Today marks the auspicious occasion of President Donald J. Trump’s first State of the Union Address—which also means that he’s been in office for just a little over two years, after snatching the White House away from Hillary Clinton in what surely ranks as one of the greatest political upsets in history.
Most Americans remember that election about the same fondness as they remember their last colonoscopy, so when you bring up 2020 the typical voter reaction probably goes something along the lines of, “What, already? Can’t you people give us a break for, like, two minutes?” Alas, two minutes is a lifetime in politics—or maybe the media just make it feel that way—which means you’re gonna get the most complete election coverage whether you want it or not, so you better get used to it.
Spooked by the 2016 election, Democratic voters say they want above all else someone who can beat President Donald Trump, according to a new poll Monday.
The poll from Monmouth University found that an unusually large number of Democratic voters are prioritizing “electability” over values as they begin to think about whom to support in their 2020 presidential primary.
When you look at the internals of the poll, it breaks down pretty much as you might expect, with those names with the greatest recognition factor up at the top. This, of course, explains why potential candidates such as Lizzy Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris make a point of courting controversy in the press. Flinging bogus rape charges against a Supreme Court nominee, faking Native American ancestry, and telling stories about a nonexistent childhood friend named “T-Bone,” may be stupid, but hey—at least people know who you are.
Interestingly enough, though, it’s Uncle Joe Biden who tops the list with the highest favorable among Democrats, and by a pretty decent margin. Obviously, that has a lot to do with him being the former Vice President—but, with beating Trump seemingly foremost on Democrat voters’ minds, the fact that he doesn’t come off as bat-guano crazy probably helps.
The electability argument, though, takes me back to the last time I heard the word getting tossed around in regards to a presidential primary. You might recall 2004, when Howard Dean was the Democrat darling and seemed to be cruising his way to the nomination and sure to run against the incumbent George W. Bush in the general. Dean was welcomed by the base as brash, candid and also plenty angry—a state that jibed perfectly with how they felt about Bush at the height of their derangement syndrome. Cooler heads, though, seemed to take a dimmer view of Dean’s antics, and worried about the perception that he simply didn’t have the temperament to be president.
Stuff like this didn’t help:
Suddenly, a good chunk of the party starting thinking that maybe they should vote for somebody more electable—which is how John Kerry surged and ultimately became the nominee.
And look at how that turned out.
Hence, the problem with “electable” candidates. Sure, they look good on paper, but when it comes to inflaming the passions of your voting base—well, let’s just say they don’t exactly turn up the heat. And in a contest against the much-reviled Donald Trump, primary voters are going to look for a candidate that stirs their emotions with equal intensity. That’s why the Warrens and the Bookers and the Harrises are staking out such ludicrous positions. They know who their audience is, and they’re playing that role to the hilt.
Then there’s the problem of Democrat superdelegates. You remember them, right? They’re the ones who pledged themselves to Hillary Clinton when the die-hard liberals wanted Bernie Sanders, even in states that Bernie won. Guess what? They’re gone now. Oh, they’re still around in the literal sense—but new DNC honcho Tom Perez basically stripped them of all their power, all but turning the nominating process into a free-for-all. That means whoever ignites the base will claim the prize—so unless the entire party gets a prescription for Xanax, it’s unlikely they’ll vote for an “electable” moderate.
Howard Shultz understands that all too well, which is why he wants to run as an independent.
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