Until now, my position regarding the 2016 campaign has been to support Hillary Clinton for president and to be extravagantly friendly toward Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and his supporters, who embody the heart, soul and idealism of the Democratic Party at its best.
It is now clear to me, based on recent events, that Democrats need to begin a clear-eyed, heartfelt and serious debate about the future of the party and what we stand for.
As Pope Francis prepares to arrive in America, there should be renewed attention to the notion that there is a progressive populist majority waiting to be born in America that has the potential to bring another Democratic president, a revival of Democrats in the Senate and House, and ultimately a liberal majority to the Supreme Court.
Today there is great peril for the party.
Whatever his virtues, as I have written before, from 2009 through 2014 the Obama presidency has been a disaster for Democrats at all levels of government except for the presidency.
The Democratic Party has largely become a party of consultants and caution, a revolving door between government and business and a consultant industrial complex that neuters the soul and spirit of Democrats.
Nothing better illustrates the danger for Democrats than the fact — and it is a fact — that if 2016 does not go well for the party, the defining political legacy of the Obama presidency will be a Republican successor, a Republican Senate and House, Republican control of a majority of governorships and state legislatures and a conservative Supreme Court majority.
The Democratic Party has largely become a party of consultants and caution, a revolving door between government and business and a consultant industrial complex that neuters the soul and spirit of Democrats, resulting in a depression of turnout and a loss of the conviction politics of progressive idealism that makes Democrats Democrats.
There is in this consultant industrial complex a Washington-based tier of operatives who move back and forth between working for Obama, profiting from anti-populist corporate business that would normally be associated with Republicans and most recently working for Clinton.
This phenomenon that sterilizes Democratic idealism, passion and turnout has contributed mightily to Democratic losses of the House, Senate, governorships and state legislatures and the dangerously high levels of public distrust toward the front-runner for the party’s nomination.
Since my column last week, there have been several events regarding the Clinton campaign that are deeply troubling. Last Thursday in Ohio, the former secretary of State, who for months has spoken as a liberal, progressive and populist, suddenly stated that she is in fact a moderate and centrist Democrat.
Core convictions about political philosophy are not disposable commodities. It is absurd to conduct focus groups about how a candidate can appear authentic. One cannot claim to simultaneously be liberal, progressive, populist, moderate and centrist without destroying the public trust that is the coin of the realm of the presidency.
In recent hours, one of the pro-Hillary super-PACs has, according to a reliable report in the Huffington Post, begun what I consider a scurrilous, divisive and self-destructive negative campaign against Sanders, which should stop now. Clinton and her advisers need to have a decisive conversation about what high values she stands for and what great causes she will fight for.
The coming test for Clinton will be whether she can regain her ballast and restore public trust. The test for Sanders will be whether he can expand his support to demonstrate his electability.
With regard to Vice President Biden, in response to one of my columns, a reader who is not a professional politician suggested an idea that could become a potential plan B.
If Clinton and Sanders do not sufficiently succeed in their missions, Biden could at some point announce he is running to be a one-term president, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as his vice presidential nominee and preferred successor in 2020.
This Biden-Warren unity ticket would be a fusion of the experience of Clinton with the progressivism of Sanders to achieve the progressive populist majority waiting to be born.
Just a thought, for now.