The Jury Talks Back

5/18/2019

Trump’s Influence On The 2020 Democratic Primary

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 10:34 am

[guest post by Dana]

Upon his announcement that he was throwing his hat in the ring for 2020, Joe Biden’s early polling numbers have consistently shown him dominating his nearly two dozen competitors. In a fractured party where many of the candidates are running from the far left lane, Biden is now viewed as the moderate Democrat. In light of this, it is interesting to consider whether candidates who have been desperately trying to outwoke each other may have actually done themselves a disservice:

It’s not just Biden’s rising poll numbers that suggest that the activist left is out of step with most Democrats; it’s the ideological makeup of the entire Democratic Party. Fifty-six percent of Democrats self-identify as “moderate” and 9 percent even embrace “conservative,” according to an April poll from the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. While leftist activists pine for the end of the legislative filibuster to grease the skids for partisan legislation, a December GW Politics poll found that 66 percent of Democrats said they prefer elected officials who “make compromises with people they disagree with” over those who “stick to their positions.” Only 36 percent of Republicans said the same.

[…]

The Democrats didn’t just underestimate Joe Biden’s personal appeal (at least so far), but it appears they also underestimated the size of his ideological lane. As Democrats stampeded left, with even more “moderate” candidates like Beto arguing for tearing down existing border walls, Biden was left largely alone to position himself as the ideal candidate for a whopping 65 percent of the Democratic electorate. Which of the “woke” candidates is best-positioned to challenge Biden for that enormous slice of the Democratic voting public? Meanwhile, the progressive (mostly white) wing of the primary is crowded and competitive.

Moreover, key candidates have made such extreme statements in the effort to appeal to what turned out to be the Democratic minority that they’ve rendered themselves more vulnerable in the general election. It’s hard to walk back pledges to wipe away private health insurance or tear down border walls, for example. It turns out that dreams of a united, energized progressive tidal wave may well die in the face of a more-moderate electorate that mainly seeks a return to normalcy, modest reforms, and an end to daily political drama.

Which leads to Rich Lowry wondering about the reality of Trump’s influence on Democratic voters:

What if Donald Trump hasn’t driven Democrats insane, sending them into a spiral of self-defeating radicalism, but instead made them shockingly pragmatic?

Biden’s early strength suggests it may be the latter, that the reaction to Trump is so intense that it has crossed some sort of event horizon from fevered fantasy of his leaving office early via resignation or impeachment to a cold-eyed, win-at-any-cost practicality.

If this is true, one of the exogenous factors that could appreciably increase Trump’s odds of reelection — a zany Democratic nomination contest leading to a nominee much too far left for the American electorate — may not materialize.

The commonsense play for Democrats has always been to nominate a nonsocialist with appeal to Obama-to-Trump voters in former blue wall states — if not necessarily Biden, then someone with a similar relatively moderate profile.

If hardly dispositive, Biden’s robust numbers at least suggest that this play is more likely than it seemed in the very early going, when candidates were stumbling over one another apologizing for sundry alleged offenses in the Woke Olympics.

If that’s not going to be the true dynamic of the race, I’m as surprised as anyone, having written often about the leftward lurch of the party. What’s extraordinary, though, is that almost every Democratic candidate might have been misreading it as well and chasing the wrong rabbit down the track.

Whether the general election ends up between these two rich, old white guys remains to be seen. As it stands now, in spite of Biden’s many liabilities, early polls focused on the general election show Biden leading Trump. Biden is reportedly going to focus on a unity v. division theme at his kickoff rally, claiming that Trump has divided the country on race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation, and that America needs a president who represents all Americans, not just Trump’s base. Although it’s still early, Trump has locked onto Biden, with his familiar lay-him-low-from-the-get-go strategy:

[S]ome Democrats, having witnessed how Mr. Trump lampooned and eventually bulldozed the Republican field in 2016, are nervous that Mr. Trump has shrewdly chosen to define Mr. Biden as the front-runner early on, identifying him as the greatest threat in a general election.

–Dana


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