The Democratic Primary Disaster

In a perfect world, Kamala Harris would still be in the race and Joe Biden would not. Can Democrats save themselves before it’s too late?

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U.S. Senator Kamala Harris speaking with supporters at the annual West Des Moines Democratic Party Summer picnic at Legion Park in West Des Moines, Iowa. July 3, 2019. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

As the days pass and the election day contest of 2020 marches on, the field of the Democratic primary only seems to get muddier.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, under legitimate scrutiny at last for his abysmal voting record and many foreign policy failures, is maintaining his front-runner status, albeit barely.

Whether he can maintain his dubious lead until the primary, and indeed whether or not he is truly the man to beat Trump, remains to be seen.

#JoeVotedForTheWar trending on Twitter today isn’t a good sign. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez publicly announcing that Biden doesn’t belong in her political party is an even worse sign.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, after faltering briefly when he suffered a heart attack in October, has bounced back and then some. The Sanders campaign is raking in donations and has expanded its donor-ship. Polling for Sanders is steadily improving as well.

But whether Sanders can withstand in 2020 the Democratic leadership machine that ended his candidacy in 2016, is anyone’s guess.

Obama insiders and former staffers are unified in fear of what a Sanders candidacy might mean for the Democratic Party. That fear is mainly based on their aversion to four more years of the Donald Trump administration.

Democratic leadership and luminaries are also united in having no clear ideas for stopping Sanders.

Obama insiders, and indeed former President Barack Obama himself, might have a good point: During an economic upswing like the one the U.S. is currently experiencing, the massive economic overhaul Sanders is planning is a tough sell.

Donald Trump will paint Sanders as exactly what he is; a socialist who wants massive reforms. And the Trump campaign will have a great many video clips of Bernie Sanders saying exactly the sorts of things that make conservatives and moderates shudder.

Sanders supporters make a good counter-point, however. Sanders is, as he did in 2016, generating a great deal of enthusiasm from the liberal base. He may have the best shot at the record Democratic voter turnout Democrats will need in 2020 to win.

There is certainly an enthusiasm gap between adherents to the “Joe Biden is electable” camp and the Sanders camp, to say nothing of the Trump camp.

And no campaign is lacking in enthusiasm as much as Michael Bloomberg’s. Even with a well-known media personality like Judge Judy, Bloomberg is having a great deal of difficultly drumming up in-person support at his events.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is entering a make-or-break phase of her campaign. After Sanders suffered his heart attack, and news of Hunter Biden’s Ukraine work started haunting the Biden campaign, Warren enjoyed a brief surge in the polls.

With that surge, she perhaps overextended herself on the subject of her Medicare for All plan; more specifically on how she intends to pay for it. Voters weren’t over-impressed with her evasive answers on the subject of middle-class tax hikes.

Will she be able to win them back?

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is staying alive in the polls and in donations. He is generating a great deal of excitement from white liberals and moderates, but has managed to garner virtually no support whatsoever from the African-American and Latino communities after a series of embarrassing missteps.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been enjoying some movement in the polls, but her candidacy isn’t looking any more likely to coalesce into the kind of widespread support she needs.

Sen. Cory Booker and Andrew Yang are vocally not impressed with the lineup for the next Democratic debate, which is likely to be all white. Liberals in the media are also spending no small amount of digital ink bemoaning this state of affairs.

What Democrats can actually do about that- aside from supporting the campaigns of Yang and Booker of course, which Democrats seem wholly unwilling to do- is unclear.

Turnout seems to be the word on every Democratic political consultant’s mind these days. The candidate who generates as much excitement on the left as Trump does on the right will be the only Democrat capable of beating an incumbent President during an economic boom time.

But the biggest problem facing the Democratic candidates isn’t an enthusiasm gap. It isn’t polling or donations or the press.

Democrats are missing the forest for the trees; depending too much on Twitter metrics and ignoring voters. Democrats are also missing a few key points about voter demographics, due to the sort of institutionalized racism they are always shouting about everyone else having.

Consider what we saw during the 2018 mid-term election: Voting rights were restored to citizens in Florida who had been stripped of that right when convicted of a felony. It was an effort spearheaded in part by…

Notorious Republican boogeymen, the Koch brothers.

When asked by a journalist why they backed such an effort when former felons were likely to vote Democrat, a spokesperson answered quite succinctly:

“No one knows how they will vote.”

And that’s the truth. The Koch brothers aren’t stupid; they didn’t amass such vast wealth because they can’t see which way the wind is blowing. People disproportionately punished by a broken criminal justice system were bound to get their voting rights back, sooner or later.

The Koch brothers backed these efforts because any single-demographic group, be it former felons or women, is not comprised of people who are all the same. It is comprised of individuals who might share one demographic identifier but certainly do not share the rest.

The, “_______ people are all the same and will therefore vote the same” theory has been proven wrong many times before.

Ironically, it is the reasoning once used by people trying to prevent women from getting the U.S. vote. Because “all ______ think alike and will vote alike” they reasoned, women would form a powerful, united, voting block that would subvert the male vote.

Males, it was assumed by this same authority, would all vote differently according to their values because men are a more ethically diverse and dynamic group.

Right.

Until Democrats stop taking key supporters for granted and confusing Twitter with real life, and start talking earnestly to working class voters who expect results- not just pretty speeches- Democrats will continue to be a step behind in this race.

Because right now, Donald Trump seems to understand the needs of his base far better than Democrats distracted by perils and pitfalls of the Twitter-sphere do theirs.

Hundreds of people are willing to camp in the cold to attend one of Trump’s rallies. And some of the people attending his rallies…are Democrats.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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