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For Dems, it's time for a pledge drive

Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Kamala

Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris at the fifth Democratic presidential debate on Nov. 20 in Atlanta. Credit: Getty Images / Alex Wong

The Democratic primary contest has candidates saying some truly foolish things while flanking each other from the left.

Even I, a Democratic socialist, think Sen. Bernie Sanders’ idea to forgive all college debt is patently unfair and ridiculous. Not to be outdone in free-stuff frivolity, Andrew Yang prefers the here’s-a-thousand-bucks-a-month-in-cash approach.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren promised free gender transition surgery for inmates, while Sanders — not to be out-crazied on the oh-so-crucial issue of violent criminal rights — vowed to let murderers vote from prison.

And former Vice President Joe Biden ... well, pretty much everything he’s said has been garbled gibberish, a concern that has some moderate Democrats looking to former Republican Michael Bloomberg as a possible savior.

But despite poor promises galore, each major candidate has, at least on paper, wisely pledged to support the eventual Democratic nominee against President Donald Trump. So why on Earth don’t we ever hear about it?

During an administration that has dug divisive partisan trenches, the Democratic Party is its most fractured in recent history. Watching the candidates spar over big-ticket items — health care and higher education — while trying to out-woke one another, knowing each has signed some under-the-radar-online-petition to endorse whoever emerges from the fracas is less than reassuring.

Desperate to prevent a repeat of 2016’s post-primary acrimony, the Democratic National Committee is taking notice — and getting nervous. DNC chairman Tom Perez reportedly wants commitments from each presidential primary candidate to campaign for the 2020 nominee. But despite striding a step beyond baseline loyalty pledges, the likely result will be more vague, scattered promises that few candidates will heed.

This problem could be cured with a fraction of President Trump’s gift for showmanship. Perez should realize that herding cats is easier when you already have them in a cage. Or on a stage.

Ask all candidates to dedicate their opening remarks for the Thursday debate — and every debate thereafter — to a full-throated endorsement for the nominee. Task candidates with convincing their supporters that, in November 2020, they must vote for the Democrat on the ballot, whoever that may be. If any candidate refuses, let the ones who do pledge party allegiance browbeat them on national TV.

Why are Republicans the only ones who realize that intraparty discipline wins elections? In 2016, the GOP had a huuuge shake-up. A businessman with no political experience and a bull-in-a-china-shop personality bowled over one conventional contender after another. Despite his checkered past and provocative present, Republican voters stuck with Trump because his vision for America most closely matched their own.

While I disagree with those voters, I sure do envy their loyalty.

Compare this with Democrats. Despite seeing Trump as an existential threat, progressives and moderates continue fighting in ways that erode general election prospects. Meanwhile, the left-wing cancel culture makes candidates choose between woke purity and widespread electability. Increasingly, Democrats are becoming deeply principled losers.

Few people read online pledges. They watch the debates or, the next morning, sound bites on YouTube. While by no means a cure-all, taking time during each debate to urge party unity would allow Democrats to have policy disagreements from a far safer place.

In a still-broad field, supporters of each candidate need to start seeing that their top choice is behind the party, regardless the eventual nominee. Running for president is about something larger than yourself. Democrats should start acting like it.

Christopher Dale is a freelance writer who writes on society, politics and sobriety-based issues.

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