As we approach the one-year countdown to the American Presidential elections, the Democratic primary battle is heating up.
With the first primary approximately four months away, the field that at one point had upwards of 25 candidates, is now down to 19. As someone who has tracked American electoral politics over the last decade-and-a-half, the early signs coming from the Democratic Party indicate a tough road ahead for the Blues.
To be fair to the Democrats, the electoral college system of presidential elections itself doesn’t favour their core base demographic. That is one reason why, in spite of winning the popular vote (i.e. securing more votes overall than the Republican nominee), in six out of the last seven elections, including 2016, they have been able to win only four times.
Recently, NBC news did an article about how Trump could get five million fewer votes than his Democratic opponent and still win again.
Stanford University’s political scientist, Jonathan A Rodden, in his book Why Cities Lose, wrote: “Democrats won by excessive margins in the districts they won and fall short by relatively narrow margins in districts they lose. The Democratic long-term problem is with the seats and not with votes.”
He further observes, “Democrats are more likely to live in homogenous Democratic neighbourhoods and Republicans are more likely to live in mixed neighbourhoods.”
This demographic problem is only made worse with the increasing ideological rigidity in the party as well as by the Democratic leadership’s choice to blame the electoral college system instead of tweaking their strategy.
Hillary Clinton reminded us how she won the districts that represent two-thirds of American GDP. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a frontrunner in this primary season, has sought to abolish the electoral college.
Pete Butigieg, the first openly gay Democratic primary candidate has demanded “a national popular vote” to decide the presidency. Congresswoman from New York’s 14th Congressional District, Alexandra Ocassio Cortez, claimed electoral college was a “scam” and has “racial injustice breakdown”.
Nearly every state that the Democrats need to win benefits from the electoral college system. Perhaps it would help the Democrats’ cause if they stop talking about how those states should have less of a say in the presidential election.
Common wisdom dictates that the candidates from the challenger side should step out of their core constituency and woo those who didn’t vote for them in the last election.
Sadly, if the debates so far as well as the recent Equality Town Hall is any indication, almost the entire field is not just content, but almost smug to stay within their own bubble.
This intransigence, especially with respect to cultural issues, is not a new phenomenon either. The race to out-woke is already pretty intense.
Even before the first ballot is cast in the first primary, a large number of candidates have already distanced themselves from Barrack Obama — a two-term president with a 55 per cent approval rating on exit — for being too conservative.
That’s right: the strategy to win the six states won by Obama in 2012 but lost by Hillary in 2016 seems to be to prove how different you are from the candidate who won those states by leaning further to the left.
As a case in point, let’s look at this response that went viral from Senator Elizabeth Warren at CNN’s Equality Town Hall. Morgan Cox, the chair for the Human Rights board of directors, asked her, “A supporter approaches you and says, ‘Senator I am old fashioned, and my faith teaches me marriage is between one man and one woman,’ what is your response?”
Senator Warren replied, “I am going to assume it’s a guy who asked that, and then I am going to say just marry one woman, I am cool with that, (laughter, applause), assuming you can find one!” This last bit was received with thunderous applause.
Senator Warren smirked, shrugged and walked away. I thought she would drop the mic.
Now the question specified the affiliation (supporter) but did not specify gender. Warren’s response was callous towards the affiliation and presumptuous towards the gender.
A recent PEW research shows that the gender gap among supporters of same sex marriage is not large enough to warrant such an assumption. The entire response looked tailormade to woo voters from California and perhaps from New York, the two states carried by Clinton in a landslide in her 2016 loss!
Elsewhere, any Democratic supporter with conservative religious beliefs would have come away with the impression that not only her religious beliefs could be dismissed without second thoughts but that they were fair game for mocking.
For all the noise, social as well as mainstream media are very rarely capable of destroying someone with as truly thick a skin as demonstrated by Donald Trump in his campaign in 2016.
As liberal TV host, Bill Maher mentions in this interview with MSNBC, the Twitter crowd no longer represents either the average voter or even the average liberal. The recent controversy over stand-up comedian Dave Chapelle’s show is a good teachable moment in this context.
Chapelle’s Netflix show that was skewered by the woke left critics for being sexist/racist/transphobic, etc., has only 33 per cent approval ratings among critics on the rating site, Rotten Tomatoes, but 99 per cent rating among viewers. Boy, talk about crying all the way to the bank!
The paradox of political partisanship is that the factions lying on the fringe of any ideology are all but lost to the other side. No matter how sympathetic Senator Warren appears to the Christian conservatives, she will still get votes of Amy Schummer, George Clooney and the entire editorial team of the New York Times.
Adopting such a pragmatic position requires a willingness to deal with the danger of being outflanked by a more left-leaning opponent during the primaries.
The contenders will also have to deal with their own sense of misplaced righteousness, honed over the years by the constant collective fawning by an out-of-touch media, entitled entertainers and academia.
Mic drop or the six electoral votes of Iowa, Senator Warren? The call is yours.
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