This is not about whether Bernie Sanders has the best vision for America or not. This has nothing to do with policy.
It is about the cold, sad, inconvenient reality of electing a President in 2020.
I’m not trying to persuade anyone of anything. I’m asking in good faith: What am I missing?
Ensuring that SOMEONE defeat Donald Trump in 2020 is far more important than determining exactly who that SOMEONE is. Why?
1) Whoever the President, with the current makeup of Congress, large sweeping policy proposals will be next to impossible. Any major legislation will require harsh compromises.
2) However, the President will unilaterally be able to decide our next Supreme Court justices (and lower court judges). Some of the most consequential decisions that affect the lives of every American will hinge on whether a Democrat or Trump appoints those Justices. Hell, the only reason I’m able to be married today is because Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney and appointed Elena Kagan to the Court.
3) Trump’s reelection would be symbolically devastating. It would cement the notion that objective truth, decency, and self-sacrifice are no longer aspirational values in our politics.
No matter how much you may disagree with the most “moderate” Democrat — that Democrat is far better for the nation than Trump.
In other words: Electability is paramount. AKA: All that matters is the particular nuances of the electoral college in 2020. AKA: Nothing matters except voter preferences in a handful of states.
To win in 2020, Democrats must keep every state Hillary won, and then add to it.
Which states to add?
THREE Midwestern States: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Democrats usually win those, but Trump took each by a hair in 2016. I believe any current D nominee can win those back, including Bernie.
However, while they CAN win them all, it’s far from a certainty. And it’s very possible for the D nominee to win 1 or 2 but not all 3 of them.
Why? Because they’ll be razor thin and affected by very local issues. In 2016, Trump won WI by .8%, PA by .7% and MI by .2%. Staggeringly close. Current polls suggest of those three, Wisconsin will be the hardest for Ds to flip. That’s mostly because it has fewer urban/suburban voters than MI and PA and more rural areas that have been shifting dramatically to Trump.
So what if Ds lose Wisconsin? Is that game over?
Not necessarily. Because there are a few other states that, with the right candidate might be open to switching to the Ds, specifically Arizona and Florida.
1) Arizona just elected a Democrat to take over John McCain’s seat. That Democrat is perhaps the most moderate member of the Senate. Arizona has a large population of suburban, college degree residents who voted Republican but have shifted to moderate Democrats in recent years.
2) Florida can feel like a R stronghold, but it’s closer than it seems. Trump only won it by 1.2%, and with a candidate without Hillary’s baggage, it’s not out of reach.
The Ds can lose a Midwest state and still win the election if they capture AZ or FL. Based on demographics, recent elections, and current polling, moderate candidates are better positioned to win one of these states.
And there is ONE more wrinkle. Polling suggests a nominee Sanders might risk losing a Hillary state. In particular, Virginia is a state with demographics and polling (like Arizona) that would break hard for a moderate Democrat but is tougher for a candidate like Sanders. As a Virginia voter, I think a Sanders v. Trump general would be FAR closer than necessary. Bernie could win all 3 Midwest states and then still lose the election because of a razor thin loss in VA. Is that what will happen? No. But is it possible? Yes.
Considering the stakes of preventing four more years of Donald Trump. I cannot currently see the value of nominating the most progressive candidate, Bernie Sanders. He no doubt can inspire great passion among certain voters — but not necessarily the voters that will decide the election in 2020.
Many support Bernie Sanders for his consistency over the decades and his long track record of more radical policy proposals than any other nominee. Whether you love that or hate it, that record will have electoral ramifications for the average low information voter in swing states who will only know the harshest stereotypes of either candidate.
I keep returning to the reality that having a nominee who might win even without picking up all 3 Midwest states and doesn’t put Hillary states at risk is clearly the Democrats best bet.
What am I missing?