The 2020 Dem Primaries Will Be Defined By Identity Politics
Three white men on top and some struggling diverse candidates.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Three white men, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke, are leading the 2020 Dem field. Between the three of them, these candidates dominate with 56% total support in one poll, in a field where the more “diverse” candidates struggle to hold on to a few single digit percentage points each.
Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand hardly break the 5% barrier in most polls. The only women who do, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, aren’t running.
Despite the diversity virtue signaling, the Democrat electorate will take white men if it can get them. The gap between virtue and hypocrisy will be closed with moralistic attacks, not on the hypocrites, but on the beneficiaries of that hypocrisy. Identity politics will be the nuclear weapon in the 2020 campaign.
The first identity politics bomb went off when one of Bernie’s rivals, most likely Elizabeth Warren, dug up the old stories about sexual harassment in the Bernie Sanders campaign and began feeding them to Politico and the New York Times. The same media outlets that had been reluctant to cover the stories of the women who had been sexually harassed in Team Bernie when I was writing about them last year, suddenly decided that all these accounts of scandalous behavior by a major campaign really were news.
The media has been described as the opposition party by Trump supporters. And it certainly is that. But it’s more accurately the communications arm of certain Democrat campaigns and leftist organizations. When Bernie was seen as a member of the team, the media buried stories about the sexual antics in his campaign. But when he’s seen as an obstacle to the right candidate winning, then he’s a target.
Who’s the right candidate?
Hillary Clinton’s allies were the first to accuse the Bernie campaign of sexism. The identity politics angle was obvious. Bernie might be a bigger socialist than Hillary, but he couldn’t be more of a victim. The timing of the Bernie hit pieces coincide neatly with the launch of Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. And Warren has put on every appearance of being Hillary 2.0. Right down to the dirty tricks.
It’s not impossible that these stories are the wrath of what’s left of the Clinton machine. Hillary Clinton still harbors a grudge against Bernie and appears to have tried to sabotage his book tour.
But this is national politics. No one’s running a pro bono dirty tricks campaign.
Warren is the most obvious beneficiary of the anti-Bernie campaign, but it could just as easily be any of the other women running. And it’s the first bomb of an election season with lots of diverse candidates who have only one way of clawing to the top of what is currently a race between three white men.
The 2020 Dem primaries will be defined by accusations of racism and sexism from the beginning to the end. And the two biggest targets, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who currently command nearly half the votes, are also old white men with a history of saying and supporting politically incorrect things.
It’s gonna get ugly.
Bernie is the easiest target. His base is white, young and radical. It has the lowest immunity to accusations of political incorrectness. His old radical allies, black and female, notably Nurses United (NNU), which also backed Arturo Carmona, a key figure in the Bernie sex scandal, will try to shield him with their identities.
NNU members have been Bernie’s biggest backers, they’ve plowed a fortune into supporting him, and they see him as their best bet for socialized medicine. And they’re defending him now. But playing defense in identity politics is a losing game. And Bernie has no identity politics offensive strategy.
The Hillary campaign had also hit Bernie on race, with Black Lives Matter members harassing him. Bernie has completely sold out his old beliefs on immigration, so he’s less vulnerable on the Latino front, but expect his old criticisms of open borders to be dug up, and for DREAMERs to show up at his rallies.
Elizabeth Warren appears to have fired the first shots, because their demographics, white radical hipsters, overlap so much, but Warren is just as vulnerable on racism as Bernie is on sexism. After her disastrous DNA test video, any campaign going up against her will recruit American Indian surrogates. And, in her campaign launch, Warren has reverted to being unable to defend her lies about being Cherokee except by trying to dismiss it as a right-wing Birther conspiracy theory. And that won’t fly.
Warren may cripple Bernie, but Trump has already crippled Warren. The end is all but inevitable.
The big prize that everyone wants to crack is Biden. And Biden has a rich vein of sexual creepiness and political incorrectness that has hardly been tapped into because he’s never had a real shot at the top.
Biden’s past hesitancy to run has little to do with supposed family grief, though he is cynically ready to run as a mourning father, rather than the unprincipled careerist and narcissistic hack that he actually is. His problems are legion and obvious. There’s no other race he would have a better and worse shot at. But his only asset is being Obama’s comic relief. And he won’t step forward until he’s locked down Obama’s support so that he can wear the ultimate icon of diversity as his political human shield.
Obama isn’t fond of the idea. That’s why he’s been willing to meet with anyone who isn’t Biden. The candidates Obama favors may be diverse, but more importantly young, Beto, Gillium and Deval Patrick. Obama could hardly be sending Biden a clearer message that he wants someone who is his opposite.
Meanwhile, like a deluded bride, Biden keeps waiting at the altar for Obama to come back to him. If Biden stays on top of the field, Obama may have no choice to back him, as he reluctantly backed Hillary. But Biden’s expectation that he can use Obama to stave off attacks in the primaries is misguided.
And without Obama, Biden will be an old white man stumbling through intersectional primaries.
Biden’s share of the vote is so big that everyone is bound to come after him. And identity politics and political radicalism will be the only weapons in their toolbox. Everyone will try to run to the left of Joe. And the female and minority candidates will begin nailing him on racism, sexism and assorted isms.
And while Joe Biden, despite his boasts of a high IQ, is none too bright, he knows what he’s in for. That’s why he’s been cautious about wading into the pool. He knows it’s full of identity politics piranhas.
The only strategy Biden and Bernie have is to wrap themselves in diverse campaign surrogates. But that strategy won’t work if their opponents, struggling to break 5% while burning through millions in campaign cash, get genuinely aggressive. And the odds are that they really will.
That’s why the 2020 Democrat field is such a paradox. The candidates with the worst odds of winning are eager to jump in. While the candidates who have the best odds are reluctant to show interest.
Bernie’s drubbing is a lesson about the dangers of having good odds and a determined intent to run. The very things that make you a favorite also make you a target in what will be a very ugly primary season.
The first intersectional Dem primaries have arrived. A clown car of candidates, whose numbers are growing every day, will have to be winnowed down with endless debates and smear campaigns.
Bernie is becoming the first identity politics casualty of the 2020 season. But he won’t be the last.
Photo: The Hill