The parties can't decide
It's bad for America and bad for democracy
Joe Biden is old, which for some time has bothered voters in ways that I find irrational. Nonetheless, I am a believer in giving the people what they want. And since what they seem to want is a broadly Biden-like candidate between the ages of 45-65, that’s what I think the Democratic Party should give them. But how would that happen?
That was my reaction when I read Nate Silver’s commentary on the latest Biden polling, which ended with the remark that “Democrats can’t say they weren’t warned.”
The implication is that there is some group of people — “Democrats” — who were warned and who failed to take timely action.
But the truth is that influential actors in the Democratic Party not only were warned that Biden’s age was an electoral liability, they believed the warnings. The issue is that the warnings weren’t actionable. And you have something very similar on the Republican side: Donald Trump has a lot of baggage that makes it relatively hard for him to beat Joe Biden. I’ve sometimes heard people make the exaggerated claim that any non-Biden Democrat would beat Trump and any non-Trump Republican would beat Biden. That’s not true. But it is true that if you randomly drew the name of an incumbent governor from a hat, that person would probably be a stronger general election nominee than whomever his or her party is set to nominate.
We don’t have Phil Scott versus Jon Bel Edwards because those guys are genuinely too moderate for the preferences of their respective parties. But why not Mike DeWine versus Gretchen Whitmer? Is it because you and I and Nate Silver are smart and the people running American politics are idiots?
A much better explanation is suggested in a book coming out next spring, “The Hollow Parties.” It was written by two friends of mine, and I got to read in draft form.
The book itself is a fascinating history of the two parties, but the hollowness thesis speaks particularly to the present.
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