Democrats lack bridge to the future

It’s official: the Democrats are divided on their path to 2016. The Washington Post, in front page story has declared it so.

The division is already known to anyone who has been paying attention. Steve Hayward has been writing about it for a long time. Pass me some popcorn, Steve.

The division, explains the Post, is between pragmatists like Hillary Clinton (just to pick a name) and hardcore ideologues like Elizabeth Warren. It came to a head with the vote on the budget deal. As Democrat operative and former Harry Reid aide Jim Manley told the Post, “what we saw over the last couple of days is an example of a debate that is probably going to go on for a while in the party.”

By “while,” Manley probably means through the 2016 primary season.

Many Democrats hope so. More than 300 former Obama campaign staffers have released a letter calling on Warren to run for president. And MoveOn.org announced that it will put $1 million into an effort to draft the fake Indian.

The Post finds a parallel between the division among Democrats and the situation in the Republican party. It compares Warren to Ted Cruz, and her wing to the Tea Party. Clinton plays the role of Jeb Bush/Mitt Romney, the favorites of the Republican “establishment.”

I see a major difference in the situation of the two parties, though. For the Democrats there seem to be only two serious options — Hillary Clinton or an Elizabeth Warren style “populist.”

That probably isn’t a great place to be. After two presidencies perceived as failures and a third perceived as seriously flawed, Americans are looking for a fresh face. But having been reminded that the world is a dangerous place and that the presidency isn’t a job for amateurs, Americans are looking for a president with more than just a few years of experience in office. Finally, increasingly unhappy with hyper-partisanship, they aren’t looking for strident ideologues.

The only adult non-ideologue the Democrats apparently have offer is Hillary Clinton, the least fresh face of all.

The Republicans, by contrast, have alternatives to Romney/Bush on the one hand and Cruz/Rand Paul on the other. I called them “bridge” candidates in this post. Scott Walker is the most obvious.

Whether this potential advantage will be realized in 2016 remains to be seen. The GOP may reject reject bridge candidates, either out of preference or because these aspirants fail to hold their own on the campaign trail. Hillary Clinton may prove to be skillful enough to keep the Democratic left in line without compromising her position with “swing” voters. Or maybe, against all odds, the Dems will nominate a bridge candidate.

But I doubt the Washington Post would be writing on its front page about Democratic divisions if establishment Democrats weren’t worried.

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