If you haven’t noticed, the Democratic Party is in a panic. President Trump’s poll numbers continue to rise when compared to individual Democratic candidates. Just a few weeks ago, a Fox News poll had the president tied with Pete Buttigieg, down three points to Elizabeth Warren, and down seven points each to Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Fast forward to last week. A new Emerson poll has Trump up four points on Buttigieg, up two on Biden, tied with Warren, and only trailing Sanders by one.
There are two main reasons for this massive swing. The first is that voters are starting to realize that the Democratic field is very weak. Every time a candidate starts to pick up momentum, he or she is immediately brought back down to earth. It happened with Beto O’Rourke; it happened to Kamala Harris; it’s currently happening with Elizabeth Warren. Joe Biden seems to just be skating by above everyone as (like Trump) nothing really surprises voters about him anymore. People know who he is. But that doesn’t mean that Democrats feel great about Biden’s chances in 2020. It’s no wonder that we are seeing last-minute candidates throw their hat in the ring. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now in, as well as former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (who had an event in Atlanta canceled last week when a whopping two people showed up). There are even rumblings of Hillary Clinton jumping back in the race, and boy wouldn’t that be fun.
All of this dissatisfaction brings us to the second reason Trump’s poll numbers are rising. Democrats are increasingly scared that they won’t be able to defeat him at the ballot box and are therefore attempting to turn up the fire on impeachment hearings. The problem is that this seems to be backfiring. Those who hate the president are more convinced than ever that he needs to go. Those who love the president see this as yet another witch hunt against him. It’s the people in the middle that are being fought over. And so far, the Democrats have not been able to turn those people. There hasn’t been any testimony so far that has been convincing enough to the middle of the country to support a conviction in the Senate. The results of this is seen in the polling. Since the middle of the country doesn’t see enough to charge the president, they too are starting to see this as a partisan issue and blaming the Democrats for not only wasting time and money on these hearings, but also upset that they aren’t doing anything else. At the time of writing, these hearings seem to be having the reverse effect of their intentions.
But I’d like to take a deeper look into the first issue: the lack of a popular candidate. During the last Democratic debates, a lot was made of the ability for the nominee to bring the Obama magic back to the party. The strength of the Democratic Party lies in its coalitions. Over the course of the last 30 years or so, the Democrats have been able to consolidate a number of demographic groups: African Americans, millennials, college-educated white people, Asian, Hispanic, women, LQBTQ. The list goes on and on. On the other side of the coin, you have the Republican coalitions: Christian conservative, establishment, moderates, libertarians, etc. Do you see the difference? The Democratic coalitions all rely on group identity: race, ethnicity, gender. The Republican coalitions all rely on thought identity: religion and politics.
So herein lies the problem. Republicans have an easier time coming together to back a candidate since the goals that matter are the thoughts behind the candidates. Donald Trump is a man who the Christian conservative wing should hate. He’s not a religious person and he has cheated on every wife he’s ever had. But he supports the pro-life movement. Libertarians love the tax cuts. The establishment got behind, albeit through gritted teeth, him once he won the nominee.
On the other hand, Democrats have been telling their various coalitions over the course of the last 30 years that their ethnic, racial, and sexual identities are the most important factors in the world. It’s no wonder that the party is having a difficult time getting a nominee. Millennials won’t get behind Biden; black voters won’t get behind Warren or Buttigieg; women are having a hard time backing Sanders. And nobody cares about Harris.
The magic of Barack Obama was that he was somehow able to appeal to all of these groups, and in doing so he consolidated all of them into a solid voting bloc. I don’t think there is any current Democratic candidate that has a prayer of getting all of them. This doesn’t mean that if Elizabeth Warren wins the nomination, the African American voters will vote for Trump. What it means is that the African American voters won’t vote. They will just stay home. After all, for the last 30 years, the message from the Democrats has been that Black America isn’t taken care of enough, and we have to do everything in our power to raise them up. Well, when you make that claim, and then have the opportunity to nominate a candidate who is backed by the black vote but fail to do so, what’s the response going to be? “Well, look at that; another time we were promised to be taken more seriously, and then lied to.” That’s what happened in 2016. African American votes were way down for Hillary Clinton compared to Barack Obama.
And this mentality is transferable to the other coalitions. How many times have we heard that it’s time for a woman to sit in the Oval Office? Well, the women who are hearing this should then be able to expect a woman to be nominated. What happens when Biden or Sanders gets the nod? “Well, look at that; another time we were promised to be taken more seriously, and then lied to.” The greatest strength of the Democratic Party is also their greatest weakness. As they try to pander to all of these groups, they do a great job in attracting them to their party, but they are inevitably setting themselves up for failure by not being able to keep the promises made to each one.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.