It was probably inevitable that — with so much at stake — the tone of the Democratic primary would ratchet up. Supporters of various candidates who believe in the vision of those candidates can look at the world, at the conditions that brought us President Donald Trump, and then just how bad that presidency has been, and we know what happens next. Tempers get hot, social media amplifies the worst comments out there, news media that thrives on conflict is driving what people read, and the disconnect we all have from one another interacting through the internet can dehumanize those we disagree with.
Even with the impeachment trial raging in the background, the news media has been fairly aggressive in reporting on relatively minor tiffs between the campaigns. I doubt there are many people who haven’t heard about Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s spat about what was said during a private conversation in 2018 about whether a woman could beat Trump in 2020. Meanwhile, over the past few days, former Vice President Joe Biden falsely accused the Sanders campaign of “doctoring” a video of Biden’s remarks about Social Security, and a high-profile Sanders surrogate accused Biden of corruption due to his accepting money from the credit card industry, among others.
Attached to links reporting these and other developments, I’ve seen friends, associates, and others whose opinions I respect spout promises that they will never vote for this or that candidate due to how they have comported themselves with this latest news — or that this or that candidate is comparable to Trump.
This, my friends, is how we lose — especially on the progressive side, which is more dependent on small donations and volunteer support, and therefore on unity.
Particularly troubling has been the tension between Sanders and Warren supporters, whose champions are fighting for so many of the same policies, including Medicare for All, higher education without crushing debt, and an end to the tyranny of the 1 percent. But as the initial news — Warren’s claim that Sanders said a woman couldn’t win against Trump in 2020, and Sanders’ denial of saying that — recedes further into the past, I hope we can all reflect on whether this dispute is actually as large as the media seems to be portraying it.
I do believe Warren heard what she said she heard from Sanders. But I’m also willing to believe Sanders that he does believe that a woman can win, as he said during a recent debate. In the nebulous world of private conversations — rife with misunderstandings — it is possible to believe both Warren and Sanders, or to believe one without assuming the worst of the other.
A positive development this week is that the major candidates — particularly Sanders and Warren — themselves are working to de-escalate many of these conflicts. Sanders and Warren walked arm-in-arm during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in South Carolina. Sanders issued an apology on behalf of his surrogate for accusing Biden of corruption and also called on his supporters to engage in civil discourse. Biden accepted Sanders’ apology. Warren has also repeatedly told the media she is working to move past the initial dispute, and has joined with Sanders in shining a light on Biden’s shaky history with supporting Social Security. Unwise recent comments made by a former Democratic nominee aside, the active candidates seem to be coming together, even as they continue to compete for the nomination.
Substantive policy differences have emerged in the primary. There are genuine feelings about who would be the best candidate to go up against Trump. For the vast majority of the primary for the vast majority of people, things have stayed civil. I hope that is something we can return to and continue going down the final stretch into Iowa and beyond.
In last week’s editorial, I mistakenly implied that no prior research had been done on problem gambling in the state. Two years ago, the University of Massachusetts Amherst released an initial baseline study of problem gambling before MGM Casino opened. The UMass School of Public Health and Health Sciences found that 2 percent of the state’s population are problem gamblers, which is in line with other states, and that and 8 percent (440,000 adult residents) are experiencing harm to a lesser degree.
While conducting this baseline study is better than beginning now, after the casino has opened, I continue to believe that it would have been more appropriate to conduct this research prior to the state Legislature’s passage of the 2011 bill allowing casinos in the state.
Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.