Election Thoughts 2020 02 27

The Democratic Party is in the midst of an ideological struggle between moderate progressives and socialists. In many ways they’re not far apart on an ideological spectrum; the progressives have a greater faith in market economics but are comfortable with regulations for social purposes. The socialists are far less comfortable with market economics, and more dependent on central planning if not outright control of vast segments of the economy.

The Democrats have come to question the legitimacy of elections rather than face the underlying reasons for their loss. This might come back to bite them if Bernie Sanders does not win the nomination. If they question the legitimacy of the process that does not include a Bernie Sanders victory, they may withhold support for the nominee in spite of their visceral hatred for Donald Trump. Disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters who refused to support Hillary Clinton cost her the election in 2016.

This is reminiscent of the election of 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt thought he had been cheated out of the nomination for the Republican Party and broke off to form the progressive Bull Moose party, assuring the election of Woodrow Wilson.

If Bernie Sanders is the nominee and goes down in flames at the general election like George McGovern in 1972 then the Democrats will have an opportunity to purge the party of this toxic radical element. If a more moderate Democrat like Joe Biden or Michael Bloomberg wins the nomination and then loses, the radical socialist wing of the Democratic Party will only be more empowered. If a moderate Democrat wins, the radical socialist wing will remain, slightly weaker but still problematic.

Currently the Republican Party does not have this ideological split; the difference is centered around the character and administration of Donald Trump as president. If Donald Trump should lose the election it will not have any effect on the ideology of the Republican Party. Donald Trump’s power is based on his ability to get out a pivotal number of supporters that the centrist Republicans have failed to attract. Republicans lost conservative suburban women voters in 2018, but stand to gain some percentage of the Jewish, Black, and many conservative Never Trumpers appalled at the prospect of the socialist candidate for president. In 2018 the choice did not include an avowed socialist in most of the midterm races; most of the Democratic winners were moderates.  A Bernie candidacy could have detrimental effects of the Democrats in their congressional races.

Trump would be wise to heed the axiom of Dick Armey, “never waste time killing somebody busy committing suicide.” It is just not within the nature of Donald Trump to restrain commenting on anything.

Both parties have lost control of the nomination process. Moderates have split the vote among too many candidates, leaving a plurality with the most radical guy on the stage. Both parties fear offending a strong populist, less they feel empowered to run a third-party campaign. The voters, however, cannot escape some responsibility for this outcome. The more dependent we become on the government to solve our local and personal problems the more disappointed we will become with the results and the more likely we will be seduced by radical solutions.

Both parties need to regain control of the nominating mechanism, beginning with a process to filter candidates much earlier. Having 12 or more candidates on one or two stages is just ridiculous; there is no time to seriously address the issues, and gamesmanship becomes more important than leadership.

Under the current system a candidate can win the nomination with less than 50% of the party’s support leaving him with even less of the support of the voters in the general election. The result is a country continuously dissatisfied with its leadership.