Tears for the top tier

Ira Lacher: “Democrats have never gotten it through their heads that the primary season is not about picking the person who would make the best president.” -promoted by Laura Belin

“I think the vast majority of primary voters are now realizing there’s only one of two or three possible winners.” — Paul Maslin, Democratic pollster, in Saturday’s New York Times

I suppose those would be the candidates who have led the polls from the get-go: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

If that remains the case, get used to four more years of Donald Trump.

Democrats have never gotten it through their heads that the primary season is not about picking the person who would make the best president. It’s about picking the person who would make the best candidate in the general election. And none of those three fit the bill.

There are two keys to winning in November 2020: regain a good proportion of the 9 percent of Democrats who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 but defected to Trump in 2016; and bring people to the polls who don’t usually vote: younger Americans and Americans of color.

A study made after the 2016 election found that most of the Obama disaffecteds were whites without a college degree. Many of those abandoned the Democrats because they were convinced the party had betrayed them under President Obama, by refusing to fight for worker rights and by championing a health care bill that caused many of them to lose their health insurance. Why would they vote for a candidate whose main stump speech has been that he was Obama’s vice president?

Other defectors weren’t really defectors at all — they were independents whose votes swing back and forth based on myriad factors. Many, who are of means, lean socially on Democratic positions but tilt Republican on economic policy. Why would they vote for candidates who have staked their entire positions on combating capitalism?

Black Americans voted en masse for Obama in 2008 but weren’t that enthusiastic in 2012 and 2016. Fewer than 50 percent of black voters are enthusiastic about Biden, and even fewer have flocked to Warren and Sanders.

Democrats have a greater problem with younger voters — only 13 percent of millennials voted at all in 2016. Why would younger Americans vote for candidates 70 and above, and one who just had a heart attack?

The best outcome for the Democrats at this point is for a candidate to emerge who can recapture the trust of some of the disaffected and appeal to the no-shows. The good news is that there are candidates who fit that bill.

“The second tier is flush with candidates who have solid electability claims,” David Byler, a political analyst and columnist writes in The Washington Post.

[Sen. Amy] Klobuchar [of Minnesota] has posted eye-popping margins in the Midwest, the country’s key swing region. [New Jersey Sen.] Cory Booker and [Calif. Sen.] Kamala D. Harris have focused on building strong ties with black voters and either could reenergize Obama voters who stayed home in 2016 (though testing the waters with the extremely unpopular idea of reparations for slavery might harm them with the broader electorate). I’ve been bearish on Beto O’Rourke since he entered the national political arena, but his almost-victory in Texas in 2018 should count for something. Some of these candidates might have undiscovered skeletons in their closet, but it’s unlikely that all of them do.

Of that group, only Harris has qualified for the November debate. Fortunately, Iowans and New Hampshirites will have a solid opportunity to see many of them in person. Take advantage of those opportunities. And keep them in mind when you caucus. Because only those candidates will have the best chance to keep America from sinking further into Trumpism.

  • I would argue

    that nominating Bill Clinton in 1992 and John Kerry in 2004 shows Democrats do sometimes recognize the need to nominate a strong general election candidate. (Disclosure: I was a precinct captain for Kerry and still think he was the better candidate for that year. He almost beat a sitting president who had a strong economy, and I believe Howard Dean would have been wiped out.)

  • Weak

    To summarily dismiss Elizabeth Warren with no explanation is weak. Her life story, her message, her intelligence and her plans make her a different candidate than I have seen in my 66 years. I believe her message will resonate across the country on the general election and she IS the best candidate to take the general election. No tears here in southwest Iowa.

  • Evidence?

    Don’t Booker & Harris both trail Biden in polls of African-American voters? Where’s your evidence that they can bring back Obama fans?

  • All I hear about from people I know...

    …is the desperate need to choose the person who has the best chance of beating Trump. I don’t hear talk about which person would be the best president, just which person might be able to knock the current bad president out of office. And there’s no need to remind the people I know that Trump could win again. We know that. We may not all reach the same conclusions as the post above, but we’re asking the same questions.

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