Opinion: Circular firing squad

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Every now and then I like to put on my cap as a former politician and strategic election campaign thinker.

Like so many others, I have been watching the Democratic Party Presidential debates. Way back in the fall, they started out as fairly polite affairs with discussions largely on issues. It was must-see TV for issue wonks and political junkies. There were initially about 24 candidates divided into two separate groups of a dozen on a debate stage. You are forgiven if you have a hard time remembering who said this about that. It was pretty much a blur.

But with the likes of Bill de Blasio, Andrew Yang, Corey Booker, Kamala Harris and many others falling by the wayside, those debates are now coming into clearer focus. The genteel days are over and the gloves are off.

The Democratic Party has a history of divisiveness and lack of message discipline in part because unlike the more homogenized Republican Party, Democrats are much more diverse in their views and in their personal backgrounds. They call it a big tent, but it can get messy.

At the start of these debates all candidates agreed, and were unified in the belief that defeating Donald Trump and depriving him of a second four years in office was the number one priority. They said that any of them would be a better choice than Trump. And for the most part their criticisms of each other were fairly muted. Not too many bombs were thrown. They did not want to give any additional fodder that the Trump campaign could use against the eventual Democratic nominee.

Ronald Reagan called it the Eleventh Commandment: thou shall not speak evil of your fellow party candidates. And it makes sense. Only one person can emerge victorious and if your prime objective truly is beating Donald Trump you don’t wish to do or say anything that will undermine that objective. But that was then and this is now.

It seems that each candidate’s ambition to be the nominee has become the predominant motivation. With the primary contests and delegate selections now coming fast and furious each of the remaining half dozen or so contenders are feeling an urgency to stay in the race by taking pot shots and sniping at their Democratic opponents. The result is that verbal bullets are being sprayed all over the place. The earlier days of avoiding political ammunition given to the other side is long gone. It’s every man or woman for themselves. This process is not for the faint of heart.

One can argue that this bloodletting will toughen up whomever is the eventual party standard bearer. But more likely with all this shrapnel flying about, they will all be wounded and scathed. And that can only fortify and benefit the person who awaits the ultimate winner of this Roman Coliseum-like spectacle, namely Donald J. Trump.

Any sense of “all for one and one for all” has given way to a free for all. Perhaps Will Rogers said it best… “I am not a member of any organized political party, I am a Democrat.”

11 thoughts on “Opinion: Circular firing squad

  1. “Democrats are more diverse in their views”? You’re kidding, right?

    The only diversity in today’s party is between Leftists and newly emergent socialists. Diversity in views – even those of liberals – went by the wayside ages ago.

    • “socialists”

      Do you live in PCVST? That Socialist Worker Commie heavily regulated NYS/NYC paradise? FD, I am NOT a Bernie Bro, i’m a Biden supporter. Your party? The Racist/anti science/pro corporation (Blackstone say what?) one in which your base (rubes) vote against their own interests all the time.

      Also, who is the US Commie party in power now?

      Your party.


      • I will take that comment as a reflection of its source: someone who doesn’t know the difference between an economic system (socialism) and a political system (communism). But I will not excuse its rudeness or its attempt to use insult to contradict what I wrote.

        Your first comment did a much better job of painting you as a thoughtful person speaking from knowledge.

        • Excuse me are you JG Collins? My post was directed at him. And the right wing mixes Socialist and Commie all the time. That was my point. Of course I know the difference. And in a parliamentary democracy like Great Britain and Israel, a third party could make a difference. Not here.

        • DONTEVERCALLMEBRO – my apologies. That comment shows as a reply to my comment. I didn’t see the comment from JGCollins until now.

          Nonetheless, I thought your comment to mine (“Democrats are more diverse …) was far more thoughtful than the reply you directed at JGC.

          Your latest comment also states, “…the right wing mixes Socialist and Commie all the time.” The Democratic debates also showed that the left wing does also. Unless, like me, you consider the so[-called moderates to be right-leaning moderates, and too often far right.

          As to the value of a 3rd Party, let’s talk again on Nov 4 and discuss what happens when both current major parties ignore the majority of Americans because they are too busy trying to unite a dysfunctional party torn between their own two extremes.

  2. “Democrats are more diverse in their views”. The only thing they agree on is beating Trump, but the moderates and the progressives diagree on WHY Trump should be defeated. As to the issues – what we’ll get as a Democratic nominee after the dust settles – their stance on issues is very divergent on issues that count to the majority of Americans. There are 3 very different views on Health Care, trade (and it’s impact on American Jobs), even sustainable energy, and who should pay for coronavirus treatment. Some of those views actually mirror Trump’s policies when you strip away the false accusations made by his detractors in both major parties.

    Which is not really surprising when you reflect that there has been no President who was neither a Democrat or a Republican since Millard Fillmore. That 2 party model no longer fits well with the emergence of the Middle Class – the majority of Americans – since the end of WWII and other policies that burden the Middle Class while providing benefits to both wealthier and poorer Americans.

    IMHO, that says the time is ripe for a strong third party to challenge the two-class view of both Democrats and Republicans and represent the Middle class by incorporating both left-leaning and right-leaning moderates.

    • “IMHO, that says the time is ripe for a strong third party to challenge the two-class view of both Democrats and Republicans and represent the Middle class by incorporating both left-leaning and right-leaning moderates.”

      Pipe dream. Never will happen in the US. Only good for spoiler purposes. See Ralph Nader, see Jill Stein, see Ross Perot..I’ll stop now.

      • Unlike when those three ran, the major parties are both as philosophicly split as pro-Trump, anti-Trump. None of those three started to build a base in all 50 States 4 yars in advance. And None of those three ran in years when the unaffiliated base was a larger portion of the electorate than either party.

        Why do you think that the Democrats started stressing “Vote Blue No Matter Who” before the field identified its two primary choices? And why did Warren say she was withdrawing because the gulf between the two wings of the Democratic Party were two wide for her to bring together?

        If you want further proof with the electroate’s dissatisfaction with the current two party system, read the election results on November 4. That will be the door opener to a serious third party challenge in 2024.

        • FD. I am a Biden supporter. And 2016 election showed a polarization that the 2020 election will mimic. And again in our current electoral college system for the presidential election, third parties go nowhere. It’s a bridge too far.

        • A well financed campaign, starting now, can easily get on the ballot in all 50 States. After that, it just takes feet on the ground and knocking off the competition one at a time, the way Trump beat off the brightest snd best of the GOP in 2016, If you think that is a pipe dream, I have a bridge to sell you.

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