Dems in Disarray: Interest Groups Clash, Officials Warn of Violence at Convention

Guy Benson
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Posted: May 17, 2016 1:07 PM
Dems in Disarray: Interest Groups Clash, Officials Warn of Violence at Convention

With all the air time filled and ink spilled over divisions within the Republican Party and conservative movement -- which are real and run deep -- far less attention has been paid to schisms within the Democratic coalition. As Hillary Clinton limps lamely toward her party's nomination (she has lost 20 contests to Socialist Bernie Sanders so far, and may well add to that list), internal strife within the American center-left is increasingly spilling into public view. The New York Times hit newsstands this morning with a front page, above-the-fold headline that reads, "Rift Between Labor and Environmentalists Threatens Democratic Turnout Plan." The piece describes simmering tensions between two groups that have historically been central to the Left's vast voter mobilization operation:

Two of the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituencies, labor and environmentalists, are clashing over an effort to raise tens of millions of dollars for an ambitious voter turnout operation aimed at defeating Donald J. Trump in the November election. The rift developed after some in the labor movement, whose cash flow has dwindled and whose political clout has been increasingly imperiled, announced a partnership last week with a wealthy environmentalist, Tom Steyer, to help bankroll a new fund dedicated to electing Democrats. That joint initiative enraged members of the nation’s biggest construction unions, already on edge about the rising influence of climate-change activists. The building-trades unions view Mr. Steyer’s environmental agenda as a threat to the jobs that can be created through infrastructure projects like new gas pipelines. The dispute, laid bare in a pair of blistering letters sent on Monday to Richard L. Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., underscored the tensions between the two pillars of the Democratic coalition.

That mention of Tom Steyer serves as an always-timely reminder that leftists' righteous fulminations about the horrid, immoral influence of money in politics really only applies to right-leaning money.  They're happy to spend, spend, spend to further their agenda.  Indeed, this is a party that is about to nominate a woman who may well have considered selling corporate ad space on her ubiquitous pantsuits. In any case, many blue collar workers appear to be growing concerned that the party to whom their union dues flow is kicking them to the curb in favor of the environmentalist movement's greener pastures. From Hillary Clinton's brazen vow to drive coal industry laborers out of work, to the Obama administration's refusal to approve the private sector job-creating (and union-backed) Keystone pipeline, to lingering Obamacare frustrations (lookin' at you, Jon Gruber), some voters within this core Democratic constituency may be wondering how today's ultraliberal Democratic Party serves their interests. This consternation could open a window of opportunity for Donald Trump to exploit heading into the fall. Some of this is posturing and bluster, but the verbiage in these missives does not suggest these wounds will be easily healed:

In one of the two letters sent on Monday, presidents of seven of the nation’s biggest construction unions threatened to boycott the new get-out-the-vote effort, called For Our Future PAC. “It saddens us that the very labor movement we have fought for and supported for over a century seems to have lost sight of its core mission and has moved away from us and our membership in the interest of headline-grabbing political expediency,” wrote the leaders of the operating engineers, plumbers, elevator constructors, roofers, laborers, plasterers, and heat and frost insulators...In a separate and even more harshly worded letter to Mr. Trumka, the president of the 500,000-member laborers union, Terry O’Sullivan, called the partnership a “politically bankrupt betrayal” of union members. “We object to the political agenda of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. being sold to a job-killing hedge fund manager with a bag of cash,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, there's more trouble in paradise. Following the ugly upheaval witnessed at last weekend's Nevada Democratic Convention, some party officials are receiving threats and warning the national party of potential violence in Philadelphia this July:

A contentious Nevada Democratic convention this past weekend has led to a barrage of threats against the chairwoman of the state party. And it's led the state party's lawyer to send a rather remarkable letter to the Democratic National Committee, warning of the risk of violent outbursts at the national convention in Philadelphia. "Having seen up close the lack of conscience or concern for the ramifications of their actions—indeed, the glee with which they engaged in such destructive behavior—we expect similar tactics at the National Convention in July," wrote Nevada party counsel Bradley Schrager in a letter dated Monday. "We therefore formally complain to the DNC regarding these unfortunate events, and warn the body that the goal of many of these individuals, sanctioned or encouraged by the Sanders Campaign, is not party-building but something more sinister and unproductive."

And it's not always Sanders backers who cross the line, either.  Which brings us to the third media double-standard reviewed this post alone. The press -- rightfully, in many cases -- flipped out over violence at Trump rallies, which was at times explicitly stoked by the candidate himself. Will we see a similar number of concern-trolling columns and hand-wringing cable news segments over these developments? As we've noted before, left-wing violence curiously seems far less interesting to many in the media than right-wing violence...or imagined right-wing violence. I'll leave you with several polls suggesting that Trump is chipping away at Hillary Clinton's national lead, as I predicted would happen once Trump effectively clinched the nomination, post-Indiana. He's also stabilized his lead in red states like Utah and Georgia, although his support levels and margins still point to real weakness. The question is whether Trump can continue to cut into Clinton's advantage, overtake her, and sustain any meaningful edge in swing states. It's a very tall order, but Hillary Clinton is also widely disliked and distrusted -- and is the consummate self-interested insider in the Outsider Cycle.  Parting thought: Is Trump really bringing "millions and millions" of new voters into the GOP fold, as he frequently claims?