Iowa’s implosion has come and gone, Sanders has won New Hampshire, and we’re officially in the thick of the presidential primary season.
“Super Tuesday” is less than a month away, yet there remains no clear front-runner in the race to the Democratic candidacy.
As Democratic voters are scanning their options, it appears there is one winning factor which reigns above all: “electability.”
Ask most Democrats what their main voting consideration is and they’ll say the ability to beat Trump. They want someone who has a chance to stand up to the President, galvanize disappointed Republicans, and appeal to centrist Democrats.
Political electability, for the most part, is a mythical concept that muddles more than it clarifies. Take the leaders of the Democratic field. The voter who prioritizes electability most likely favors Joe Biden: a moderate, who runs on a campaign based on bridging a partisan divide. He also has heavy baggage from Afghanistan, a running list of gaffes, and a terrible record on the War on Drugs.
Most importantly, however, Biden will face the same struggle galvanizing Democrats to vote that Hillary did in 2016. His campaign is quickly losing steam with failures in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and he is losing the moderate stage to Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has garnered lots of traction in Iowa, and has demonstrated some pull with affluent, educated voters who perceive him as a fresher Biden.
His lack of experience, however, could create doubts about his competence in the general election, which is a recipe for disaster in a re-election year. He has repeatedly polled badly with minority voters, especially black voters who question his record in South Bend. This means he’ll probably have trouble with Democratic turnout in some of the more diverse states.
That takes us further left. Turnout is one of the key components of Sanders’ campaign, which argues that the traditional Democratic electorate could be expanded further with the disengaged, working-class voters who would benefit from his policies. However, it is often said that the radicality of some of Sander’s policies could turn off moderate and middle-class voters who were key to the democrats winning control of the House in 2018.
To the right of Sanders, Elizabeth Warren does appeal slightly more to the moderates
and the more affluent voters. Her backtracking on Medicare-For-All, however, has alienated some of the crucial liberal electors who perceive the move as a lack of dedication to the working-class.
In addition, she’s still seen as too progressive by some of the middle-upper class, which means she’s in a lose-lose balancing act that is evident in her lackluster results in Iowa and New Hampshire. That takes us back to Bernie. And so on,
This discourse about “electability” does not bring a democratic voter any closer to the Trump card (pun intended). It is all just hypotheticals constructed fromrecursive guesswork, a flawed mish- mosh of questions we can’t really answer.
The truth is that elections are decided by a ridiculous amount of variables, and any attempt to gauge which candidate has the best chance to beat Trump through set criteria will not take most of these variables into account.
Take the 2016 election; ask a politically engaged voter why Hillary lost, and they’ll tell you something about her emails, Russian hackers, Trump’s cable television cameos, and the Rust Belt. That mixture of happenings and random qualities made a man who was considered one of the most unelectable candidates win the presidency, and now he’s considered an extraordinarily tough competitor in 2020.
In the primaries, there is no way to determine how a candidate will be perceived in the general election. Sanders could muddle his leftist policies a little, and Biden might announce some radical healthcare plan.
They could be perceived as Socialist or Centrist, and they could just be seen as a plain old Democrat.
So, just vote for who you like the best ideologically. Your favorite candidate, if elected, will have about 8 months to placate whichever disgruntled group of individuals they need to win for the general.
They’ll be surrounded by a highly trained team of professionals who will tailor their campaign carefully, no matter how “unelectable” they appear to be.
If you vote primarily for electability’s sake, you might end up feeling very meh about the candidate and their policies. Vote to represent yourself and what you value in a President; that’s what democracy’s about, after all.