Hello, everyone! I usually don’t write about politics on this blog but I’ve been reading a lot of media coverage of the 2020 election and it’s just making me so angry I need to blog about it. So I’ll keep this brief and relatively gif free.
It feels like every piece of election-related media I read or watch or listen to concerns the upcoming Democratic primaries. Even though the primaries are more than 8 months away, the media is obsessively picking over the polls and what they might predict about which of the 24 hopefuls will steal the coveted crown. The most infuriating part of this coverage is not just that it’s premature speculation, but that it’s dangerously premature speculation. We’ve been here before and it’s part of the reason that we have a sociopath sitting in the Oval Office.
Pretty much every article places Biden at the front of the pack, followed in varying order by Sanders, Warren, Harris, and Buttigieg. Now, I have some familiarity with all of these candidates at this point, but by no means am I ready to declare my pick. If a pollster asked me my opinion, I would have no idea who I might vote for in the primaries, because as I said, they are 8 months in the future and I don’t even know if America will still exist by then. You would think that venerated publications like NYT, The Atlantic, WaPo, and others would be trying to operate with caution at this point. Surely they would have learned from the last FUCKERY of an election that relying on polls, assumptions, and electability is like shooting yourself in the foot! But no, these guys haven’t learned a thing. Like I know that their only goal is to sell papers, get clicks, and make money, but as the goddamn Fourth Estate of this country they have a responsibility, nay, a mandate to try and report on this election in a fair and balanced way.
Like Spiderman, the press ought to know that with great power comes great responsibility. If you give an egotistical demagogue with a penchant for inciting hatred a national platform, he will use it. If you give all of your press coverage to white men whose only defining attribute is their “electability,” then you’re going to end up killing all of your better qualified, less electable candidates (a.k.a all those “shrill” women and people of color) in the eyes of the public. The press can cry and boo-hoo all they want and write think-piece upon think-piece about how the polls failed us and Trump was an anomaly, but it’s all just a farce to distract us from the fact that they profited off of sensationalizing Trump and don’t give a damn about electing a good president.
With that in mind, I would like to discuss this darned notion of “electability,” which seems to be 2020’s biggest buzzword. You see, since the press is trying to pretend like they weren’t a huge catalyst behind Trump’s election, they need a scapegoat to blame. That scapegoat is “electability.”
Hillary wasn’t electable, you see. No one liked her. Forget about the fact that 48 percent of voters chose Hillary, 2 percent more than those that chose Trump. SHE JUST WASN’T LIKEABLE, PEOPLE! No one wanted to have a beer with her or hear her brag about her golf resorts!
Trump, on the other hand, now that guy is likeable. He’s goddamn electable! I mean, look at the guy. Courteous, humble, kind, generous, witty. He’s a guy you can trust! He’s a guy you look at and say “I’d have a beer with him. I mean, he would probably order the most expensive drink on the menu and then make me pay for it while he talks about his hot daughter and how much he hates Latinos, but I’d still have a beer with him because he’s LIKEABLE!”
So yeah, likeability is a fucking joke. Trump is not fucking likeable, and he’s a lot more objectively unlikeable than Hillary, who at least can restrain herself from resorting to hate-speech on the campaign trail. Likeability is just a way of delegitamizing strong qualified candidates like Hillary by focusing on the things they can’t control, like their voice, or the fact that they’re a woman. Because you know, ugh, women.
Electability is just buzzwordy manipulation of the concept of likeability. It’s the exact same thing, but polished up with a sheen of political legitimacy. Joe Biden is “electable” because he can win back those Rust Belt voters who picked Trump in 2016. Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke are “electable,” too, because they’re both Democrats who won victories in Trump country and they can do the same in 2020. You know who rarely gets described as electable, though? Warren and Harris and Gillibrand and Klobuchar. Sure, their policy and experience are mentioned favorably, but they’re never gilded with the same “electability” je ne sais quoi that graces the news coverage of candidates like Biden and Buttigieg.
NYTimes has a handy chart that ranks Democratic candidates by polling averages, campaign money, and news coverage. Coincidentally, candidates with the most news coverage also have the highest polling averages! THAT’S JUST SO WEIRD! How did that happen? Do you think they like…planned it?
It’s almost like if the press gives you more coverage people recognize you more. Because let’s face it, guys. Polling at this point is not about anything more than recognition. Biden is at the top because he is the most recognizable name and he still has good street cred from being Obama’s VP. Likewise with Sanders, still running strong from 2016 hype, and Warren and Harris, who are notable politicians. The most obvious case of this press feeding the polls game is Pete Buttigieg, who was a relative unknown before a flurry of good press, including a profile in Vogue. He’s only polling nationally at 6% but for all the press attention he’s getting, one might think he’s level with Biden.
That’s the folly of media coverage at this point in the election cycle. It pumps candidates full of hot air and premature poll numbers and then wastes thousands of words crowning them as “frontrunners” and “our best hope at beating Trump.” The thing is though that we don’t fucking know who is gonna win the primaries in 8 months and we definitely don’t know who is going to be running against Trump. We shouldn’t be trying to predict this thing and propelling candidates to the top based on whether we think that they might beat Trump. The only way to know that is to predict the future and no matter how smug NYTimes is in their predictions of electability, even they cannot predict what will happen in 2020.
To close, I’d like to discuss the current obsession with beating Trump. I read a lot of comments in these articles and pretty much all of them revolve around the same theme: it doesn’t matter who is the Democratic candidate as long as they beat Trump. So if that means electing Biden or Buttigieg, regardless if their policies are actually the best for the country, then that’s what we have to do. One commenter on this Jezebel article put this ideology best:
To me, 2020 is not a vote my values election. It’s a get the Democrats the White House and Senate election […]
I think Warren’s one of the best candidates at the moment, who can get people fired up and can get them out to vote. At the same time, there’s too many dumb people that only watch Fox News and will casually call her Pocahontas during the entire campaign […]
Independent voters played a huge role in the 2016 election. Independents went for Trump. They did not like Hillary as a whole. There are not enough Democrats to overcome the huge amount of Independents that didn’t like her.
This commenter mentions several ideas that I think are crucial to this ideology. The first is that there exists a candidate who is the “best” to beat Trump. Even though this candidate is running on the same progressive values that Hillary ran on (because let’s be real, the platforms have hardly changed), this candidate will somehow have an undefinable magic quality that will allow them to win over the people who voted for Trump and make them vote for a Democrat instead. The second crucial idea is that Republicans and Independents who voted for Trump can be persuaded to vote for a Democratic candidate in the first place. And the third crucial idea is that in order to get this magical candidate who can beat Trump by winning over his voters, we Democrats need to vote not with our values, but with our eyes on the prize. Values do not matter in this election. The only thing that matters is beating Trump.
I want to de-throne Trump as much as anyone else, I really, really, do, but I cannot abide this ideology because it rests on the false notions of electability that I discussed above. Electability is a smokescreen created by the press to justify writing about some candidates and ignoring others. Electability is a PC way of saying that Joe Biden can beat Trump because he’s a white man and Kamala Harris can’t because she’s a black woman. Electability is a way of blaming Hillary’s loss on the fact that she was “unlikeable” instead of accepting the fact that Trump voters picked him because they like his rhetoric. They like his racism, his belligerency, his bullying, and his lies. They like all of that and that is why they voted for him. We need to stop pretending that there is a magic Democrat unicorn who can erase the past 3 years of ugliness and unify America and make everything pretty and nice again. There is no candidate that can do that.
Trump is going to do the same thing that he did in 2016. He is going to rely on hate, fear, racism, and xenophobia like he did in the previous election and the people who voted for him before will most likely do so again. Because let’s be honest: what has changed for them? We’ve had 3 years of a Trump presidency and his base has not wavered. Now I don’t know about the Independents, but I do know that if someone is the type of person to pick Trump over Hillary because they just don’t like her (which many of them did), then they’re the type of person to find something unelectable in a Democratic candidate who isn’t as white, male, and egotistical as Trump. Maybe they’ll vote for Buttigieg or Biden, or maybe they won’t. It’s not right for Democrats to forfeit our chance to have a candidate with strong progressive values just because a more centrist milquetoast candidate might have a sliver of a chance of cracking the Trump voter formula. We can’t make voters like certain candidates and we can’t make voters who like Trump change their minds. We’re wasting our time trying to persuade these people, the mythical blue collar white man toiling in the midwest, to vote Democrat. The Democratic Party he once voted for is not the Democratic party running now, and he’s not interested. It’s time for us to move on, strengthen our own party, and stop worrying about the things we can’t change.