I am sorry to my Republican friends and family, who are tired of seeing their views and their candidates lose, but that is my prediction after watching some of the Republican debate tonight. My impression is that the only candidate that could win a national election is Chris Christie–and no one believes Chris Christie has a real chance of winning the nomination.
I think it’s important for people to vote, and to vote for the candidates they agree with, so I don’t actually mean to tell anyone how to vote. I do want to point out what is going on, though. First, let me talk about Bernie Sanders.
I like Bernie Sanders. I like almost everything about him. I like him as a person. I like the way he is running his campaign. I like his policies. I like the way he talks. But I will not be voting for him in the primary. Why? I want someone I agree with to be President, and he will never be President.
The table in the link below explains why neither he, nor the major Republican candidates will win. I could not find the exact table I had seen, but the link below will take you to an article that contains similar information:
Consistently liberal: 13%
Mostly liberal: 21%
Mostly conservative: 18%
Consistently conservative: 9%
Note that neither liberals nor conservatives can elect a president by themselves. Liberals make up somewhere around 34% of the population and conservatives make up only 27% or so. Both need the support of voters with “mixed” views. Also note that in the general public, liberals have a slight advantage over conservatives. (The article also shows that this was not the case among likely voters in 2014 and that conservatives outnumbered liberals among likely voters that year. It was a midterm election, however, and the voters in 2016 will be more like the population as a whole.)
The most important fact is that 39% of Americans have “mixed” political views. If a voter like this is faced with a choice between a consistently liberal candidate and a mostly conservative candidate, they will generally choose the mostly conservative candidate. They will also choose a mostly liberal candidate over a consistently conservative candidate. In general this group splits their votes between Democrats and Republicans, as can also be seen in the Pew Research Forum article.
The problem for Republicans is that the Republican Party currently demands a fairly high degree of “ideological purity” from their candidates, so much so that John McCain and Mitt Romney were considered to be moderates within the party simply because they weren’t completely pure ideologically, and many people blamed their losses on that supposed moderation. A significant number of vocal Republicans claimed that these men would have won if they had just been more conservative. For most people who are not Republicans, it is difficult to understand the rationale behind these opinions.
Unfortunately, all the Democrats have to do to defeat a “pure” Republican is nominate a Democrat who can articulate a few conservative viewpoints. On a national scale, Democrats haven’t needed very many conservative views to persuade voters in the middle that they are the more reasonable choice.
And yes, I really am arguing that Barack Obama has a larger number of conservative positions than either Mitt Romney or John McCain has liberal positions. I am aware of the fact that most Republicans think that Barack Obama is a perfect liberal and that he does the exact opposite of anything they would ever do, but that is a gross exaggeration. I can point out a few things he has done that I would not do, but that are perfectly acceptable in the Republican Party. For example, he did not push to reinstate the Glass-Steagal act that used to protect our banks from speculative investment failures, he used drones to assassinate people in other countries and he sent American troops into a foreign country on a secret mission to kill Osama bin Laden (yes, I think that was a mistake—it has done no good, it has harmed our relationship with an important ally, and it helped set loose people who were even more extreme and violent: the so-called Caliphate or Islamic State). I also dislike his “Race to the Top” education initiative.
These are not small things to me, and I consider myself to be pragmatic, rather than dogmatic. I do not agree with every liberal position there is, and yet Barack Obama is still more conservative than I am in the way he approaches Wall Street, the way he approaches foreign policy and the way he approaches education.
It seems to me that Republicans have talked themselves into a seeing their political opponents as something they are not: constant enemies and their arch-nemeses, who oppose every spark of truth and every shred of goodness. Unfortunately for them, the voters in the middle do not see Democrats so simply. They hear things they like and things they don’t like when they listen to Democrats, the same as they do when they listen to Republicans.
Republicans almost seem to have abandoned the voter in the middle. There were some bright spots in the debate tonight, when a Republican candidate said something that a typical conservative would not say, but the crowd watching the debate applauded only the conservative points. This year, once again, conservatives are looking for a consistently conservative candidate. They will get a candidate who is close to that. And then that candidate will lose, because unless a miracle happens and Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders, voters in the middle will tilt towards the Democrat. (If you think Hillary Clinton is a perfect liberal, she isn’t. She voted for the Iraq War, for example, a vote that will not haunt her this time the way it did in 2008.)
The party that wins the presidency will not be the party with the smartest candidate or the best campaign, it will be the candidate that convinces the voters in the middle that he or she will represent them a little better than the other candidate. After watching the debate tonight, I predict that the candidate that appeals slightly more to voters in the middle will once again not be a Republican.
Maybe next time.