Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump

 

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JOE BIDEN, Creative Commons

Who is electable?

That’s the question of the year for Democrats in 2020.

For insight on electability, the 2016 experience is instructive. Donald Trump appealed to a minority coalition of mostly white voters — voters seething with resentment because they felt disrespected and ignored by a prosperous, elitist urban America on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Donald Trump’s coalition was, and is, somewhat short of a majority. The resentment coalition included:

  • Southern whites
  • Residents of “flyover country”
  • Evangelical Christians

Those three groups do not constitute a majority.

Trump added to his coalition a necessary margin of voters in the upper Midwest. Not quite enough to make a true majority. But Trump’s Midwestern voters were strategically located to swing the Electoral College. That made Trump president in 2016. Can he do it again, or will one of the Democrats be more electable?

Bernie Sanders is gathering a coalition of the oppressed and left-out. That includes:

  • Voters of any age who feel mercilessly exploited by winner-take-all capitalism — the underemployed, underinsured, and over-indebted. Importantly, many younger Americans feel trapped at the bottom. They find hope in Bernie Sanders.
  • African-Americans who have always been — and remain — oppressed and exploited in America.
  • Latinos who feel downright unwelcome in Trump’s America.
  • Liberal white Democrats are supportive of the oppressed coalition.

Voila! It looks like a plausible Bernie Sanders majority.

Joe Biden can hold together the African-American and Latino parts of the oppressed coalition, and probably do even better with liberal white Democrats. But no one believes he can energize the younger generations the way Bernie can.

Elizabeth Warren could arguably hold together that same coalition of the oppressed, minorities, and liberal Democrats. Plus, she might increase participation of oppressed women. But her support among minorities and the young is unproven.

Young voters could destroy the Democratic Party in 2020 if they believe the nomination has been stolen from Bernie.

Unanswered questions

It is reasonable to question the electability of all three — Sanders, Warren and Biden — for different reasons.

Can Sanders or Warren energize and turn out African-Americans and Latinos in sufficient numbers to win?

Can Biden or Warren turn out the younger voters who are fervently committed to Bernie?

But wait. Any of the presidential hopefuls might enhance their electability with the right vice presidential candidate. It’s easy to guess that a popular African-American on the ticket could make all the difference. Cory Booker? Maybe a Latino running mate would have the same effect. Julian Castro? And if the nominee is Bernie or Joe, a woman running mate might change the dynamic.

Et cetera

Amy Klobuchar is the candidate with je ne sais quoi.  Klobuchar is the surprise waiting to happen. I like her because she could win Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Those states made all the difference in 2016. And don’t  forget that Klobuchar is potentially the first woman president. With the right running mate, a Klobuchar ticket could motivate minority voters. Alas, Klobuchar doesn’t have the numbers and she’s fading from the picture for 2020.

And former Mayor Pete? Wall Street Pete? Electability calls for experience, and Pete doesn’t have it. His support is limited and it’s difficult to imagine him putting together the necessary coalition.

Finally, Mike Bloomberg. Former Republican mayor of New York. He’s wealthier than Donald Trump. And perhaps more arrogant. Is any part of the Democratic coalition really waiting for another wealthy, arrogant New Yorker?

Conclusion

Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren. All plausible. In the end, it’s up to Democratic primary voters to decide..

— John Hayden

Note To Maryland Democrats: Get Serious About The High Cost Of College

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We’ve got a two-part problem here:

  • Student debt that burdens recent college graduates, as well as those who will graduate this spring and in years to come.
  • Sky-high and still rising college costs. That includes tuition, fees, room and board.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and two dozen other senators are taking the lead on the debt part of the equation. Sen. Warren and others introduced yesterday the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, a bill that would allow borrowers to refinance student loans to a lower interest rate. This bill, if it passes, will not solve the student debt crisis, but it would be a start.

As long as the cost of going to college remains prohibitively high, we’re constantly creating more student debt.

Maryland’s three gubernatorial candidates have all addressed the issue, but feebly. Simply slowing the rate of increase in the cost of college is not exactly a solution. As long as college costs are high, the debt problem will keep getting worse.

Seems to me the real answer is something more radical. Like start reducing the cost of tuition, or providing much more means-based student aid.

You want a really radical idea? Free college tuition. It’s been done before. It should be tried again. We could start on a limited basis, for instance free tuition at Maryland community colleges for any student graduating in the top 25 percent of any high school class in Maryland. That’s just one possibility to illustrate the concept. The fundamental idea is, we’ve got to make college affordable again for middle-class and working-class students.

Otherwise, more and more students are going to pass on college because it’s just too expensive. That decision might limit them for the rest of their lives, and it will definitely inhibit the growth and competitiveness of the American economy. Not everyone needs to or wants to go to college. But everyone who has the ability and the desire to do college work should have the opportunity.

Just my opinions.

— John Hayden