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Commentary: When Will The Democratic Party Stop Being Its Own Enemy?

democratic debate
Elise Amendola
From left, Democratic presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and businessman Tom Steyer participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate Feb. 7, in Manchester, N.H.

The ninth of a seemingly endless string of Democratic presidential candidate debates takes place tonight in Las Vegas.

Mercifully, the crowd of candidates onstage is down to six, in contrast to the cast of thousands who "debated" when this traveling medicine show began last year.

It seems like it has gone on longer than American Idol.

This one will be extra special, because it is the first where former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has qualified for the panel, because of his recent surge in an average of four national polls to have at least 10% support.

In fact, Bloomberg had 19%, putting him behind only Vermont's Bernie Sanders, who tops the charts with 31% support.

He'll be there with Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden (remember him?), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Now, every time there has been a new debate after the emergence of a new candidate rising to the top, the rest of the Lilliputians jump on him or her like a pack of hungry dogs on a New York strip steak.

Mack Mariani, professor of political science at Xavier University, said that Bloomberg has so much money that the Democrat opponent who dares to attack him takes a big risk.

"I'd not do it, because I wouldn't want to be the next target of his money,'' Mariani said.

But the crowd on stage tonight will do it anyway.

Bloomberg will get the same treatment. He can expect to take his lumps for his former support of New York police using "stop and frisk" tactics to find weapons and other contraband, which largely targeted minorities; for his past remarks linking the end of redlining, a discriminatory housing practice, to the nation's financial crisis; and for trying to buy the presidency with his seemingly endless supply of money.

He will be tarred and feathered by his colleagues and then sent on his way.

And, in the end, he may well win the nomination.

That is absurd, the Bernie crowd will tell you. Bernie Sanders is clearly the front-runner now.

That's so true. But the operative word is "now."

Things change very quickly in politics.

The upcoming contests in South Carolina and Nevada are not likely to be very friendly to Sanders.

Sanders could do quite well in California, the biggest prize of them all. But on the same day – Super Tuesday – a raft of southern states like Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia will also hold primaries, and Sanders is unlikely to reach the 15% threshold for winning delegates in any one of them.

There are 584 delegates at stake in those southern states; 415 in California.

Bernie is about to have a rough row to hoe. Not impossible, but tough.

In the meantime, the Democratic Party will be back at its self-destructive ways with the Bernie people and the centrists of the party barking at one another about the future of the Democratic Party.

Somebody is going to win this Democratic nomination, and if the other side of this schism in the Democratic Party isn't committed to the goal of running Donald Trump out of the White House, one has to wonder: Exactly what is the point of fielding candidates in elections if not to win?

This Democratic nomination battle is likely to go on for months. Democrats of all stripes have to keep their eye on the prize – tossing Trump out of the White House.

Then, if you want to have a big internal food fight over the future of the Democratic Party, go ahead. Knock yourself out.

politically speaking 2
Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

  Read more "Politically Speaking" here. 


Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.