Do Democrats Want the Best Candidate? Or the Candidate that Can Beat Trump?
I continue to be of two minds when it comes to the 2020 election: My top priority is to see Donald Trump crushed in the election in a way that leaves absolutely no doubt about the results. My second priority is to see a progressive, preferably female candidate win the 2020 election. Right now, those particular priorities are somewhat at odds with one another, because Joe Biden is leading in all the polls.
Yesterday, a poll showed that Joe Biden was leading by double digits in North Carolina, a state that Trump won by four points in 2016. The same poll showed that Sanders also had a commanding lead over Trump, that Mayor Pete had a four-point lead, and that my candidates of choice, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, were running even with Trump. Another poll out of Michigan showed similar results: Both Biden and Sanders hold a 12-point lead in a head to head with Trump, Mayor Pete had a six-point lead, and Warren and Harris were within the margin of error.
That’s dispiriting, and I know that a lot of people are going to be like, “It’s early! The election is a long time away!” And that’s true. Sort of. Iowa is in six months, y’all. The first Democratic debate is at the end of the month. Hopefully, by that point, things begin to change, and Warren and Harris start to break out because, as of right now, Biden/Sanders are dominating, and if a Democrat can win North Carolina and Michigan, it’s pretty much game over for Trump. And I don’t want a squeaker. I want to see Trump soundly defeated by 11 or 12 points.
I’d very much like to believe that Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris can pull that off, particularly because Joe Biden is a terrible candidate. And it’s not just because he’s handsy, or because of the Anita Hill hearings (although, that too). He’s not got a particularly good record on abortion, and he still supports the Hyde Amendment, a ban on using federal funds for abortions, except in the case of rape or incest. He’s straight-up plagiarizing language for his campaign’s climate change plan — a charge his campaign concedes — and his first campaign was essentially derailed by plagiarism allegations. Trump is also right to criticize Biden for spearheading the crime bill (and it’s one issue in which Trump doesn’t come off as completely hypocritical, only mostly hypocritical). And wooh boy, this is a hell of a story, from his first campaign for President via The NYTimes:
“When I marched in the civil rights movement, I did not march with a 12-point program,” Mr. Biden thundered, testing his presidential message in February 1987 before a New Hampshire audience. “I marched with tens of thousands of others to change attitudes. And we changed attitudes.”
More than once, advisers had gently reminded Mr. Biden of the problem with this formulation: He had not actually marched during the civil rights movement. And more than once, Mr. Biden assured them he understood — and kept telling the story anyway.
Biden has some Trump in him. And maybe that’s why he’s faring so well against the President. And maybe he’s become completely immune to criticism because there are so many voters — disproportionately older voters, but we need those voters — who just don’t care. They just want Trump out. They want something akin to the Obama Administration again. They just want to wash their hands of Trump in any way they can, and Biden seems like the easiest way to get there.
And I guess I just wonder: Why can’t the “anybody but Trump” default transfer over to Warren or Harris? I mean, I know what the answer to that is, but how the hell do we overcome that? And are we willing to roll the dice on a candidate who might not match up against Trump as well, if it means risking the possibility of four more years of Trump?
Do Democrats want the best candidate? Or the candidate that can beat Trump? Maybe this is a question we don’t have to answer yet — Obama, after all, pulled ahead of Hillary in November-December, 2017. But six months passes quicker than you might think, and what the hell are we going to do if faced with the same question come January?
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