The Democratic establishment is out of time

While moderate Democrats split the vote, Bernie Sanders is becoming a juggernaut

Bernie Sanders.

Unlike Gaul, the Democratic primary electorate is divided into only two parts. Bernie Sanders's victory in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary reminded observers of what we have known for a long time, namely that the smaller of these two parts remains united in favor of his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. The larger moderate one remains split, not quite evenly, between Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden.

We know which side the Democratic National Committee, the party's leadership in Congress, wealthy mega-donors, and luminaries like the Obamas and the Clintons are on. We also know that they are willing to do pretty much anything to prevent Sanders from winning the nomination in 2020. The question is whether they will be able to.

I am not so sure the answer is yes. The biggest obstacle to a moderate candidate edging out Sanders is not the opinions of Democratic voters, more than two-thirds of whom have rejected him in the two nominating contests held so far, but his opponents themselves. There are too many of them. If the vote shares of Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Warren, who have all denounced Sanders as either too radical, a sexist, or both, were combined, he would lose by a wide margin. Instead the moderate vote is spread thin across five campaigns — and likely to be subdivided even further when Michael Bloomberg begins to appear on ballots. The fact that delegates are awarded to the winner of Democratic primaries and caucuses on a proportional rather than a winner-take-all basis makes the math for taking Sanders out even more difficult. Even in states in which he is not expected to win he is likely to place no lower than second. This could be enough to win if voters in states whose electorates as varied as those in South Carolina, Texas, and Indiana cannot make up their minds about which non-Sanders candidate is the most viable.

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In other words, beating Bernie will require all but one of these people to drop out, and soon. So far as I am aware, not even the machinations of the DNC are sinister enough to remove the names of unhelpful has-been moderates from ballots in order to make room for Buttigieg or Klobuchar or whomever they decide in March to coalesce around. No one will be able to make it happen except the candidates themselves. And while the pressure collectively will be intense, individually speaking all of these people will no doubt find it easy to justify remaining in the race as long as they have the ability to raise funds. This is especially the case for both Klobuchar and Warren. In a race that is already devoid of a non-white candidate following Andrew Yang's departure on Tuesday night, will it really be easy to accept the reality that there should not be a single woman as well?

A large number of Americans want to be told that while the mean orange man in the White House is an evil fascist demagogue, the vast increases in the size of their investment portfolios under his administration and the generous health care plans they have been given by their employers and their debt-free college educations are things to which they are entitled because they worked hard. They don't want a revolution; they want more of the same, but without the mean tweets and with the approval of their neighbors. This is what the Democratic party establishment would like to offer them in November 2020.

Whether they get their wish — at least without resorting to last-minute convention shenanigans or allowing the nomination to be bought and sold like a piece of real estate by another New York billionaire — remains an open question.

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