I have sat back with my bowl of popcorn and have been entertained while the hoard of Republican candidates grappled with each other and for the attention of the national news media. I thought there were sixteen Republican candidates, but I read somewhere there are now seventeen. (I had to look that up and found that some guy named Gilmore – a former governor of Virginia – must have snuck in when I wasn’t looking.) What I find most entertaining is the way they are doing the Democrats a favor by tearing each other down. If there was ever a commitment by the Republican candidates to follow Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment, “Never speak ill of another Republican”, that commitment evaporated into thin air when Donald Trump entered the race.
As everyone knows The Donald isn’t given to polite put downs, but is more given to courser language like “he’s stupid” or “he couldn’t negotiate his way out of a paper bag”. Trump course insults have set off a word war of accusations and recriminations among the Republican candidates which is setting the tone for the entire Republican nomination process – ugly and down and dirty. With fellow Republicans like these who needs Democrats.
On the other hand, the tone of the Democratic candidates has been much more civil. Since Hilary Clinton started out with a huge lead, one might expect a candidate like Bernie Sanders, who has been in catch up mode, would be on the attack, but that’s not how Bernie has operated. Sanders talks about why his policy positions differ from Clinton, but thus far he has declined to attack her, even on issues where she seems most vulnerable. Bernie knows that if he doesn’t defeat Clinton, his purpose of reminding her to not to stray far from their party’s left wing base will have been achieved and he will be the first to endorse her nomination. And for the many of same reasons Clinton has not attacked Sanders. They both realize that you should not make desperate attempts to win battle and risk losing the war.
The Democratic candidates are operating with more political savvy than their Republican rivals, but the same cannot always be said about some of their most ardent supporters. If you go on any of the websites where Democratic true believer congregate to discuss politics, you will find Sanders’ supporters doing their best to tear down Hillary’s chances of making it back to the White House. Many of Sanders’ supporters are the lefts’ ideologues, the true believers, who see Bernie as a kindred spirit and Hillary as a politician who has sacrificed some of her liberal ideals in order be electable. They distrusted Bill Clinton for the same reason.
There are always going to disagreement within the two major parties. Our form of government best supports a two party system where disagreements have not fractured the electorate into a myriad of small parties as has occurred in some countries. The major parties must be big tents which accommodate a wide range of belief systems. The party which can consolidate their support behind a single candidate who can best gain the additional support of middle of the road independents who now make a large portion of the country’s voters will be the most successful.