What Centrist Democrats Really Mean By ‘Unity’.

It doesn’t seem to apply to everyone in the party.

Lauren Martinchek
Nov 5 · 4 min read
Photo via Nancy Pelosi on Instagram

In the years leading up to and following the 2016 election, there has been a noticeable division between the old guard in the Democratic Party, and the new blood that found it’s voice after Bernie Sanders’ first people driven presidential campaign. With each passing year it seems as though this ideological divide between the moderates and leftists only grows more and more entrenched and difficult to ignore.

In moments when there is no choice but to address this division, it’s been as interesting as it is infuriating to see how Democratic leadership respond.

After the 2016 election, democratic staffers and television pundits were coming up with a wide array of palatable reasons for the stunning loss in search of one that stuck. Predictably, many settled on Bernie Sanders. In spite of the fact that he had campaigned for Hillary Clinton relentlessly, even multiple times a day and to the point where he was accused of selling out, he was still accused of fracturing the base of the Democratic Party.

From the moment that his second campaign for the Presidency began, these staffers and pundits have urged Bernie and his base to remember to concede when the time comes, and unify behind whomever should become the eventual Democratic nominee.

In an unfortunate but not surprising change of attitude, these same people in positions of power have a very different view when asked about what they would do if Bernie himself were to become the Democratic nominee.

When pressed on whether or not he would vote for Bernie Sanders in a 202o general election, let’s just say West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s response wasn’t exactly in the spirit of party unity.

According to The Hill:

“…Manchin told Fox News he would “absolutely not” support Sanders’ agenda, calling it “not practical where I come from.”

When Fox News’s Neil Cavuto asked whom Manchin would vote for if the Vermont progressive ended up becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, Manchin responded, ‘Well, it wouldn’t be Bernie.’

Cavuto then pressed the West Virginia senator on if he’d vote for Trump.

Manchin declined to offer a specific response, stating: ‘Let’s just say I’m going to make decisions based on what’s best for my country and my state.’”

It might go without saying, but I find this answer particularly galling when considering how it would have been received if Bernie had given that same exact answer.

Whether they’re railing against Bernie Sanders or Ilhan Omar, when it comes to unity in the Democratic Party it’s clear that that idea only applies to the more moderate and corporate friendly within their club.

Of course, it isn’t just Senator Manchin that has come out against his more leftist democratic colleagues.

After both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who happen to be two of the three leading candidates for the democratic nomination, both released plans detailing their visions for Medicare for All, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi deemed it appropriate to publicly declare that she “wasn’t a fan” of that approach to healthcare.

A piece in The Hill states that:

“…‘I’m not a big fan of Medicare for All,’ Pelosi told Bloomberg. ‘I mean I welcome the debate, I think that we should have health care for all.’

Pelosi has previously declined to embrace a push among progressive lawmakers for the health care proposal and has raised doubts about the idea, though her latest remarks are more critical than statements earlier this year, when she said she was ‘agnostic.’

The comments come on the same day that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), one of the party’s leading presidential contenders, released her Medicare for All plan, saying it would not directly raise taxes on the middle class.

… ‘I would think that hopefully as we emerge into the election year, the mantra will be more, health care for all Americans,’ Pelosi said.”

While everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, would it really be a good idea for a self proclaimed progressive who cares deeply about party unity to come out so strongly against a popular policy position on the very same day a leading candidate for the nomination releases their plan to pay for it? Why say anything at all if not to cause a divide, and let the donors know where the heart of arguably the most powerful democrat in the country truly lies?

When it comes to unity, centrists and leftists in the Democratic Party clearly have a very different idea about what that word means.

For leftists, unity means rallying around what’s best for the American people. As hard and as valiantly as Bernie Sanders flight to secure the nomination against Hillary Clinton in 2016, he still did everything he could to get her elected in order to defeat Donald Trump (which, I might add, is what democratic leadership claims to care so deeply about). He conceded that he would vote and campaign for any democrat then, and he says the same still today. Why? Because he has the best interest of the American people at heart.

For centrist democrats, unity is nothing more than coded language for protecting themselves from leftist critiques. Should a leftist ever call in to question the motives of a corrupt democrat taking money from drug companies when they don’t want to pass drug pricing reform legislation, then calls for unity are immediately thrown out like a convenient shield for them to hide behind. Unity is nothing more than a carefully crafted message they’ve designed in order to keep voters from calling their corruption in to question. “Vote blue no matter who” only seems to apply if it’s a democrat running a campaign funded by health insurance executives and multimillionaires.

Next time a centrist brings up unity in the face of criticism, let’s be careful to remember that word is nothing more than a distraction. They don’t mean any of it, unless it protects their own self serving, corrupt interests.

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse. Fundamentally informative and intelligently analytical.

Lauren Martinchek

Written by

Lauren is a writer & leftist with analysis on topics related to politics & policy. She can be reached at LaurenMartinchek@gmail.com or Twitter @xlauren_mx

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse. Fundamentally informative and intelligently analytical.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade