With the leavings of NYC, Chicago and Baltimore still to trickle in non-iconic superstar Joe Biden is set to win the presidency with 306 electoral votes and ~8M popular votes for, likely, a little shy of a 5% margin.
The massive turnout and the down ballot thumb in the eye delivered to Democrats have clarified a lot of questions a-brew since Obama’s 2012 victory and frustrating second term.
#1 “The Sanders Revolution” Was an Illusion, but The Trump “Revolution” Was Real:
Remember how we all laughed at Mittens for his demand to “unskew” the polls? Well, Mittens was right in theory but not in practice. There WAS a voluminous “missing” white vote throughout the USA. Mittens failed to get it out. Trump succeeded in 2016 and built on it in 2020. This success was the result of a swirl of racism and, moreover, a larger “wagging middle finger” at various, distant elites that Trump’s puerile narcissism so ably tweaked. Bernie Sanders also claimed that his “revolution” would turn out a bevy of low propensity voters by promising them the fruits of socialism spiked with the commeuppence of ‘billyonahrs’ and ‘millyonahrs’ (other than himself, bien sur). Bernie had the money and organization to garner this revolution in the 2020 priamry without the interference of Clinton loyalists. Instead he did worse without the anti-Clinton vote. Swedenizing the USA with a side of anti-wealthy Jacobeanism failed. Trump’s bullshit worked. So it goes.
#2 Both Bases are Real
In 2008 Obama’s community organizer skills begat a stellar ground game that expanded the Democratic base without the need to cater to “the middle”. Yeah? Well, both Trump and Biden blew straight through Obama’s 2008 landslideish vote total (69.5M). Sure, population has grown but no candidate came close to the 69.5M mark in 2012 or 2016. With Obama off the ballot Dems got BTFO’d in 2010 and 2014. Sans Trump R’s got walloped in 2018. In 2020 both bases doubled down and, while the Democratic one turns out to be larger, it needed to be much bigger than the 08 Obama version to match the maximized Trump base. Any slippage either way makes for a blow out for the other side.
#3 It’s All About the Wedge Issues
Recall the angst from the professional left that the Democratic Convention did not showcase AOC and instead highlighted many bland midwestern Republicans. Well guess who got wedged out of the Republican coalition to win the election for Biden. Guess who didn’t follow through for down ballot Ds? With the Republican’s structural advantage in the Electoral College, and with both bases being about equal at their maximum, Dems will need to find ways to wedge off part of the Republican coalition. Trump succeeded at this on the margins with some latinos and younger black men; but that was dwarfed by Biden’s gains in the suburbs.
In this case, the wedge was just from light “never trumpers” that could not abide the mans ugliness, but apparently had not much trouble with standard Republicans. The fact that no big policy ideas other than the imbecilic “defund the police” slogan and AOC’s annoying media presence were able to fill the void made the wedging more negative (anti-Trump) than positive (pro-Anything). With Trump’s masterful ability to exhaust the oxygen in the room, perhaps it never could be about healthcare as the ’18 mid-terms were.
No, to wedge off pieces of the Republican base, Democrats will have to be more creative and idealistic. Sandersism isn’t going to work, but a successful wedge issue is in plain sight if Democrats have the guts to seize it.