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02 Jan

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World Politics

United States

In obsessively pursuing white, middle-class midwestern voters, Democratic leaders are setting their party up for disaster

Julián Castro drops out of 2020 race, plus the rest of the day in US politics – live

 

Democrats are not going to win over enough ‘moderate Republicans’ to defeat Trump. Nor will suburban white mothers do the trick. The only way to win in 2020 is by mobilizing new voters and former non-voters.

Democrats are not going to win over enough ‘moderate Republicans’ to defeat Trump. Nor will suburban white mothers do the trick. The only way to win in 2020 is by mobilizing new voters and former non-voters. Photograph: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Let’s start the new year with a reality check. Remember that dad, uncle or neighbor, who told you over Christmas how much he dislikes Trump’s rude language and that he might vote for the Democrats, if only they nominate a “moderate” candidate and not a “socialist”?

Well, he is going to vote for Trump.

This election year will be (again) filled with columns and op-eds from #NeverTrump Republicans giving (unsolicited) advice to the Democratic party. They will argue that the Democratic party can win the presidential elections, but only if they nominate a “moderate” Democrat, who can win over the many Republicans they know that are appalled by Trump. But you can forget about these Max Boots, Jennifer Rubins, and (particularly) Bret Stephenses. These pet conservatives of the liberal media represent no relevant electoral base.

You can also ignore the reports from “non-partisan” thinktanks – like the Niskanen Center – which show that many Republicans are much more “centrist” than Trump and his Republican party. Polarization in the US is not about party policy but about party identification. In particular it is about negative party identification – and most of these “centrist” Republicans despise or distrust the Democratic party, irrespective of whether it is led by Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders.

Moreover, as long as the US economy is doing well – however shallow the foundations of that prosperity – these people are going to go with Trump, who has provided them with lower taxes and a booming stock market.

By focusing so much resource and strategy on pursuing the “Midwestern voter” (ie, centrist, middle-class whites), Democratic leaders are setting their party up for potentially disastrous failure. Trump is no longer the risky outsider he was in 2016. He is a known quantity; he may not be especially liked, but for many voters he has delivered where it matters: the pocketbook.

Democrats are not going to win over enough “moderate Republicans” to defeat Trump. Nor will suburban white mothers do the trick. The only way to win in 2020 is by mobilizing (potential) new voters and (recent) non-voters. Fortunately, there are more than enough of them. Almost half of Americans do not vote.

However, new voters and non-voters are disproportionately non-white and non-suburban. Many of them are not even registered, or – thanks to Republican purges of voting rolls – no longer registered. This is particularly relevant to African Americans, who – contrary to popular perception – actually have rather high voter turnout, higher than other minorities, but are disproportionately affected by voter suppression (including incarceration).

Despite the efforts of some organizations, most notably Stacey Abrams’ new group Fair Fight, Democrats devote most of their time to reaching already registered voters, rather than registering new voters. Imagine how much the millions of dollars of Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer could have achieved had they spent that money on registering new voters rather than vanity campaigns.

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