The Recent Democratic Primary Debate in South Carolina and the success of Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are showing signs that the Democratic Party is beginning to split between moderates and liberals. This is opposed to the Republican party that has mostly, if not entirely rallied behind President Donald Trump. It remains to be seen whether or not the Democratic Party will rally behind their nomination or if the recent populist movement will drive the party in two.
The obvious Populist candidate for the Democratic party would be Bernie Sanders as he seemingly speaks on behalf of working-class people and the vast majority of the American population. This candidate has gained a large following of loyal supporters and some have even claimed to only support Bernie Sanders and have rejected other Democratic candidates. If Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic Nomination and achieves the type of political loyalty shown by many Republicans under Donald Trump, the country would truly be forced between two populist political parties and their populist candidates. However, given his far-left views, many moderate voters have begun to back Joe Biden citing Bernie Sander’s extreme political views. In addition to this, voters have cited that Biden would be the most electable candidate within the Democratic race.
In 2016 the Republican party was swept by a sensationalist populist candidate. This candidate was Donald Trump. By appealing to working-class communities and through capitalizing on the anti-politician sentiment that many individuals felt throughout the nation, Donald Trump was able to successfully overturn the Republican establishment. Although there was initial push back against Donald trump a large majority of Republican politicians have come over to Donald Trump’s side and seemingly offered their full support. Donald Trump, a candidate the Republican establishment originally revolted against, has become so popular amongst Republican politicians that he is often highlighted and endorsed by Republicans during local campaigns. This can be explained by the massive support Donald Trump has acquired from Republican and working-class voters.
During the last Democratic primary debate in North Carolina, Bernie Sanders had the lead in delegates and almost every candidate was ready to pounce on Sanders in an attempt to slow his momentum and turn the Democratic party away from populism. This was a clear sign that the Democratic party was not going the way of the populist movement. Former Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg would attack Bernie Sanders by highlighting his extreme political leaning and attempt to bring to light the “chaos” that would ensue if the populist candidate obtained the Democratic nomination. Pete Buttigieg would argue that instability would be coming our way by pitting Bernie Sanders against Donald Trump, which would be ” chaotic divisive toxic and exhausting”. Others like Tom Steyer would call into question the solution of Bernie Sanders. The common theme throughout the debate would continue to be attacking the populist candidate, Bernie Sanders. This shows that the typical Democratic candidate and Democratic establishment would position themselves to oppose this new wave of populism.
One must ask the question if the Democratic party is on the same populist path as the Republican Party? With the rising support of Bernie Sanders and his push to motivate and win over working-class Americans, is a similar tactic that essentially won the Presidency for Donald Trump. It remains to be seen whether or not the Democratic establishment will fully back or oppose the populist movement. There is also the question if the Democratic will unify if the Populist candidate loses. The “Bernie or Bust” movement also exists which proclaims they will not vote for any candidate other than their chosen candidate. This potential split within the Democratic Party between progressives and moderates could have a negative impact on the chosen Democratic presidential candidate. One must not forget the fact that initially, the Republican establishment vehemently opposed Donald Trump only to later give into and fully back the populist candidate and their politics.
Only time will tell what the effects of populism have had on both the Democratic and Republican parties. Populism may be a double-edged sword that can both propel a party to victory as well as split and change a party from its original core values and beliefs. One thing that seems to certain is that Populism and the potential political repercussions of it are here to stay for the foreseeable future. While the populist movement could potentially be used to better the lives of many Americans and change the course of the United States for the better, It also has a chance to take a turn for the worst. Populism will be used and has been used as a political tool. The question for the United States is “How” populism will be used.