This Election Season, Don’t Be A Pundit. Be A Voter. Your Democracy Needs You!
There’s a phenomenon sweeping politics this election season, and while many of us seem to have subconsciously been swept up by it, we need to have a long national conversation about what’s happening.
Last night, nearly 48% of Democratic voters in New Hampshire decided who to vote for at the last moment, according to an NBC News exit poll. That means nearly half of the Democratic electorate in New Hampshire was undecided on who to vote for- despite the fact that most of the candidates running have been campaigning for a year.
With all of the exposure these candidates have received, why does it feel like so many voters are deciding who to vote for at the last second? Shouldn’t anyone who’s been paying attention to politics at all have enough information by now to make an informed decision?
One major theory as to why this is happening this way is that voters this year aren’t acting like traditional voters.
See, more often than not, voters simply vote for who inspires them. They hear what each candidate has to offer, then make a personal decision on whose vision for the country speaks the most to them. It’s how our democracy has worked for these first 244 years.
However, this time around voters seem obsessed with something that has nothing to do with their principles or desire for the United States of America. Instead, they’re laser-focused on one thing: Electability.
The reason for this emphasis on electability is that the primary focus for many voters is simple: More than any idealistic vision for our country, many voters are primarily concerned with ousting President Donald Trump in November.
For many, that’s the only issue that matters.
This is why so many, when asked why they are for or against a particular candidate, their response is a variation of “Because they can/cannot defeat Trump.”
And yet, how does one determine that?
Electability is far from a science. If anything, it’s a buzz word that’s primarily entered the lexicon ever since Trump became President. And yet the ironic part is that it’s a metric that was once used to count Trump out.
Many may forget this, but pundits went on and on about how Trump would never be President because of all of the various scandals he was involved in, his lack of experience, his dubious business record, and the fact that the thrice-married candidate had a history that would make him unsavory to Evangelicals.
And how did that work out?
As noted by the Washington Post in 2015, in a column titled “More Good News for Donald Trump: GOP Voters Don’t Care About ‘Electability’,” Republican voters completely shrugged off the notion of electability. They cited a New York Times-CBS poll that noted how the vast majority of Republican voters cared more about these two factors:
- That the candidate appears to be a “Strong Leader”
- That the candidate appears to be “Honest and Trustworthy”
The poll featured six metrics, and electability ended up ranking 4th on the list of Republican voter priorities.
In the 11 months following that Washington Post column, Trump marched right on past his more “electable” opponents and ended up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Yet the Democratic National Committee (DNC), apparently having learned nothing from what the GOP went through in 2016 when they were trying to stop Trump from scoring the nomination, has been beating the electability drum since the outset of this election season. In an attempt to get the Democratic electorate to unite behind their ideal candidate, they’ve spent a ton of time and energy amplifying the narrative that “We should only support the candidate who can best beat Trump.”
Instead of promoting a vision for the country, they’re asking us instead to vote for absolutely anyone who can beat Trump because that’s, apparently, all that matters. But this myopic view of things profoundly misses one key point:
The candidate whose vision inspires people to passionately support them will defeat Trump by default.
But instead of giving each candidate a fair chance to promote their vision for the United States to Americans across the nation and then letting the people decide, they’ve carefully tried to steer voters towards a “safe bet” like Joe Biden.
Remember, he was supposed to be the Trump-killer. He was supposed to bring back some of that Obama-era bravado and show Trump what a real leader looks like.
And how is that working out?
In the two primary battles so far, Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden has placed fourth and fifth, respectively. His national poll numbers, unsurprisingly, are starting to plummet. He’s unlikely to win Nevada next week, and his supposed “firewall” in South Carolina seems to be going up in flames.
And yet how can it be that this guy was the presumed front-runner this entire time? Simple. The DNC, supported by its allies in the media, have been telling us he’s the front-runner, and that he’s the antidote to Trump in November because of how “electable” he is. His primary selling point has been his supposed appeal to moderates and independents because of his willingness to “move to the center.”
To coincide with this narrative, an embarrassing number of op-eds have been published in the weeks leading up to the primaries about how certain candidates shouldn’t even be considered because they’re “not centrist enough.” They hammer home this idea that Such-and-Such Candidate doesn’t deserve your vote because they’d never be able to beat Trump due to their leftist stances- instead of waiting to see who the voters organically rally behind.
Not only is that shamelessly undemocratic, but it also overlooks that the primary elections are very different than general elections. During the primaries, you’re window shopping; You’re looking at all of the available options and voting with your heart. On Election Day, there’s only two options, so you vote for the best of what’s available to you. Therefore, this effort to influence voters to follow the electability myth instead of their hearts is an attempt to circumvent democracy.
There’s some good news, though.
Now that Americans are actually starting to vote, we’re getting to see how foolish it’s been to hang one’s hat on a candidate’s supposed electability. Democratic voters are starting to show, just as Republican voters did in 2016, that they care more about what a leader stands for and how they present themselves than they do about vague electability metrics.
This brings us back to the indecision by voters leading to last night’s primary in New Hampshire.
While the most embattled Democratic candidate has miraculously won the popular vote in both primaries so far, there’s still this sense of panic as voters go to make their final decisions. So many voters have been lectured into thinking that “Beating Trump is all that matters, so you MUST back the candidate with the best chance” that they’ll vote for who ever seems to be the safest bet at that moment, instead of voting for who excites them.
And the problem with that is that, against Trump, there’s no such thing as a safe bet.
That’s why it’s time for voters to look themselves in the mirror and decide what’s more important: Voting for a candidate that inspires you or Voting for who ever the pundits told you might be able to beat Trump?
You’ve been subconsciously trained to think that the latter is all that matters. Yet if you do the former during the primary season, and then vote for whom ever the Democratic candidate is in November regardless of who it ends up being, that takes care of the latter, too.
You need not look farther than what happened in Ohio in 2018.
A disheveled, “old,” white progressive Senator by the name of Sherrod Brown won re-election in a state that Trump had won in 2016 by nearly double digits. He did so by a almost seven points. And he didn’t do it by “Moving towards the center” or trying to come off as a safe bet.
“The electability myth is, in fact, a myth. Let me tell you why,” Brown told progressive group Netroots Nation in 2019, according to Cleveland.com. “Donald Trump won Ohio by almost double digits in 2016. Last year I won re-election by almost 7 points. I didn’t compromise on women’s rights. I never compromised on LGBTQ rights.”
But he wasn’t done there:
“I have a lifetime ‘A’ rating from Planned Parenthood and a lifetime ‘F’ from the (National Rifle Association). I stood on a debate stage in the most conservative part of Ohio last year during my Senate race. I told the audience that climate change is the defining moral issue of our times and we must act. I went to the Columbus airport and joined protests against the Muslim ban.
“I called Donald Trump a racist because he was and is. I won the swing state of Ohio by 7 points. Elections aren’t about some electability calculation. They’re about one question: Whose side are you on? Are you on the side of workers or corporations? Are you on the side of consumers or Wall Street? Are you on the side of patients or drug companies? Are you on the side of voters or dark money?”
On paper, any candidate with these stances would be trounced in a state that Trump handily won in 2016. Especially in a right-leaning swing state like Ohio. After all, Brown wasn’t being moderate or centrist or trying to come off as a safe bet. Yet the media outlets who control the national narrative would rather you ignore that and instead focus on who the DNC claims can beat Trump.
So it’s time to stop pretending you’re sitting at a desk on a well-lit CNN set, discussing electability. You’re not a pundit. You’re a voter. Go research the candidates, see who speaks to you, then vote for that person when the primaries roll into your town.
All of this indecision, fear, and misguided “logic” is going to lead to the same outcome in 2020 that we got in 2016: Donald Trump in the White House.
Electability isn’t a thing, and Trump continues to prove that every single day.