I think that in his latest Washington Post column, E. J. Dionne, like most other media pundits, is characterizing the contest for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president incorrectly:
The campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination is radically unsettled because the party’s primary voters are in a deeply uncertain mood. They try on candidates, find them wanting and move on to someone else.
Further confusing the contest is the success of two candidates, former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), in maintaining bases of support large enough to block the way of other contenders.
The loyalty of Biden’s enthusiasts among older voters, particularly African Americans and more moderate whites, has made it very difficult for Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), among others, to break through. Both the Booker and Harris campaigns now seem in jeopardy.
Let’s stop right there and consider three things: the party’s structure, the actual situation, and the factor that makes the 2020 election very much like the 2016 election. Let’s start with structure.
Today the Democratic Party has two major wings, each with about half of Democratic voters: the progressive wing and a more moderate wing. With Democrats comprising about 30% of voters and most progressives being Democrats, that means that 15% of voters are progressives. They’re the wrong half. A progressive presidential candidate won’t be able to woo more moderate voters without discouraging even more progressive voters.
Now let’s talk about the actual situation. Joe Biden is the frontrunner. There is a second tier of candidates presently consisting of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg. There is a third tier of candidates with support in single digits. Biden’s support has varied from 20% to 40%. Sanders and Warren supporters combined just about equal Biden’s support. I am at a loss to explain why Sanders and Warren are being given as much attention in the media as they are. I can only speculate that they represent the preference of the media.
What makes the 2020 election resemble the 2016 election are that a) every one of the likely nominees is seriously flawed and b) they will be running against Donald Trump.
I think it’s obvious that those factors in aggregate are what caused Michael Bloomberg to throw his hat in the ring. And progressives are the dog in the manger. They won’t take Biden for an answer. That is probably why Barack Obama has been making noises lately, somewhat unusual in former presidents.