He Woulda’ Lost

One of the favorite refrains of the Berner crowd is that “Bernie would have won.” Their logic is pretty straight forward- Hillary *barely* lost the 2016 Election, and Bernie had less baggage. The belief of Berniestan is that he would have won Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. After all, he’d do better with groups she underperformed with, he’d motivate more people, and he’s the most popular politician in the country. Right?

Hillary Clinton actually beat Bernie. Despite the fact she lost the general election, she beat Bernie Sanders handily in the 2016 primary, by every metric available. With or without super delegates, regardless of caucus or primaries, and without any DNC interference, Hillary beat him. She beat him in pledged delegates. She beat him by about 15% in the popular vote. She had all but won the nomination by March. In fact, if caucuses were eliminated in places like Nebraska and Washington, in favor of higher turnout primaries, she would have beat him even worse. When on the ballot, Bernie’s alleged popularity never showed up. He got crushed.

Hillary was once the most popular politician in America too. In fact, she was so right up until she ran for President in 2016. When you’re not a candidate, that’s normal. When you’re not the front-runner, that’s normal. When no one thinks you can win, you’re popular. Bernie did not face much in actual vetting and criticism in 2016, because no one believed he would win, ever. No one believed he would be nominated or elected. This time he will enter as one of the few front-runners in a big field. Had he been nominated in 2016, he would have faced unprecedented scrutiny, for him. A nominated Bernie would probably not be the most popular politician in the country, and would probably end up viewed quite partisanly.

Bernie is weak with white people too. Like every other Democrat in America, he’s under water. He’s above water with women, but under with men. He’s above water with African-Americans. In other words, once Bernie became known, he became similar to just about any national Democratic candidate in terms of who supports him. In other words, it’s far from clear he’d win people Hillary did not.

Bernie’s support from African-American’s is wide, but shallow. Like every other national Democratic figure, Bernie Sanders and his policies are popular with the most loyal Democratic voting bloc. The thing is, the votes never followed Bernie in 2016. He was crushed in South Carolina, and every other majority-minority primary, particularly African-American ones. His endorsed candidates in 2018 generally lost non-white voters. At no point has Bernie shown an ability to turn favorable ratings from African-American voters into votes. His inability to energize African-American voters, coupled with his rather normal white approvals, would have made winning in 2016, or for that matter 2020, very difficult.

Bernie is basically a left-wing Democrat, politically, but he simply rejects the party base. Bernie has spoken pretty openly against identity politics. In other words, he’s not trying to deepen his wide but shallow support among African-Americans, women, or Latinos. It would have been hard to turn out more of these voters by eschewing their particular interests. Given that Bernie is rather average as far as candidates go otherwise, how would he change the results of 2016?

Bernie Sanders would have lost- and would lose in 2020 if he changes nothing. While he has had high approval numbers in the past (his latest I’ve seen are 44-42), those numbers will melt towards an average Democrat’s over the course of the race. He will have to win in a rather standard, boiler plate fashion in 2020- something he was utterly incapable of in 2016. What’s worse for him is that he won’t have Hillary as a foil this time. This time it will be him under the microscope. That would have been the kiss of death in 2016. It should remain a concern in 2020.

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A Little Cold Water on Bernie and His Ideas

The year was 1992. I was 9. The youngest eligible 2020 voters were not born for another decade. The Mayor of Burlington, Vermont was elected to be the lone Congressman from his state. A full 27 years will have passed by since that night by the time the Iowa Caucus is contested in February of 2020. That former Burlington Mayor will be nearly 80 years old.

2020 is not 2016, and Bernie Sanders is not what he’s claimed to be. He’s certainly not the outsider he claimed to be in 2016- He’s been in Washington over a quarter-century. His achievements there are not numerous, and probably don’t even outshine his disastrous tenure overseeing the Veteran Affairs Department as a chairman in the U.S. Senate. His 26 years (to date) Congressional career lacks accomplishments, and would not inspire one to think he’s the change agent he claims. In fact many of his “bold” ideas- “free” college, Medicare for All, massive action on climate change, $15 minimum wage- were things he wasn’t really championing before he launched his 2016 campaign. Bernie probably wasn’t fighting for them much because he actually does understand legislating- they weren’t going to pass Congress, maybe in his lifetime, let alone career.

But let’s talk about his actual record, shall we? While his supporters beat the crap out of Hillary Clinton for saying “super predators,” Bernie actually voted for the crime bill in Congress. He voted against immigration reform in 2007. He voted to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits connected to shooting deaths. If you google each of these votes, you’ll find Vox, or some other generally liberal news source tell you why “it’s complicated,” and you know what? It is. But we lived through 2016, where Bernie and his online bros told us why Hillary Clinton was a “neoliberal” or “corporate whore,” and why all of us were too for supporting him. Bernie’s “purity” argument against Hillary for taking campaign contributions was supposed to suggest she was corrupt by the system, that she could be bought, which is why she wanted to improve the ACA instead of push Medicare for All, or why she supported strengthening Dodd-Frank over re-passing the antiquated Glass-Steagall Act. Bernie knew his argument wasn’t grounded in reality- that’s why he took complicated votes on the 1994 Crime Bill, on protecting gun manufacturers in a pro-gun state, in immigration reform, and yes, even in support of the ACA. I can accept that legislating isn’t pure, and would give him a pass, but he and his supporters didn’t afford that same reality to Hillary Clinton.

I understand why some Democrats like Bernie’s ideas- there’s power in aspiration. It gives you something to aim at. Let me be clear though- Bernie will never, ever get you there. Is that clear enough? He has not shown a record of being able to pass difficult bills, like say a Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, or even (sometimes controversially) a Joe Biden. It’s not clear Democrats could get 218 votes entirely in their own 235 member House caucus without any Republican help for his health care, taxes, or energy plans. Democrats barely were able to push the ACA, “Cap and Trade,” or Dodd-Frank through the House in Obama’s first two years, with similar majorities. There’s literally zero chance of the Democrats getting 60 votes for his plans to pass the Senate in their current forms. He doesn’t have the skill and tact to do what President Obama could not, which is get Republicans to the table.

Reality isn’t something that curtails Bernie’s ambitions though. He lost the primaries in 2016 by hundreds of delegates, or by any other measure or system you want. She beat him by well north of 10% in the popular vote. She won a majority of pledged delegates. She crushed him with super delegates. He was basically done after South Carolina, and had no mathematical shot at all after New York, but kept her running all the way to California in a hopeless slog, and then all the way to the convention. Never mind that he had no plan to achieve his policy goals, he had no plan to win the nomination either. He just kept running. His wife, who bankrupt a college, had the audacity to ask the FBI to “hurry up” with their Clinton e-mail server investigation. His supporters came to the convention in Philadelphia and made it a shit show. They played right along with Trump’s “crooked Hillary” messaging. It certainly didn’t help. Bernie just kept trudging along.

Bernie Sanders is not an outsider. He’s not a revolutionary. He’s not even a Democrat. He’s an angry man that is doing this for self benefit, to the point of paying his wife, step-daughter, and son to be advisors. He knows he can’t deliver his promises, but he’ll puff you up on them anyway, to collect those $27 donations and pay his family. Fortunately, I don’t think he’ll win, or even do as well this time. For all the talk of him being “the most popular politician in the country,” it’s worth noting that Hillary was that too, before she wasn’t. This time Bernie won’t benefit from being the recipient of the “anti-Hillary” vote in what was basically a one-on-one race, and will face a large field of newer, shinier objects. Already his 40% from 2016 is down below 20% in polls, because voters are not that into him. If you were betting Bernie against the field, you’d be smart to take the field.

I hated basically everything about the 2016 election, even down to a lot of things Hillary’s campaign did, but I liked her. Bernie and his supporters made the whole experience rotten. Their online attacks didn’t stop though in 2016, and continued into the Trump era. I’m proud to say I voted against him then, and will again. I’ll wear the crazies’ attacks as a badge of honor going into 2020, right down to the enemies list I made:

I’m going to have to go with “Thank you, next,” on Bernie 2020.

Dividing Lines

The political order is breaking down right in front of us. While DC is immersed in ideological battles, we’re seeing traditional liberalism and conservatism morph right in our eyes, you have cultural liberals arguing for free trade, cultural conservatives railing against billionaires, and moderates on both sides picking and choosing amidst the carnage.

This is not to say there aren’t still more traditional left and right, or even extreme left and right. That still exists. The main point is that there are new politics emerging, like a spring blooming from the Earth. In the aftermath of 2016, there are new coalitions forming, some good, some bad.

Americans aren’t satisfied with their political choices. This is why 42% self-identify as independent. It’s why more radical voices are rising on the left and right. It’s why people who lack credibility (Trump, Bernie, AOC) are gaining followings. People want to hear what they want to hear, not what is “possible” or “electable.” It’s why talking about the cost of something, or Congressional viability, or details of a plan haven’t derailed some of the frauds and grifters who have risen in our politics. Nobody cares about what’s wrong with their lies.

The only way out of this hellscape is vision. Someone will have to put something real, appealing, and truly good for people’s lives on the table. Tax subsidies for Amazon to bring minimum wage jobs to Queens aren’t exciting, even if they’re an upgrade for people who need more income there. Activists will sabotage that every time, because there’s no real joy in it. People want their standard of living improved. They want opportunity. The only way to stop them from dumb ideas is to offer good ones.

Income Assistance for those “Unwilling to Work,” Cow Farts, Killing the Airline Industry, and Placating Some Folks

Call me cynical- I don’t believe AOC’s botched roll out of her “Green New Deal” was a mistake. The Justice Dems poster child and former Bernie Sanders organizer has promised to “lean in” to an oncoming “war” in the Democratic Party, complete with primaries across the party. She’s been clear that she’s not willing to compromise with anyone, on much of anything. Her response to Democrats that want to repair Obamacare instead of overhaul the system for Medicare for All was very telling:

There are lots of questions to be answered on Medicare for All, and plenty of good reasons to look at other alternatives that get you to universality, or at least better than you have now. AOC isn’t willing to look at them though, and the reasoning has been hiding in plain sight for a long time now- her goal is eliminating any moderation within the Democratic Party. Why, you ask? Because AOC and Bernie Sanders aren’t radical or extreme anymore if everyone agrees with them.

Take the Green New Deal resolution AOC has been leading the charge on along with Senator Markey. There is nothing extreme about putting forward an actual bill (not a Resolution) to combat climate change, develop green energy, and create millions of jobs- in fact it’s smart policy on every level. During the roll out the details were a bit hazy, but the concept is so good that old pros like Markey wanted to join AOC’s cause. So did some of the party’s Presidential candidates too. It seemed like a good idea, not just harmless.

Then of course, came the details. They weren’t so good. The “FAQs” (frequently asked questions) weren’t signed off on by anyone else, and didn’t match the actual resolution. There was talk of income assistance for “those unwilling to work,” a Republican messaging wet dream. Then there was talk of cow farts. Yes, really. And yes, there was mention of eliminating airline travel. Yes, she uses planes regularly. And yes, they included language saying nuclear energy is off the table. It was an ugly “screw up,” one they even tried to claim was doctored- it wasn’t.

There are pretty decent arguments to be had for universal income, cutting back consumption of red meat, cutting back flight traffic, and not making nuclear energy central to our energy future- and nowhere near universal support for doing anything. I doubt that Democrats want to campaign on eliminating the union jobs in the nuclear sector, ending steak and burger consumption, closing airports, and giving tax dollars to “lazy people”- which is exactly how Donald Trump and Republicans will label those ideas, while spending millions of dollars to tell swing voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania just how radical Democrats are. Presented this way, you can’t build majority support for any of it. That’s even more true among swing voters.

So why release this? If you want to believe it was an honest mistake, have at it. Of course, you’re being willfully ignorant though. Why release anything to accompany the actual resolution, which was pretty clear on it’s own? FAQs can be helpful to the press, sure, but why did a draft version exist with a bunch of things not in the actual resolution? Their FAQs describe what might as well have been a different resolution altogether, so why was this draft written in the first place? How was the office staff so incompetent as to release the wrong version? I mean really, they’re calling for a massive overhaul of our energy policies and economy as a whole, but they can’t use a Congressional website correctly? If they’re truly just incompetent in this case, that should worry you too.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that they’re actually not incompetent, this wasn’t a mistake, and this was the plan all along. The idea was to have the entire Democratic “establishment” get behind the ideas that some would call “radical”- because if everyone agrees with AOC (and of course Bernie), then you can’t call them extreme or radical anymore. They’re now the mainstream. Their ideas are mainstreamed by the endorsement of them coming from the rest of the Democratic Party. Try arguing to the press that these other Democrats “didn’t sign onto that,” because they signed onto the actual resolution instead. It’s muddled messaging at best, and impossible at worst. Lefty activists will ask why they oppose the Green New Deal. The press will drag them into the weeds. The GOP will mock them over the details in the FAQs and call them radicals.

Inevitably AOC will eventually endorse her old boss Bernie, in part because she agrees with him, and in part because he’s a nice placeholder until she’s eligible to run herself. When his opponents try to label him as unelectable and extreme, she’ll trot out to his defense and not that they agreed with him, on this and other matters, such as health care. Trump will elevate her in the debate as a representative of the Democratic Party of 2020, because he sees her as vulnerable among the voters he needs. She’ll embrace that image. Everyone will be forced to pick sides. Being that so many Democrats are embracing her now, it will be tough to get back the space later. Welcome to being pinned in the corner.

Re-Alignment

I registered to vote in 2001, as a Democrat. Michael Bloomberg was a Republican, no one was discussing whether or not demographic politics were destiny or not, and Donald Trump beating a Clinton or a Bush for President seemed like a total joke.

The two parties are changing quickly, right before our eyes. The Republican Party of 2001 was very different than 2019. Gone are the aristocratic Bush types at the top. Gone is the globalist view of military engagement and global trade from the Bush days, and in it’s place is Trump isolationist policy. The Republican Party is now a cultural identity party for “traditional” America, stressing nationalism, law and order, and aggressive anti-elitism. They’re both longing for a cultural America that is traditional, but also calling into question the last 80 years of globalism in American foreign policy. This is a far cry from the Republican Party of Bush- a neoconservative foreign policy, pro-big business (which they still mostly are in policy, but not as much rhetoric.), and theocratic morality politics.

The Democratic Party is basically on another planet too. Bill Clinton’s moderation politics are taking a beating from the activists. “Safe, legal, and rare” to describe abortion policy would almost be disqualifying in a primary. The party has moved a solid step left on everything from taxes to guns, from abortion to criminal justice reform, on health care to LGBT rights. Would a Democrat reiterate Bill Clinton’s pronunciation that “the era of big government is over” in a 2022 State of the Union? Would they even consider a balanced budget, such as Clinton oversaw, as a positive? While the reality is that the Democrats have not really moved crazy left as a practical matter, the rhetoric has shifted dramatically. The Democratic Party is abandoning much of the strategic practicality of Clinton and Obama for more ideological, direct appeal to what it sees as it’s base.

Perhaps that is the biggest shift in American politics over the past 18 years- who each party views as it’s base. When I started in politics in 2002, the Rust Belt man in a Ford pick-up truck was a Democrat, or at least a swing voter. The wealthier suburbs of Philadelphia were moderate Republicans. Now that’s switched. For all the talk of rural Republicans and urban, more diverse Democrats, perhaps those changes are minor compared to the exchange of blue collar whites to Republicans, and educated, white collar whites to Democrats. The Democratic Party is now more Starbucks, the Republicans more Dunkin (for the record, I love both.). The Democratic Party is adapting to a coalition of white collar suburban white people joining African-Americans and most every other group that is considered a minority. The Republicans, under the colorful rhetoric of Trump, are welcoming blue collar, lower middle class, Rust Belt whites to their billionaires and traditionalists.

The biggest driver of the political shifts is the way the two parties now view America’s place in the world. Donald Trump’s new base has driven the Republicans away from international trade deals, rhetorically against cheap foreign labor, to want out of NATO, to want to withdraw from treaties such as KORUS, and to want out of conflicts in places like Syria and Afghanistan. The basic tenet of the Trump doctrine is “why are we paying for it” with regards to the world, and for a desire to spend that money at home. Just as dramatic is the shift on the Democratic side. The Democratic Party is suddenly the party of free trade, foreign intervention in places like Syria, and arguing for at least a more liberal border. Republicans are increasingly uninterested in international collaboration with allies like Canada, South Korea, and our traditional EU allies. Democrats aren’t feeling so great about collaborating with nations they see as against their values, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, or Italy. This shift has had impacts both in foreign and domestic policy.

All of this has left some people out of place in their own political parties. Michael Bloomberg, mentioned above, has gone from a Republican, to an independent, to a Democrat. The Blue Dog Democrats are virtually gone away, while there aren’t pro-choice Republicans in Congress anymore. Those pieces of their coalitions have left them, eliminating the base of support for most of those members. They’ve gradually lost primaries to more ideological candidates, and lost general elections because their own voters abandoned them.

The major question for the future is if the left-right divide will break down- will the Bernie voters and Trump voters eventually link up? Both are populists that want to shock the system. One took over their party, the other has not been able to so far. Could they eventually all be in the Republican camp if Democrats continue to reject populism?

We are living through a realignment in our politics that is changing both coalitions. The political parties are not what they were when I registered. If you had told me in 2001 that a Republican President would be for isolationist trade and foreign policies, and that I’d oppose that President like I do, I would not believe you. So imagine America by 2040.

We Need an Income Floor, Not Necessarily a Ceiling

One of the enjoyable things going on right now in politics is an actual debate about taxes. You have Michael Bloomberg and Howard Schultz saying wealth taxes are bad for the economy. You have AOC saying we should tax “the $10,000,000th dollar at 70%,” or something. And you have Elizabeth Warren calling for a wealth tax, on savings, of the top 0.01%. This is a healthy, robust debate, one we need. We’re running $1 trillion debts, our nation is crumbling of neglect at home, and our tax code is a total mess, thanks to everyone from Ronald Reagan to Paul Ryan.

I think we’re having the wrong debate though. I’m not saying we shouldn’t debate millionaires and billionaires, and their tax bills, but I think that debate should take a backseat to how we tax our poor and middle class. The discussion we need to be having is how to create more tax free money at the bottom of the income bracket, essentially “shifting” the loopholes to the working class people.

Nobody should pay taxes on their first $30,000 of income. Literally nobody. Make all of that money tax free, because that’s literally what you need to survive. The first $30,000 pays for your food, your housing, your clothing, and your health care (in fact, I’m probably underestimating it). This money shouldn’t be taxable. If I’m really being honest, people making below $30,000 should be guaranteed a tax return that gets them to $30,000, essentially creating universal guaranteed income (UGI) for all Americans. I’d up this number to something like $45,000 for couples and $60,000 for families of four. For those that call this crazy and fiscally irresponsible, I remind you that we would save much more when we don’t need as much money in welfare programs.

I would apply this principle on taxes besides income too. The payroll tax would start at $30,000, and would certainly not be capped at $132,900 (as it is now), if capped at all. Corporations and businesses would be incentivized in the tax code to be good corporate citizens, including paying a living wage, allowing unionization, giving paid vacation and medical leave, and offering health insurance and retirement to workers. If you start applying the principle of a robust income “floor,” or safety net, you start solving a lot of the failure in our economy. By the same token, companies paying below a living wage and not taking care of their workers should pay more. Essentially if we’re paying the UGI I described above to someone who has a job, their deadbeat employer should be paying taxes that make up the difference.

I’m not sure how I feel, to be honest, about wealth and windfall tax plans. I don’t oppose them. I’m also not sure I love them. What I am more bothered by is the existence of the working poor in America, not as much the super rich. We need to take better care of Americans living in poverty and even middle class conditions, and we should draw up a tax code that makes that happen.

All the Things No One Will Say on Howard Schultz

If you watch too much cable news, you might think “Centrist Independent” Howard Schultz is likely to be our next President. He’s been on every channel, he has top tier surrogates like Steve Schmidt talking for him, Donald Trump is attacking him on Twitter, and Democratic talking heads are angry that someone would dare run as an independent and call them too liberal. It’s all more than a bit dishonest. Howard Schultz, despite all of his money, is not likely to do much better than Teddy Roosevelt (1912), Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace (1948), George Wallace (1968), John Anderson (1980), Ross Perot (1992&1996), Ralph Nader (2000), or Gary Johnson and Jill Stein (2016) did in their losing third party candidacies. Roosevelt and Perot were plenty rich, but couldn’t buy votes. The one thing both of them can share with Nader and Stein though is that many people blame them for the outcome.

I’ve said I don’t think Schultz should do this, despite agreeing with some of the points he’s making. Donald Trump tweeting attacks at him was incredibly validating. It’s not that I’m sure Schultz would hurt one party more than the other, it’s the mere possibility that he could possibly help Trump. Donald Trump is attacking Schultz because a third party candidate could lower the threshold he needs to reach to win in the key states, and Trump needs that with his low poll numbers. Donald Trump’s 46% in 2016 was very low for a Presidential candidate, and his approval has never been that high again. Trump may need to be able to win with 42% or lower in 2020. He’s tweeting that he hates Schultz, but privately he loves him.

The Democrats don’t deserve a badge of honor here either. Hillary Clinton got 48% in 2016, Barack Obama got 51% and 53% in his two victories. If you genuinely believe that Howard Schultz is likely to play spoiler, you probably believe Schultz is going to knock the Democrats below Hillary’s number. That means you think the 2020 nominee will be less capable than Clinton, run a worse campaign than Clinton, AND that their message will resonate with less voters than Hillary’s did, let alone President Obama’s. If you believe Howard Schultz is going to pick off moderate Democrats, you’re basically proving Schultz’s point that the Democratic Party is too liberal. Given how important this election is, if you realize this now, wouldn’t it be more productive to do something about it than go on TV and complain about this guy? Perhaps there is more doubt in the DC crowd than they let on.

Then there’s Schultz, Steve Schmidt, Bill Burton, and everyone else associated with this campaign- they’re all too smart to believe what they’re saying. They know that the 40% of the public that call themselves independent aren’t all centrists. I actually don’t believe these guys are trying to play spoiler, I think they all genuinely dislike Trump. I think they made a self-interest decision that could endanger the election. They decided that a rich, white, moderate businessman that thinks AOC is a bit nutty isn’t going to win the Democratic primary voters over, because they’re simply more liberal. So they’re going to skip the primary and just run in the general election. They see votes to grab from all sides. There are some centrist independents. There are “Never Trumpers” in the GOP. There’s even the chunk of Trump voters that fall between his hardcore base of 33% and his 46% 2016 performance. They also see a moderate wing of Democrats who are increasingly isolated in their own party, people who are terrified of Trump, but find the party’s left to be ridiculous. How many of the low-affinity partisans can they grab from both sides? They’ve probably determined enough to compete. If it’s not enough to win though, there’s a better than decent shot they would spoil it for one side or the other. They either are in denial of that, or more likely know that saying so would hurt their case.

I find some of what Schultz is saying to be refreshing, but I find almost all of what everyone is saying on his candidacy to be dishonest, including himself. In normal times, I’d be very willing to debate if the Democratic Party is a responsible political party, but when Donald Trump is siding with Neo-Nazis and the Kremlin I think we have to focus on the real problem at hand. The coverage he’s getting needs to focus on the low likelihood that he can win, what his real pathway is, and the very real possibility that he ends up throwing the election one way or the other.

A Bold, New World View, Part 11- Regionalism Still Matters

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Read Part 4 here.

Read Part 5 here.

Read Part 6 here.

Read Part 7 here.

Read Part 8 here.

Read Part 9 here.

Read Part 10 here.

Who is the Democratic base? This has been the central debate between Hillary and Bernie supporters since 2016. Hillary supporters largely argued that women and African-Americans, and most specifically African-American women, as well as Latinos, made up the “base” of the Democratic Party. Bernie supporters argued that the base were the most feverish ideological leftists in the party. I think Hillary supporters were wrong only in being overly general. I think Bernie supporters are just wrong. The Hillary “base” is slightly too small, unequally distributed, and ignores regionalism. The Bernie coalition is just not a majority, and probably never will be.

I don’t believe either political party has what amounts to a national base. Different political issues animate different regions of the country, and the demographics change dramatically. Even within regions there can be dramatic shifts from places like North Philadelphia to suburban Willow Grove, just minutes into the suburbs. Democrats can’t “nationalize” the question of their base. To be fair, Republicans can’t either, even though their demographic of voter is mostly the same everywhere.

Hillary’s defined base worked well enough to win the nomination, largely because it worked in the South. Hillary had a lot of success in 2008 in the west by winning the Latino base there. Hillary walloped President Obama in the Rust Belt states because she won the “labor/working class” demographic, the same people she lost badly to both Bernie and Trump in 2016. Every region of the country has it’s own “base Democratic” voting block. There are overlapping issues of economic fairness and access to opportunity, but the animating issues change. Labor issues are huge in Wisconsin, but voting rights are huge in Georgia. I can’t imagine a Democratic nominee opposed to either one, but the fight at this point seems to be over which set of issues get to be center stage.

What about the Republican Party though? Right-wing populism dominates in Appalachia and the South, energy issues in Texas and much of the Plains and Southwest, while tax cuts in the North. Rather than fighting over whether the tax cuts for their Northeast donors should take precedence over union busting in Wisconsin, or a border wall for Arizona and Kentucky, they just say all of the above. If their Wyoming Congresswoman wants to talk guns and energy exploration while their Massachusetts Governor talks tax cuts, they’re fine. A national nominee from the GOP will be expected to cut taxes, appoint conservatives to the judiciary, spend on the military, protect gun rights, and be tough on immigration- even though these positions make no sense together at times.

Regionalism also does a lot to explain elected official behavior too. Bernie Sanders famously was less tough on gun manufacturers than Hillary fans wanted. Cory Booker is more pharma friendly than many Midwestern members of Congress, but many of them are friendly towards agribusiness in a way he doesn’t have to be. Members of Congress represent the people who elect them, in fact all elected officials do. For that reason, almost no one has a 100% partisanship score in Congress. It would be nice to be ideologically pure, but most American voters aren’t ideological.

It is a fun, but almost always overlooked fact that the United States has no national election. Even Presidential elections are really 50 individual state elections (plus DC), where you have to win the electoral college, not the popular vote. Inevitably, the concerns of your district or state will occasionally trump the ideological concerns of your party. If you want to stay in office very long, you’d be best to hear that warning.

On Howard Schultz

I’m a Howard Schultz fan, I think what he did with Starbucks was amazing. I think he’s absolutely qualified, as much as anyone really is, to be President. I agreed with parts of what he had to say on 60 Minutes last night. If he runs for President as an independent though, I don’t believe he can win, and I’d be voting for the Democratic nominee.

Howard Schultz target audience is me- people who don’t like AOC, Bernie Sanders, and other leftists popping up in the party right now. I agree with him that they haven’t thought through how to finance Medicare for All, debt free college, and other “big” ideas they have. I might disagree with him on whether or not we should still do a major health care plan (the national debt doesn’t negate the need), and I think Schultz is too cozy to policies that favor the wealthy on a number of issues, but he’s basically not a far cry off from the positions of many more moderate Democrats, or even for that matter liberals in the mold of Hillary Clinton. He’d be 10,000% better than Donald Trump.

There are ethical and tactical problems with what Schultz is proposing though. Let’s start with the obvious tactical one though- independent candidates and third party candidates can’t win. The best performance in modern memory was Ross Perot’s 19% in 1992, which netted him exactly zero electoral votes. He was the last independent or third party candidate to get into a debate with the two major nominees. What is more likely to happen is a repeat of 2000 and 2016- where the third party candidates get more votes in the decisive states than the popular vote winner loses those states by, and essentially contributes to electing a President who got less votes. This seems even more likely in 2020, where the Democrats could be nominating someone more progressive, another woman, possibly an LGBT person, a Latino, or an African-American. People who would otherwise vote against Donald Trump would see Schultz as a viable alternative to whatever makes them uncomfortable about the Democratic nominee. This is particularly true when he’s telling them he’ll be a uniter from the middle, which makes the 10% of the country that are actually swing-voters feel good about themselves.

From a tactical standpoint, running third party is a dead end path. Who makes election laws? Usually partisan appointees or partisan legislators. Ballot access can be incredibly hard for independent candidates, even harder than for third party candidates, throwing into doubt his ability to even make the ballot. Once on the ballot he would face structural disadvantages. Voters are creatures of habit, and in some states, their habit is voting straight ticket- in Pennsylvania, for instance, Schultz would start tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of votes behind both party nominees simply because it’s a habit for older voters. Then there’s exposure issues. Schultz would be running without the network of donors and staffers that major party nominees just have, making it that much harder, and personally expensive, to get out his message. He’d have a problem getting on the debate stage even, as a more partisan than not commission on Presidential debates would decide what threshold he would have to reach to get into each debate.

All of that is the tactical- what about the moral issues that strike against Schultz? Michael Bloomberg has reportedly decided to run as a Democrat in 2020, despite the fact he’s not a perfect ideological fit there. I hate to even cite him, but Donald Trump’s decision to run as a Republican in 2016 put him up against the ideological tilt of that party on a number of issues. Why is Howard Schultz under the impression that he should jump the line? Why does he think he should skip the primary? Why does he believe he should get on that debate stage without taking on the process in either party. He’s wealthy enough to easily finance a primary in either party- and there are people who would vote for him. There are the Steve Schmidt breed of #NeverTrump’ers in the GOP, which wouldn’t be enough to win, but could make a point. On the Democratic side, a well-funded moderate may just beat the excessive field of progressive candidates splitting up that vote. While everyone seems to think the left is resurgent in the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton by over 15%, even with all the misogyny and other issues she faced. Why does Howard think he should get a free pass to the general election, when no one else does?

Let’s also be realistic for a moment, the rosey picture Howard Schultz is painting of his America will not happen. Who will be his Congressional allies he works with to pass his agenda? The House Democratic leadership, under Speaker Pelosi? The Senate Republican leadership, under Leader McConnell? The Senate Dem Leader, Chuck Schumer? I mean really, who’s going to carry his legislative water in a two-party Congress? Who would politically benefit? What’s more likely is legislative chaos, where the divided Congress passes legislation in their house that they like, and dares him to take a position one way or the other. Rather than dead-middle ground pragmatism ruling Washington, a Schultz Presidency would probably induce incoherent policy that counteracts itself.

I say all of this as someone who actually likes Schultz politics more than I don’t. I think he’s smart, practical, and a big improvement on this President. There are voters like me in Iowa and New Hampshire. If Howard Schultz wants to run for President against Donald Trump, he should go meet them and run for the Democratic nomination. The folly in believing there are actually 40% of Americans who will end up voting for a third, dead in the middle option could have disastrous effects. It would most likely re-elect Trump. Schultz should run as a Democrat and convince us that he’s the best option to defeat Donald Trump. That is really what will matter.

Ya’ Don’t Say…

Donald Trump will be very beatable in 2020, but that doesn’t mean that he will lose. Democrats have had a lot of success at his expense so far, but 2018 was an election largely about Donald Trump. Republicans won similar elections about Barack Obama in 2010 and 2014, while Democrats had similar success in 2006, and Republicans also did in 1994. Like 2018, the midterms of 1994 and 2010 were first midterms for the sitting President- just two years after, both Presidents Clinton and Obama were re-elected. Once the Presidential election begins, it’s not enough to just oppose the incumbent President, it never works that way. Democrats will have to put something forward that is broadly acceptable to the majority of voters in the swing states. There are signs that the Democratic base doesn’t really want to go along with that.

If you went by Twitter activism, everyone on the left is for impeachment. In fact, they’re for it to the point that they passionately defended Rep. Tlaib for saying “we’re going to impeach the motherf*cker.” How does America feel about impeachment? In the latest Washington Post poll, 55% do not support impeachment, 40% do. Don’t mistake that as a public dying for letting Trump off the hook, the poll showed strong majorities for the Democratic House launching investigations into Trump on Russia, his businesses, and all of the other allegations against him. The poll showed 50% with just some or no confidence in the outcome of the Mueller probe, and 48% expecting Democrats to go too far in their investigations. In other words, the country is not yet convinced of impeachment or indictment for Trump, even though they don’t like him, and want investigations.

Within the Democratic base, there is definitely a taste for progressive change within the government and the country. Within the larger Democratic Party, there appears to be more of a taste for competency. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal pilling of Democrats found majorities of the party’s older voters and college educated, younger base wanted competence over shaking up the government. They found that the party’s younger, more diverse, less college educated base voters don’t feel the border is secure in that same poll. In other words, the broader Democratic Party has a lot more differences in opinion than the activist base does. They’re also not looking to remake society all that much either.

Then there is Joe Biden, the least popular man on Twitter. If you read Twitter activists, Joe Biden should retire. His past gaffes, his age, Anita Hill, being a white dude, and the Crime Bill are just the leaders among his sins, and he is hopeless to survive them in this primary. There is a reality though- and we saw it in the December Quinnipiac Polling. Biden has a 53/33 approval to disapproval rating. His rating with Democrats on the whole was 84%. African-Americans gave him a strong 73/12 split. Young people loved him, and old people. Latinos approved of him by large margins. Biden was even popular with white guys and non-college educated whites. I’ll tell you though, he would lose most Twitter polls.

This is not to say that Democrats should rule out impeachment, ignore real concerns among their base, or nominate Biden in 2020. It’s to say that Democrats should not get caught only listening to the echo chamber of their base. The country does not like Donald Trump, as is evidenced by his 40.5% approval, and his paltry 46% of the 2016 vote. Like 2016 though, Trump could over-perform his approval and squeak out an electoral college win if the Democrats speak all towards their base, and not towards the voters that will decide the election, or even their own broader party. In 2018, the Democratic Party did a great job of messaging towards the majority of voters, on issues like increasing wages and protecting Medicare. The real question is whether the post-landslide victory of 2018 version of the Democratic Party can listen to the voices of the whole country, or those that get a lot of coverage on TV?