I remember when Republican activists were most excited about Scott Walker ahead of the 2016 primary. I am not sure why these polls come out. Clearly, the GOP activist class did not have a good pulse on the electorate in 2016. The activist poll published by 538 today shows Democrat activists may be equally off base.
In voter polls, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have been consistently at the top. Enthusiasm for Beto O’Rourke has been waning and Mayor Pete Buttigieg seems to be taking his place. The only woman in the top five generally is Kamala Harris.
Yet the activist polls seem completely reversed. Except for Mayor Pete. Seems his latest run of free media has raised his profile with activists as well as voters. We’ll see how long it lasts.
Perhaps the most notable line in this poll is the chart on the right-hand side. Nearly 50% of the activists polled said they would not consider supporting Bernie Sanders. This is odd for a few reasons.
First, the top three candidates in the eyes of activists, Harris, Booker and Warren, are all running in Bernie’s lane. Harris has endorsed Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. So has Booker. Warren is trying to out Bernie, Bernie in many cases putting forth detailed policies to support many of Bernie’s ideas.
Second, Harris and Booker have been this far left for about five minutes. The only detailed policy Harris has put out is related to teacher pay which looks like a pure pander to the teachers union. Prior to that, she was a prosecutor, which is generally not looked up kindly on the left. I haven’t seen a detailed policy from Booker. Warren has been pretty radical for a while and seems to be the most authentic in the lane she is running in.
Third, Sanders polls very consistently around 30% of voters. And if 2016 is any guide, his support is pretty durable and could be viewed as a legitimate faction within the party. And he is the one that has some overlap in his appeal with populist Trump voters.
It seems rather clear that the activists believe intersectionality will win the day. This is pretty consistent with the disconnect noted by the New York Times between Progressive activists and the larger Democrat voter population. The most vocal “woke” wing of the party gets more airtime than a far more moderate majority within the party.
Now don’t get me wrong. I hope the Democrat activists win this battle. They actually prefer Kirsten Gillibrand to Sanders or Biden. In the current environment, I see the latter as the biggest threat to Trump’s second term and he is seventh on the list for the loudest and most influential members of the party.
I hope they win because they have some terrible retail candidates at the top of their list. Kamala Harris has the arrogance of Barack Obama and a whole lot of skeletons in her closet. Cory Booker is an empty shirt whose ability to think on his feet is in doubt. Warren, Klobuchar, and Gillibrand are about as authentic and energetic as Hillary was. And Mayor Pete has run a town of about 100,000 people. At some point, people are going to have to question on what planet he is qualified to be the leader of the free world no matter who he is married to.
Add to that the possibility that the Bernie Bros will just drop out if their hero is denied again. And the moderates that Biden could capture will not have an option if they are not on board with massive government programs and spending.
The bottom line is the Democrat activists do not want to see a white man at the top of the ticket unless he is gay. Because in their mind, sexual orientation still has intersectional purchase. This could be where the upside down intersectional pyramid that progressive Democrats have constructed to pander for votes will come crashing down.
Or maybe they will just double down. Either way, the fissure in the party is becoming evident from the halls of Congress to the primary for 2020.