2020 Election — Democratic Candidates Are Being Treated Unfairly. Do We Care?

South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg during the Democratic primary debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif., December 19, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Weird things happen during Democratic presidential primaries.

Most conservatives have no interest in a highly functional Democratic National Committee, and perhaps some spotlighted the actions of the DNC in 2016 entirely out of cynical motives, in order to exacerbate divisions within the party. But I suspect some conservatives genuinely think it’s unjust for a party committee to turn over its financial decision-making to the front-runner’s campaign, as the DNC did for the Clinton campaign in the 2016 cycle. You don’t have to agree with Sanders’s decisions or even like him to believe that it is fundamentally unfair for the organization running the nomination process to effectively be a secret financial subsidiary of one candidate.

You don’t have to love Pete Buttigieg to believe that the charge from New York Times reporter Binyamin Appelbaum that he’s “been on the front lines of corporate price fixing” is unfair guilt-by-association. In late 2017, Canadian grocery chain Loblaws admitted to price-fixing on bread from 2001 to 2014. Buttigieg worked at McKinsey consulting, and for six months in 2008 he worked for Loblaws as a client. He described the work in his autobiography, “spending my weekdays in a small, glass-walled conference room with three colleagues in a suburban office park, building models to compute how much it could cost to cut prices on various combinations of tens of thousands of items across hundreds of stores, in every part of the country.” Loblaws said that Buttigieg’s consulting work had nothing to do with the scandal. If you want to oppose Buttigieg because you simply don’t trust any business consultants, fine, but don’t blame Buttigieg for a scandal that started well before he arrived, lasted long after he left, and where there’s no evidence he knew about any of it.

Hillary Clinton jumped into the Democratic primary to declare that Tulsi Gabbard is “ the favorite of the Russians.” Conservatives have wondered just what the heck Andrew Yang has to do to get more questions during the nationally televised Democratic debates. Elizabeth Warren claimed that Bernie Sanders had told her that a woman couldn’t beat Trump, and a CNN moderator acted as if it was a proven fact during the debate, even after Sanders vehemently denied it.

Many conservatives and many Republicans believe that the political world is unfair and slanted against them in a million different ways, large and small. Party establishments build high barriers to get on the ballot, and then take action to protect incumbents who already enjoy significant advantages. The media plays favorites, treats their preferred candidates with kid gloves, and deliberately misconstrues innocuous comments to demonize the candidates they don’t like. When their preferred candidates mess up, members of the press mobilize to explain that the criticisms is overblown, that Republicans are pouncing, and that the real question is whether the GOP is in danger of overreaching. Post-primary endorsements are withheld by spoilsport losing candidates.

During Democratic presidential primary season, we see every bad habit, conscious and subconscious bias, unfair written and unwritten rule, and unjust instinct that always exist, except that during this period, all of these are factors in fights of Democrats against other Democrats.

But the progressives who see unfair advantages of a center-left establishment rarely come away with the realization that maybe all those conservatives had a fair point in their past complaints. And the many on the right largely see a giant indistinguishable glob of “the Left” even though the Bernie Bros, the Warren feminists, the Biden establishmentarians, and the Mayor Pete wine-cave donor class all have pretty disparate outlooks and priorities.

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