideals that they espouse. Curiously, that province already has a sherpa who happens to be running for President too and his name is Bernie Sanders. 

No credible polling has shown that socialism is acceptable in the United States, in fact, it is so unpopular that the Trump campaign is framing the Democratic Party as a Socialist party that is out to bring Socialism to the United States. This is the reason why the Republican Party has elevated Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC). AOC is the new political bogeyman for the GOP. They are using her to caricature the Party as a Socialist outfit that is out of touch with the mainstream Americans. 

To the uninitiated, AOC is a protege of Senator Bernie Sanders and an alumnus of the Bernie 2016 campaign. She is also the architect of the Green New Deal which is being used as a political weapon and those who are not willing to sign on are threatened either by a primary challenger or no support for presidential wannabes. 

So, apart from using the new deal as a bludgeon in this primary, this group is also engaging in opposition research against its own party members and then making divisive declarations like "its either their guy or nothing." The galling thing is that it is this very behavior that handed the White House to Trump in the first place. 

The alleged shortchanging of Senator Sanders (who mathematically had no chance of catching up to Hillary in delegate count) led to the "Bernie or Bust" camp staying home in 2016 and the upshot is being felt to date. 

Sadly, they are back with a vengeance and because all polls show that Biden is way ahead of the pack, the progressives have chosen to, in a partisan manner, relitigate something that happened in 1991.  While all this is happening Trump is sitting quietly enjoying the political cannibalism. 

While everyone has the right to subscribe to their chosen political school of thought, when it comes to winning elections - and elections have consequences - it behooves the people belonging to one party to come together for the sake of the party regardless of the supposed political hygiene. 

In 2016, the Republicans lined up behind a  novice with no political experience and consigned to the political slaughterhouse, the hitherto white knight in former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a man who was born to be President! Jeb had it all, a platinum last name, executive experience, a former Governor of a critical swing state in Florida and an enviable pedigree. But the voters chose Trump. 

Over on the Democratic side, swimming in the sea of disappointment and allegedly being verklempt, progressives stayed home and Trump carried three critical states by just 70,000 votes.

At this rate, with these kinds of artificial fissures, it looks like the progressives are ready for a Trump second term for they are busy getting the work done all by themselves.

 

Mike Dande is a political analyst based in Washington DC. 

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