Against party lines: Democrats divided before US elections

On March 9, US presidential hopeful Joe Biden held a large rally at Renaissance High School in northwest Detroit. It was the eve of the Michigan primary, and Democratic Party Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris were in town to give the former vice president a boost.

While Biden was delivering his stump speech, multiple protests broke out in the crowd.

One man unfurled a banner that said “NAFTA killed our jobs”, in reference to the North American Free Trade Agreement backed by Biden, while other protesters chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Joe Biden has got to go!”

“The Bernie Bros are here,” Biden murmured softly, alluding to the young, vocal fans of his then-rival, Senator Bernie Sanders.

The interruption underscored a larger dynamic playing out within the Democratic Party, which is being pulled in different directions by loyalists with very different visions for the party’s future.

While making our Fault Lines film, America’s Divided Democrats, we spent weeks on the campaign trail with activists and volunteers in the two places that may have mattered the most – South Carolina and Michigan.

The overall feeling among Democrats we spoke to was that the party is deeply divided and might be too splintered to unify behind Biden in November.

“He’s a guy who promises a return to normalcy and a lack of, you know, sweeping change. And I don’t think that message resonates with a lot of young people right now,” explained Naina Agrawal-Hardin, an activist with Sunrise Movement in Michigan.

“I hope that people will be energised enough by the desire to beat Donald Trump that they show up to vote anyway, but it is a concern.”

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