When did you know?
For potentially millions of voters, the answer to that question appears to have been, “just recently,” as in the hours leading up to Super Tuesday. And the results are stunning.
The biggest day of primaries is in the books, but not exactly. It will likely take days for the vote to be confirmed and with that the final sorting of hundreds of delegates. But the narrative is set, at least for the moment, in a primary race where momentum has swung more wildly than 5-year-olds playing tee-ball.
Joe Biden is back. Building a coalition of moderate white voters and overwhelming support from African Americans, he emerged victorious several surprising states. It’s striking to remember just how unlikely all this was just a few days ago.
Meanwhile, Sanders soldiers on, fueled by his coalition of young, liberal, and Latino voters that showed strength out West, particularly in his California bulwark. The headlines will talk about Biden, but Sanders has the resources and energy to fight his way to the convention with a strong case for the nomination.
It sure looks like a two-man race. But I’d be wary of trying to paint the nomination fight with the usual means of political analysis. Yes, there are questions of policy differences and there’s a striking generational divide within the electorate. And yes, there are racial and social dynamics at play in each man’s coalition. But there is also a gravitational force at work that is greater than either candidate and even the Democratic party itself. can control.
2020 is going to be an election about Donald Trump. He is viewed as a savior by millions of Americans and as an existential threat to democracy, freedom, and the rule of law by millions of others. The stakes, as seen on both sides, are going to be tremendous and likely drive a tidal wave of voters to the polls in the fall. At the same time, there is great anxiety in this country about the future on such issues as climate change, health care, and economic opportunity. The question for the Democratic electorate going forward is who is better to rescue this nation from what President Trump has wrought? Does it require a revolution or a return to moderation? Do we need energy or empathy? Of course, all of this is in the eye of the beholder, and we will see what those beholders decide in the contests going forward.
What also appears certain is we are in a new age of politics, particularly when it comes to campaign strategy. For all the talk of the power of money, and advertising, and the ground game, the candidate with the most depleted resources won state after state. Money will now flow to Biden and he will need to build his campaign efforts. How he does so and how he performs in his new status, and against Sanders, will tell us a lot of how he will look if he wins the nomination.
But the bigger unknown looming over the remaining contests and into the convention is will the party unite? There are sure to be tough words between Sanders and Biden, on the debate stage, on the airwaves, and on the stump. That is to be expected. Each man wants to defeat the other and win the nomination. And it likely will look at times like unity will be unattainable. But that’s how primaries work. I suspect that in the end, it’s that gravitational force of President Trump once again that will bring Democrats together.