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The split among Democrats on ‘electability’ has a lot to do with age

Political numbers guru Nate Silver posted an analysis yesterday on FiveThirtyEight that resonated with and elevated my understanding of something about which I’ve wondering: namely, the division of Democrats into two camps that might be called purists and pragmatists.

The pragmatists might also be called the “electability” Democrats. They may agree with the purists on most issues, but they will get behind a candidate with whom they disagree on some key issues if they become convinced that he or she is the candidate that can beat Donald Trump.

The purists don’t exactly say that they would rather see Trump reelected than compromise on some of their more controversial issues positions. But they are tired of being told that many policy goals they fervently favor – like universal health care coverage and maybe even single-payer health care and several others involving abortion or gay rights or the environment – will cost the Democratic the support of moderate swing voters and the election.

When electability Democrats try to lecture at them about how important it is to win, the conversation often doesn’t go well and, in my experience, the groups talk past each other. (Perhaps one explanation for that is left over from 2016, when electability Democrats claimed to know that Hillary Clinton was the electable one and Bernie Sanders wasn’t because he was too far left to attract moderate swing voters.)

Anyway, that’s just me blathering. But Silver also discussed this, and — without claiming to know the answer — said the breakdown has a lot to with age: “Younger Democrats care less about electability” than older Democrats do, Silver said.

As evidence, Silver cites a poll of New Hampshire Democrats taken in May, which asked what was more important in deciding whom to support: “A candidate you agree with on most issues but would have a hard time beating Donald Trump or a Democrat you do not agree with on most issues but would be a stronger candidate against Trump.”

The responses varied very substantially by age. By 76-13 percent, Democrats 65 and old said that supporting the candidate who could beat Trump was more important. Those age 50-64 were slightly less willing to prioritize electability. By 71-20 margin, they said that nominating someone who could beat Trump was more important.

But Democrats age 18-49 were much more evenly split on purity vs. electability. A small majority, 55 percent, said it was more important to nominate a candidate who could beat Trump, while 42 percent said it was more important to support someone who agreed with them on the issues, which I take to be the basket of issues that separates the I-don’t-care-if-they-call-me-a-socialist Democrats from the run-away-from-the-S-word Democrats.

It’s very obvious to me that Republicans are going to use the S-word as a club either way. I just looked up the three most recent press releases from the National Republican Congressional Committee. All three used the term “socialist Democrats” to describe the party.

Wash, rinse, repeat. Here’s the full Silver analysis from FiveThirtyEight.

Comments (75)

  1. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/07/2019 - 09:58 am.

    In the past 53 years the D’s have had a single, 12 month window of controlling the Presidency, House and 60 seat Senate majority (2009 after Franken’s delayed swearing in). Out of that small window came the biggest advance in healthcare reform since Medicare. And even then fringe Ds like Joe Lieberman prevented a more aggressive approach.

    Give any of the current D candidates these legislative advantages and significant “progressive / socialist” change will occur.

    So how do the D’s keep the House and get to 60 in the Senate? Maybe, in part, the coattails of the most electable candidate. I support Elizabeth Warren because she has thought things out beyond any of her competitors and offers as progressive an approach as any of them.

    But, who would enable the most progressive change: President Warren and 52 seats in the Senate or President Biden and 61 seats in the Senate?

    Biden no doubt…

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/07/2019 - 10:59 am.

      If the progressives are going to beat Biden, Sanders needs to drop out and endorse Warren. But people need to realize it won’t matter who gets in. Medicare for all would never survive the Supreme Court. The policy differences we are arguing about are mostly fantasies.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/07/2019 - 11:18 am.

        I agree on the fantasies comment.

        But not because of the Supreme Court. As long as the Rs have 41 Senators they will be whipped into submission by their leadership to stop everything.

        Robert’s vote to preserve Obama Care shows the SCOTUS majority to be most reluctant to be a part of significant change to the status quo. If / when the Roe V Wade challenges reach them a similar result will ensue. One or two of them will find a reason to flip.

        And after a brief meltdown by right wing kooks, the abortion wars will resume providing continuation of countless jobs and opportunities for right wing hucksters who care a lot more about dollars than fetuses…

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/08/2019 - 07:30 am.

          The Abortion war isn’t “re-starting”, it’s almost over and the Right has won because pragmatic Democrats didn’t fight for women’s rights.

          • Submitted by Bob Johnson on 06/10/2019 - 09:23 am.

            ‘…the Right has won because pragmatic Democrats didn’t fight for women’s rights.’
            I don’t disagree, Paul, but pragmatic, in my opinion, should be ‘programmed’.
            These Democrats show far more concern about getting re-elected than supporting progressive causes.

    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 06/10/2019 - 09:47 am.

      I would say Warren and 52 because she’s willing to get rid of the filibuster.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/07/2019 - 10:34 am.

    Another way to put it is
    “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”.
    Actually, the results seem reasonable:
    The young have reasons to take a long term view — they hope to live to see them.
    People like us, on the other hand, while we may be concerned about the world that our children will have to live in, are more concerned about the immediate consequences that will affect us directly.

    • Submitted by Henry Johnson on 06/07/2019 - 12:20 pm.

      I guess I disagree a bit, I’d say older folks feel like they more chance of reaching the end of their lives without being too affected by Trump, but they worry about their kids and grandkids and what someone like Trump will do to it.

      I would say the pragmatist versus purist attitude has more to do with the difference in experience levels between the young and old, and what experience teaches.

      For example, it makes a difference to be old enough to have experienced watching an idealistic, purist Eugene McCarthy get utterly trounced in an election, and therefore seeing the vietnam war go on, instead of having the party choose Hubert Humphrey as the candidate that year, who had a much better chance of winning the presidency.

      Or to be well aware of the fact that the purists that just had to vote for Ralph Nader instead of Al Gore gave the presidency to George W Bush, which gave us the Iraq mess, and opened a whole can of bad worms in the mideast in general.

      So I think in general one does grow more pragmatic with age based on experience, perhaps because I’ve read the ‘judgement center’ of the brain doesn’t fully develop until the late 20’s or even 30’s for most people.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/10/2019 - 08:38 pm.

        Seriously? You give the example of HHH being the pragmatist that had a chance to win? News flash: he lost.

        And please, stop blaming Gore’s loss on Nadar. Gore “lost” more Dems to Bush than to Nadar.

        Here’s a tip: If you can’t win your home state (which would get you to 270), you are a lousy, uninspiring candidate. If you can’t inspire, you are not a leader. Period. Find other work.

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/11/2019 - 04:36 pm.

          Actually, never stop blaming Nader.

          The people who voted for Bush wanted Bush to win. But most of the people who voted Nader (enough to make the difference) preferred Gore. Nader, a union-busting millionaire who got rich off of insider trading, ran a smear campaign against Gore and said he wanted Bush to win.

  3. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 06/07/2019 - 11:19 am.

    Young people did not have the opportunity to experience two bad Republican Presidents (Nixon and GW Bush) elected because progressives did not support Humphrey and Gore. They have only experienced this once – Sanders supporters who were unwilling to vote for Clinton, helping to elect Trump.

    Electability will be a non issue if Democrats commit to voting for the party’s endorsed candidate. Think of how with two dozen candidates how few will get their first choice. Everyone who qualifies for the debate is far more qualified and fit to serve than Trump. Elect a Democrat and remove 6-12 Republican Senators from their positions, and we will pass a progressive agenda while undoing most of Trump’s damage.

    • Submitted by Henry Johnson on 06/07/2019 - 12:29 pm.

      Yes, exactly, you cant implement a progressive agenda, either a moderate one or a more dramatic one, when you LOSE, and that is what some of these candidates would do, when their campaign-killing positions (e.g. – reparations) almost certainly make undecided swing-voters see Trump as “the lesser of two evils” compared to an Elizabeth Warren or a Harris.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/12/2019 - 10:40 am.


      “Electability will be a non issue if Democrats commit to voting for the party’s endorsed candidate. ”

      I don’t why we keep having to point this out but the largest of block of voters in the country right now is independents who are neither Republicans or Democrats. Even if all the democrats vote for their endorsed candidate they can still lose. This why pointing to the fact that Clinton won the primary is such a facile observation. And again, the idea that ALL Democrats should be expected to turn out even for crappy candidates simply defies common sense. Even Democrats won’t vote for candidates they don’t want to vote for. There is simply no substitute for a popular candidate that millions of Americans want to vote for. The idea that any Democrat will do is incredibly risky and dangerous.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/07/2019 - 11:24 am.

    There’s nothing “pragmatic” about candidates that lose elections, unless your trying to lose elections. In the last 40 years only 2 of the 8 “pragmatic” candidates Democrats put on their ballot won. You can’t keep losing and still claim to know who’s “electable”.

    This isn’t about prgragmatism vs. purism it’s about winning elections and the fact those claiming pragmatic “expertise” are simply delusional. Sanders’s voters for instance weren’t trying to be “pure”, we simply realized how important is was to defeat Trump and wanted a candidate that could do it. “Pragmatists” simply thought it was HRC’s turn… there’s nothing pragmatic about that.

    Stepping away from the HRC debacle brought to us by “pragmatic” Democrats we can look at the progressive and note that “purity” isn’t primary characteristic of progressives… they’re simply “liberal” rather than “centrist”. Again, there’s nothing “pragmatic” about dishing up bipartisan failures for decades, nor is there anything pragmatic about assuming that candidates who tell voters that failure is the best they can anyone can expect, will win elections.

    There’s nothing “pragmatic” about Klobuchar or instance. Her condescension towards voters who actually expect effective policies and governments to emerge from elections isn’t “pragmatic”, its simply insulting. She’ll be lucky to make it out of Iowa.

    Progressivism and liberalism aren’t about purity, they’re about effective governments that serve their constituents, solve problems, and create and deploy effective policy that meet societies needs and demands.

    Those claiming to pragmatists are simply complacent “centrists” who are comfortable with the status quo and immune to the failed policies their “pragmatism” delivers to everyone else.

    Centrists are actually more preoccupied with “purity” than anyone else. Their rejection of ANY candidate, proposal, or campaign that falls even slightly outside of their comfort zone is an ultimate expression of purism.

    • Submitted by Henry Johnson on 06/07/2019 - 01:22 pm.

      Let me guess, you probably voted for Jill Stein, or perhaps didn’t vote at all in 2016. You and others like you are the reason we have Trump, as it was a close election in many states, and if all the Bernie and Stein people had voted for Clinton, we wouldn’t have Trump in office – that’s a fact.

      Maybe you voted for Ralph Nader instead of Al Gore too, because he was also too “centrist” or moderate for your liking. So thanks for George W Bush and the Iraq war as well.

      I saw many interviews on TV of the protestors who marched protesting Trump shortly after the inauguration, and many admitted they hadn’t voted!

      Right, they didn’t go out and cast a vote against Trump, and then when it’s too late to matter, they protest Trump winning, a result that wouldn’t have occurred if not for their own purist beliefs.

      It would be more appropriate to hold protests against purists-in-denial like them and you, who have lost the democratic party elections going back to the Richard Nixon days.

      You have a lot of nerve to try to pin those defeats on moderates – they weren’t the ones who voted for doomed-to-fail types like Stein, Nader, and McCarthy, or who failed to vote at all, which ended-up giving those elections away to the Nixon’s, Bush’s, and Trump’s.

      • Submitted by Brian Simon on 06/07/2019 - 02:22 pm.

        Who’s to blame, the people who nominated an uninspiring candidate, or the people who didn’t vote for him/her?

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/07/2019 - 03:04 pm.

          The people who didn’t vote for him/her 100 percent. Anyone who lives a life of such privilege and entitlement that they are indifferent to those whose lives are actually affected because they weren’t inspired deserves the blame. Immigrants are being locked up, LGBT people are losing rights, we are going backwards on the environment, healthcare and a million other things. But hey, the candidate wasn’t inspiring.

          • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 06/07/2019 - 05:18 pm.

            …life of such privilege and entitlement that they are …Immigrants are being locked up, LGBT people are losing rights, we are going backwards on the environment, healthcare and a million other things. But hey, the candidate wasn’t inspiring.

            Let me add to that….same old failing public schools run by gerrymandered school boards (elections in off years etc)….apartheid as accepted policy by a Democrat…unlimited immigration fraud (H1)….Oh wait we’re supposed to vote for the same old hacks….

            Hillary Clinton was going to change so much of these……

            • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/07/2019 - 06:58 pm.

              What do off year elections have to do with gerrymandering? The district boundaries are the same.
              One argument for off year elections is that they reduce the number of voters who are not concerned with schools, but given a ballot feel compelled to mark something on it.

              • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 06/07/2019 - 07:53 pm.

                So that only the Teachers Union members show up. Thats gerrymandering, Are you saying district levy increases aren’t deliberately held on off years. Also if a Republican stated “reduce the number of voters” all Democrats would be howling is “disenfranchisement”.

                In Dakota Country we’ve had 1 parent on the School Board. That’s correct 1.

                • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/08/2019 - 02:57 pm.

                  First of all, I’d suggest that you look up ‘gerrymandering’.
                  Second, have YOU ever run for school board? Voted in an election?

                  • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 06/09/2019 - 06:38 am.

                    It may not be gerrymandering with physical boundaries, but the end result is the same. Political gerrymandering. Also what does me running for a school board have to do with pointing out with what Teachers Union does in Dakota County ? Are you going to deny that Teachers Unions don’t partake in such activities ?

                    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/10/2019 - 02:03 pm.

                      First of all, if you can’t be bothered to participate, don’t complain when others do.
                      Second, teachers are also taxpayers, so they often vote against school budget increases, as do their spouses. Life just isn’t that simple.
                      As my wife is a school board member and past administrator. Admittedly Blue Earth County is not Dakota County, but I’ve had some personal experience with school board campaigns, including door knocking and talking to voters.

                    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/11/2019 - 05:00 pm.

                      I’m not sure you quite grasp the concept of gerrymandering. Are the school board seats elected by smaller districts within the larger school district boundaries? Are those smaller districts shaped so as to favor certain candidates?

                      I also don’t understand your point about teachers unions. Yes, I expect that teachers vote at a higher rate than the public at large in school board elections. And, yes, the teachers unions advocate on behalf of candidates who support teachers. But no one is actually disenfranchised. No one is prevented from voting. The fact that one group turns out at election time is just democracy, not anything nefarious. I think you are just mad because you don’t like the candidates who win.

                • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/08/2019 - 02:58 pm.

                  And there’s a difference between legitimate voting requirements, such as being a resident of the district, and political voting suppression.

                • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/08/2019 - 03:01 pm.

                  And if we were really serious about encouraging all residents to vote, we’d either have weekend voting, or all voting done by mail as in Oregon and Washington.
                  Our current system is banana republic.

            • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 06/10/2019 - 07:03 pm.

              Firstly Paul, not sure how you can arrive at a conclusion at my voting record. Second you simply can’t deny that the Teachers Union games the election process and so your claim that some teachers vote against the levy increases is a really bad argument.

              Yes. sometimes life is simple. The Teachers Union games the voting process in counties like Dakota County. Get used to the fact that Democrat leaning organizations play games just as the other side does. I don’t need a lecture on my civic rights and responsibilities.

              • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/12/2019 - 04:19 pm.

                I wholeheartedly deny that that the teacher’s union games anything. The organize and support the candidates they like, but there is no gaming involved. No one is denied the right to vote. No one is gerrymandered (either by the actual definition or whatever you think it means).

                Again, you are just mad because your candidates lost. That doesn’t mean anything was gamed.

                • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 06/13/2019 - 01:05 pm.

                  No one is denied a right to vote either when say a Republican county has one booth in the county. But we still complain dont we ?

                  I don’t have a candidate nor am i interested in the School Board election. My kid did quite well in school without me interfering or gaming the system. However it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what goes on. Are you claiming that acts like Off Year Levies and School Board members who resign two months, after the election are totally coincidental. Happened almost every time there was a new School Board member.

                  You’re just mad that i point out the wholesale corrupt hackery that goes on in the DFL world. Just like when they ran DeSilva out of town claiming they knew how to run St. Paul Schools better. Have the results changed one iota. Nah, why ask such inconvenient questions to union hacks who did that ?

        • Submitted by ian wade on 06/07/2019 - 04:37 pm.

          If the prospect of a Trump presidency, conservative SCOTUS appointments,stacking of federal courts, eliminating environmental & worker safety regulations, curtailing the rights of women to make their own health care decisions, purging voter roles and soiling the US relationships with long standing allies wasn’t enough “inspiration” for someone, I really don’t know what would be.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/07/2019 - 08:41 pm.

            Kind of a weird appeal to fear Ian… we should all be so afraid of another four years of Trump that we’ll vote for the “pragmatic” candidate but the pragmatic voters don’t need to be fearful enough to step outside their comfort zones? This is how people convinced themselves the last time there enthusiasm for seeing Hillary simply BE Hillary in the White House was more important than winning the election.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/07/2019 - 03:54 pm.

        “Let me guess, you probably voted for Jill Stein, or perhaps didn’t vote at all in 2016. ” Don’t quit your day job and go into the “guessing” business. Clinton lost… why do we have keep pointing that out? If you wanted a candidate that would win, you put THAT candidate on the ballot. How is this not obvious? You want a candidate that everyone will vote for, you put a candidate like that on the ballot. You don’t put the most unpopular and distrusted candidate you’ve got on the ballot, and then complain everyone didn’t vote them.

        By the way, 98% of Sanders’s supporters voted for Clinton. You know who didn’t vote for Clinton? White women. Clinton got 47% of the white women vote and your complaining about the progressives? Is THAT supposed to be pragmatic?

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/08/2019 - 10:30 am.

        You’re making an unwarranted assumption here. I knew a lot of Sanders supporters here in Minneapolis–remember, he won the state caucuses–and yet, only one of them voted for Jill Stein. All the rest that I know voted for Hillary Clinton.

        The Democratic establishment has a suicidal tendency to push candidates forward because 1) they believe it’s that person’s turn to run, as if there’s a numbered queue, and 2) because the major corporate contributors are willing to give big money to some candidates but not others.

        I could name Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Al Gore, John Kerry, and now Hillary Clinton as examples of that failed strategy. By the way, blaming Ralph Nader (whom I did not vote for in 2000) for Al Gore’s defeat is a lame excuse. Gore ran a terrible campaign and didn’t didn’t even come close to winning his own home state, and if he had, Florida would have been insignificant.

        What IS significant is that 1/3 of people polled were undecided just a few days before the election, a sign that Gore had failed to distinguish himself from Bush in any meaningful way.

        I hate everything the current Republican Party stands for, but you have to admit that they’re smart about strategy. The conventional wisdom about 2016 was that the Republicans would nominate Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz, but when Trump began drawing huge, enthusiastic crowds and knocking other contenders out of the primaries, they ran with him.

        Although I supported Sanders in the caucus in 2016, I am not so enthusiastic now. There is still so much hard feeling from hardcore Clinton partisans that nominating him might cause more trouble than it was worth.

        Instead, the Democratic Establishment should look and see which candidates have the most ardent supporters, supporters who are willing to organize local events and bring out crowds for their preferred candidate and to talk up their candidate among their friends. (I saw that on the local level with Obama’s supporters in 2008.)

        I’ve read that the Wall Street types that the Democrats consult (shame on them!) have said, “Never Sanders and never Warren,” but they should remember that a candidate needs votes more than s/he needs money. (A candidate might even tout rejection by Big Money as a selling point.)

        One million dollars from a corporate PAC guarantees zero votes, since many PACs contribute to both sides. One million dollars raised from $100 contributions from 10,000 people nearly guarantees 10,000 votes, since ordinary people don’t contribute to candidates they don’t believe in. Ten dollars from 100,000 people is even better.

        Relying solely or even largely on PAC money is distancing, and that, along with trying harder to woo Republican women than trying to woo blue collar workers of both sexes, was one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest mistakes.

        • Submitted by Henry Johnson on 06/11/2019 - 10:22 am.

          ” By the way, blaming Ralph Nader (whom I did not vote for in 2000) for Al Gore’s defeat is a lame excuse. ”

          Oh really? Pretending that Nader was not a true “wasted vote” for liberals that cost Gore the election is beyond ‘lame’, it’s DELUSIONAL.

          It was a close race, and could have gone the other way very easily, and if those votes had gone to Gore instead of ego-tripping Nader, he would have won.

          If you honestly think that many people who voted for Nader were conservatives who otherwise would have voted for Bush, you’re REALLY delusional.

          News flash – there are next to no “Green”, socialist republicans.

          The nonsense you’re peddling about how Gore wasn’t different enough from Bush is exactly what Nader peddled at the time!

          But the truth is Gore would not have made a right-turn into a tragic Iraq war, and he was very, very far different from Bush in just about every policy issue – including Gore doing more for the cause of “Green” policies in the years following his defeat, than Nader every did !!

          • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/12/2019 - 09:53 am.

            In the debates that I saw, Gore failed to distinguish himself from Bush. There was a lot of Bush taking a strong right-wing stance on some issue or other and Gore saying, essentially, “Me, too, but not so much.”

            This was not out of character–remember that Gore was a founding member of the Democratic Leadership Council, which deliberately aimed to pull the party to the right.

            I did not vote for Nader in 2000, even though I did as a protest in 1996, because I saw Nader doing no organizing between elections, but I understand the motivations of those who did. They were tired of the Republican Lite politics of the Clinton wing of the party.

            Remember also that 1/3 of people polled had not made up their minds just a few days before the election. That suggests a failure on the part of the campaign, not anything you can blame Ralph Nader for. Look at the figures on how many registered Democrats voted for Bush.

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/12/2019 - 11:49 am.

              I don’t know Ms. Sandness, Gore’s “Lock Box” for SS was pretty audacious, and his way of describing it was quite riveting… had me on the edge of my seat. 🙂

            • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/12/2019 - 04:08 pm.

              You can and should blame Nader. He’s a fraud who busted the unions of his own advocacy groups and became a millionaire by buying stocks of the rivals of the companies he attacked. He ran a smear campaign against Gore and pretended to be a progressive while admitting he wanted Bush to win. After exit polling showed that the 2nd choices of Nader voters would have given Florida easily to Gore, he hired a PR firm to try to avoid blame.

              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/13/2019 - 10:41 am.

                Thank you for this. The myth of St. Ralph has persisted for far too long.

                • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/14/2019 - 08:51 am.

                  St. Ralph? This is another unfortunate characteristic of identity vs. issue politics. Time and time again for instance identity Democrats like those that were so committed to Clinton project their own mentalities onto others.

                  Issue voters like those that supported Nader and Sanders or AOC don’t do so because they merely enamored with those candidates. We support those candidates not because we “love” them and want to see them “win”, but rather because they represent policies and agendas we want to become realities. In 2016 I remember being peppered by Clinton supporters who kept accusing me of being in love with Bernie… classic psychological projection.

                  • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/17/2019 - 09:21 am.

                    Any “progressive” who sup[ports Nader is a victim of his hype over his substance. He lives off the profits from a fat stock portfolio, the man’s union busting has been well-documented, and his employment practices would have the average Wal-Mart manager saying “there’s no need for us to go that far.” Any other candidate with that kind of record would be branded a hopeless corporate shill, regardless of the talks he gives about the issues.

  5. Submitted by Brian Simon on 06/07/2019 - 11:31 am.

    “Electability” is another way of saying “I’m not comfortable with that other candidate.”

    It also gave the dems tickets like Gore-Lieberman, Kerry-Edwards, and Clinton-Kaine. They passed over Bill Bradley, Howard Dean, & Bernie Sanders.

    Remember Gore trying to rebrand himself as ‘cool’? Lieberman getting runover by Cheney in the VP debate? Ugh. “Electable” indeed.

  6. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 06/07/2019 - 12:19 pm.

    It’s already become far too clear,…

    that the Democrats, being a majority Center-Left party will nominate a Left-leaning Centrist for President,…

    and likely a male to sidestep the voters who could not bring themselves to vote for Hillary,…

    because they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a woman as president.

    The Bernie bros and sisters,…

    together with the far-left, “I want it all and I want it now” “Democrats” will get their feelings hurt,…

    because they thought it was THEIR TURN to get the candidate they were in love with as the nominee,…

    and they simply lack the empathy to realize that there are many other Democrats,…

    who for very legitimate reasons will never fall in love with those left-winger’s beloved heroes,…

    and those far left-ites and Bernie-ites will stay home nursing those hurt feelings,…

    encouraged, of course by the Republican-connected Russian bot campaign designed precisely to amplify their hurt feeling and get them to stay home,…

    and Trump will be re-elected.

    Meanwhile, all those stay-at-home (or vote for the Putin-selected Green Party candidate) will blame everyone else in the world but themselves,…

    for hastening the demise of the US.

    At this point, it seems that “We’re all here to do what we’re all here to do,” (run the US and the planet into massive destruction),…

    and those who will, in the end, be most responsible for allowing it to happen,…

    will proclaim right up until the very end,…

    that they were perfectly justified in letting their desire for perfection,…

    prevent anything that was only “good” from being preserved and protected.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/07/2019 - 03:57 pm.

      “…being a majority Center-Left party will nominate a Left-leaning Centrist for President,…”

      Dude, the idea of a “left leaning centrist” is an oxymoron.

  7. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 06/07/2019 - 12:35 pm.

    I second Paul’s well-stated comment. I also object to the assumption that the “purist” will withhold his/her vote, or even vote for Trump, if his/her candidate is not nominated. I’m a “purist” by the definition of that derogatory term. Like others sufficiently involved and aware to be given a name, I recognize that the general election is binary, and I’ll vote for the Democrat, even if it’s my erratic Cousin Dennis. My concern is with the far greater number of ordinary folks, particularly younger voters and those in underrepresented demographics, whose innate level of civic engagement is not enough to carry them to the polls, and who need the spark of a candidate who actually gives voice to a platform that will make for a better world for them.

    But I think the important question is much different than one of “electability.” It is fairly indisputable that our society teeters on the chasm’s edge, due both to national/global paralysis on climate change and to the present domestic/global authoritarian thrust that is about to destroy the prospect of democracy and self-determination for the next many generations. What if the “electable” Democratic candidate appears almost certain to be insufficient to turn back these forces? We’ve seen Biden for decades do nothing but protect the status quo. I don’t oppose Biden because he is centrist, I oppose him because I think that even if he is elected, we are done for. Does our state of extremis not require that we put forward a candidate whose election would offer a hope that we can make it thru, even if presently we judge that candidate to be less electable than another?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/07/2019 - 04:07 pm.

      Yes, Wellstone and others have revealed the fundamental truth that undermines the “pragmatic” claim of electability… you make candidates electable by voting for them, you don’t anoint them as electable and expect them to get the votes because you say so. If “pragmatic” Democrats had any idea who was electable, Republican’s would never have won so many elections in the first place.

  8. Submitted by John Evans on 06/07/2019 - 12:45 pm.

    Electability is really much more elusive than party leaders or “electability voters” realize. In 1990, a radical little jewish college professor became the DFL nominee to take on the incumbent, a very electable fundraising Goliath, Rudy Boschwitz. I didn’t think Wellstone had much of a chance, and in fact, Boschwitz outspent him 7-1.

    Wellstone had to beat his own party first to win that nomination. Most of the leadership really wanted a more electable candidate.

    I’m not saying Wellstone demolished the idea of electability, but it is a moving target, and the candidate that we think looks like the safest bet is often hopelessly behind the curve come election day. You’re trying to win the next election, not the last election.

    The other thing about electability is that it doesn’t cancel out the idea of substance. Wellstone communicated sincere, coherent positions on real issues and seemed like he was ready to work vigorously on them.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/07/2019 - 02:21 pm.

      Which would make more progress towards a progressive agenda:

      1. A Senate majority of 59 Paul Wellstones
      2. A Senate majority of 60 Ds of all stripes

      If the D leadership can provide McConnell like direction, the answer is 2.

      • Submitted by John Evans on 06/07/2019 - 07:03 pm.

        I’m just saying that perceived electability isn’t reliable; it can dissolve into an empty suit pretty quickly. Even if you can accurately identify a candidate whom others will find acceptable, he or she may generate little enthusiasm.

        You have to factor in substance and clarity of purpose. A candidate has to be broadly acceptable at the margin, but compelling at the core.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/09/2019 - 09:02 am.

          Absolutely John. “Electability” turns out be nothing but personal preference pretending to be political wisdom and analysis. I keep saying that only 2 out of the last 8 “electable” candidates Democrats put on their ballot won the election but the record is actually worse than that. Obama can only marginally be considered to have been the “electable” in 2008. I remind everyone that in 2008 as in 2016 “pragmatic” Democrats pegged Clinton as the more “electable” of the two candidates: “Hope and Change” was NOT about being “electable”, and you’ll recall, the “pragmatic” response was: “Give me a break?”

          If we drop Obama from the “electability” scorecard we’re left with 1 our of 9 successful candidates selected by “pragmatic” Democrats flying under the electability banner.

          Turns out the most pragmatic thing Democrats could do is ignore the advise of “pragmatic” Democrats.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/10/2019 - 10:02 pm.

        1, because any one of them with any sense will have elected a leader willing to remove the filibuster, thus making 51 the only relevant number to the discussion.

  9. Submitted by Tim Smith on 06/07/2019 - 02:49 pm.

    The view of the dems gets skewed easily. It is the safely blue, far left who get all the headlines, but are they the majority? Most of the party is more center and not loud or hysterical. More common sense about how far left they can go without going too left as to scare off independents.

    Why wouldn’t Republicans use the S word? It’s politics and many dems are practically begging them to use the label.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/07/2019 - 04:38 pm.

    “A candidate you agree with on most issues but would have a hard time beating Donald Trump or a Democrat you do not agree with on most issues but would be a stronger candidate against Trump.”

    Anyways, this is an incoherent question, is assumes that candidates we agree with on most issues must be the most unelectable candidates. This defies the very concept of democracy and whole idea of majorities electing their representatives. I vote for candidates that represent my views on the issues precisely because I think they’re stronger candidates. And if my candidate had got on the ballot instead of HRC Trump would not be in the White House today. This survey concept creates a bizarre false dichotomy that assumes popular candidates with good ideas are more likely to lose elections mediocre candidates who have minimal or no popular agendas. No wonder Nate blew it so big when he predicted who’d win in 2016.

    We make candidates electable by voting for them. It doesn’t matter “why” we vote for the candidates that get elected… those with the votes win the election.

    Trump won the election, do you think Trump voters were being “pragmatic”? Do you think Trump voters are “purists”? Obviously “purists” can elect presidents and win elections so why would anyone frame a survey this way?

    It’s simply bizarre to assume that the candidates we agree with are less electable than candidates we don’t agree with, that’s not how majorities work.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/10/2019 - 08:48 pm.

      If you are referring to Nate Silver and 538, that site was clear all through the fall that Don Trump had a slim but definite chance of winning the Electoral College.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/11/2019 - 05:04 pm.

      Nate Silver got it exactly right. The final polling averages came out with Clinton up 2-3 points, which is what happened. But he still had Trump with a substantial chance of winning.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/12/2019 - 09:58 am.

        You guys, Nate got it wrong. He predicted that Clinton would win, and when she lost he and 538 ended up writing several articles for months afterwards trying to explain how and why they got it wrong. They wouldn’t have had to do that if they’d got it “exactly right” now would they?

        We dove into the weeds in lengthy discussions regarding 538’s methodology and sampling assumptions after the election but the upshot is that meta-analysis is fickle mistress and on election night 2016 very few people were thinking that Trump would be the new POTUS the following morning. People like myself had had a nagging anxiety that Clinton was losing for months, but you had to hope that projections were reliable.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/08/2019 - 09:07 am.

    Regarding who’s to blame for Clinton’s defeat, Pat says:

    “Anyone who lives a life of such privilege and entitlement that they are indifferent to those whose lives are actually affected because they weren’t inspired deserves the blame. ”

    Yes, everyone BUT the Democrats who put HRC on the ballot are responsible for Trump winning. Please, Clinton and her most fervent supporters were the paragons of privilege and entitlement in 2016, and the decision to put HRC on the ballot was an expression of that privilege and entitlement. THOSE Democrats were willing to let millions of American’s suffer with a whole host of inequities, violence, poverty, and failed policy in order to chase their fantasy of a watching Hillary be Hillary in the White House because it was her turn. “Pragmatic/centrist” Democrats sat behind their wall of privilege hurling insults at Sanders’s supporters and marveling at all the anger among voters that drove Trump into the White House.

    Those Democrats are still the ones who are not only willing, but actually demanding a candidate that will leave millions of frustrated and desperate Americans suffering with a failed regime. It’s the “pragmatists” who are sitting in their bubbles of privilege declaring that policies and agendas that actually improve American lives, reverse climate change, promote human rights, are “fantasies”. And once again, they can’t understand why so many voters are so angry and desperate while they condescend to people who want a government that works for them as well as the elite.

    Sure, Trump is a really bad president, but someone else had to win the election to keep him out of the office and progressives thought that was obvious. We saw a popular candidate that a majority of Americans considered trustworthy. We saw a candidate with who proved he knew how to run a campaign by coming out of nowhere and winning 23 states despite a primary system that was rigged against him. We saw candidate that packed any venue he visited beyond capacity. We saw a candidate that generated excitement and enthusiasm rather than reluctant resignation. We saw a candidate that was consistently ahead of Trump in the polls by a comfortable margin. We thought it was no-brainer, and we were right, Clinton lost. Someone in the Clinton the campaign despite all their advantages forgot that presidents aren’t elected by the popular vote… very “pragmatic” of them.

    The Frustrating thing is that these “pragmatic” Democrats have learned absolutely NOTHING, they thought Klobuchar was a “dream” candidate. Once again, they want to roll the dice on yet another deeply flawed candidate (Biden) who’s tried and failed to even get a nomination twice If the guys so “electable” why hasn’t he been POTUS already? From abortion rights to banking and climate change the guys a disaster but he’s supposed to be the “electable” candidate? It’s deja vu all over again.

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/08/2019 - 09:52 am.

    The actual 538 “analysis” regarding age preference. I’ve already alluded to the fact that the 538 analysis is seriously flawed because it assumes that voters will think they’re voting for a less “electable” candidate when they vote for someone they agree with. The assumption that a popular candidate is less likely to win elections for some reason is simply bizarre in the first place. 538 asks us to imagine voting for a candidate that can’t win because we agree with them while foreclosing the possibility of a candidate that wins because we vote for them.

    We’ve also seen that Eric’s gambit to model the “divide” as one between reasonable “pragmatists” deploying political wisdom and reckless “purist” pursuing dangerous fantasies that will get Trump re-elected is likewise extremely flawed.

    The Democratic Party, using it’s own flawed processes, reasoning, and primary, put a deeply flawed candidate on the ballot (again) who lost the election. The fact that they continue to blame someone (anyone) else for that defeat reveals their ongoing flawed and irrational mentality. The most likely scenario that could keep Trump in the White House is one

    Returning the flawed 538 analysis for a moment we can observe another flaw that may inform Eric’s flawed attempt to frame the analysis. 538 breaks voters down by age without considering OTHER factors that may correlate with age and skew the results. For instance older Americans also tend to be wealthier and more invested their comfort levels and the status quo. 538 doesn’t consider THIS age related factor in it’s analysis, they assume that older Americans are just more “pragmatic” rather than more elitist and comfortable with the status quo.

    If you assume that the older Americans in the survey are expressing comfort levels rather than political acumen it changes the narrative drastically. In this alternate scenario older Americans aren’t being more “pragmatic” in any real sense of the term, they’re just more invested in the status quo. Likewise younger American’s aren’t being “purists” of any kind, they just want to see meaningful change, and they’re not afraid to disrupt the status quo.

    The question then becomes not whether or not a “pragmatic” candidate is more electable than a “purist” candidate; but rather whether a disruptive candidate or more electable than status quo candidate. And THAT”s a very different analysis.

    I won’t delve into the alternative scenario in depth, but I will point out that the “pragmatic/centrist/status quo” mentality assumes that everyone is just as satisfied and comfortable with the status quo as they are. This is clearly a deeply flawed and potentially dangerous assumption.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/08/2019 - 10:03 am.

    Sorry, I failed to complete a sentence in my previous comment. I meant to say:

    “The most likely scenario that could keep Trump in the White House is one where we let “pragmatist” select the next candidate to run against him.”

    So called pragmatists have a documented history of getting wrong and pulling defeat out of the jaws of victory, yet they expect us to bow down to their authority and “expertise”.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/09/2019 - 09:29 am.

    Just two more points.

    First, another way looking at this is as a difference between identity politics and issue driven politics. Clinton, Biden, Kerry, were all about identity, they were supposed be candidates you would “want” to see in the white house because of WHO they were/are rather than what their going to do. This is why by and large they actually promise to do anything, they simply don’t think such promises are necessary or even practical. Biden is the old grandfatherly guy that you have coffee with. We’re just going enjoy watching Joe be Joe the way we like sitting in a comfortable chair. We don’t expect do much. It was the same thing with Clinton but “pragmatic/centrist” Deluded themselves into believing that an historically unpopular and distrusted candidate was an alluring vision for American voters. Kerry was supposed to be the war hero that would steer a steady course.

    Issue candidates run on what they want to do, not what they’ll look like when they get into office, they offer agendas and policies that identity candidates and voters will deride as “fantasies’.

    Even if we frame the discussion in terms of identity vs. issue politics the identity politics preferred by so called pragmatists fails. Their candidates fail to elected. And even on those occasions when identity candidates get into office, it’s bad politics because they meet minimal requirements, celebrate their mediocrity, and turn manageable challenges into intractable crises that drag on for decades- health care for example.

  15. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 06/09/2019 - 03:01 pm.

    First, there is an assumption that “electability” refers to the ability to reach toward the “center” and pluck away a larger number of those politically disengaged and impressionable folks. When, in 2016, I adjudged Mr. Sanders to be more “electable” than Ms. Clinton, it was hardly based on the thought that he would pluck more of these folks. Rather, it was that he would reach around the back, if you will, to the Right and regain for the Democrats some number of those folks driven away by the Democrats’ long-standing refusal to press an actual populist agenda (the political spectrum as a circle rather than a line). Indeed, I have yet to see data refuting that the Sanders supporters who did not vote for Clinton, however many they were, were principally not those who have long considered themselves on the left, but rather those who have not voted for establishment Democrats for a long time.

    Second, electability is not an attribute that applies to an individual in isolation. It applies to who best can present her/himself as the leader of a party and platform that otherwise is effectively advanced. I’d offer that in the Democratic party, the “pragmatic” candidate long has borne the mantle of greater “electability” in large part because the Democratic establishment, since forever, has failed to form, communicate and follow a progressive, populist agenda. Some may attribute this to incompetence; I think it more likely due to the inherent conflict between the agendas of the Democratic party’s economic and political bases (a problem the Republican party doesn’t have). In other words, progressive, populist Democratic candidates have an “electability” deficit because the Democratic establishment boycotts them. The mainstream media also play an oversized role, but part of an effective political strategy is fighting back against the well-known and formulaic ways that the mainstream media discredits and undermines anything that comes from the progressive, populist left.

    From background and life story, to character and commitments, to intellect and training, to policies that aim transparently to improve the welfare of folks across the nation’s demography, Elizabeth Warren is an unusually qualified candidate, far moreso than the nation deserves. If she suffers from an “electability” deficit, that is a condemnation of the Democratic party, and one for the party to fix.

    • Submitted by Bob Johnson on 06/10/2019 - 09:42 am.

      I truly appreciate the thought and analysis you and Paul contribute to this comments section.
      Thank you both.
      Trump makes Nixon look like a choir boy.
      That should scare the living daylights out of anyone with a brain.
      Pragmatism may find an appropriate time for voters’ support, but right now our Nation is on ‘Code Orange’.

  16. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 06/10/2019 - 07:43 am.

    I do not care who the Dems nominate.

    All I ask is that they are open and honest with their tax increases, fee increases, green new deal costs, trickle down education costs, amnesty job killing costs, illegal immigration and wage suppressions costs, pension and benefit cost for the entrenched special interests that they use to buy votes, regulation costs, etc.

    If they are not honest in these area – we know for sure that they will not be call liars by Mr. Black.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/10/2019 - 09:59 am.

      It’s always kind of funny when Trump voters demand openness and honesty. I also a little comical when the guys who thought the Mexicans were gonna pay for Trump’s wall pretend THEY’RE the only ones in the room who REALLY know where the money comes from. Whatever. Odds are that whoever Democrats nominate will be your next president.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/10/2019 - 10:12 am.

      That sounds more like the stereotype of the Democrats perpetuated on AM talk radio than like anything the Democrats have actually proposed.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/10/2019 - 08:54 pm.

      Yes, and Don Trump supporters should admit that tariffs are tax increases, paid by consumers.

      If you don’t believe it, compare the prices of washers and dryers from 2017 to today.

  17. Submitted by Carl Brookins on 06/10/2019 - 07:52 am.

    Good piece. I just wish more people read it for the factual content without injecting their present biases which seem to wildly (in some cases) alter readers’ perceptions.

  18. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/10/2019 - 08:55 pm.

    In 2006, John Kerry told us he was the stable guy you married, not the guy who was fun for a couple of dates.

    How’d elect-ability fare that year?

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/11/2019 - 08:47 am.

    And just so you know… I know a growing number of Clinton voters who are saying they’ll NEVER for Biden. There are several rationales for it but you either put on him the ballot and complain about losing those votes if he loses, or you put someone on the ballot they’ll vote for and win the election… it’s THAT simple. And again: these are Clinton voters, NOT Trump voters. If you think Democrats will win the election by winning Trump voters and losing Clinton voters you’re simply delusional.

    • Submitted by Jim Marshal on 06/11/2019 - 03:49 pm.

      Trump won the presidency by receiving roughly 25% of the votes of all eligible voters. Why on earth would you try appealing to that minority voting bloc in the name of ‘electability’ rather than focus on the remaining 75% of voters? The remaining 75% of voters or potential voters who are clamoring for a legit candidate. A candidate that is the exact opposite of Trump in every way.

  20. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/12/2019 - 10:30 am.

    Still blaming Nader?

    You know I just have to say that frankly, talking to “pragmatic” Democrats and Clinton supporters is pretty much the same experience as talking to Trump voters much of the time. The problem with any narrative that pegs progressives as the “extremist” on the field is that it points to the wrong group. These so-called pragmatists are just the Democratic equivalent of Trump voters much of the time. They’re just as impervious to facts and analysis, and almost as hostile, only you can add a twist of pretension, entitlement, and condescension to the mix. We can thank these Democrats for teaching us that Pragmatism and “centrism” can be their own form of extremism and THEY are the extremists in the room, make no mistake about it.

    Our elections and their outcomes are seriously documented and studied and if you STILL think that Jill Stein or Ralph Nader cost Democrats elections your just being obtuse.

    We know for a fact that Gore lost Florida for two reasons. 1) He was too clever by half when demanded a partial recount in select counties rather than a full statewide recount. That decision not came up short on votes, but created the window that SCOTUS used to insert itself (unconstitutionally) into the State recount. We know that Gore would have won a statewide recount. 2) We also know that the voters Gore lost were from his own party. If something like 40% of the DEMOCRATS who voted for Bush had voted for Gore instead, he’d a won, regardless of Nader. So why are you blaming Nader voters instead of your fellow Democrats?

    Likewise in 2016, twas not the Sanders’s voters who put Trump in the white house, it was white women and Obama voters who either stayed home or voted for Trump. 98% of the Sanders voters and a majority of progressives voted for Clinton. Why aren’t you blaming white women and Obama voters?

    Pragmatic/”centrists” Democrats have an extremely (and obviously) flawed neoliberal mentality that has produced a flawed selection process that has put losing candidates on 8 of the last 9 presidential ballots ( 7 out of 9 if you try to count Obama as their selection, but remember, they thought Clinton was more “electable” at the time).

    All of this is beyond obvious to anyone who is paying attention, yet here they are, still tying to blame someone else, and still trying to blame Ralph Nader, and still trying to tell us who to put on the ballot, and there’s no reasoning with them.


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