Why “Demexit” Is an Empty Threat

(Taking a brief break from focusing on the coronavirus to look at the upcoming election and funky shit going on about it in social media.)

Here in the middle of a historic national crisis, I’m still seeing people on social media say Joe Biden should not be the Democratic nominee. Maybe he shouldn’t, but here in Reality World, Biden is going to be the nominee as long as he makes it to the convention alive and breathing. There’s really no point arguing about “shoulds” any more. We’re past that point. Continuing to argue against Biden’s nomination is a bit like arguing that the Texas Rangers shouldn’t trade Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees. It’s done already.

By all means, go ahead and vote for another candidate in your primary if it hasn’t happened yet, and work to get out the vote for Sanders if you wish. And for those who don’t know me, I voted for Sanders in my state’s primary, which he lost to Biden, 35 percent to 60 percent. In 2016, it was Clinton 49.61 percent, Sanders 49.36 percent.

That’s the basic story of the 2020 primaries, in a nutshell. Sanders is not doing nearly as well as he did in 2016. That’s the hard reality.

Now, how much should Biden worry about younger lefty voters withholding their votes from him in November? Not too much, actually.

Biden needs some Sanders primary voters to support him in November, since Sanders has won about 31 percent of the national popular vote so far. But he doesn’t need every single one.

Note that Sanders received about 47 percent of primary votes in 2016, so he’s doing considerably worse overall now, possibly because younger voters are voting at lower rates this year and the union/working class votes he got in 2016 are now going to Biden.

Some Sanders-or-bust voters might stay home in November; that happens to some degree in every election.

But most Sanders voters don’t fit that description. According to a recent Morning Consult poll, 82 percent of Sanders supporters say they would vote for Biden in the general election, and just 7 percent said they would vote for Trump. And Quinnipiac University found that 86 percent of Sanders voters would vote for Biden, 3 percent would vote for Trump, 2 percent would vote for someone else, 4 percent wouldn’t vote, and 5 percent didn’t know who they’d vote for.

Of course, in a close election, every vote counts. So the Sanders voter factor is of some concern, but the Sanders camp doesn’t have nearly enough voting leverage to issue threats or make demands, sorry.

On the one hand, it’s possible that some of the anti-Hillary, conservative Democratic voters that Sanders won in places like Oklahoma and West Virginia are now Republicans who didn’t participate in the 2020 primary. But it’s also possible that a handful of those voters back Biden. For instance, he’s already been doing better than Sanders among white primary voters without a college degree, a group Sanders won handily in 2016.

So the tradeoff for Biden in 2020 may be that he loses youth turnout but gets more votes from suburban moderate types who are older. Given that older voters are more reliable voters, that might be an OK trade for Biden.

Basically, demographic groups who can’t be counted on to vote don’t get catered to by politicians.

Sanders’s argument before the primaries started was that he would do better with union and working-class and younger voters, as he did in the 2016 primaries. Younger voters in particular were anticipated to show up in record numbers. But the union/working-class vote has been going to Biden, and the youth vote turnout has been lower than in 2016. And Biden has been crushing Sanders with African-American and suburban voters, two groups considered most vital to beating Trump in November.

And no, there are no exit polls that show that Sanders should have won a lot of primaries that he lost but the evil DNC somehow changed the vote in spite of the fact that the DNC doesn’t run primaries; state election commissions run primaries. I keep seeing claims of these exit polls, but I have looked and looked and have yet to find solid evidence of one. I believe if such exit polls existed we’d be hearing about it from the Sanders campaign.

What about independent voters? I understand independents have preferred Sanders to Biden in several primaries, but that tells us nothing about how they are going to vote in November. And there are polls that show lefty-leaning independents preferring Biden to Sanders. Independents are not a monolithic group, but at the end of the day most independents lean toward one of the two parties and will vote for the nominee of the party they prefer, even if that nominee wasn’t their first choice. That’s the historic pattern.

The real determining factor in November is how badly independent voters will want to get rid of Trump. Few are going to think, “Gee, I hate Donald Trump with a white-hot passion, but I guess I won’t vote for Joe Biden because he wasn’t the best nominee.” No; they will vote for a bleeping gerbil to get rid of Trump.

On the other hand, if by November Trump doesn’t seem to be doing that badly, he could win a second term, and that would be true no matter who the Dem nominee is. In a close election, incumbents do have an advantage.

So, to those who haven’t yet adjusted to reality, please stop embarassing yourself with empty boasts about how millions of disaffected people will somehow do something that will teach the DNC a lesson. If it didn’t happen during the primaries, it’s not going to happen, period.

If you want to be useful, do whatever you can do to elect Democrats to the Senate and House. Because it’s really going to be Congress, not the president, who decides if the Green New Deal or Medicare for All becomes law. And, frankly, even if Sanders somehow sweeps the rest of the primaries and becomes POTUS, neither is likely to happen in a first term. Paul Krugman, last January:

What about Joe Biden? The Sanders campaign has claimed that Biden endorsed Paul Ryan’s plans for sharp cuts in Social Security and Medicare; that claim is false. What is true is that in the past Biden has often been a Very Serious Person going along with the Beltway consensus that we need “adjustments” — a euphemism for at least modest cuts — in Social Security. (Actually, if you go back a ways, Sanders turns out to have said similar things.)

But the Democratic Party as a whole has moved left on these issues, and Biden has moved with it. Even if he has a lingering desire to strike a Grand Bargain with Republicans — which I doubt — he would face such a huge intraparty backlash that he would be forced to back off.

So in terms of policy, here’s what I think would happen if Sanders wins: we’ll get a significant but not gigantic expansion of the social safety net, paid for by significant new taxes on the rich.

On the other hand, if Biden wins, we’ll get a significant but not gigantic expansion of the social safety net, paid for by significant new taxes on the rich.

One implication, if I’m right, is that electability should play a very important role in your current preferences. It matters hugely whether a Democrat wins, it matters much less which Democrat wins.

And if the GOP keeps control of the Senate, we’re screwed, no matter who is POTUS.

So, all of you people intoxicated with self-righteousness who are thumping your chests and proclaiming you will remain pure and principled and not vote for Biden and will lead millions of people out of the Democratic party and show the Democrats what’s what — please try to join the rest of us in Reality World. Oh, and take care against the Trump flu. Thanks much.