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Who’s Electable? Who Ain’t? Who Cares?

Don Rose 24 May 2019 No Comment

Barack Obama and Donald Trump were unelectable until they got elected. In past decades, Catholics and divorced men were considered unelectable until they were. Now, some folks question the electability of women and LGBTQ candidates.


“Electable” and “electability” are the most savored words in this 23-candidate circus of a Democratic primary election. As noted almost everywhere, Democrats value a candidate who can defeat Trump above all else–whoever is the most “electable.”



The problem is, how do we determine electability?


The two main schools of thought are (1) someone of moderate progressivism who can focus on jobs and recapture the white working class voters who flipped from Obama to Trump or (2) someone who can excite the growing “woke” base of women, African Americans, Latinx and millennials and turn them out in droves with no need to “pander to the white working class” as one talking head so indelicately put it to Chris Hayes one night.


Advocates of electability theory #1 appear to be clustering around Joe Biden, which, with his well-known name, has him strongly in first place in almost every national and state poll–and has him beating Trump soundly in the presidential.


Electability theoreticians of school #2 point to last year’s midterms where blacks–especially women–and suburban, college-educated white women along with many millennials rose up and flipped dozens of congressional districts plus governorships and legislative seats.


To a large extent Bernie Sanders’s name recognition and political positions reflect that concept–and if you add the lower numbers garnered by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker you have totals approaching Biden’s. The former vice president, progressives point out, remains highly vulnerable to a fall because of his well-known record of  clutching women, mishandling Anita Hill, voting for the Iraq War and making countless gaffes that could turn him into a Trumpian piñata..


Even though Hillary Clinton won nearly three million more votes than Trump, she lost three big states–Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania–any two of which would be necessary to win the electoral college. Just for the record, none have ever elected a woman governor nor have Pennsylvania and Ohio elected a female senator. That suggests to some onlookers that a woman might not be electable. But the three never elected a black senator or governor and Obama carried all three–twice.


Nevertheless, it’s not just men, but many women who raise the question of female electability. It’s not just whites but many blacks who question the electability of another AA. They seem comfortable with Biden.


So who is electable?  Polling won’t tell because everyone knows they should say they would vote for a woman. Latinx, African American or a gay because those are the ‘correct’ answers.


The only polls I continue to watch for any guidance–early as it may be–are the general election matchups, nationally and by state. Currently, as mentioned above, Biden does best in these, while Sanders, Harris, Mayor Pete and Beto O’Rourke also beat Trump, but by lesser margins.


Next month’s debates may begin to show us who might be electable. Or not.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

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