by Angelo Codevilla
The Democratic Party’s establishment might well succeed in making Michael Bloomberg president of the United States—not on Election Night 2020, however. But it could happen if a third party were to win some electoral votes and, with no candidate receiving a majority of them, the House of Representatives was called upon to choose between the top-two electoral vote-getters.
Today’s civil war within the Democratic Party makes it possible that two candidates will come from it: Bernie Sanders for the Woke Left, and Bloomberg for the establishment. In that case, enough establishment Republicans in the House might join their establishment Democratic colleagues to defeat Trump. This would realign U.S. politics: a consolidated, single, left-trending establishment party would rule, opposed by the extreme Left as well as by the Right.
Here is how it might come about.
Today, the Democratic Party establishment is realizing that, in its present condition, it cannot win the 2020 presidential election and is likely to lose Congress as well. That is why it is scrambling to grab onto Michael Bloomberg, who is scrambling to adapt himself to the Democratic Party’s unpresentable wokeness. But integrating Bloomberg into today’s Democratic Party won’t work.
On the other hand, both the party’s growing woke faction and the establishment seem less interested in winning the election than in capturing the party. How will this mess play out? The Sandersistas are likely to win the party. But if they do, they are sure to lose the election. The establishment is likely to lose the party. But if they do, they might still win the election.
One thing is clear: Neither side can tolerate the marriage between a thoroughly woke Democratic Party and Michael Bloomberg.
For the Sandersistas to support Bloomberg as their candidate would require self-abnegation of which few humans are capable. Their troops, and maybe even their officers (or, at least, “intersectionally,”) really do believe in the woke agenda. They despise Wall Street and the thousands of so-called business people whose fortunes depend on government as well as the government-employed and government-connected people who run their party.
They resent having been robbed of the 2016 presidential nomination. But at least Hillary Clinton was a Democrat. Being robbed again in 2020 for Bloomberg, who personifies everything they detest and whose mouthing of woke platitudes adds hypocritical insult to injury, is unendurable.
Nor does Bloomberg’s integration into the Democratic Party add more votes than it would cost. The more he simulates wokeness in a foredoomed attempt to appeal to the Sandersistas, the likelier he is to alienate at least one of the constituencies the party deems essential to victory.
For example, the mythical “college-educated suburban woman” (a.k.a. soccer mom) is no fan of confiscatory “wealth taxes,” or of losing her cushy medical insurance, or of demonizing her husband. In short, if the establishment Democratic Party wants to use Bloomberg to reassure Americans frightened by the Wokerati, it must emphasize his un-woke record as New York City’s mayor.
But that means thoroughly alienating the Sandersistas. They lack the party machinery. But they have their own, as well as millions of sure voters. If the party were to engineer Bloomberg’s nomination, they are almost sure to mount their own candidacy.
The Democratic Party’s scariness arguably is the chief reason why Trump was elected in 2016 and is likely to be re-elected by a bigger margin. More people vote for Trump than approve of him. The woke Left’s divorce, however, might well give establishment Democrats just the certificate of safety they need to appeal to whomever dislikes Trump for whatever reason.
The 2020 presidential contest between Trump, Bloomberg, and Sanders, then, would give voters two different sets of reasons for saying no to Trump, each embodied by a different set of people.
The limited appeal of the wokes’ litany of class war, racism, sexism, etc. might not deliver more electoral votes than Vermont’s, Massachusetts’, and D.C,’s. But the wokes’ votes, added to those of a Democratic establishment that campaigned for a “return to normalcy” under a candidate who personifies sober seriousness, might well hold Trump below a majority in the Electoral College.
Professional politicians, very much including establishment Republican congressmen, despise Trump and are contemptuous and fearful of their own conservative voters. Were the 2020 election thrown into the House of Representatives, some Republicans might seize the opportunity, by voting for Bloomberg, to transition into a political identity more to their taste, with a Democratic Party that itself had undergone an amputation to transition into an explicitly establishment party. These erstwhile Republicans could expect rich rewards, having helped to secure a presidential election and brought their favorite voters into the Democratic fold.
The realignment of American politics—the ruling class’s representatives on one side and all their opponents on the other—is happening apace. The scenario outlined above is one of the many paths that this realignment can take.
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Angelo M. Codevilla is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).
Photo “Michael Bloomberg” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.