David Atkins’ observations on electability—titled Your Theory of Electability is Probably Wrong—provokes thought and is worth a read. His bottom line: “The actual evidence suggests that Democrats should vote for the candidate they would like to be president [at least when choosing among Biden, Warren, and Sanders], and leave the electability arguments at the door.”
Atkins wants us to be very careful about the assumptions we make on electability, and with that I agree. It really is hard to reverse engineer the thinking of someone who obviously does not think at all like you, and to try to figure out what will make some of the Trump crowd peel off and vote for your guy or gal.
However, I don’t agree that the actual evidence—including the evidence presented in the piece—supports the conclusion that Biden, Sanders, and Warren are equally electable. Particularly when you stop staring at the numbers in polls and step back to think about why kind of country are living in today.
First, as Atkins says,
The RealClearPolitics average for Biden, Sanders and Warren against Trump show Biden leading by 5.4%, Sanders by 3.7% and Warren by 1.8% (those numbers for all candidates would look quite rosier if you discarded the IBD/TIPP poll, which appears to be a significant outlier in favor for Trump.) For months the numbers have shown the same thing: Biden leads Sanders by a point or two against Trump, Sanders leads Warren by a point or two, Warren leads other candidates. But all three defeat Trump.
Now, we hope the election won’t be close, but that hope may well be disappointed. If the election is close, then Biden’s small but persistent lead in electability, as measured by the polls, could make the difference between winning or losing.
Second point: I, for one, don’t dismiss out of hand the fond hope that either Sanders or Warren might lead the unwashed messes, including lots of the previously Trumpian unwashed masses, in a revolution against the economic elite. Could happen. Wouldn’t be at all surprised if it did. But the fact is we don’t understand the Trumpian unwashed masses all that well. So the prospect that a whole bunch of uneducated white men might suddenly discover the joy of socialism is not a possibility on which I plan to bet the mortgage money.
By contrast, here is an important thing I believe we know to a high degree of certainty. It is that a Biden candidacy would pick off some of the plutocrats, while a Sanders or Warren candidacy would scare them shitless.
Ladies and germs, we really need to get the more rational of the plutocrats to switch sides in 2020, and to put their votes, their money, their power, and their influence on the side of their long-term enlightened self-interest. Biden would help. Warren or Sanders would hurt.
Put that thought together with what the polling data show, and I think you may form a reasoned judgment as to who is probably more electable than whom.