Mayor Pete hasn’t even won yet. Strangely, and in a major boost to Trump’s re-election hopes, the count in the Iowa Democrat presidential caucus continues on. This, however, has not stopped Bernie Sanders supporters across the west ganging up on Pete Buttigieg for daring to challenge their saviour in the Midwest. The whole thing is like a primer for why the western Left keeps losing, over and over again.
Some of the killer barbs at Buttigieg thrown around on social media yesterday were: he ran focus groups. Wow, what a crime. But hold on, he held focus groups on whether it was better to run as Pete or Peter and to figure out how people might pronounce his name easier. What an asshole, right? I mean, he might as well have said he was going invade Canada while wearing blackface. What else? He’s a “machine politician”. This is a painfully stupid argument given a). Buttigieg isn’t a machine politician, he’s the mayor of a large town in Indiana. He’s basically come from nowhere into the race and b). being a machine politician isn’t even a negative if you’re looking for someone to beat Trump. Ironically, the fact that Sanders is a machine politician and Buttigieg is not is a positive in Bernie’s column.
Some will leap in here with the idea that he primaries are always adversarial and what do you expect Bernie supporters to do? I’ll answer that. At least wait until the count is actually finished. Then see how New Hampshire shapes the race. It’s happening next Tuesday, guys. Sanders might need Buttigieg supporters further down the road if Pete can’t go all the way, so slagging him off needlessly this early on is counter-productive. Sanders did well in Iowa and looks on to be one of the final two contenders for the nomination unless things go really wrong from here. In fact, you want to know what the biggest impediment to Sanders getting the Democratic nomination is? His terrible supporters and their leftier-than-thou bullshit.
This all points to a bigger problem for the western Left. They are happier fighting amongst themselves than against the Right. And happier by a factor of about five at least. It’s become about who controls the centre-left party, not realising that it’s totally useless if that party cannot win power. It’s become hysterical, as evidenced in Iowa.
I kind of like Bernie. If you asked me to pick the person who would probably be able to beat Trump, I’d probably choose Sanders. I also like a lot of what he wants to do, and given for some of you I’m Mr Centre-right (although the actual centre-right people who read this will rightly laugh at such an idea) I suppose that’s probably saying something. You can actually convince a lot of people that what Bernie wants to do is the right thing and that he’s the right guy to do it just by explaining it all. You know, what they used to call campaigning. But stuff like slagging off Buttigieg for holding focus groups and being a “machine politician” (basically, for taking the idea of becoming president of the United States seriously) just turns potential supporters off. Reading the reaction to Iowa from Sanders supporters has left me feeling more negative about Bernie than anything the Republicans have ever put out about him. Sanders’ supporters are turning potential goodwill in their own camp into bile for no apparent gain.
There are lessons from Iowa for the British Left. The idea that if you shout loud enough and chuck insults around, you can get your political way. That if you just keep on insisting that you’re right, voters will eventually listen – and if they don’t, they weren’t the right kind of voters anyhow. You only want pure voters, even if there aren’t very many of them. Stop shouting and try convincing people instead, particularly people who identify as centre-left already. The electorate votes for the centre-left when they feel it is has a positive vision for the country that it can competently pull off. Shouting amongst yourselves is the exact opposite of that.