Stopping this rampant president will take a candidate who can unite all those who oppose him
But the Democrats’ dilemma is that blue-collar and southern voters too easily believe Trump’s lines about it all being the fault of foreigners and the Washington swamp. The unspoken fear is that Trump could still lose the popular vote and win the presidency via votes in the electoral college, as he did in 2016. To block him, especially in key states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, there must be an appeal to independent and moderate Republicans, as Buttigieg – and Bloomberg – keep repeating.
The winning coalition has to include Sanders on the left and liberal Republicans, repelled by Trump, on the right, and it has to be anchored in a critique much more leftist than American centrists have made until now. They are beginning to build an emerging majority of Democrats who think so too.
If so, the nomination will fall to a “moderate” who can build this coalition, although even a few years back today’s moderate position would be characterised as left wing. Biden is losing momentum: the struggle will be between Bloomberg and Buttigieg. Trump is wary of both, but probably more of Bloomberg, his money and his credibility. Warren could have an important role – she would be a “guarantor” the administration would be progressive. So what will be would be offered is not a milk and water centre platform, but a combination of the centre and left. Of the two options, Bloomberg-Warren is marginally more likely to succeed, but there will be many twists, turns, setbacks and scandals before November. Predictions made now are certain to be confounded.
But the main strategic outlines are becoming clearer. There is no point – in America as in Britain – of being in politics to declaim while the right in power changes our world for the worse. The political aim must be to build the coalition that wins. In Britain, Keir Starmer’s increasing support among activists reflects the same judgment; he is palpably much more left than any “moderate” predecessor, but with the key advantage that he is plainly electable, with putative deputy Angela Rayner his “guarantor”.