Jostling for position in the 2020 Democratic primary has started already, God help us. And there is probably no way around a bitter fight between liberals and leftists over who is going to be the nominee.
However, it might be possible to head off some of the bitterness that resulted from the 2016 primary by admitting the necessity of that fight and making it about ideology and policy to the greatest possible degree.
The first big flare-up of 2020 has already happened, over Beto O'Rourke. The failed Texas senate candidate got a ton of positive media attention during his campaign, leading to him being put forward by former Obama staffers as a good presidential candidate. Various lefties expressed some skepticism of this: Zaid Jilani and Branko Marcetic focused on his moderate policy record, particularly his support of financial deregulation, while I focused on how neither O'Rourke nor his Obamaworld supporters have deeply reckoned with the appalling consequences of the too-small stimulus or the corrupt bank bailout.
It really got going when Elizabeth Bruenig wrote a much more gentle criticism in The Washington Post. She argued that while O'Rourke is well above average when it comes to a possible Texas Democratic senator, he isn't the kind of full-throated progressive we should ask for, since about anyone should be able to defeat Trump.
A few big-shot liberals immediately spied a conspiracy. Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden wrote this on Twitter:
Bruenig’s piece in the Post on Beto is just the latest attack by a supporter of Senator Sanders on Beto: joining Jilani, Jacobin and Sirota. Feels a bit orchestrated and clearly they are worried.
— Neera Tanden (@neeratanden) December 6, 2018
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