It is reasonable for Democrats to worry about maintaining unity and discipline during the 2020 general-election campaign now that the presidential nominating contest is down to a mismatched pair of late septuagenarian white men. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders aren’t just different ideologically; they appeal to remarkably different constituencies and have sharply different theories for how they can enact their agenda if they are elected president. And if the nominating contest continues for a while, there are notoriously people in both camps who may threaten to defect if their champion does not prevail.
But the good news is that both these old men are quite popular among Democrats generally. The latest Morning Consult tracking poll shows Biden with a 75/20 favorable/unfavorable ratio among likely (or actual) Democratic primary voters, and Sanders close behind with a 71/20 ratio. Given all the bitter words that have been said by elite supporters (including Twitter warriors) of both candidates, that’s impressive. And it certainly looks good when compared with the nominee’s opponent, the president, when he was at a comparable point in the 2016 cycle: According to Gallup, in early March of 2016, Donald Trump’s favorability rating among Republicans was at 55 percent. It would soon dip to 53 percent as he fought to nail down the nomination, but throughout the late winter/early spring, he was in a position comparable to Biden’s today as an overwhelming front-runner. And most obviously, Trump and most of his Republican opponents said far nastier things about each other than Sanders and Biden have said.
And yet Trump moved on to win the nomination and the presidency with the support (however grudging) of most Republicans. Yes, fans of the loser in this year’s Democratic contest will grumble, and a few will sit on their hands in at least the beginning of the general-election campaign. But aside from generally hating Donald J. Trump, most Democrats generally like Bernie and Uncle Joe. It could matter a lot when it comes time for the battling factions of the Democratic Party to kiss, make up, and gird up their loins for the battle to topple the 45th president.