Editor's Note: This column was authored by Brian Ericson.
Despite building pressure this week, Nancy Pelosi has maintained she will withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate until the upper body decides how it will conduct its trial — strategically drawing out the political fallout for Trump as Democrats face the likely scenario of a divisive primary season. Indeed, with an inevitably ugly nominating contest on the horizon, Democrats can only hope that the stain of impeachment will be able to knock Trump down enough notches for their battered nominee to stand a decent chance. And much of the trouble brewing for them is the looming threat of Mike Bloomberg.
Gallup’s recent surveys indicate a majority of Democratic voters would rather nominate the most electable candidate than the candidate who most aligns with their values. A strong majority of even liberal voters would prefer a candidate who could beat Trump over a progressive candidate — and the Gallup poll shows that number is only growing as time goes on.
As it stands, roughly half of Democratic voters find Joe Biden the most electable candidate, followed distantly by Bernie Sanders at 16% and Elizabeth Warren at 15%. Even if those latter two numbers were to grow in the coming months, Sanders and Warren’s dual presence in the race will split the progressive vote so as to make it negligible. So despite the age-driven gaffes, the historic track record against his campaign and a vote of no confidence from his former boss, for now, Biden remains the uneasy vanguard of the electability coalition (especially after the increased scrutiny of a winnowed post-Iowa field exposes fellow “centrist” Pete Buttigieg as a fake moderate).
Here’s where Mike comes in.
It makes sense that many political analysts think Bloomberg’s candidacy is a long shot. Then again, they thought that about his New York mayoral bid — and his campaign strategy paid off under almost prophetically similar circumstances. Now, his persistent, well-resourced campaign is poised to make a significant impact late in the game. His refusal to accept donations automatically disqualifies him from any future primary debates, and he’s not even campaigning in the early states. So what’s his play?
As an imperfect Biden emerges as the last hope for electability and the field shrinks down to just three or four others, Bloomberg’s relentless, calculated advertising in these intervening months will ensure he remains in the back of voters’ minds as a late-stage Biden alternative — and his rising poll numbers are evidence his ads are working. Former Boston Globe columnist John Ellis writes for CNBC that the mayor’s “entire campaign depends upon a pandemic onset of buyer’s remorse. What Super Tuesday…will show us is whether he correctly anticipated the electorate’s disposition or got run over by its predispositions.”
Ultimately, it will be up to Democratic voters to decide whether Biden or Bloomberg is more palatable. But whether he successfully taps into buyer’s remorse over Biden or gets run over, Bloomberg’s vast resources and network will ensure he stays in the fight at least long enough to bring both their faults into focus, accomplishing much of the mud-slinging before Republicans ever have to. The eventual nominee — be it Biden, Bloomberg or even a stubborn parvenu like Buttigieg — will have to preside as an embattled and crippled symbol over a Democratic Party with a fractured image.
Once the smoke clears from the disruption of Bloomberg’s eleventh-hour impact, Democrats will face the rest of the nation weakened by their own infighting, juxtaposed against a GOP remarkably unified and galvanized by comparison. They’ll need a weapon to strike Republicans down to a playing field more even with their nominee, and the rhetoric from left-leaning media suggests, unsurprisingly, that weapon will be the historic nature of Trump’s impeachment.
The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker writes, “It is impeachment, and it is for life. It’s historical and it’s constitutional. It’s not something Trump can squirm his way out of, or cut a hush-money check to make disappear.” Similarly, Politico reported that the impeachment is “a historic rebuke in a political era that has threatened to upend the nation’s constitutional order,” adding that Trump’s “presidency will be forever blemished by an impeachment.”
Pelosi tapped into this sentiment of gravitas herself when she declared that Congress was gathered “under the dome of this temple of democracy to exercise one of the most solemn powers that this body can take: the impeachment of the president of the United States.”
The rhetoric of the left is intent on casting down with grave seriousness the presidency of Donald Trump. Democrats know they’ll need such a distraction if they are to survive the aftermath of their coming civil war.
Brian Ericson is an editor and Young Voices contributor based in Nashville, Tennessee. His writing has been featured in the Washington Examiner, Free the People and Spiked magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @brianscott67.