Bernie or Biden? I’m voting Bernie
There are several ways people approach this question. Who is most electable? Who is most likely to beat Trump? Which policies do I support? Right now a salient question is electability: who would be most likely to win a general election?
At the heart of the question is a strategy question that divides the Democratic party into two: should it be a more progressive candidate or a more moderate candidate? Do you want someone promising big change or not?
One perspective is that what’s needed is someone more in the center. Someone willing to build a coalition. A coalition of Democrats, independents and some Republicans who wouldn’t want Trump. This would be Biden.
Another perspective would be someone that is more progressive. Someone who can get voters excited and share big ideas. Someone who would turn out new voters and young voters. This would be Bernie.
Now, the question is which scenario do you think is more likely or more plausible? There is polling every which way but at this point everyone is guessing. The polls have a margin of error large enough that pretty much everything we thought we knew to be true in 2016 wasn’t–so I’m taking polling data with a healthy dose of skepticism.
I think the approach that favors Biden here is misguided, partially because we tried that in 2016 with Hillary Clinton and it didn’t work. Lots of things we assumed to be true, weren’t. Additionally, I don’t think the numbers of Republican and Independent voters who are on the fence and considering voting Democrat is significant. If someone is still undecided or voting Trump at this point that is a lost cause. Seriously, how can you be undecided about Trump in 2020?
In addition, the critique of Bernie that he isn’t building a coalition I don’t think is the main issue. Trump won the electoral college and presidency without a broad coalition, and really on the backs of a minority of motivated voters, and a very unrepresentative electoral college. If anything Trump continues to alienate more people, never even won a majority of the popular vote, but we are still worried about the rabid fans taking him to another win. In my opinion the best way to beat Trump would be with someone who could generate enthusiasm on the other side, and bring out new voters.
Now the question is: will this turn out to be true with Bernie? At this point we can guess but really we would only see one way or the other depending on who wins the Democratic primary and the general election. I don’t think that turnout data from primaries is conclusive, mostly because primary turnouts are usually lower. I think with the anger around Trump, the increase in midterm voter turnout, that would signal that people hopefully will turnout in the election. If we can’t wake up to vote Trump out, what are we all doing!?
Additionally, in terms of the issues, I’m a fan of what Bernie supports. I think the universal healthcare approach is a no-brainer, and the US is really backwards in its thinking about the topic. Instead of ‘how can we pay for it?’ a much more appropriate question, when applied broadly is: ‘how can we afford not to?’ It’s well established that in the US we pay more for less on healthcare, but here we still like to brag about that. I’ve met people who live in many other countries with much more effective systems, all variants on universal health care–from this perspective the US really just is an uncivilized society.
I also support the policies on money in politics and elections, which I think is a cause of a lot of the current dysfunction.
Here’s a map of who has the most donors by parts of the country. Bernie leads almost everywhere, and if you look at the data Buttigieg and Warren led Biden in most places as well. Bernie has the most donors of any candidate, and I think that shows broad support across the board.
From my perspective, it’s imperative to vote Trump out. Literally anyone else. So while I prefer Bernie and think he has a better chance to win I will vote for Biden if he wins the primary. I hope people can see that even if you have your differences with Bernie and Biden, we are 100x better off with one of them than with Trump.
Now if you are a Bernie or Biden voter, that is fine, as long as you vote for the Democratic candidate in November.
What concerns me, both ways, is people who like Biden but won’t vote for Bernie, and people who like Bernie that won’t vote for Biden. I can understand the gripes both ways.
Biden people may claim Bernie is too much of an ideologue, or too angry or can’t build a coalition. Or smack on a meaningless socialist label for promoting policies common in every advanced social democracy in Europe.
Or Bernie people may claim Biden has a bad track record on certain topics, that he is raising money from the establishment, is the establishment, won’t address the issues they care about.
Now consider the opposite–Trump: a wannabe dictator, a psychopathic liar, a clear and present danger. A person who has inspired hate crimes against Blacks and Muslims and Jews. A president who favors autocrats over democratic allies, smashes norms, is so blatantly corrupt and self-dealing… I mean I can go on and on and on. Setting back progress decades that the rest of us will need to deal with. Anti-science, pro-conspiracy theory, racist… do you need more convincing? We will look back upon the Trump years as a complete shame upon our country if we haven’t already. Separating babies at the border, inhumane treatment of immigrants, acts that qualify as genocide. Malice and incompetence in handling of a global pandemic in service of a fragile ego. The list goes on. And on.
So, yes, definitely different strategies for a Democratic path forward. I think one makes more sense, is better strategy, and more likely to win. But either way Biden and Bernie are actual good people who want to improve the country.
From an electoral college standpoint, there are likely six states that will determine the election, the ones that flipped from Democrat to Republican in 2016: Iowa, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. We will see who wins the Democratic primaries there. I think Bernie has a good chance there, and even won the Michigan and Wisconsin Democratic primaries in 2016, states Hillary lost in the general election. The margins in some of these states was very, very small.
In Michigan, ~10k, in Wisconsin ~30k in Pennsylvania ~70k. These were races with less than 0.5% difference. Now, back to voter turnout. In general, people don’t vote. In 2016 it was 26% Democrat, 25% Republican, but 45% non-voter. About 90 million people who could have voted didn’t. Now that the presidential race was decided by about 100k people overall that’s about 0.1%. So even just the smallest changes in voter turnout will alter this, but particularly in swing states. Take Michigan, 2016: 7,420,628 voter-eligible population. 11,837 vote loss. That’s 0.16%. That’s getting 1 more out of every one thousand people to vote. That’s how little of a change is needed in voter turnout behavior here.
Now this is very segmented by age group. Younger voters like Bernie, older voters like Biden. But on the younger side it’s a staggering difference, almost at 50%. However, younger voters are less likely to vote.
So there are a lot of ways to look at this. Overall for me, I think Bernie is the best choice. We will see what happens.