I had composed the following post in my head and was just before putting quill to parchment when I came across Jonathan Chait, Joe Biden’s Campaign Was a Disaster for Liberalism and the Democratic Party. If you are the type of person who wishes to rend his garments and bay at the moon over how the Democratic party is certain to go down the crapper in the next election, then please do be my guest, click on the link above, and drown your sorrows in drink.
If not, I do have a few thoughts on how we might win. My observations do not concern which candidate has the nicest smile or which one has the best plan to save the sea turtles.
It’s sort of a meta post. Not necessarily right. But definitely meta.
The central issue of our time is not, Why is Donald Trump crazy and what is the exact nature of his illness? You always have crazy people. And you always have a certain number of village idiots who follow crazy people.
The central issue is, first, Why have about 43 percent of us turned into village idiots? Why have more than one in four elected proudly to embrace their Inner Jerk? Can anything be done about it? And what might that thing be?
I don’t know the answers to the central questions, but I do know that, like the Chairman said, a journey of a thousand li begins with a single step. And that single step is to marshal what you do know—and try to go on from there.
So what do we know? One thing we know is that the Democratic nominee will almost certainly be one of these four people: in alphabetical order, Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, or Warren.
A second thing we know is that the Trump coalition may be shrinking a little, but those who remain have thoroughly embraced their Inner Asshole.
Thirdly, we know that the Trump coalition is composed of two subsets: the Deplorables and the Cynical Affluent.
And finally, we have a lot of polling information on the size and range of the Trump coalition—notably the Quinnipiac poll I wrote about yesterday.
Hold those thoughts, please, while we consider some alternative hypotheses.
The polling data tell us that Trump has a floor approval rate of 42 percent and a ceiling approval rate of 44 percent. Hypothesis one would accept the fact that Trump’s floor is 42 percent, hypothesize that there is not a damn thing you can do about it, and therefore plan a strategy of keeping that floor at 42 percent while goosing up the anti-Trump majority as best you kind. That means, among other things, not saying or being things that offend some people, like being a billionaire or calling yourself a socialist.
Therefore, cross out Sanders. Cross out Bloomberg. And it’s Buttigieg or Klobuchar. If you want experience, go with Klobuchar. If you think too many voters just won’t vote for a woman, vote for Buttigieg.
Hypothesis two says that, yes you can break through the Trump bubble and you can do it by yelling a lot and forcing the Deplorable side of the Trump coalition to confront the fact that
- Trump is a con man,
- that they are being conned,
- that they should give preference to their economic self-interest over their deplorable prejudices, and that
- they should therefore drop Trump and embrace democratic socialism.
If you believe this argument will work with significant numbers of Deplorables, then Sanders is your man.
As for me, I know acting on Hypothesis Two would scare the shit out of the Cynically Affluent part of the Trump supporters, and I am very much afraid than an appeal to the Deplorables based on rational economic self-interest is not going to work.
Like hypothesis two, hypothesis three also hypothesizes that there is a way to lower Trump’s floor below 42 percent. But it takes an entirely different approach. It begins by considering, not what the Deplorables should want, but instead what they actually do want. It says, OK, you want a billionaire, well, I’ll give you a multi-billionaire. You want strength? Well, I’ll give you all the strength you can handle. Plus which, I’ll protect you a hell of a lot better than Trump will protect you.
If you like hypothesis three, and if you can stand to vote for a billionaire, then Bloomberg is your fair-haired boy.