After her paltry showing in New Hampshire, Elizabeth Warren will soon be gone, a victim of her faux personality, her failure at identity politics, her badgering, eat-your-spinach style, and her crucial mistake of telling voters how much her healthcare program will actually cost.
Bernie Sanders followed Marx’s pattern: explain how dreadful the current situation is, paint a glorious, gauzy picture of the idealized future, and never explain how it will work in practice or how we can get there without a bloodbath.
That’s Bernie’s approach. He steadfastly refuses to say what his gigantic federal programs will cost. The media, initially eager to boost any Democrat against Trump, hasn’t really pressed him on that omission, with the exception of CBS’s Norah O’Donnell. Yet. They will begin to come after Bernie when they settle on a preferred, center-left Democrat to lead the party. Even MSNBC and CNN must realize the problems Bernie will face in a general election.
As for Warren, she is not long of this earth. There is no way forward for her after New Hampshire. There’s no prospect of a Warren firewall, either. There’s only an Australian-sized blaze and an empty hose to fight it.
What’s striking about her failure is that most of New Hampshire’s population is situated on the Massachusetts border, well within the Boston media market. They know Warren, and they do not like her. So, the question is: where does her shrinking voter base migrate after she exits the race and cancels her 23andMe membership?
The main contenders for her voters are Bernie (in the lead), followed by Buttigieg, Bloomberg, and perhaps Klobuchar. Biden is fading fast and will crash out unless he wins big in South Carolina, which looks increasingly unlikely. The other minor candidates will depart as well.
That leaves Buttigieg, Bloomberg, and Klobuchar competing for the center-left lane, all seeking the chance to compete one-on-one with Bernie. Sanders should grow stronger after Warren exits. That’s certainly what everyone expects, given their similar ideologies. But some votes could go to Klobuchar (if Warren’s supporters were concerned about gender) or Mayor Pete (if Warren’s supporters were attracted by her elite, intellectual progressivism).
As Bernie consolidates his position on the left and no clear opponent emerges in the center, the party poohbahs will descend into pure panic. So will House candidates running in purple or red districts. So will the party’s major fundraisers.
Their panic will increase when they realize that
• Their nominating process, with its proportional representation, encourages a contested convention in Milwaukee; and
• The party may not unite behind the eventual nominee. Bernie’s supporters demand transformational changes, not Milquetoast Midwest or Billionaire Bloomberg. The party’s center-left won’t knock on doors for Bernie. Or vice versa.
Hating Trump unites the party and convinces some swing voters, but a purely negative campaign is never enough to win. It’s certainly not enough when the economy is thriving.
That why many thoughtful Democrats fear that it’s not just Elizabeth Warren who will walk this Trail of Tears. They may soon be wearing those same moccasins themselves.