Democrats have a conundrum. Their energy is with younger, educated and more social media savvy activists but their actual voters are older and more moderate. Candidates like Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris excite the base. Candidates like Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar interest the most reliable voters in the Democratic electorate.
There’s plenty of time for Democrats to unite against an anti-Trump candidate but right now, everybody is shooting at everybody else. The Bernie people are still at war with the Hillary faction. Somebody, maybe everybody, is dropping oppo on Joe Biden, attacking him for everything from his unwanted affections to the Anita Hill hearing. Pete Buttigieg is getting slammed on Black twitter for suggesting Democrats reach out to Trump voters and for firing South Bend’s first African American police chief. Candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar who aren’t under attack at the present moment should take that as a warning that they aren’t making enough impact to warrant the energy for criticism on twitter.
Articles by analyst Harry Enten of CNN and Nate Cohn of the New York Times point out that the Democratic Party is far more moderate and far less educated than the activists on social media indicate. That’s why Joe Biden is looking so hard at giving the race a go. Progressive activists that lean toward policy driven candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren make up less than 25% Democratic Party but make up about 40% of the voices on social media.
The problem Democrats have is that the activist base is more likely to stay home or vote for a third party candidate like Jill Stein or Ralph Nader if Democrats don’t nominate a candidate to their liking. Likewise, the more moderate voters will stay home or even vote for Trump if they believe the Democratic candidate is too idealistic. To win, Democrats will need to reconcile these two factions that are far apart ideologically and demographically.
Democrats need to unite around something and it’s not going to be policy specific. While Democrats need to define who they are a little better, they’re running as an opposition party and what they oppose is Trump. In 2018, Democrats won by running against Trump, not because they offered any sort of policy prescription for what ails us. If they hope to defeat him in 2020, they should stick to that playbook and not get distracted by big promises like Medicare for All or a Green New Deal. Beating Trump is the one unifying message for Democrats. Stick to it.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >