My Biggest Democratic Primary Worry.

At this point, it isn’t Joe Biden.

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Photo via Newsweek

It has been absolutely incredible to see the performance of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in this 2020 primary season. At this point, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are literally competing to see who will have the most comprehensive, substantive plan to tackle student loan debt. That is exactly what we need, and I love it. But of course as much as I hate to admit it, I would be lying to myself if I said I wasn’t a pessimistic cynic at worst or — at best — a realist, and I do have some fears.

I’m afraid they’re going to split the progressive vote.

According to a recent poll out of the Des Moines Register in Iowa:

“Twenty-four percent of Iowa’s likely Democratic caucusgoers say former vice president Biden is their first choice for president. Sanders, a Vermont senator, is the first choice for 16% of poll respondents, while Warren, a Massachusetts senator, and Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are at 15% and 14% respectively.”

Yeah, it’s already happening.

Theoretically, if we combine the poll numbers of Sanders and Warren then they would be ahead of Joe Biden, at thirty one percent. Not only would either Sanders or Warren potentially be in the lead if the other wasn’t running, they’d have a fairly comfortable one outside of most reasonable margins of error.

Of course it really is too early to worry about this and it’s just me thinking too far ahead, but at some point, this is going to be of significant concerns for I’m sure both of their campaigns. We’re already seeing Warren eat in to Bernie’s momentum, which, as much as I support Bernie, I have to convince myself is ok. At least she’s earning it. She’s coming out with policy proposals that are clearly resonating, and that’s fantastic.

At some point however, a progressive front runner will have to be established, and whether it’s Bernie or Warren the competition in reality is eventually going to have to be minimized, for the sake of the movement.

Obviously this is not like 2016, where we had such a limited field and there was actually no real harm in campaigning until the end. However, this time around if they actually want to overcome a centrist Democrat like Biden or Buttigieg, someone is going to have to step back, accept defeat, and take one for the team by bowing out maybe a little earlier than they may have liked. If it does happen to be Warren that establishes herself as the front runner, this can’t be a campaign to the end for Bernie like in 2016. If it ends up being Sanders, Warren will have to understand that she’s only doing more harm than good by staying in.

I have a feeling that these two campaigns will have no choice but to stay in very, very close contact with each other as the nomination approaches, pay attention to the delegate counts, and reach an agreement ahead of time that they both will be willing to bow out in order to help the other secure the nomination. If they want any chance of winning, that’s the only path forward.

Frankly, if the two of them play their cards right, it is their race to lose. Biden is already slipping in the polls, and I’m willing to bet that he’ll no longer be in first after the first two or three debates. But they MUST have the courage, integrity, and political foresight to understand when it will be time for one of them to go in order to make this happen. I have full faith in the progressive wing of the party to rally behind one or the other, so in all honesty this is something that will be up to the two of them. I’m looking forward to the debates, how the poll numbers react, and what will happen as the elections take place.

Lauren is a writer & leftist with analysis on topics related to politics & policy. She can be reached at or Twitter @xlauren_mx

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