Divide et Impera

et impera

Ezra Klein, How Biden is Winning: Joe Biden refuses to play into Donald Trump’s hands.

A topic about which much is written, and many of us obsess. But I found Ezra Klein’s exposition refreshingly lucid and insightful. A key point:

Biden’s view of the Republican Party: He sees it not as a monolith but as a coalition. Some members of that coalition love Trump and will grieve his defeat. They’re not going to work with Biden, and he doesn’t expect to work with them. But some Senate Republicans dislike Trump, regret what their party has become, and are looking for redemption. What they need is a Democrat they can work with — a Democrat who doesn’t antagonize their voters and won’t rub their noses in their loss. What they need, Biden thinks, is Biden.

But this isn’t just Biden’s theory of governing. It’s also his theory of the campaign. …

He is executing a careful, quiet campaign focused less on thrilling his partisans than denying Trump the boogeyman he needs to reenergize his base. It’s a campaign that frustrates liberal activists and pundits because it repeatedly, routinely denies them the excitement and collisions that structure modern politics. It’s also, for that reason, a campaign that is frustrating Trump and Fox News, which is why they keep trying to run against Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar instead. …

The key to Biden’s success is simple: He’s slicing into Trump’s coalition, pulling back the older, whiter voters Democrats lost in 2016. The Biden campaign’s insight is that mobilization is often the flip side of polarization: When party activists are sharply divided by ideology and demography, what excites your side will be the very thing that unnerves the other side. Studies of House elections show this dynamic in action: Ideologically extreme candidates perform worse than moderates because they drive up turnout on the other side.

Biden’s theory of wavering Trump voters is the same as his theory of wavering Republican senators: He thinks they want to vote with him but need help getting over their political hang-ups about voting for a Democrat. And so he is trying to give them that help. He praises the old Republican Party, refuses to pick a side in American politics’ hottest fights. Biden has resisted calls to abolish private insurance, ban fracking, decriminalize immigration, and defund the police. It’s cost him enthusiasm on the left, but it has denied Trump the clear foil he needs. That’s left Trump confused, pathetically insisting Biden holds positions Biden doesn’t hold and getting fact-checked live on Fox.

Biden is treating Trump voters not as a monolith but as a coalition — a coalition that can be broken.

Aardvark’s Addendum

Of course, in his effort to break up the Republican coalition, Biden is getting help from Trump. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious help.