Joe Biden ran Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He appears to have done so with a little more success – not very much, but enough.
This strategy was summarized in 2016 by international sex symbol Chuck Schumer: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”
It did not work then. It appears to have worked now. It must be considered whether it worked well enough, or shall work well enough, for it to be tried again.
The basis of this strategy was to appeal to middle-aged-to-retirement-age upper-middle-class white voters – e.g. the grillpilled chucklefucks and Hamilton winemoms of Raytheon Acres and The Mews At Windsor Heights. As opposed to younger, more educated, or nonwhite voters, whose anti-Trump sentiments were taken (!) for granted – or Liberty graduates and denizens of The Villages whose support was seen as beyond reach.
To court these people, I think that a focus upon things like “civility” and “norms” and “a return to better times” was not misguided. This is the Sorkin Set. Such things do appeal to them. Remember, we are talking about flipping votes. These people are already wearing MAGA hats. The basis of this electoral strategy is that it’s easier to get someone to turn their hat around than get them to put on a new one. Hence giving them what are, really, pretty MAGA-y sentiments – in spirit as well as in practice.
Moreover, this strategy appealed to wealthier caucasians without distressing their class interests. As might have been done by the candidacy of even a moderate socialist – call him Barney Sandals, if you’d like.
However, I expect that a large part of the calculus, here, was not on courting votes, but on courting money. For while the number of PMC honkies in America is not insignificant, their control of this nation’s wealth is ABSOLUTELY FUCKMOTHERINGLY PREPOSTEROUS. And their class interests are such that they would not only have failed to give to a socialistic campaign, they could well have turned against it.
(I see a similar logic in Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of Czarevitch Kennedy in his primary challenge against Ed Markey. It wasn’t because she preferred the Dauphin’s electoral chances. Or even his politics! It’s because she wanted to keep his family money flowing into the wider Democratic project. It probably helped that she thought Hyannisport’s Prince of Whales wasn’t likely to succeed regardless of her endorsement.) (Or, hell, even because of it.)
The strategy was well-executed. The question, then, is whether it was worth executing: whether another strategy would have done better, or will be necessary in the future.
Votes are still being counted, and yet, these points o’ salience have already emerged.
POINT: In Florida, voters rejected Joe Biden, but embraced a $15 minimum wage – one of his (only!) concrete campaign promises.
This suggests that a promise of even modest economic reforms might win considerable cross-party support among the multitudes of the emiserated – doubly so in the face of the unimpeded impoverishment of the working class resulting from the pandemic.
POINT: In California, a liberal electorate approved Prop 22 – so look forward to in-app purchases of the right of prima noctes with your DoorDash guy.
This suggests – as does so, so much – that the Democrats are a party of bosses and elites. They may tend towards new money instead of old; they may prefer Allbirds to Allen Edmonds. They still serve owner-class interests. This is no more true than it is of those across the aisle. It may even be marginally less true. But if the choice is between a lavish charade of populism, and a prattling splitting-of-hairs, I am not only unsurprised that people prefer the former; I can hardly begrudge them of it.
POINT: The Senate races in Maine, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Texas, cost Democratic donors a total of $310 million dollars. In Maine this came to about one hundred dollars per eligible voter. Which expense resulted in double-digit losses for each candidate – simultaneous to them underperforming their party’s presidential candidate by similar margins. Or as we in wonkworld refer to it, a fucking.
Combine these three datapoints, and my conclusion is that the best use of money in American politics is not on campaigns, but on policy. Rather than raise $2,800 per donor, promise to tax them by that much – or more! – and redistribute the wealth, either directly (via tax bracket balancing) or indirectly (through social programs). And the recipients of this redistribution will empower you to do so. And the recipients have the greater numbers.
(“For every Michael Bloomberg we lose, we pick up MIAMI-DADE.”)
There is still utility in fundraising. But perhaps it is different utility than before. Bernie’s legion of four dollar and twenty cent individual donations might not have swelled his war-chest like a Hollywood fundraiser or adrenochrome auction. But in representing voter intent, and driving buy-in and enthusiasm, they may have been more significant in predicting (or even determining!) the outcome of a subsequent election than the millions, even billions, his candidacy would have driven to the other side.
Added to the balance-sheet must be the number of Republican voters whose economic interests can be made to trump their cultural interests. For many, antipathy to the shitlibs was a luxury of times of plenty; they cannot afford it in COVID’s America. (While for others the opposite will be true. Hashtag disaster capitalism.)
For those who did vote against their economic interests, I submit that their hatred of elites was only intermittently well-founded – but if the recipients of their hatred can be pushed away from our side, I say, so much the better.
A party’s economic policies go a long way towards determining whether the wealthy will vote for them. It can also determine whether the wealthy will give money to them or to the others. But money doesn’t mean what it used to. The wealth held by the wealthy has grown; the size of their class has not. They carry great power. They do not carry it into elections any more. That is the lesson of 2020, and I for one can’t wait for the Democrats not to learn it.