Democrats have a problem. Yes, psephologists and other students of political history will tell you that Republicans, being the party of President Donald Trump, are the odds-on favorite to lose congressional seats in this the first mid-term election of the Trump-era. But deep and persistent divisions within the Democratic Party could negate their otherwise historical advantage heading into the general election.
To paraphrase ex-Vice President Joe Biden, who might be resurrected for a third attempt at the presidency in 2020, today’s Democratic Party is not your father’s Democratic Party.
Just look at California. The state convention denied an endorsement of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in her campaign for re-nomination. Kevin de Leon, the party’s leader in the state Senate, is challenging her in the Golden State’s June primary election.
Feinstein is hardly a closet conservative.
The most recent congressional ratings from the American Conservative Union gave her a 9.15 percent conservative rating. Opponent de Leon’s rating? Two percent, according to the ACU’s examination of his votes in the California Legislature.
The leftward drift of the Democratic Party is perhaps most evident on issues like gun control. It wasn’t that long ago when you could find Democrats in Congress who confounded Republicans by voting with the National Rifle Association. Case in point: Bart Stupak, who had a 22.5 percent ACU rating. His purported support of the NRA and pro-life causes kept him in the House of Representatives representing northern and upper Michigan until his controversial flip-flop in support of Obamacare forced him into retirement.
Today, there are no Stupaks. Both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez have said they have no interest working with the few pro-life Democrats that remain in the party.
The divide between the party’s base and the general election voters it desperately needs in swing congressional districts and states goes well beyond guns or abortion.
2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman had a 16.84 percent conservative rating from the ACU when Connecticut Democrats gave him the boot during the Nutmeg State’s 2006 primary election.
But Democrats have moved so leftward that there is little room in the party’s tent for anyone who refuses to toe the radical-left line, championed by self-proclaimed socialist U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. The funny thing is that Sanders is so far to the left that he actually stands for election in Vermont as an independent.
If Lieberman isn’t welcome in today’s Democratic Party then there is no chance that Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the legendary senator from New York who once advised President Richard Nixon, could ever get nominated today.
In California and here in Michigan, Democrats are confronted with a choice between a doctrinaire Democrat and a leftist who in his heart of hearts is a socialist. That’s the dynamic between Sanders socialist Abdul El-Sayed and doctrinaire Democrat Gretchen Whitmer in the campaign for the party’s gubernatorial nomination.
Like Feinstein, Whitmer is a rabid partisan who checks all the right or, should I say, left boxes. However, that may not be enough for Whitmer if El-Sayed can get enough money behind his candidacy.
El-Sayed, a “bold progressive” in the words of his supporters, more accurately reflects the position Democrats occupy on the political spectrum today than Whitmer or Feinstein.
Dennis Lennox is a political commentator and public affairs consultant.