Perhaps it was inevitable that one way or another we'd get a spate of "Dems in Disarray!" headlines as the Democratic National Convention begins, since for a long time that has been the default story many reporters write about the Democratic Party. And there is a story to be told about conflict in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, it's not the one that everyone seems to be telling. The Democratic Party isn't being torn apart from the inside; it's being attacked from the outside.Yup.
As you may have heard, there already seem to be many more protests from the left around the Democratic convention than there were around the Republican convention. If it seems strange to you that leftists would be protesting not the candidate who wants to deport 11 million people, ban Muslims from entering the country and roll back civil rights gains for gay Americans, but the candidate who wants to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expand Social Security and enact universal child care, well, that would only mean that you're unfamiliar with leftist politics. For a certain kind of activist on the left, the real enemy is never the right; it's always the liberals who are insufficiently committed to their brand of revolution.
And this is what's important to understand about the protests now going on: They aren't Democrats fighting with Democrats. I wasn't able to go to Philadelphia this week, so I'd encourage the reporters who are there and are covering the anti-Clinton protests to ask those participating a simple question: Do you consider yourself a Democrat? Because I'm fairly certain that they'll find almost no one who says yes. This is even true of some of the people who are Bernie Sanders delegates; they got involved in the Sanders campaign, but they weren't Democrats before this election began and they won't be after it's over. We've seen this at the highest levels: Consider that Sanders appointed Cornel West to the Democrats' platform committee, and after helping decide what the party stands for, West promptly turned around and endorsed Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
Just to be clear, none of that invalidates the substance of the critiques the protesters are making; those can be evaluated on their own terms. Nor does it mean that the fact of the protest itself isn't newsworthy. What it does mean, however, is that it's a fundamentally different story from "Dems in Disarray!"
And, frankly, this is precisely why I support parties having closed primaries. Which, by the way, I supported when I was an independent. (I only registered as a Democrat for the first time this year.) Political parties should be allowed to have the people who are members of their parties choose their candidates, because the members of their parties don't necessarily want the same things or have the same ideas about how to best achieve those objectives as people who aren't party members.
Which is fine. But that means that people who don't want to back the Democrats without fundamentally altering the party shouldn't be petitioning the party for open primaries, but for laxing resistance to building third parties.
(Of course, building your own party is a lot harder than just trying to hijack one that already exists.)
This argument does not, of course, preclude outside agitation. I am all for outside agitation! I have been an outside agitator of the Democratic Party for two decades! And it does not preclude inside agitation. I am all for inside agitation, too! Democrats should always be pushing their leadership to be better; we should always expect more!
But I digress. The point is: It's really not that Democrats are in disarray. It's that there are people who mostly aren't Democrats making noise at the Democratic convention. And that is indeed a very different story than the one being told.