This should really worry Trump and the GOP for 2020 (Opinion)

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After all, a divided Democratic party would be a great boon to Trump’s 2020 reelection bid. And clearly Trump wants to fan the flames of that divide, as we saw with his racist tweets Sunday morning, in which he wrote that he wanted AOC and her closest allies in the House — Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Massachusetts, who are black, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, who is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants — to go back to their own countries, and that he was sure Speaker Pelosi would be “happy” to work out arrangements for their travel. (Pelosi slammed Trump in response for his racist tweets.)
But what I witnessed this past week at the annual Netroots convention in Philadelphia tells a far different tale about what’s going on with rank-and-file progressives — and it should deeply worry Trump and his supporters who were hoping for a divided Democratic Party come 2020.
Netroots is an annual gathering of progressive activists that began in 2006. As Netroots organizers explained to me, it grew from a few hundred attendees who were primarily white men to this year’s convention featuring a record crowd of over 3,600 that was remarkably diverse in terms of age, race, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. And this year’s conference was marked by a singular mantra in approaching the 2020 election that I heard time and time again: “Vote Blue, no matter who.”

Now, to be clear, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a wide range of views by the countless attendees I spoke to regarding which 2020 candidate they were supporting, with many still torn between two or three. But one moment that truly summed up what’s going on with the progressive grassroots happened when I spoke to a crowd of a little over 100 people at the convention. I asked them which candidate they were supporting or at least considering. I began by asking about Sen. Elizabeth Warren, which elicited a big cheer. Then Bernie Sanders, and again a sizable number applauded. I went on to measure support (in an unscientific way) for a few of the other top tier candidates, such as Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with all receiving some level of support, but far below that of Warren and Sanders.

Then I came to the person leading all the recent polls: Joe Biden. The response to his name was both unanimous and comical. Not one person applauded.

After a moment of awkward silence, the room then erupted in laughter. Then, however, came the most important question of my informal survey, as I asked, “If Biden is the nominee, will you support him?” Those same people who had just been silent burst into applause with many agreeing that they would vote for a Democrat no matter who it was.

Attendees not only told me that they weren’t supporting Biden, they said they didn’t like him for a whole host of reasons — from thinking that his views were out of step with today’s more progressive party to the belief he’s the male version of Hillary Clinton, as one person put it. But even these people made it clear they would 100% support Biden if he were the nominee — though they often added that, if Biden wins the nomination, he “absolutely” needs to pick a very progressive running mate, and that person should be a woman or person of color, or both.

Democrats keep picking the losing side

It’s this progressive pragmatism over progressive purity — even at the very liberal Netroots convention — that reminded me of exactly what I saw and heard in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections. Countless liberals would call my SiriusXM radio show explaining that they lived in a congressional swing district and were working tirelessly to elect the Democratic nominee despite the fact that the candidate was far more moderate than they were.

The reason was a sense of urgency and, to be blunt, desperation to take the House back so it could be a check on Trump. A few of these very same progressives even admitted that in 2016 they had not voted for Clinton because they had supported Sanders in the primary and couldn’t bring themselves to cast a ballot for, as they put it, the more hawkish and “Wall Street”-backed Clinton. But Trump had changed that demand for purity and replaced it with practicality, meaning they were now supporting anyone who was the Democratic nominee.

It was that very pragmatism that led the Democrats to capture the House, flipping 40 seats and winning about 10 million more votes than House Republican candidates, making it “the largest raw vote margin in a House midterm election ever,” according to CNN.
(In contrast, in 2016, Clinton won the popular vote by a far smaller margin of about 2.9 million votes.)

Of course, the fight for the nomination could get very ugly. But the sense of urgency and desperation to defeat Trump actually trumps progressive purity tests. The unity that Democrats showed in 2018 is the roadmap to their victory in 2020 — and the greatest threat facing Trump.



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