Divisiveness Among 2020 Democratic Hopefuls Hits New Low

Four or five years ago, Mr. Lockhart said in an interview, he would have had to phone a reporter to weigh in, and the mainstream press, acting as gatekeeper, might or might not have quoted him.

Now, “there’s the ability for people to have their own platforms,” he said. “I tweeted it, and got back to my dinner.”

David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, lamented that the last debate, which smashed records as the most watched Democratic presidential debate ever, was so intensely negative. “My worry is that everyone looked so mad at each other,” he said. “When every person on the stage has their oppo ready to go and delivers it with such ferocity, you may win that individual skirmish, but you’re giving away the bigger picture — the need for people to be inspired.”

Yes, there are many examples of Democratic rivals turning negative in past primary races. Strategists for Hillary Clinton in 2008 dangled Mr. Obama’s youthful drug use. In 2016, Mrs. Clinton accused Mr. Sanders of smearing her for receiving donations from rich people.

But those digs feel pretty innocent compared to this year, when a burst of gloves-off negativity seems to have been triggered by the prospect of a staunchly leftist nominee in Mr. Sanders, the late entry of Michael R. Bloomberg and a fierce fight over which moderate candidate ought to be Mr. Sanders’s leading foil.

On Sunday night, Mr. Sanders praised Fidel Castro for Cuba’s literacy program on “60 Minutes.” Many responses from fellow Democrats were searing, including two congresswomen from Florida with sizable Cuban electorates. “As the first South American immigrant member of Congress who proudly represents thousands of Cuban Americans, I find Senator Bernie Sanders’ comments on Castro’s Cuba absolutely unacceptable,” Representative Debbi Mucarsel-Powell, one of the Florida congresswomen, said on Twitter.

Fernand Amandi, a pollster and political consultant in South Florida, went further: “Democrats, nominating this man will absolutely re-elect @realDonaldTrump and end our Constitutional republic,” he wrote.

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