The Big Dog Or The Biggest Choke

Luis A Mendez

Luis A Mendez

When he’s not writing supernatural stories, Luis Mendez is obsessively following public opinion trends and gauging likely election outcomes. He has written about the subject for various publications and runs a monthly updated website trying to predict coming elections.

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157 Responses

  1. Avatar North says:

    Great article. Joe ain’t my first choice on account of his propensity to lack of discipline on the campaign and his awkward tendency to be handsy. I’d, of course, vote for a Democratic Cactus over Trump in the general.

    Joe’s strength, and how utterly shocked punditry is about it, tell us something important about the Democratic Party that conservatives and left liberals frantically try to ignore. The Democratic Party is predominantly centrist and the woke left is merely a loud faction of it. Chait lays it our quite well here:
    http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/05/what-joe-biden-is-teaching-democrats-about-democrats.htmlReport

    • Avatar CJColucci in reply to North says:

      The Democratic Party has been the centrist party for a long time. There is no significant left party. I won’t argue with anyone’s feelings about that, or, for that matter, express my own, but it is the fact.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to CJColucci says:

        Agreed, as a center leftist myself that naturally suits me down to my toes. Everyone talks, though, as if this isn’t the case.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to CJColucci says:

        There is a significant part of the Democratic Party that is left-liberal but not a majority of the base. Just a very loud plurality that talks to each other on line. They are called the Extremely Online for a reason. The media gives these people inordinate coverage because quoting tweets is easy and lazy.

        I get the feelings of real frustration ahout Biden but I am more team Harris or team Warren.

        The problem is that the Democrats have become a big tent, non-insane, and national unity party. Meaning we need to find policies that appeal to real left people like AOC with good working class bomafides and upper-middle class or above professionals who think there is nothing wrong with being a partner at a big consulting firm.

        This is very hard to do.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to North says:

      Given the polling over at 538, Sanders, Harris and Warren together poll at 28% (14, 7, 7). Biden is polling at 34%. The remaining together poll at 20%*.

      Biden will have to seriously bleed voters in order to lose the nomination. The likelihood of him gaining competition as the lefty candidates drop out of the race seems low. I doubt Beto voters (6%), Booker (2%) or Yang (1%) would predominantly go for the lefty candidate. Instead, it’s more likely the other way around. If they drop out of the race, their voters will most likely go to Biden.

      *it doesn’t add up to 100%. I’m not sure what’s going on, can someone explain this to me?Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Murali says:

        Never underestimate Joe’s ability to screw up winning a primary. He’s also quite elderly and could have a health issue black swan into the whole affair. That said I think your analysis is pretty good and also highlights, again, how the arch liberals remain only a faction of, and not the majority of, Democrats of liberals in general.Report

  2. Avatar Aaron David says:

    Excellent article! I do have a couple of minor quibbles though. First, The Big Dog is Bill Clinton. He has carried that name for decades at this point, he earned it when in office and so it doesn’t seem fitting to use it here. And The Big Choker should be reserved for her nibs, Hillary Clinton. But maybe that is just me.

    Secondly, though stats people do love themselves some numbers, I tend to think of it as a fool’s game. Especially in presidential politics. There just isn’t enough data to make real predictions from this. Too much can ride on things ephemeral as checking a watch at the wrong time or using a verboten phrase.

    And while not really a part of your article, I big part of me is wondering about the split between the “woke” faction and the centrist faction. If you do look at the numbers, he gets the largest single amount, but the split of the far left among multiple* candidates is higher. Will, with what happened to Bernie the last go-round, there be a nasty convention a la ’68? Or will the others go gently into that good night? Too early to tell.

    *Everyone who is above 2%.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Aaron David says:

      Since “what happened to Bernie the last go-round” is about 25% Bernie supporters invention, 50% right wing imagination and about 25% reality I am pretty doubtful that it’s going to lead to a nasty convention. Bernie would have to find a way to get rid of all his competitors in the liberal lane and, frankly, I don’t see how he pulls that off. Unless he can produce some really good results in the debates and the primary states he won’t have anything to make a nasty convention with and Bernie has already demonstrated that he has no interest in playing a spoiler to help Trump.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to North says:

        I am not talking about Bernie specifically, but the “woke” left generally.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Aaron David says:

          I am dubious. Purity politics only seems to rise to become a serious difficulty for the Dems after a two term Democratic presidency. I am old enough to have marveled at it in 2000 and ground my teeth at it in 2016. It was basically a non-issue in 2004, 2008 and 2012Report

    • Not the Big Dog, The Dude. As in “The Dude Abidens”.Report

    • Avatar Ozzy! in reply to Aaron David says:

      Are you really saying that a massive, national vote on one person vs another has a sample that is too small to rely on any data analysis? I mean, that’s cool if it’s your position, but you are picking a hill that would really limit your ability to talk about any poll, statistics, or even policy going forward.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Ozzy! says:

        Polling is used to extrapolate to the larger population. But often you are just guessing, as the phrasing on the question might not be very accurate, the timing might be off, there are no consequences, etc. What I am actually talking about is trying to define a pattern, make a prediction, from what is basically a historic guess. In baseball, people are using actual events; errors, runs, etc. But looking at polling of who is a favored candidate at any time leads nowhere.

        Voting, on the other hand, leads to an actual outcome. Indeed, it is the only poll that matters.Report

        • Avatar Ozzy! in reply to Aaron David says:

          I think this is what you are saying, along with alot of words about baseball.
          1. Basic statistics come from a sample
          2. Analysis of this is not right for hand wavy reasons (sample size would be the best one, but not the only)
          3. It’s not that stats are wrong (although I withhold the right to say they are wrong when I want)
          4. My gut is good at this.

          That is certainly a way to go through the world. Not great for a random internet chat room on politics, but it’s cool.Report

          • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Ozzy! says:

            So, how was Hillary’s coronation?Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Aaron David says:

              Deemed potentially premature by the polls, but assumed as a given by most prognosticators who went with their guts.

              And no poll could have anticipated Comey putting his thumb on the scale a couple weeks before the election.Report

            • Avatar Ozzy! in reply to Aaron David says:

              I’m not the one saying polls are right! you are saying they are useless! C’mon man.Report

            • Avatar George Turner in reply to Aaron David says:

              Well, Hillary had more than the usual number of under appreciated factors that ended up working against her.

              She has blamed her loss on herself, Russia (Putin hates strong women), the DNC (which was bankrupt), sexism and misogyny, a Democrat predecessor, Bernie Sanders, Anthony Weiner, Wikileaks, her “traditional” campaign, the debate questions, political journalists, the right-wing media, the mainstream media, campaign financing, Obama, lack of TV coverage, low-information voters, self-hating women, her campaign staff, Facebook, xenophobia, voter ID laws, Joe Biden, black people, white people, old people, young ageist people, Jill Stein, Twitter, the Electoral College, computer bots, James Comey, her “basket of deplorables” comment, The New York Times being in Trump’s pocket to boost revenue, and Jon Stewart’s retirement.

              No other candidate in history has had so much stacked against them, I tell you. In retrospect, she never had a chance, and it was all because of factors that pollsters don’t ask about, such as how Jon Stewart’s retirement demotivated young party activists, and whether despite a woman’s stated strong aversion to doing so, her husband or boyfriend was going to force her vote for Trump anyway.

              There’s almost no way a polling firm can take all of those factors into account.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Aaron David says:

          Even if the polling were perfectly accurate, which is far from the case, it’s still polling a horse race. In most races, perfect photographic documentation of the pack coming around the first turn still doesn’t let you determine who will be leading down the stretch, or who will win.

          And it’s still a volatile popularity contest where we’re picking which stranger we think we’d prefer. At any point in the race the pollsters could be forced to ask “Based on this recent [ revelation | gaffe | scandal | indictment | health concern | accusations of sexual misconduct | basement full of murdered children ], would you change who you support?” And the same would be true if you were polling people about their opinion of their spouse.

          One factor that may be adding to Biden’s number is whether some people are answering “Biden” because they’ve found that any other answer leads to an six-way break room argument with the Beto guy, the ardent Harrista, the wonky Warren supporter, the unrequited Bernie Bro, and the Buttigieg booster. If you say “Biden” you can finish your lunch in peace.

          During 2016, the polling company that came closest had realized that Trump supporters wouldn’t admit they support Trump because doing so resulted in social ostracism, so the firm started asking people if their neighbor supported Trump. They were willing to speak honestly with that simple change of focus.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Aaron David says:

          In baseball, people are using actual events; errors, runs, etc. But looking at polling of who is a favored candidate at any time leads nowhere.

          It does lead somewhere, tho. It leads to a probability that a candidate will win. Eg, predictions based on metrics in baseball are reliable to the extent players perform at their expected level, and predictions based on metrics in politics are reliable to the extent voters vote as they say they will. Obviously some voters aren’t certain, and some poll-takers are less than honest, but that’s factored into the model.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Aaron David says:

      See my above response to North. Even if the woke left combines their powers, they are not larger than biden’s share.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I kinda like Joe. Do I like his politics? Nah, not really. Too Northeastern Liberal for me. Too technocratic. Too willing to say that stuff is under his jurisdiction that, seriously, ain’t.

    But Joe himself?

    I kinda like Joe.

    We can talk about sexism and how Hillary Clinton could get in front of a group of miners and talk about how she wants to find new job training for them because she’s going to put them all out of work and everybody notices that she got in front of a group of miners and said “vote for me and lose your job!” and, by comparison, Joe Biden can go to a 7-11 to press the flesh and talk about Indians working at 7-11 and everybody chuckles and says “Oh, that Joe Biden!”

    But Joe Biden can say some pretty wacky stuff and people say “Oh, that Joe!” and they still like him. They don’t agree with him! But they *LIKE* him. He’s goofy. He’s charismatic. He’s *LIKABLE*. You can easily see being in that 7-11 and shaking his hand and you can almost feel him clapping his hand on your shoulder.

    You’d love to have a beer with him at the poker table and listen to him tell a story about a floor battle over some forgotten bill back in 1985 during the 20 minutes that Reagan had the senate. “Hey, I was fighting for *YOUR* future!”, he’d say pointing to some kid who wouldn’t even have been born 10 years after that. “And you’re here now, ain’tcha?” and everybody would laugh and not even notice that that isn’t how this sort of thing works. Because he’s likable.

    Even when you know he’s bullshitting, even when you know he’s making an error somewhere…

    Oh, that Joe.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

      There are gaffes and there are gaffes… I wonder how many “that Joe” gaffes are only gaffes to a small segment of the Democratic party… and to others, reassuring proof that he’s like them.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Marchmaine says:

        “When he makes a gaffe, it’s in *MY* favor!” is one of those things that I can totally see thinking. Of course, I don’t *APPROVE* of what he said.

        If polled, I’d say I disapprove! I hope Maribou reads this!

        But I still kinda like him.

        Could I vote for him? Well, I don’t vote for real parties… I guess it’d depend on who he was running against. Carly Fiorina? You bet your backside I’d vote for him against her. I kinda like him.

        I’m pretty sure that he’s good enough to outrun the bear.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

          So are you saying you’d vote for Joe over a third-party guy who’s really your cup of tea if Carly Fiorina were the Republican?

          Well, what about if …Trump is?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

            Against Fiorina? Yeah. I’d probably tell myself to focus on how I like Biden. Focus on likability to get me over that hump.

            Against Trump? Well, I dunno. He’s not the accelerationist candidate that I was hoping he’d be… but I don’t think he’s the absolute worst thing to happen the way that my esteemed internet brethren color him as being.

            (I also suspect that, if Biden runs, he sews up the Blue Wall again so whether or not I actually vote for him over Trump is irrelevant.)Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    “Kombucha? Buttklieg? Klamula Harris? I never heard of these guys. There’s how many names? Shit, I guess I’ll pick Biden, at least I know who that is.”Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Biden polls well with every Democratic group except all voters under 40. Make of this what you will.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The problem with a Biden nomination is the same as the problem with Pelosi failing to impeach Trump: prioritiizng a handful of swing voters over turnout and enthusiasm. Granted, it’s not Joe!’s *fault* that Dems are too squeamish to try to win the election rather than not lose it….Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Stillwater says:

        I think this doesn’t get why Biden is doing well in the polls compared to everybody else at all. Biden is popular among a plurality of Democratic primary voters not because they think he is a safe bet that will play well in the mid-West but because they really like him. They remember him as Obama’s loyal VP and most Democratic voters really like Obama. A vote for Biden is like a vote for a third term Obama for them.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

          I think I get why people like Biden perfectly well: as you said, they view him as a risk-averse, safe bet to beat Trump. Biden is a nostalgia candidate. A known entity. People who support him are playing to not lose rather than playing to win.

          OTOH, if Biden *really is* the best the Dems have to offer the party *really is* doomed.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Stillwater says:

            So, what choice or strategy would you consider being the Dems “playing to win”?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North says:

              Impeach Trump and run on left-ish policies like AOC and Warren – and frankly most of the electorate – advocateReport

              • Avatar North in reply to Stillwater says:

                Most of the electorate.. on twitter.. you mean?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North says:

                No, polling. Like, national polls.

                Re: impeachment, I’ve yet to read a poll (maybe there is one, I dunno) that asks people if they’d *not* vote for Dems if they impeached Trump. Pelosi, imo, is radically and potentially disastrously misreading the tea leaves on that issue.

                (Personally I don’t think the’s misreading the national mood so much as trying to maintain her own lock on the Speakership.)Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Stillwater says:

                Impeachment would do more than anything to boost Trump’s popularity, based on Bill Clinton’s experience, and socialism polls at 22% in favor, 78% opposed.

                Democrats could try that, but they’d risk coming in third or fourth in the Electoral College, behind Queen Elizabeth II and Chuck Norris, thrown in for amusement by a few of the non-committed delegates.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

                So we both agree that Dems should impeach. Nice.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Stillwater says:

                Ok, well polling on impeachment is not positive right now and history says impeaching, especially when you know it’ll never get through the Senate, is a risky maneuver. So I can definitely see why Pelosi would take the tack she’s taken and frankly I don’t see the flaws in it. I mean it’s an awfully huge roll of the dice: assume that the hearings will change public opinion and what happened last time won’t happen this time? Also assuming that the Dems base will be fired up more than the Trumpkins will be fired up? Feels extraordinarily risky to me.

                And I certainly don’t see any error in Pelosi declining to embrace the Green New Dream err Deal or Medicare (we’ll find the money under wealthy peoples mattresses, honest) for all.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North says:

                North, you’re making my point. Pelosi’s reluctance to impeach Trump is playing to not lose. 59% of the electorate believes he obstructed justice, yet Pelosi doesn’t see any upside in trying to tap into that sentiment.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Stillwater says:

                56% of the electorate also doesn’t think he should be impeached.
                I mean sure, you can preach the high reward path; just acknowledge that the same path also includes commensurately high risk.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North says:

                No, 56% don’t support impeachment. It doesn’t follow from that those voters would punish Dems for impeaching him, especially since Dem consensus is that *Dems shouldn’t impeach*.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Stillwater says:

                Possibly so. I think Pelosi thinks that the situation as is can be parlayed into a win in 2020 and she is wary of throwing out the hand she is in hopes of getting a stronger one. She’s got, what, a 17 or an 18 in a hand of blackjack? Saying “gimmie another” is a bold move.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North says:

                Granting that we’re both just guessing here, she’s risking more by not impeaching – short term and long term – than by not. She and the Dems look politically weak, they look complicit in perpetuating Trump crimes, and for decades to come they’ll have to answer questions about why they didn’t defend the constitution in the face of such obvious criminality. Re: Trump corruption specifically, Pelosi is basically saying “let the electorate decide” even as she continues to expressly allow Trump to keep acting corruptly.

                On the other hand, suppose Trump wins and continues with the corrupt behavior. Impeaching him *at that point* would have everyone doubled over laughing – including lots of Democratic voters.

                She’s basically risking the whole enchilada on the prevent defense holding a three point lead in the second quarter.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

                I basically agree with this. I think the other miscalculation is trying to decide whether to impeach with the electoral calculus as the first thought. The D’s have made that mistake before. They should be deciding what is correct and Good, impeachment, then let the spin people spin that. But being guided by what you think will win is corrupting and it’s not like haven’t had plenty of corruption already.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

                I just don’t know about this. This is an unpopular opinion right now but Trump still hasn’t done anything as abusive or disastrous as W. No one thought the Dem Congress in 2006 owned those things for failing to impeach and that failure didn’t seem to have any impact on Obama’s ability to win.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to InMD says:

                I just don’t know about this. This is an unpopular opinion right now but Trump still hasn’t done anything as abusive or disastrous as W.

                The Iraq War is a tough act to follow.

                And in order to fuck stuff up that badly, you need to be politically adroit enough to build a real consensus supporting your incredibly bad idea.

                Trump’s glaring unfitness for office somewhat limits the damage he can do.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

                Which is why I have my other very unpopular opinion, that being that the way to survive his administration is more in line with the Pelosi approach than the rage/hysteria approach. Chicken little-ing and wild-eyed woke-ism are what he feeds on. Like I said in my comment down below to Chip, Trump has a constituency but hardly an unbeatable one. And I think youre right, his incompetence at governance has so far really limited his ability to do a lot of policy. The only major thing I can think of that can’t be undone or considerably mitigated by executive action is the tax cuts.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to InMD says:

                Well the thing about tax cuts is it leaves the money out there to be taxed later. Which is why deficit financed tax cuts are generally recognized as taxes deferred and why republicans inevitably pivot to the “oh noes, we’re out of money, we need to cut the safety net away!” step of their tax cut dance.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to InMD says:

                Yeah I mostly disagree with that (I think Pelosi has crossed the line from “prudent” to “way overly cautious”) because I think the stuff that feeds Trump’s need for attention, or makes him angry, or generally just plays on the fact that he’s a weird giant toddler with basically no impulse control, tends to politically damage him even though his actual base loves it.

                Though these days my rage is really oriented towards Trump’s allegedly respectable enablers in the conservative media and elected office.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to InMD says:

                Chicken little-ing and wild-eyed woke-ism are what he feeds on.

                Not so. Certainly neither of those things won him the Republican primary, and (imo) played no role in his winning the general. Trump feeds on weakness and cynicism. Failing to impeach Trump effectively signals (again, imo) that his critique of the Dems and institutionalists is correct: they’re empty windbags who lack the power to stop him. His supporters eat that shit up, and fence sitter nod in agreement even tho they may despise him. Dem passivity is therefore viewed as either complicity or surrender.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Stillwater says:

                And if she tries to impeach and the worst case scenario comes to pass, it’s a clusterfish and Trumps supporters are energized and powers him to victory? What will that say? How’ll the Dems look then?

                I mean, hell, like you said- we’re both just guessing; but let’s not pretend impeaching isn’t a very high risk move.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North says:

                Of course, my argument is that impeaching carries less downside risk and more upside gain than not impeaching, but I agree that the stakes are high.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Stillwater says:

                Gotcha, we’re not all that far apart really, weighting the costs and benefits and coming up with slightly different conclusions.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North says:

                North, I wish that were so, but we’re actually very far apart, seems to me. Your view is that there is no risk in not impeaching Trump; that only doing so is risky. My view is that Pelosi’s mixed-message jibberings about Trump self-impeaching and other assorted nonsense is a tremendously risky move on her part. The only reason it appears less risky than impeachment (to her and you I think) is because the polls *right now* show Dem candidates beating Trump in hypothetical matchups.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                I think that Mister Miyagi had some wisdom to offer on this:

                I think that Impeachment is similar. Going for Impeachment boldly is a good move. Not going for Impeachment at all is a good move. Going for Impeachment guess-so? Bad move. Squish like grape.

                If the argument is between Yes and No, there are good arguments for both. Maybe more good arguments for Yes than for No.

                Between Guess-so and No? No has a *LOT* more good arguments in favor of it than Guess-so does.Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

              IIRC there are studies that show the public will follow party leaders. The impeachment proceeding logic right now seems to be part pragmatic (It will die in the Senate) and partially politicians following the polls.

              Pelosi made her cryptic “self-impeachment” comment which read to me as “He is shooting himself in the foot, the people will see this, and vote accordingly in 2020 (hopefully).” This is weak tea. There is another argument that the House is doing impeachment proceedings in all but name.

              I don’t see what is wrong with Pelosi going on TV and explaining that the House is forced to Impeach despite the fact it will die in McConnel’s partisan Senate and then explain that Trump’s defiance and contempt of Congress violates the Constitution, makes him act like a dictator, and this cannot stand.

              This is not quite the GOP and Clinton in 1998 and that might be misremembered anyway because impeachment did not begin until after the midterms.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Sure, maybe the impeachment proceedings will swing the publics opinion around on the matter. Maybe outrage will grow so great that McConnel has to flip on Trump to try and save his Senate majority. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

                Or maybe it’ll be viewed the way impeachment was in ’98 or worse. Maybe it’ll turn out the Trumpkins who’d otherwise be pretty sullen at Trumps fishing them over on policy and failing at every promise he made. Maybe, maybe, maybe.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

                What, if anything, will make you think this is an emergency situation? Why is the Democratic response only limited to timidity? Every reactionary, sexist, red-state , legislature is passing near-total abortion bans because they think (probably with a good amount of justification) that they can get a 5-4 vote on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe.

                I get that the Democratic Party has lots of centerists. That is fine. But there is a difference between being a centerist and being in denial about Roberts and the Supreme Court and it shouldn’t take an actual overturn of Roe to make people say “Golly gee, I guess I was wrong.”Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Impeachment is a tool for use against Trump for high crimes etc etc.. It isn’t a tool to use because we don’t like the way Trumps judges are ruling on abortion (as horrific as that is).
                It’d help if we had something red hot to impeach Trump over. Tell me honestly Saul, what’s the simple impeachment issue that you can explain to the low info voter that’s gonna make them go “Oh yeah, impeach the fisher.”? Procedural fuckups, violations of campaign finance law, blatantly obstructing justice? Yes, that’s three times as many things as the GOP tried to impeach Bill Clinton over but is that the bar we want to set? Slightly better than the fishing republicans?

                Look, I agree with InMD; Trump- primarily through sheer hapless incompetence, remains nowhere near as harmful as W Bush was to the welfare of this country. If we pull the trigger on impeachment and it blows up in our faces then we could end up with Trump and the GOP for another five years. What will that do to abortion rights or anything else?

                As to your question: What would make me think this is an emergency situation? Something that rises to an emergency level how about? Trumps violated all kinds of procedural laws and is massively corrupt- yeah, but he hasn’t managed to dent the foundations of the republic yet. He hasn’t caused a crisis yet.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

                Trump and McConnell seem to be appointing reactionary firebrand judges at a clipper pace. Now Trump is just rubber stamping lists from the Federalist Society but he is remaking our courts and in ways that I think will hamper progressive legislation for decades to come.

                Trump’s incompetence saved us from a lot of things but he is still putting kids in cages and is hellbent on xenophobic racism.

                Trump’s obstruction of justice and sheet chutzpah at defying Congressional subpoenas and investigations is a constitutional crisis. It tells other Presidents that they can do the same with impunity. He is enshrining “ITOKWYAR” without saying it.

                The problem with centerists isn’t that they are skeptical about Universal Healthcare or Warren’s College Plan. The problem with centerists is that they are so sure of the safety of democratic norms and institutions that you can kill it through a thousand paper cuts with them.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                If Trump is a xenophobic racist, why’d he marry a foreigner? Why are his grandchildren Jewish?

                Second, even Mueller couldn’t say that Trump obstructed justice. Barr explained why the case doesn’t exist, and any jury would laugh at it.

                Some of the subpoenas are an abuse of power that Barr may choose to prosecute, as Democrat committees are knowingly trying to force executive branch officials to violate federal law, which is solicitation to commit a crime, usually punished one step below the crime itself. They have no case on the Mueller redactions because the DC Circuit has been quite clear on the protections for 6(e) grand jury materials.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to George Turner says:

                Seeing an alleged right winger type this stuff after all the years of the GOP congresses Benghazi and other similar imaginary investigations is pretty cute George. Barr isn’t going to prosecute because Congress can investigate whatever it damn well chooses as the GOP very thoroughly demonstrated when they were running it.

                Saul, I think there’s a perfectly fine impeachment case on the merits. But that case doesn’t strike me as one that the public can be easily aroused to outrage over. It’s basically Clintons obstruction of justic allegations times ten (which still makes it not very compelling to the public) and a lot of corruption and venality that, while outrageous to leftists is merely distasteful to centrists and is something right inclined voters can ignore.

                But really, as Stillwater concluded above, I’m just with Pelosi thinking the odds are 55-45% in favor of not impeaching as a path to maximize odds in 2020 while Stillwater and you think the odds are 55-45% in favor of impeaching now as a path to maximizing odds in 2020.

                It’s a close call on the political/practical merits.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

                George is never worth reading unless someone wants a master class in bad-faith arguments and mental gymnastics.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Again, where in the Mueller report was the obstruction of justice? He pointed to some instances that might, if the circumstances were different, indicate obstruction, but the case just isn’t there. To make an obstruction case you have to have “corrupt intent”, which the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, they couldn’t even convince a jury that it was likely. Then you have to prove the justice was obstructed, or could have been obstructed. Again, the case would fail that test because justice was never obstructed, nor would it have been obstructed by anything Mueller looked into, such as firing Mueller, who would have been replaced by another Special Council who would have picked up right where Mueller left off. And for the broader reading Mueller was hinting at, you have to have an ongoing or potential court proceeding that is being obstructed. There was none.

                In contrast, Hillary was wiping evidence that was already under subpoena, which is destruction of evidence. She altered e-mails she did turn over, which is tampering with evidence. She had her staff destroy their phones with hammers. And the FBI people Barr is likely going to indict violated federal criminal procedures to let her skate, for political reasons, which is obstruction of justice.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

                Again, where in the Mueller report was the obstruction of justice?

                The SC office was governed by the OLC memo against indicting a sitting president. Mueller didn’t punt the ball to Barr to decide, he punted to Congress because he was prevented from indicting. Ask yourself this: why hasn’t Trump been charged by SDNY as a co-conspirator in crimes Cohen is already serving jail time for?

                {Answer: DOJ policy against indicting sitting POTUS’s}Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Stillwater says:

                Both Mueller, in the report, and Barr said that the DoJ’s indictment policy had no bearing on the decision not to recommend bringing a case, even though Mueller and his team spent apparently a year trying to find any evidence that would support bringing one.

                Democrats intent on pursuing impeachment encountered the same problem. There’s just no winnable case there. So a couple days ago the top Democrats have said that impeachment is no longer a possibility that they would pursue.

                I know Democrats, CNN, and MSNBC kept promising everybody that Trump was going to be impeached and frog marched off to prison, but at this point, that is just a delusion and the leadership is slowly trying to break the news to all the true believers without suffering a vicious backlash.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

                From the Mueller report:

                “Given the role of the special counsel as an attorney in the Department of Justice and the framework of the special counsel regulations… this office accepted OLC’s legal conclusion for the purpose of exercising prosecutorial jurisdiction.”Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Stillwater says:

                Read on, because if your reading was the case regarding obstruction, there wouldn’t have been a “part 2” of the report, which would also have come out a year earlier, long prior to the midterms.

                Mueller said that the OLC’s conclusion did not affect their opinions or recommendations on whether obstruction occurred, they just accepted that it wasn’t up to the DoJ to actually make an indictment.

                Mueller then went on to say he couldn’t exonerate Trump, which is beyond bizarre because prosecutors never exonerate anybody. They just recommend charges or they don’t. He chose not to recommend.

                Prosecutors almost never say the target of investigation didn’t commit a crime because that could leave egg on their face if they missed something, even another crime that nobody suspected.

                As many commentators have said, the second part of the report shouldn’t even exist, because once the first part found there was no collusion, there was nothing left to investigate because Trump wouldn’t have had anything to cover up.

                That would also be an obvious speed bump during impeachment hearings. All Trump could have possibly obstructed was an ongoing coup attempt or smear campaign by elements of the FBI and DoJ.Report

          • Avatar Jesse in reply to Stillwater says:

            When has the “best” a party can offer actually been the nominee for the party? Not actually all that often, when looking back at history. Even when they win.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jesse says:

              Bill Clinton was a great candidate. Obama was a great candidate. Even Carter was a, well, pretty great candidate (not a great President). Gore, Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Biden not so much.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Biden led the pack in fundraising in 1987 (yes, he’s started running for President almost before most voters were born), but then he got dragged down when he was seen to be plagiarizing the best bits of speeches from RFK, Hubert Humphrey, and Labor’s Neil Kinnock, and then people found out he’d plagiarized in law school, so he didn’t even make it to Iowa. He tried again in 2008 and got 0.9% in Iowa, coming in fifth behind Bill Richardson, Hillary, John Edwards, and Obama.

      Biden never did anything notable as Vice President after that showing, so I would say his current lead says less about Biden than the weakness of the entire pack running against him. I think he would still trail behind Bill Richardson, Michael Dukakis, Dick Gephardt, Al Gore, BIll Bradley, Tom Harkin, Paul Tsongas, Bob Kerrey, Jerry Brown, Bruce Babbitt, John Kerry, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or Michelle Obama. If Dwayne Johnson, George Clooney, Tom Hanks, or Robert Downey Jr. wanted to jump in on a lark, they’d have a good shot at winning the nomination just by being fresh, centrist, well known, extremely likable, charismatic, and sane, and not pandering to dominate the Dennis Kucinich lane.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      In other words does well with everyone that always votes.Report

  6. I will make bets today that if the Dem nominee in 2020 is from the northeast urban corridor, they lose the general election.Report

  7. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Good piece. One wildcard is something I saw from Nate Silver earlier today.

    According to Silver, the Dem nomination process doesn’t have a lot of winner take all primaries/caucuses. So, if down the strech, Biden is still only getting 30ish percent of the vote, Sanders 20ish percent, Warren 20ish (or 30 ish) and The Field getting the remaining 20-30 – or that being distributed evenly between the 3 as people drop out – the Dems go late into the campaign season (or the convention(!)) with no one having the majority of delegates and the nomination locked up.

    I.e. who blinks first between Biden, Warren, ans Sanders?Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to Kolohe says:

      I have no idea. One thing that really is striking to me is that I think Sanders has made a ton of unforced errors, maybe because he’s trying to rerun his 2016 campaign.

      And Warren hasn’t really caught on, to my personal disappointment.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Kolohe says:

      A brokered convention? The media figures pass out collectively in sheer delight?

      I dunno, I have a hunch that as the winnowing starts scything in earnest that people may pile on to the perceived front runner. Bernie, for instance, has really high negatives. Assuming that he’ll get an even share of the support from other non-Bernie candidates as they drop out seems like a dubious proposition. Success tends to draw money and votes in like gravity.

      I just feel like a brokered convention is unlikely. For one thing we political obsessives (and especially the political media) don’t deserve nice things so I think a just cosmos would deny us a brokered convention on that basis alone.Report

  8. Avatar pillsy says:

    Great article. I’m a pretty big Biden skeptic (in that I think he’s less likely to win than he looks and in that I don’t think he’d be a very good nominee), but you make a strong case.

    I do think one thing that makes his lead seem so commanding is the inability of the more Leftward wing of the party to coalesce around a single candidate.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to pillsy says:

      It seems to me like the debates may end up being pretty important. It’ll be interesting to see if the other candidates go after Biden and how Joe’s message discipline and demeanor under fire holds up.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to North says:

        The thing is Biden is actually a really good debater. It’s the flip side of being a gaffe machine: he’s always off the cuff, so when he’s talking to the press he puts his foot in it a lot, but during debates he’s in his element while his more polished opponents aren’t.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to pillsy says:

          Hmmm… that’s an interesting point! It just makes me appreciate the primary process more. If Biden can get through this primary I would think that hammering the tang out of Trump will be a comparatively simple prospect.Report

        • Avatar Jesse in reply to pillsy says:

          Yeah, people forget that part of why people warmed up to Biden in ’08 to begin with was his ‘noun, verb, and 9/11’ destruction of Rudy during one of the first debates.

          Well, and his disembowelment of Serious Wonk Paul Ryan in 2012.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Jesse says:

            My heart glows in my chest every time I think about how Biden savaged Ryan in 2012; oh and Clint Eastwood bellowing at a chair at the GOP convention while ol’ Bill slid the knife under the republicans ribs with a smile at the Democratic convention.
            Yeah negative partisanship is a heady thing.Report

          • Avatar George Turner in reply to Jesse says:

            CNN’s 2012 post Vice Presidential debate poll of 381 registered voters had 48% saying Ryan won it to 44% saying Biden won it.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to pillsy says:

      As I said above, Biden leads among all Democratic groups except Democrats under 40. If Biden is smart and disciplined, he is going to run the Obama nostalgia tour and that is a huge bit of catnip to a lot of people right now especially Democrats in early middle-age or older.

      The left has problem coalescing around a candidate because each left candidate is going left in different ways. Bernie gonna Bernie. I’m more in the Warren camp. Harris too.Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird says:

    One big question is this:

    Was Clinton, like, historically bad? Like was she *SO* bad at this that any given Replacement-Level Democrat would not have lost Wisconsin, Michigan, or Pennsylvania?

    If so, hell yeah, Biden could flip Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania back! We need to have a conversation about Ohio!

    Could (insert your favorite here)?

    Yes. Yang could.

    Could Harris? Klobuchar? Schultz?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      Of course if Hillary Clinton is good at this and it was the Russians, well, we just have to harden our voting booths.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

      We can all agree that Clinton definitely would’ve handled that old white dude easily if it hadn’t been for the scurrilous interference of that other old white dude.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

        If Clinton was historically bad, we might be worrying about nothing at all. Could Biden beat Trump? Sure! Could Harris beat Trump? Of course! Could Yang beat Trump? Oh, mais oui!

        We only have to wrestle with why we weren’t able to tell at the time.

        (Of course, if Clinton were historically bad, it’s fun to ask whether she would have beaten Jeb! or Rubio! or Cruz!… and see Yep, Nope, and Maybe. And come to conclusions about that.)Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

          Oh, I think Clinton could have beaten Trump. Even with the email thing she came within a Jill-Stein-Voters percentage of pulling it off (the real lesson of 2016 is that Clinton spent her juice wrong, instead of quashing Comey’s investigation she should have had Stein locked up). If she hadn’t assumed the Blue Wall was a thing, if she had played the game instead of playing the next game (spending her money running up the popular vote to legitimize her win instead of spending it making sure that she’d have a win to legitimize).

          Of course, if she couldn’t figure out that very basic aspect of political activity, maybe we’re better off without her in office. At least with Trump we have no illusions as to his competence and nobody saying that we’re Misogynist Haters for disagreeing with his plans.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

      I think she was ordinary bad, not historically bad, had challenging fundamentals, and extremely bad luck.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to pillsy says:

        I tend to agree with this.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

        How we doin’ on fundamentals this time?
        How are the Luck reserves doing?Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

          Really terrible on fundamentals. Luck reserves remain to be seen.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

          Economy is good so that’s a plus for Trump.
          Purity politics are most likely quiescent (unless they buck historic trends but I don’t see it so far, otherwise Biden wouldn’t poll so well) so that’s a negative for Trump.
          Trumps pretty much accomplished nothing except his tax cut which the country dislikes so that’s a negative for Trump.
          But he’s gotten a whole mess of conservative judges through so that’s a positive for Trump.
          Foreign Policy? Who the fish knows.
          Trump factor is kind of a muddle. Trump and his party spent his first term fishing the voters who supported him up the ass (healthcare repeal, trade war hammering farmers, tax cut primarily tilted to the very wealthy, no recovery of manufacturing or coal) so that’s a negative for Trump but Trump sends the very visible left into frothing fits which would be a positive for Trump with those same voters.
          A pretty persuasive argument could be made that Trump will be difficult to challenge except his approval ratings are the opposite of what they should be given his political environment.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

            I’m kind of inclined to agree that Trump is likely to lose in 2020… except at this point in 2015, I’m pretty sure that I was still full in “Trump’s a buffoon, why are we even talking about him?” mode. (Wait, he didn’t announce until June 2015… Jeez Louise, that was a million years ago.)

            The Democrats had a Blue Wave in 2018. They picked up a lot of seats, not only on the national level, but on the state level too. Remember me talking about Republicans winning 1000 seats between 2008 and 2016? Well, Democrats won 308 seats on the state level. My yardstick for merely regression to the mean was within 10% of 150. NOBODY could look at 308 and not say “blue wave”.

            So Democrats definitely have momentum.

            And it feels like Trump has broken something. I don’t know that The Republican Machine that is so very good at destroying Northeastern Liberal Democrats works anymore. It may have broken slaying Hillary.

            Looking at Trump’s approval numbers, I’m relatively confident that he’d lose against Generic Democrat.

            And then I look at the Democrats and notice than none are Generic.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

              I really do agree that it felt like HRC and the “right wing conspiracy” machine died together, plunging locked at each others throats into a burning explosion.

              And Trump definitely feels like a major symptom of some thing broken on the right, I agree. The GOP’s elite and the GOP’s voters have such a yawning gap between them on what they want. We can sneer at the Dems for their various (very real) deficiencies but their elite and their voting base generally point in the same direction policy wise. They only differ on degree and strategy.

              And yes, I constantly remind myself about 2016. Sure a number of things put their thumbs on the scale against HRC but the fundamental point was she never should have let it get so close that a thumb on the scale would tip it. So yeah, humility is warranted.

              I dunno, Biden strikes me as pretty generic Democrat policy wise at least. But that age and that hands on habit of his. Oi.Report

  10. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    A lot of the handicapping seems to miss what I think is the biggest issue, which is that regardless of whether Trump wins or loses, the election almost certainly won’t be a landslide. He will almost certainly get at least 40% of the votes cast

    Which is what I find so sobering.

    What’s going on in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and Missouri doesn’t have a damn thing to do with Trump other than his acquiescence to the Federalist Society judge list.

    They also don’t have a damn thing to do with HRC either.

    I find it disheartening to grasp that around 40 percent of Americans either really, really like what is happening, or find it so unthreatening and that they can’t be bothered to act against it.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Maybe I’m being obtuse but assuming similar turnout as 2016 40% would still be a little less than a quarter of eligible voters. He has a coalition of Christian conservatives fighting a rearguard action in a war they’ve lost, disgruntled blue collar types with some legitimate, some illegitimate gripes about globalization, immigration, and the neoliberal political class, and the people dyed so red they’d vote R if the nominee was a possum. Which isn’t to say it’s nothing but nor is it unprecedented. Some European countries have been dealing with similar stuff (not always successfully of course) since the Berlin wall fell.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to InMD says:

        He got just under 50% of the votes cast in 2016.
        I’m not seeing a massive dropoff in his support. Even among farmers who are being hurt by his trade war, he remains pretty popular.

        I would love to see a 1964 shellacking, or even a 1980 wave election. But I think even the most rosy scenario is a narrow win for the Dems, and the Senate as it is.

        I think this is why so much of this horserace forecasting bothers me. It assumes there is some One Weird Trick or magic incantation which will usher in a New New Deal coalition.
        It assumes that deep down, almost all Americans are like us and want pretty much the same things.

        How many Never Trumpers, “True Conservatives”, “Respectable Republicans” or whatever you want to call them, are aghast and horrified at the various bans on abortion?
        How many see pictures of immigrant children sleeping on the ground and tear up the GOP membership?

        Aside from the David Frums and Max Boots, almost everyone with any sort of standing in the GOP has fallen to kneel before Trump, because he commands the party base.

        Air Force One could splash into the sea tomorrow, and the GOP would just find another Trump who would likely get the same number of votes.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          2018 was a pretty good wave for the Democrats in the House. They aren’t as left as you or Zak but there are plenty of suburban moms that are appalled by Trump. These are the voters that helped the Democrats regain the House in 2018. Polling numbers show lots of Americans say that they will not vote for Trump in 2020.

          He is clearly unpopular but everyone wants to be an Eeyore about it because Eeyorism is a natural state for the left and/or they are programmed never to give credit to Democrats because that is ewww and icky.

          I think the hardcore stance state legislatures are taking against abortion will hurt them in a “they really are leopards that eat people” kind of way. Damage will be done. I’m not denying that but Eeyorism seems a bit too much here. Maybe best to prepare for the worse though.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            Like I said, I alternate between Eeyore and Pollyanna depending on the time of day.

            The optimistic take is that Trumpists existed all through the entire New Deal era of progressive dominance.

            The pessimistic take is that Trumpists existed all through the entire New Deal era of progressive dominance.Report

  11. Avatar Zac Black says:

    Biden getting the nomination feels like a nightmare scenario. Either he loses and we get four more years of horror, or he wins and we either get the Democratic leadership convincing themselves that tacking to the center was what the populace really wanted (as opposed to just the fraction that actually votes), or a civil war (if Trump refuses to leave office, which I still think is a strong possibility).Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Zac Black says:

      According to the latest CNN polls, Biden v. Trump has Biden winning and winning by a larger percentage than any other candidate.

      The problem with this is what incentive does any political party have to listen to citizens that don’t vote. The answer is none.

      We established above:

      1. Biden is popular with all Democratic Party identifiers except voters under 40;

      2. Voters under 40 are not regular voters and seem to need extreme wooing and thrilling before most of them go to the polls. When I was a poll monitor for HRC in Reno in 2016, most of the young voters were mainly there because there was a pot legalization referendum. You need to come out and vote for more than that.

      Extremely Online Twitter Dems seemed shocked and horrified that Biden is popular. I think this is because they spend most of their time talking to themselves on Twitter instead of going to local meetings and discussing things with actual Democrats. This is the same thing with Bernie discovering his cranky socialist routine did not carry much water with older African-American voters in South (necessary for winning the nomination). The bigger portions of the Democratic Party base are suburban moms who are horrified by Trump and/or African-American women. They aren’t the Walker Bragmans or Jacobin readers of the world.

      I like AOC. I think Omar and Talib get bum wraps but all three women are from deep blue districts. The 2018 Democratic Wave happened because red seats switched blue and a lot of those votes came from moderate suburban moms, not young radicals. There are some notable exceptions where a true liberal won GA-6 from a Republican.

      The thing that annoys me about a lot of the anti-Biden memes on facebook is that they are treating the Democratic Party like it is an entity that they want to control and dominate but not be a part of. There is no super-secret central committee that says “Biden is going to be the nominee and you will like it.” Biden is one of many candidates running. Don’t like it, register to vote in the primaries/caucuses, go to local meetings, organize for the candidate that you do like, knock on doors, phone bank, etc.

      But this is much harder work and much more boring than making snarky memes on social media that claim conspiracy.Report

      • Avatar Zac Black in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Yeah, to be clear, I’m not *surprised* by any of this, and I agree with pretty much everything you’re saying here. The whole Biden thing was fairly predictable. It just sucks.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Zac Black says:

          I am saying it doesn’t have to be if young people voted more frequently. They don’t. They will come up with endless excuses as why not to. Including getting laid is a good reason to miss voting.Report

          • Yep.

            It doesn’t get much easier than Colorado. We still only have about 90% of persons eligible to vote actually registered. You can update your address in about 60 seconds from your phone; the ballot is delivered in the mail; you can return it by dropping it in any mailbox you happen to pass. Or if you prefer, you can go vote in person, and register same day. Of those registered, we still only get about 75% to vote in presidential years, 65% in off years. Like everywhere, the non-participants skew younger.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        It’s a bit thick to suggest that Millions And Millions Of Votes Mean The Country WANTS MY PLAN, and to then turn around and say that millions and millions of non-voters are irrelevant because they didn’t vote.

        A non-voter is still a vote, it’s just a vote for “Not You”.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

          But it’s also a vote for “Not Not You”.

          If they think the issue is irrelevant, or are indifferent to the outcome, why not take them at their word? Or vote, as it were?Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to pillsy says:

            My point is that if you have ten people, and three say “yes” and two “no” and the other five say nothing, then you can’t use “the majority of voters chose me, therefore my agenda is justified by the will of the people” because the majority of voters didn’t choose you.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

              Who’s going to stop me, the people who don’t care?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to pillsy says:

                If you’re going to tell me that Everyone Voted For You And That’s Why I Should Agree Your Idea Is Right, then it undercuts your reasoning if it turned out that, actually, very few people voted for you.

                I’m not sure how differently I can put this. You seem to be of the impression that not voting = 100% on the winner’s side. Please don’t assume that, because I wrote in “Sanders” on my ballot, I therefore support Donald Trump.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

                No, I think that “not voting” is “100% not on anybody’s side”.

                If all the people who voted, voted for me, and all the people who didn’t are really mad that I’m assuming their silence means consent for my policy agenda, I’ll find our in due course, and rather forcefully.

                Otherwise, meh.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Yeah one of the quixotic things about non-voting is it often is simply a sign that the non-voters think political matters are adequate and consider the stakes too low to bother voting over. Of course it can also be a sign that the voters think the system is rigged and their votes don’t matter (see the Russian elections) but I don’t think that’s the case in the US. Ya know what drives voter turn out? Crisis, like real ones.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

            This might be too elaborate and sanguine. There are 320 million people in the U.S. and they vote or don’t vote for all sorts of reasons.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to North says:

            Here there’s at least weak statistical evidence that having a controversial initiative item on the ballot drives turnout up.

            Initiatives are fine at the state level. I wouldn’t trust one at the federal level (at least not without a whopping super-majority requirement).Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Michael Cain says:

              Yup, put something that makes voters think their skin is in the game directly and turnout hops up.
              I, also, would blanch at the idea of federal voter initiatives.Report

            • Avatar Jesse in reply to Michael Cain says:

              Considering Republicans (as we’ve seen in Michigan & Florida) seem to be perfectly OK ignoring initiatives that pass they don’t like, my feelings on statewide initiatives have gotten even lower.

              Also, turnout in European general elecitons is higher than here, even without intiatives. Probably helps you don’t have vote for 9,464 offices and 3,156 initiatives every election cycle.

              You’ve got a couple things to vote for – tops.Report

    • Avatar Jesse in reply to Zac Black says:

      If the fraction that doesn’t vote doesn’t vote, putting aside people who want to vote, but can’t because of circumstances out of their control, then they sort of in my view, give up any reason to complain, especially when in 2020, it’s not like they’re bereft of choices. This isn’t the 2004 Democratic Primary, where well rated by the NRA Howard Dean is on the Left because he opposed the Iraq War.

      Plus, it’s not as if we had compulsory voting, there’d suddenly be this secret left-wing majority that comes to pass. It’s simply not borne out by the data (at best, non-voters in America are a tick to the left of the voting populace), and plus, in a country somewhat culturally similar to ours with compulsory voting (Austraila), the left-leaning party there is to the left of Joe Biden, but you could argue they’re also to the right of Bernie & Warren.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jesse says:

        Not only do they give up any reason to complain, for the most part they aren’t going to be particularly motivated to complain.

        There are exceptions (people are occasionally crushed by pessimism, or have some sort of ideological commitment that they feel bars them from voting), but really this idea that people who don’t vote care deeply about political outcomes doesn’t make a lot of sense.Report

        • Avatar Jesse in reply to pillsy says:

          Yeah, the vast majority of people don’t vote because they aren’t effected by the change in policies directly. If your life has largely been the same through Dubya, Obama, and Trump (which is true of millions of mostly white people), it doesn’t feel like some sort of crisis out in let’s say, exurban Wisconsin.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Jesse says:

        then they sort of in my view, give up any reason to complain,

        I think this is a really pernicious view. We can consider how absurd it is if we look at an extreme case. Suppose some jewish German citizens in the 1920s had not gone to the polls (perhaps they didn’t think that the Nazis would really go through with it). Would they have no complaint at all when they were being rounded up and thrown into concentration camps? It would be difficult to even claim with a straight face that those Jews who could have but did not vote in the German elections had less reason to complain than those who did vote. If its true of Nazi Germany that Jews who did not vote had just as much reason to complain as those who did, then its unclear why those who are unjustly treated now have less reason to complain if they did not vote than those who did vote.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Murali says:

          Personally, I don’t think that Jesse has the right to complain about Trump, if he didn’t change parties in order to vote for Jeb in the primaries.

          It’s like the people who complain about everybody talking about Game of Thrones on twitter. If you didn’t watch it, you don’t get to complain.

          I also don’t like it when McDonald’s brings back the McRib and my timeline is nothing but “McRib! McRib! McRib” for three days.Report

        • Avatar Jesse in reply to Murali says:

          I mean, more about the primaries than the general.

          But even then, I’m not the person to make that moral argument, but yes, I bet if you were a Jew arriving in Israel in 1946 who didn’t vote in the German elections that you were eligible for, you likely kept that fact quiet.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Murali says:

          We can consider how absurd it is if we look at an extreme case.

          Or it’s a good heuristic that breaks down in extreme cases.Report

          • Avatar Murali in reply to pillsy says:

            See, I’m not sure it is. Normally, I don’t think that lefties have all things considered good reason for many of their first-order political beliefs so they probably don’t have good reason to complain if they don’t win whether or not they actually voted. But, suppose that lefties were in fact correct about all their beliefs about justice. Then, it seems that someone like Biden is bad regardless of whether a given lefty voted. In that case the lefty has just as much reason to complain if she didn’t vote as she would if she had voted.

            As a heuristic, I put myself in the shoes of a libertarian potential voter. A libertarian who voted has just as much reason to complain about statism as one who did not vote. That is because statism is just as morally problematic either way. The mere fact that said voter did not vote does not bear one way or other on the moral seriousness of statism.

            Mutatis mutandis its unclear what moral principle could even connect, on the one hand participation in some decision-making/legitimation ritual and reasons to complain about injustice.

            The closest we could come to is something like: People who could have but failed to prevent an injustice lack standing to complain about said injustice.

            But such a principle is problematic. For one, it seems to license victim blaming in a lot of cases. e.g. if someone is date-raped, then she could have prevented that by not going out drinking. Therefore, according to the principle she lacks standing to complain.
            But victim blaming is problematic precisely because it absolves the rapist of any responsibility. The principle as stated above seems to do the same thing. If anyone is responsible for Biden’s or Trump’s awfulness, it is Biden or Trump, not some bunch of non-voters. Causal antecedence is insufficient for moral responsibility. And it is far from obvious that moral responsibility for injustice undermines standing to complain about that injustice. Even if moral responsibility for injustice does undermine standing to complain about that injustice (for instance a person who murders her parents lacks standing to complain about being an orphan) the degree of responsibility of each voter is so small that the difference it makes to their standing to complain cannot be significantly impaired.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Murali says:

              Mutatis mutandis its unclear what moral principle could even connect, on the one hand participation in some decision-making/legitimation ritual and reasons to complain about injustice.

              The principle that we should provide incentives for people to participate in democratic processes in ways that are more, rather than less, effective, and not voting while complaining is an incredibly ineffective way to participate. Indeed, the US Left’s long habit of spotty participation in Democratic Party politics has a lot to do with its marginalization as a political force.

              If we take democracy seriously, we should generally want people who are invested in political outcomes to participate in ways that are effective, ceteris paribus, right? And discouraging complaint without even the bare minimum level of effective participation tends to serve that end.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Murali says:

          That is a an extreme example. Here, we are discussing people who are shocked and horrified by Biden’s popularity* but don’t want to do anything about it but snarky memes. That doesn’t seem quite right. It has a bit of too cool for school about it.

          *I think it is largely name recognition at this point and most people, even loyal and partisan voters, do not pay attention to politics that closely.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            I’m curious about the “low information voter” narrative. Seems to me that the voting populace is more aware of politics than political junkies think, so I’ve always found that narrative self-serving, condescending and false, myself. Granted, most people don’t know the specific statute requiring Mnuchin to turn over Trump’s tax returns to the House, but they’re very clear that he’s either a) violating the law or b) hip enough to adopt Trump and Barr’s lie that such a request serves no legitimate legislative purpose etc and so on.

            There are lots of low information people who don’t vote, but most people who do aren’t low information except by the standards of the elites. I mean, if “low information” means “believes things that aren’t true” then the majority of the Fox watching, Rush listening GOP base are low information voters. But that seems like an absurd conclusion. They have *plenty* of political information.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Stillwater says:

              I once had an incredibly painful dinner out, listening to the people the next table over have a long argument over which party controlled the House of Representatives.

              Pretty sure they were low information voters.

              However, you’re right that partisans tend to be higher information voters, even if their partisanship leads them to believe many things that aren’t so.

              Regardless, I think calling Dem primary voters who are favorably disposed to Biden based on name recognition and familiarity “low information” rather silly. Getting invested in the primary this early isn’t useful unless you’re a committed activist of some sort, a politics junkie, or both.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to pillsy says:

                Compare the phrase “low information voter” to “low information math user” or “low information computer user”.

                The idea that some voters (and in some people’s views it’s most voters) make their decisions based on insufficient information makes me wonder what constitutes sufficient information. I mean, you know more about computers than I do, but that doesn’t make my computer use *right now* less valid than yours. Same with casting a vote. People have their reasons, and at the end of the day those reasons are just as compelling, and just as justified, as a high information person’s reasons. I mean, it’s just a vote!Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Stillwater says:

                People have their reasons, but I would argue that, “Voting against the incumbent because one is annoyed that one’s football team lost last night,” is, in fact, not as valid a reason as, “Voting against the incumbent because the incumbent is of the opposing political party,” or even, “Voting against the incumbent because the general state of the economy gives you agita.”

                And I think the last is a vote rooted in an incredibly bad (and dismayingly common) folk theory of economics. But at least it’s about something.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to pillsy says:

                Is voting against the incumbent because of a football loss what people mean by “low information voters”? Seems to me it isn’t.

                On the other hand, voting for the incumbent because the general state of the economy strikes them as good is equally “low information” as doing the opposite as in your example, but it’s viewed by high information voters as politically savvy.

                Seems to me that the term “low information voter” is used by people who view themselves as highly informed to refer to people who don’t prioritize their policy critieria the *right* way.

                That said, if the term “low information voter” just means “people who are really fucking stupid” then I’m willing to concede that those people’s justifications are really fucking stupid.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Stillwater says:

                Is voting against the incumbent because of a football loss what people mean by “low information voters”? Seems to me it isn’t.

                :shrug:

                That’s my understanding of the term. I will concede it’s possible that I am using it in a way that is idiosyncratic, but if so I am doing so unintentionally.Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater says:

              There are lots of studies that show people are not aware of whom their local reps are. That is pretty low information.

              Even many politically aware types don’t spend their free time writing on blogsReport

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                So what? Would knowing the person’s name mean that their vote is more justified than otherwise?

                I mean, obviously it’s easy to make fun of a person who voted solely because of a candidate’s party affiliation and didn’t care about that person’s name, but I’m pretty sure we’ve all done that. Eg, I voted for the Republican Secretary of State in Colorado because the Boulder Weekly told me to. I have no idea what that person’s name is.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Stillwater says:

                Huh? No, voting party line is actually a decent way to vote. Less so in local elections, but certainly when it comes for statewide or federal offices that’s great.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to pillsy says:

                voting party line is actually a decent way to vote.

                Doing that is as low information as it could possibly get.

                “No, I’m a *high* information party line voter.”Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Stillwater says:

                I’m inclined to disagree. It’s the single most informative thing you can know about a candidate in many circumstances!Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to pillsy says:

                I think you’ve made my point for me. 🙂Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I would note that the vast majority of elected judges are probably in office because of low-information voters, because not that many voters would have personal or even second-hand knowledge of a candidate’s judicial philosophy or how they run their courtroom, and those that do might not be the ones you want electing judges.

                You could speculate that maybe 5% of the voters have a knowledgeable basis for their choice, and 95% are just picking the best-sounding or most familiar looking name.Report

              • Avatar Jesse in reply to George Turner says:

                It’s almost like electing judges, just like electing law enforcement officials, is a terrible idea or something.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                It can be. There was an elected judge in Claiborne County Tennessee when I was working there who was busted by the FBI for corruption. If you had a case before his court you could get off by bringing him a stringer of fish or some rabbits, unless the charge was something serious like attempted murder, in which case a nice deer would do.

                He hadn’t even gone to college, much less law school. I hope they tightened up the requirements since then.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jesse says:

        FTR, I am *not going to vote* (I already know this) in this primary, because homie don’t play caucuses. (And knowing this really makes observing and commenting on this race much lower stress and more enjoyable, fwiw.) And, as much as I like him and have a degree of satisfied told-you-so attitude (no one will know wth I’m talking about on that except maybe a few, but just trust me), I would not be a Biden voter. So I am one of those under-40s (okay, well, I still think of myself as such) who will not be showing up to derail Biden, but who would help to do so if I were somehow gotten to show up.

        But I absolutely do not relinquish my right to complain if whoever wins Fs it up. You can’t make me! If they do F it up, you will hear from me.

        So I don’t know, but it seems like leftists should maybe take a look at working to change things like caucuses, closed primaries, and restrictive party registration rules if they want to find a way to maximize neutralization of centrist establishment power in the D party. (Though OTOH, in the last two contested primaries the more leftist, or at least the less establishment-y alternative was aided where there were less-proportional caucus processes versus simple primaries. I didn’t vote in those either; I just free-rode, knowing that my preferred candidate was going to get a boost from them.)Report

  12. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Imagine how strong the polling would have been if he’d run when he was merely too old at 72 (and the sitting vice president of a popular, scandal-free, historic Democratic two-term president), rather than when he was grotesquely too old and out of office at 76…

    …But in fact he was a laughingstock in his party and nudged aside by his president for someone else at that moment.Report

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