The current orgy of bloodletting known as the Democratic Party primaries seems puzzling on the surface. Surely the Democrats realise that if only they could choose a reasonably decent candidate and unite behind that candidate they’d have a fairly good chance of recapturing the White House in November. I’m not saying that their victory would be assured, but they’d have a good chance.
The fact that instead of doing this they’re busy shooting each other seems like a sort of madness. In fact it’s even given rise to a brand-new conspiracy theory - that this is all a Deep State plot to get Trump re-elected so he can then be forced to go to war with Iran.
In fact what’s happening is simply the inevitable result of a rigid two-party system. In such a system you don’t have coherent parties that are united by common interests and/or common ideologies. You have instead uneasy coalitions of factions that have no common interests and are bitterly opposed ideologically.
You just have to look at the seething hatred between the Corbynistas and the Blairites in the British Labour Party. Or the vicious faction wars which tore the Australian Labor Party (ALP) apart for decades. These factions are at best reluctant and uncomfortable allies on the surface but in reality they’re bitter political enemies. These factions care more about the internal struggles for control of the party than about winning elections.
This applies to a limited extent also to parties of the Right. The Economic Right on the one hand and social conservatives (and the Religious Right in the US) on the other have no real common interests and no coherent shared ideology. This matters less to parties of the Right. They don’t quarrel so much about principles because the Economic Right doesn’t have any. And in any case the parties of the Right in the Anglosphere have for the past few decades been so completely dominated by the Economic Right that they appear to be united. Even the Religious Right in the US is now politically fairly insignificant, and is becoming ever more insignificant.
But parties of the Left in a two-party system cannot avoid being divided between competing interest groups and ideologies.
So in a two-party system the party of the Left will always be subject to faction-fighting. Which means that such parties will always seem disunited, because they are. These parties only enjoy electoral success when they are able to call a truce between the warring factions. When that happens they can enjoy considerable electoral success, given that the parties of the Right are generally united only by cynicism, opportunism and greed.
There seems to be a growing belief on the Right that Trump’s victory is assured. I’m not entirely convinced. When the Democrats finally do pick a candidate they will presumably stop shooting at each other and turn their guns on Trump. And the media will presumably concentrate its fire on Trump as well. That’s assuming they pick an electable candidate, which is a big assumption. And that’s also assuming they really do fall into line behind that candidate. They may be a big assumption as well. Their problem is that Sanders is by far their most electable possible candidate but he’s the one they’re least likely to back to the hilt. They just have to decide if they’re really serious about winning in November.