This article originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee's Soapbox section on April 29, 2016.
As a California Democrat, I’ve fretted all year about the ominous threat of domestic fascism in our country revealed in the rhetoric and extremism of Donald Trump and his hard-core followers.
The dangerous undercurrents of the election suggest that the country needs a united front against Trump, combining the best, or at least salvageable, elements from the feuding campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who, along with independents, can build a majority to win the presidency and possibly take back the U.S. Senate.
I am endorsing Hillary Clinton despite our many disagreements because her base is the Democratic Party coalition of African Americans, Latinos, Asians, women and union households. But Sanders has built the largest, youngest political base in decades.
Sanders and Clinton have personal legacies at stake in this election, but the sharpness of their late-stage antagonism suggests that another close election could threaten the Democratic ticket. A recent McClatchy-Marist poll showed that 25 percent of Sanders’ supporters will not vote for Clinton.
Perhaps the worries about Trump will draw these camps together, but it’s not enough. Trump’s position on trade, for example, will attract many working class and unionized voters in November, alongside the fervent anti-immigrant “America First” forces.
Those differences have to be resolved through a conflict-resolution process, not a one-sided rubber-stamping of the winners’ preferences. The Democrats are fundamentally divided into two camps over issues ranging from trade to war and peace. A genuine power-sharing relationship might be a necessity for the first time in recent political history. The “team of rivals” of Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet might be the only similarity.
Sanders can’t have his way if he continues in combat mode. Nor can Clinton have her way if she’s the mathematical winner. Time will be needed to achieve a genuine synthesis because both sides need each other to win the general election and establish positive legacies.
Clinton has more on the line, of course, but she needs Sanders to win in November. In turn, Sanders’ campaign needs to help elect Clinton in order to choose justices to sit on the Supreme Court and win a place in progressive history.
To start the healing process, Clinton and Sanders could agree on a joint resolution to overturn Citizens United in order to terminate the power of big money over our waning democratic republic.
What other platform commitment could the two candidates pursue? On issues related to Wall Street, Sen. Elizabeth Warren might be a powerful force in a united front. She hasn’t endorsed anyone; she sounds like Sanders and has criticized the Clintons, so she might be an acceptable synthesizer to both candidates.
Another consolidating issue could be the debate over climate change. If it’s truly a threat to the world, both should morally embrace the implementation of the Paris Climate Summit and the leading role played by California in the process. Both should embrace Sen. Ricardo Lara’s legislation to phase out methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons – the superpollutants that devastate the health of children, families, truck drivers and port workers.
A third step for a united front might be fair trade in place of the corporate-dominated agreements of recent decades. Here Clinton has to accommodate labor’s position and that of Sanders. She could start by reaffirming her opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership and by proposing democratic structural reform of the utterly secretive process underlying trade deals.
A similar framework can be applied to resolving sharp disputes over Obamacare vs. the single-payer approach.
War and peace might be the most difficult challenges. Pressure from President Barack Obama, congressional Democrats, Sanders and perhaps Trump will be needed to shift Clinton away from her historic hawkishness. We are entering another war presidency, with the fate of social programs – and whole countries – at stake. With Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, we endured bloody wars and built the foundations of civil rights, labor and health care programs. The Republicans seem to want to cut all civilian programs under the pretense of war.
The point is simple, as Ben Franklin said long ago – we hang together or all hang alone.