There’s a budding media narrative about how Warren and Sanders split the left, giving “centrist” Biden a chance to sneak into the nomination. It’s a bunk narrative.
1) Biden doesn’t represent the “center.” His core base of support is black voters. They’re not representative of any sort of moderation. Biden has them due to a combination of Obama nostalgia and a desire to nominate the most “electable” candidate. The electability argument has been losing steam, and his gaffes-a-minute campaign style isn’t giving anyone new confidence that he is the sure thing.
2) The “center,” as such, is represented in the primary by the likes of Amy Klobuchar, Steve Bullock, Michael Bennet, and a bunch of other generic white dudes (some already driven from the race). How are they doing in the race? Exactly. There is zero appetite in the primary electorate for a media-created notion of centrism that apparently means “don’t rock the boat, don’t try to actually help people.”
3) Besides that, there is no splitting currently happening because there’s nothing to split. The first contests aren’t until next February, meaning that Bernie and Liz are actually reinforcing their narratives. We saw that dynamic to good effect at the last debate, where you had more than one candidate pushing the same message. Warren and Sanders may not be 100% in ideological alignment, but they are traveling the same path. And progressivism is bolstered by having multiple people pushing the message.
Or, put another way, the more the merrier!
Because for all his faults, Sanders is actually a very good messenger for his specific, particular message. So having him espousing it on the campaign trail is nothing but good news for progressives.
His problem has been a categorical refusal to build a broader narrative that is more inclusive of the people that make up the bulk of the Democratic Party base—pretty much people who don’t look like him (nonmale, nonwhite). The notion that economic parity will tamp down racism and sexism is painfully contradicted by the current rise of anti-Semitic incidents. There are too many reasons to divide ourselves along racial, gender, ethnic, and religious grounds to make economic equality the be-all solution. Pretty much every marginalized community understands this, but Bernie doesn’t, and it’s his chronic Achilles’ heel. His inability to shift his message to grow his base of support creates a ceiling he can’t bust through. He’s maxed out.
So yes, at some point next year, Sanders’ supporters will have to decide whether to stick with their candidate, or consolidate against whoever emerges as the anti-Biden—be it Warren, or maybe Harris if she manages to consolidate black support around her.
And who knows? Maybe Sanders cracks that hard ceiling and manages to start growing his support again, at which point Warren supporters would have to decide whether to consolidate.
Point is, there is no need to consolidate today, at least not artificially, under threat. Consolidation is happening already, of course, but that’s slow and organic. It’s a simmering sort of consolidation, as voters weigh their options and see them play out on the campaign trail. It’s a natural, healthy, considerate approach. It exemplifies the best of the democratic process, with plenty of patient introspection, examination, and deliberation.
If you have a candidate? Great! If you don’t, or are juggling a handful, great! There’s no hurry!
We can add urgency to the notion of consolidation when the time comes, but that won’t be during Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina or even Nevada. Not even during the first batch of Super Tuesday votes, which will deliver over a third of the total delegates for the contest! Let things play out: See where the delegate counts stand after a real portion of the country has voted (and not just the arrogant first two states). Then we can take a look at the state of the race and begin thinking strategically about consolidation, if warranted and advantageous.
But to think about that stuff now, this (relatively) early in the process, so far away from really understanding what the field looks like? No need for that.