Entries in MassPoliticsProfs by Jerold Duquette
Speculation about when or if Senator Elizabeth Warren would endorse one of the candidates battling for her party’s nomination has been hot and heavy. Sanders’ backers, in particular, have been confidently speculating that Warren would eventually side with Bernie. The truth is that Warren will not endorse until the nomination is a fait accompli. She will not put her foot on the scale to help the now faltering protest candidacy of Bernie Sanders primarily because she believes in the Democratic Party. She believes that a strong united Democratic Party is the key to electoral victory and policy accomplishment.
Candidates, campaign operatives, high profile donors and endorsers, media analysts, and reporters all have very strong incentives to base their electoral projections primarily on factors that their target audiences both understand and believe credible. Unfortunately, that means willfully discounting the single most potent and predictive factor in election outcomes, party identity. Of course, if campaigners, pollsters, and media pundits took the role of party leanings more seriously, most of them would be out of a job.
Robert Reich is taking on the “Bernie skeptics.” Sadly, that includes me. Also sadly, Reich’s effort to rebut the conventional wisdom regarding Senator Sanders’ general election viability is all too easily debunked. Reich’s professorial presentation is filled with many logical and reasonable premises and claims. Unfortunately, there are also an alarming number of unsupported claims and flawed or flat out incorrect assumptions about the way voters behave and about how our electoral and policy making institutions are designed and how they function in real life.
The editors of the New York Times, citing recent Gallup data and analysis, have suggested that because more than 40% of Americans in 2015 identified themselves as “independents,” rather than Democrats or Republicans the 2016 presidential election may turn more on candidate-centric factors. They quote Gallup’s analysis as follows: “[T]he lack of strong attachment to the parties could make candidate-specific factors, as opposed to party loyalty, a greater consideration for voters in choosing a president in this year’s election than they have been in past elections.”
This analysis reminds me of the line from the movie “My Cousin Vinny” when the judge denies Vincent’s objection. It is cogent, logical, and reasonable, but wrong.
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is, in some ways, like a salesman’s pitch to a prospective car buyer who has come in to the dealership. He is all about making his target demographic comfortable and confident, and keeping them on the lot until they sign on the dotted line. But here’s the thing, salesmanship is not sufficient for getting elected President of the United States. Indeed, the Framers of the Constitution designed the presidential selection process to guarantee that salesmanship (or more precisely its evil twin demagoguery) would not be enough. The two major political parties designed their nomination processes to be similarly resistant to mere “salesmanship” as well.
Likely GOP primary voters presently registering support for fascism, theocracy, and a number of other absurdities, may really be engaging in “tactical partisanship” as members of Team Conservative or Team Republican. The ubiquity of partisan “talking points” in the Information Age suggests that an instrument once reserved for professional pols and media spokesmen is now a tool of voter mobilization, used by voters themselves. Increasingly, voters are enlisted as political spokesmen and many (judging by internet comment sections, Facebook, and Twitter) are embracing the role.