As a perpetual advocate for avoiding what Barack Obama calls “a circular firing squad” among Democrats, I was pleased to see a new effort emerge to encourage 2020 candidates to remember the wolf at the door (or in the White House), so I wrote about it at New York:
I’m interested to see that there is at least one organized effort underway to get presidential candidates to pledge to observe certain rules in an effort to bolster the party’s general-election standing, as Ruby Cramer reports:
“A national progressive group, Indivisible, is asking the 20 candidates in the Democratic presidential race to sign a pledge promising a positive, ‘constructive’ primary that ends with all participants coming together to support the eventual nominee — ‘whoever it is — period….’
“The Indivisible document asks candidates to agree to three terms: ‘make the primary constructive’ and ‘respect the other candidates’; ‘rally behind the winner’; and ‘do the work to beat’ President Donald Trump. ‘Immediately after there’s a nominee, I’ll endorse,’ the pledge reads.”
It sounds relatively uncontroversial, but it’s hard to get political candidates, who are, by and large, desperate to win, and their staff, whose lives will take a turn for the worse if they lose, to look kindly on a pledge to hold anything back. And there’s always the suspicion that talk of civility represents a sneaky effort to encourage unilateral disarmament by opponents who won’t return the favor….
The problematic underlying reality is that more than a few Democrats believe that only their faction is capable of beating Trump; different Democrats have very different theories as to “electability.” And then there are those for whom winning the “struggle for the soul of the party” trumps any general-election win.
If the “unity pledge” is to catch on, the majority of Democrats, who do value civility and seek common ground, must impose their will on the party’s candidates and their hard-core supporters. That means supporting the unity pledge, of course, but also perhaps going further: How about a pledge not to vote in the caucuses or primaries for candidates refusing to take the pledge? That might get their attention.
A day later, I was happy to report Indivisible’s progress in getting candidates on board:
[T]he pledge campaign is off to a good start, with five candidates having already signed it (in alphabetical order): Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Jay Inslee and Bernie Sanders.
It’s significant that Sanders was the first to sign the pledge….
It’s no secret that the pledge was in part motivated by bad memories of discord during and after the 2016 primary fight between Sanders and Hillary Clinton–less between the candidates than between their fiercest supporters….
Perhaps Sanders’ leadership here will help inspire the rest of the field to sign onto the pledge quickly, the first and essential step towards making it stick.