Earl Ofari Hutchinson
It’s funny how so many things in politics become articles of faith even when there is absolutely no basis in fact to them. Here’s one that even had me going for a while. That’s that Joe Biden must, just must, have Bernie’s Sanders and AOC’s progressive hordes on board the 2020 presidential campaign ship to have a prayer of beating Trump.
It is easy to swallow that myth for a couple of reasons. One, Bernie and company keep telling us that. The other is we see the rock star, Mother Teresa like adoration, that Bernie gets at every campaign pit stop from his boosters. The crowds are young, boisterous, intimidating, and exploding with energy, and are, so we are told, both the wave of the present and future, and the new heart and soul of the Democratic Party.
But then something happened to burst this strange bit of political mythology. Biden started winning, and winning, and winning. He didn’t just win he scored at the top or near the top in bagging the votes of all the key Democratic voter demographics, older—and even many young- Blacks, Latinos, college educated suburban women, a big swatch of union, less educated blue collar, and even rural voters. The seeming big shocker was Biden even got a big chunk of the youth vote, supposedly Bernie’s sacred and untouchable core.
Biden’s big demographic vote score is the sober, much needed reminder that it’s the tried and true, traditional, moderate, Democratic voter base that elects Democratic presidents. This was the case with Bill Clinton and Obama. And but for the Electoral College, it would have been the case with A Gore, and Hillary Clinton, who smashed the record for a losing presidential candidate getting far more of the popular vote than the winner.
That’s only the start. In the 2018 midterm election, every self-proclaimed progressive Democratic candidate in the dozens of swing congressional districts that flipped to elect a Democratic rep, lost. The winners were all moderate, centrist, and very cautious Democrats. The message from those voters was loud and clear: we despise Trump’s actions and many of his policies, but we want measured, thoughtful, incremental, not radical, change.
There’s more. AOC’s 116th Congressional district in New York City is one of the most liberal on the planet and one of the few in the country tailor made for her democratic socialist advocacy. But even in that district she bombed badly with older Black and Hispanic and working-class voters in parts of the district. Even while other newly minted freshman Democratic congresspersons, all moderate, have gotten some legislation through the House, AOC has scored a near zero goose egg here.
The other brutal political reality is that outside of big pockets on the West and East Coasts, and some college towns, the Bernie-AOC progressives are scarce as hen’s teeth. They are certainly near non -existent among the Trump leaning swing voters that Biden will take a stab at wooing in the four heartland states and Florida that will decide the White House.
Biden likely will not peel most of them away. But he doesn’t need most of them anyway. Just make enough of a dent in this Trump base to ensure these states swing back Democrat. That, along, with his sure win of the traditional Democratic voter base, should do the trick for him.
Then there are the overall Democratic vote numbers. The raw numbers show that Democrats on paper outnumber Republicans by 20 million votes. The numbers that count are those that actually trek to the polls and make that trek consistently. Again, Obama won the popular vote in 2012 by tens of millions of votes. He got just short of 5 million more votes than GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney. Toss in the overall vote total for the two mid-term elections in 2010 and 2014, and the scorecard reads 103 million votes for Democrats to 98 million votes for Republicans.
Bernie repeatedly claims that he, and only he, can guarantee the greatest voter turnout in the nation’s history. The puffery and hyperbole aside, there’s really no need to have a Tsunami of voters flooding the vote booths for the Democrats. The need is simply for the traditional Democratic base to show up in the crucial must win swing states. If the 2020 primaries are any evidence, they will.
Meaning, the soundings from the Bernie or bust crowd, whether ultimately hot air or not, won’t much matter in deciding the final outcome of the 2020 presidential contest. Biden just needs to stay on the moderate, forward pitched, course that has been the winning formula for all past Democratic presidents. So, relax, Joe doesn’t need Bernie or AOC to oust Trump.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College (Middle Passage Presss) He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network. He publishes the political blog thehutchinsonreeport.net