So long as a Democrat becomes President, does it matter which one?

February 7, 2020 • 1:15 pm

One of my friends was telling me the other day that she would never vote for Bernie Sanders, for she simply hated the guy. (This friend is a liberal and a Democrat.) She said that she wouldn’t vote for anyone if it came down to Sanders vs. Trump in November.  In response to my saying that that could be equivalent to a vote for Trump, she responded that she lived in a Democratic state anyway, so it didn’t matter.

So I sent her this article by Paul Krugman, which claims that, so long as the Senate becomes Democratic—and that’s a big if—it really doesn’t matter which of the Democratic candidates wins. (I would go further: if the Senate remains Republican, then it surely doesn’t matter which Democrat wins.)

Krugman uses as an example the fact that the lying scum Trump was elected on a platform that was itself a lie (no tax cuts on the rich, he promised, etc.), but he hasn’t significantly shifted the Republican party platform. (I would argue with that, but this is Krugman speaking.) And so Krugman says this:

So I’d like to offer an opinion that will probably anger everyone: In terms of actual policy, it probably doesn’t matter much who the Democrats nominate — as long as he or she wins, and Democrats take the Senate too.

If you’re a centrist worried about the gigantic spending increases Sanders has proposed, calm down, because they won’t happen. If you’re a progressive worried that Biden might govern like a Republican, you should also calm down, because he wouldn’t.

In practice, any Democrat would probably preside over a significant increase in taxes on the wealthy and a significant but not huge expansion of the social safety net. Given a Democratic victory, a much-enhanced version of Obamacare would almost certainly be enacted; Medicare for All, not so much. Given a Democratic victory, Social Security and Medicare would be protected and expanded; Paul Ryan-type cuts wouldn’t be on the table.

Take the “progressive” Sanders who so worries my friend:

Sanders has a hugely ambitious agenda; Medicare for All is just part of it. Paying for that agenda would be difficult — no, Modern Monetary Theory wouldn’t actually do away with the fiscal constraint. So turning Sanders’s vision into reality would require large tax increases, not just on the wealthy, but on the middle class; without those tax increases it would be highly inflationary.

But not to worry: it won’t happen. Even if he made it to the White House, Sanders would have to deal with a Congress (and a public) considerably less radical than he is, and would be obliged to settle for a more modest progressive agenda.

It’s true that Sanders enthusiasts believe that they can rally a hidden majority of Americans around an aggressively populist agenda, and in so doing also push Congress into going along. But we had a test in the midterm elections: Progressives ran a number of candidates in Trump districts, and if even one of them had won they would have claimed vindication for their faith in transformative populism. But none did; the sweeping Democratic victory came entirely from moderates running conventional campaigns.


h/t: Brian Leiter

140 thoughts on “So long as a Democrat becomes President, does it matter which one?

    1. Doesn’t matter. It is the overly-woke (as often documented here) New York Times.

      Democrats are in disarray. No strong candidates. You are all fucked.

      I much regret this, much as I regret the ascendance of Boris in the UK.

      But if you piss around with the rights of .00 (who knows) of the population rather than the poor–many more–or the middle class, you’ll get trounced.

      **I’m stating my views so clearly so that come November I’m clearly right or wrong.

  1. I have just an Off topic comment : “much of a muchness” is a part of dialogue by the dormouse says in Alice in Wonderland. I read about it and still don’t quite understand the … phrase, though it’s interesting- and archaic, I think.

  2. I am very concerned about Bernie Sanders. He will not win against Trump. I’ve already seen a commercial for Trump with a message of anti-socialism. There are a lot of Trump supporters all over the place. I haven’t seen anyone change over since the election. One would think these are normal people. Biden or Bloomberg. I am hoping for Biden just so there’s a chance.

    1. And Facebook (ugh!) is already full of moronic articles on how socialism leads to tyranny.

      When I patiently explain that we have several socialist programs (medicare, social security), and we are in no danger of becoming a socialist economy or nation (it is unconstitutional at present, and nobody is proposing nationalizing entire industries), I’m told I don’t understand socialism!

      I can no longer tell if I’m being trolled by the Trumpers or if they really believe this garbage. FB is nothing these days but a highly effective propaganda machine.

      1. Facebook? Facebook for me is seeing pictures of the babies and kids of the people with whom I went to high school and college. There are sometimes family pictures picking pumpkins etc. That is probably 85% of Facebook for me. Most people are liberal. I don’t see a lot of political posts. Maybe there is something wrong with your privacy settings or settings in general. I’m not sure. I only accept friend requests from people I actually know. I don’t like Facebook either, though or the internet too much in general.

    2. I know a lot of people disagree but I don’t think that Biden could win against Trump. I think Trump would destroy him with sucker punches that he can’t take. Hate to say it but he comes off like a zombie who needs an electric shock to become animated. He doesn’t show the physical stamina or the cognitive acuity that a president needs; and that isn’t even going into his highly checkered record, which can’t be glossed over or minimized. One simply can’t ignore these things. And what’s he going to do when Trump attacks him personally, say “take of your jacket and meet me the alley so we can duke it out”?

    3. I haven’t seen anyone change over since the election.

      It hasn’t been about getting people to change for a long time. If you are still a Trump supporter now, after the House impeachment hearings, the Alabama sharpie incident, the nepotism, the security breaches, the pussy grabbing tape and everything else, nothing is going to change your mind.

      What it is really about is getting your supporters out to vote. It’s about getting as many people as possible who want to see the back of Trump to vote for the other person in November whoever it is. The Republicans already know this. That is why they are doing everything possible to suppress the Democrat vote. It concerns me that a lot of Democrats still think the way to win is to persuade Republicans to vote Democrat.

      1. I agree on the futility of persuading Republicans to change their mind on Trump. However, we can still hope that some Republicans who voted Trump have now changed their minds. Should the Dem candidate go after Republicans in an effort to change minds? Probably not. Should they craft an inclusive message that will work for Dems and good, non-Trump Republicans? For sure.

        As usual, James Carville nails it:

      2. Surely both parties have their core constituencies who will never change, but there are many independents and people who voted for both Obama and Trump.

        Both turnout among your base and wooing swing voters matters, I think, at least for now. Due to demographic change, we’ll eventually have solid one-party rule by the Democrats. (What happens after that is anybody’s guess.) But we’re not there yet.

  3. What the bloody hell are you talking about?

    At any rate, if by “amazing” you mean “he’s worse than anyone could have expected”, well, yes, I agree.

    If, as I suspect, you mean “Trump is doing a great job,” then your take on reality is so distant from mine that I have nothing to say to you except that you should be reading Breitbart.

  4. I’m not even sure what electability means to the general public. Last election, even with the maximum number of candidates, I would have considered Trump the least electable, by FAR. But my perception of that was far off from what an electorally significant portion of the population thought.

    1. Yes, interesting article. I think all candidates scoring double digits in Iowa, and some not even that, are potentially ‘electable’.

  5. I want to put forward the thought that we are underestimating the power of young voters. If sufficiently enlivened, they could produce a victory for a progressive candidate (Sanders or Warren). Further, they could shift the balance in the Senate.

    1. I sure hope so! But given the other candidates, none of them has a chance of beating Trump IMO, and I doubt that any of them would get a sizable youth vote.

  6. I generally find it hard to take Krugman as seriously as he takes himself. He may be right on this one, but unfortunately “any Democrat” doesn’t inspire the enthusiasm required to win elections.

  7. As I see it, whoever is the next Democratic president, he or she will have a real mess to clean up. Trump has hyped the economy with trillion dollar deficits and cheap money at a time when the government should be leaning against the wind. When the next recession hits, and it will, there will be no room to act. A recession will turn the trillion dollar deficit into a two trillion dollar deficit, and how can you ease monetary policy when it is already so easy? Perhaps Trump should be re-elected so that he has to deal with his own mess, and the Republican party rightfully takes the blame. Instead, a Democratic president will end up taking the blame, like Obama took the blame for the smaller mess that Bush left.

    1. I have visions of stacks of executive orders, prepared well before inauguration day, placed on the new president’s desk on day-1. He or she will spend an entire week signing them to reverse all of tRump’s efforts. A move to rejoin the Paris agreement, reintroduce environmental regulations, etc. If the Dems get the Senate, legislation will follow to confirm these moves. Justice Ginsburg can retire.

  8. Education and liberalism are a ruinous affair to contend with the oppression that the right masters. A liberal want’s to seek out truth and listens to others opinions. This paradoxically weakens the left: the diversity and the equality.

    It’s hard choosing the path that tackles real problems like social inequality and climate change.

    It’s easy and it feels good to follow a group that asserts moral authority without questioning authority.

    I remember the days when Prostestants hated Catholics and Catholics hated Babtists and Lutherans hated Pentacostals, and so forth. Secularist may outnumber them all, but we are so diverse, it’s like autonomous cats battling Napolean’s dogs (cf. Orwell).

  9. I will also support the Democratic nominee, but I am not so sure who is most electable.

    Hillary was a centrist, and yet she lost. Biden is more likable/liked, but being a centrist does not necessarily mean more electable.

    With Sanders, I think his populism will actually appeal to many in Trump’s base, but I worry about the people around him – they are mostly about big ideas and virtue signaling than actual substance.

    I am put off by Warren’s stunts. I wish Buttigieg were older and more experienced. Bloomberg has no hope without participating in debates (where the hell is he?).

    I am getting worried that Democrats don’t have an electable candidate.

    1. Ms Clinton had several things going against her:
      1 – The massive Russian smearing campaign on social media, having a career of decades to find dirt.
      2 – Voter disenfranchisement, Cross-check, discarded provisional votes, closing of voting stations in minority areas, etc. etc.
      3 – Suspected counting fraud, as illustrated by the discrepancies between exit polls and count, well outside the margins of error, where Ms Clinton won the exit polls, but Mr Trump won the count, in NC (5.9% discrepancy), PA (5.6%),WI (4.8%) or just within the MoE: FL (2.6%).
      4 – Mr Comey’s disclosures shortly before the election, which lostv Ms Clinton 4 points, which she never really recovered.
      5 – The ‘Bernie or bust’ crowd that did not vote for Ms Clinton.
      6 – Ms Stein, whom I suspect was a Russian operation.
      Despite all that Ms Clinton won the popular vote by the widest margin ever, by far (for a losing candidate), and lost the EC with a wafer-thin margin in 3 states with a combined 78000 votes. Ms Clinton was highly ‘electable’, an I ascribe her defeat to these factors combined.
      I think a few of these factors will not be different in November (eg 2, 3, or even 1), but some will (eg 4 and 6).

  10. I’m not a Democrat, but I don’t like Trump. If the Dems can nominate someone *reasonable* such as Gabbard or maaaybe Yang or Buttigeg, I’ll vote for that candidate. If it’s Biden, I don’t consider him to be a significant improvement over Trump, so I’d vote for the LP candidate like I usually do. If the nominee is Warren, Sanders, or Bloomberg, I’ll not only vote for Trump, I’ll donate to his campaign.

    1. Democrats would be foolish to waste time and resources to get your vote. Many more voters would be lost if they tried to cater to your desires. The are Democrats, not Republicans lite.

    2. Gabbard is toast. Yang is toast in all but the technicality. Buttigieg probably needs another big win before Super Tuesday to make it to Super Tuesday. I hope he does, but he’s not going to win in New Hampshire. That leaves North Carolina and Nevada…and Mayor Pete hasn’t really struck a chord with minority voters yet. So, he’s got a problem. I’ll be cheering for him and Klobuchar, but frankly, it doesn’t look good for either of them.

  11. Sanders has praised Castro, Chavez and he honeymooned in the Soviet Union. Warren and Sanders both advocate doubling the size of the government. I will never, ever, ever vote for either Sanders or Trump. I doubt I would vote for Warren.

    IMO, because Trump has done tremendous damage to the country in his first term, this limits the damage of his second term. I would prefer Trumps reelection to Warren or Sanders.

    BTW, my first child is entering college in the fall. I would benefit tremendously from the free college plans of Sanders and Warren. If I were selfish, I would support them but I think the upper middle class (like me) is less deserving of federal gifts than the working class.

    1. IMO, because Trump has done tremendous damage to the country in his first term, this limits the damage of his second term.

      You’re joking, right? Especially if the Senate stays with Mitch McConnell. If that happens, American democracy as we’ve known it will be done by the end of 2024. With the judges Trump will be able to install, including a super-majority on SCOTUS we will effectively be on the road towards a plutocratic theocracy. You have been paying attention to the 158 hacks and wing-nuts Trump has already appointed, right? They have an agenda, and it is antithetical to liberal democracy.

      Trump’s wish to become a dictator like his besties is becoming more and more apparent. Just today he said Pelosi ripping up his speech was illegal since it was an “official document”. That’s fascist thinking, as is his threats of payback and naming anyone who is against him an enemy. And what about assassinating a foreign military leader on the soil of a sovereign nation without notifying any member of Congress, not even the GOP (maybe he bragged to Graham about it). He’ll fire anyone that does not realize he is infallible and can do anything as POTUS; as seen with Vindman today and countless others before him. Did you hear that he has a new EO to make all new Federal Buildings built in “the classical style”…more fascist thinking. I could go on.

      Make no mistake, what you’ve experienced during these last 3 years as “tremendous damage” will look like the Halcyon days if he wins another term…and perhaps another. His evil is bottomless and he cares naught about the future and the destruction left in his wake. Such is the damage someone without love inflicts.

      1. You are right of course. It is the height of naivete to believe that Trump’s second term won’t cause more damage than the first. It will be much worse as he will be completely unshackled. Viewpoints expressed by Curtis reflect an attitude that Trump is just an ordinary politician who does some good things and some bad things. This failure to recognize that Trump represents a fundamental threat to democracy is what is so dispiriting.

      2. Trump in a second term unshackled from even the need to run for reelection or the fear of impeachment?

        Jesus H. Christ, there will be a fire sale of US best-interests to despots around the globe, in exchange for personal consideration for the Trump family, to be delivered immediately, where possible, after Trump leaves office, where necessary.

        If there is anything Donald John Trump has demonstrated beyond peradventure, throughout his lifetime and during his three years in office, it’s that nothing takes a backseat to Trump’s own selfish impulses. With Trump, Everything is transactional, so long as the transaction benefits Trump personally.

      3. First let me say that I believe Trump is uniquely bad president.

        Serious question, do you really believe that American democracy is so weak that Trump can destroy it in four years and create a “plutocratic theocracy”? I hate Trump but I have confidence in the American constitution. Just out of curiosity, did you make any similar predictions when Trump was elected? I remember being ridiculed on this site because I was confident that gay marriage would remain legal.

        IMO, the name calling and hyperbole by progressives is a big reason Trump won and is likely to win again. Trump is great at being a ridiculous buffoon.

        1. If you can’t see it I can’t show you. The answer is YES. Figure yourself out after I hope you see. You are naive, it’s a problem to be sure.

        2. I would think we now have ample evidence that our institutions are VERY weak, and we’ve essentially been running the entire country on the honor system for 244 years.

          Well Trump never had any honor, and Republicans have done all they could to shed theirs.

          It can’t happen here? Baloney.

          1. I agree but I wonder if Trump was US democracy’s perfect storm. For sure there are plenty of other unscrupulous narcissists in the US but what are the chances of them becoming President? Undoubtedly they have increased dramatically now that Trump has shown the way but I still hope the absolute probability is small. Now, if we can only survive Trump.

        3. “IMO, the name calling and hyperbole by progressives is a big reason Trump won and is likely to win again. Trump is great at being a ridiculous buffoon.”

          Perhaps they should imitate the hyperbole of cabinet toadies and sycophants. (Assuming Trumpians can discern sarcasm and mockery.)

      4. Breaking News: EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland ousted. The payback keeps on rolling in…and learning lessons for those who wish to tell any truths regarding Trump’s corruption..

        1. Many people don’t seem to mind having a Mafia boss in charge when the economy is doing well. tRump’s approval is around 49%, up significantly from a month ago. I’m beginning to brace myself to endure 4 more wasted years.
          People throughout history seem to have been accepting of thugs and totalitarianism. At least until it got way out of hand. I think Putin has pretty high approval ratings in Russia. It’s Orwellian.

        2. He also had purple-heart-winner Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — and, for good measure, his twin brother — escorted off the White House grounds today, all for the grievous sin of having obeyed a congressional subpoena to appear and testify truthfully.

          Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord Trump.

            1. That brings the number to 8 witnesses in the impeachment that no longer have jobs, with more on the horizon. At least Trump was honest about Vindman, he fired him because, “he was very insubordinate.”

              1. ‘ . . . Trump was honest about Vindman, he fired him because, “he was very insubordinate.” ‘

                Said like a good private corporate tyrant.

    2. If it comes down to Trump or Sanders, then one’s vote has to come down to who is the least worst candidate. Who will damage the nation less? As much as I dislike him, the answer has to be Sanders.

      1. Sanders was in the House for 16 years and now the Senate for 14. Despite being an independent and wanting to be known as a maverick, he’s pretty much just as ‘system’ as Biden is. There’s basically no chance he bucks the norms of U.S. government functioning.

    3. “Sanders has praised Castro, Chavez and he honeymooned in the Soviet Union.”

      Would you prefer that Sanders praise Castro’s predecessor, that darling of the U.S., dictator Fulgencio Batista? Do you have a list of approved honeymoon destinations? Would you have no Amuricuns visit the (former) Soviet Union, taking the hydrofoil to the Summer Palace, taking in a Bolshoi ballet, or a night cruise on the Neva river listening to the locals on board sing “Moscow Nights”(?) in Russian?

      1. Trump has said nice things about most of the world’s evil dictators. much more than could ever be blamed on Bernie. That ought to inoculate Bernie against such attacks but, unfortunately, it won’t work that way.

        Trump has all the nastiness built into his support. There’s virtually nothing he could do or say that would shock anyone. Bernie is vulnerable because he’s a well-meaning, honest guy. All Trump has to do is show Bernie to be slightly less well-meaning or less honest than everyone thinks he is and he is toast.

        How’s that for a cynical take on our politics?

      2. Not to mention that 1988 Soviet Union was post-glasnost, under the moderate pro-democracy Gorbachev. What exactly is so damning about that?

        Also, regarding Chavez: US public opinion of him is so divorced from reality. He went from being an Obama-like figure in his early term, to going fully social democratic after surviving the attempted coup in 2002. His authoritarianism was mild compared to a number of other longtime US allies, and every election was a fair one. The “dictator” label (which Bernie himself used, wrongly) can not seriously be applied to Chavez.

  12. As you said: “And regardless of the Congress, a Democratic President can do a lot of executive-order stuff, and will be responsible for nominating the next Supreme Court Justice, a choice that can redound on our country for decades.”
    Jerry, I think that you are overly optimistic about court appointments.
    Normally this would be true, but a Republican Senate might sit on any nominations. I think there is a better than 50% chance that they would carry out this sort of policy for SOTUS. They have already stuffed the federal court system with awful judges by preventing Obama appointments for years.

    1. We may have reached the point in this country where no nominee will make it onto the Supreme Court unless the presidency and the senate are controlled by the same political party.

  13. Just a couple 💑 of scary thoughts plus a silly digression:(1) A late blooming Independent of Other party candidate draws just enough votes away from the Dems…and tRump gets his Landslide..sad.(2) Sources of DarkMoney inc. decide it’s time to show how there’s “plenty more where that came from –tee-hee hee..tRump wins but the Senate morphs to a slight majority (eg:54-46) for Dems yet still fail to impeach it for intentionally farting on a hot microphone during a State Funeral.

  14. Most of what he says in the article is just common sense. Anyone with a brain would vote for whoever wins among candidates. To say you would not vote if it’s Bernie or Biden or the milkman is just stupid, I am sorry to say. I will put my faith in the women of this country. This is because it is the female population (over half of our population) who are overwhelmingly going to vote to remove this current jerk. This is what the polls are saying and it makes sense. If we had to rely on the male vote, I would not be so sure.

    It is also the female vote that might win the Senate which is very important. Overhauling our legal system that is very unfair to the female is a cause they can get behind. Right now, here in republican Kansas, these morons are attempting to get abortion totally erased from the state. They would like to see religion take over. It is only the smarter women who will stop this nonsense.

    Also, nothing is said about foreign policy and that is in deep trouble. We can and must get lots of money freed up to do important things simply by pulling back on military spending which is out of control. We could pay for a really good health care system with the waste currently going up in military smoke.

    1. “We could pay for a really good health care system with the waste currently going up in military smoke.”

      That’s been true since Eisenhower. I don’t see it changing no matter who is president. Our best hope is incremental improvements.

      1. That is the kind of attitude produced by very little thought. Because something practical has not been done for many years, that is a really good reason not to do it. Do you know what the national debt is? Do you care. Answer is no to both. Do you not think it would be easy to knock 50 billion off the annual military budget? They would hardly miss it.

        1. Hey, I agree with you. But given our system it won’t happen any time soon. The US has become a minority rule country, whether the Senate, or Electoral College, the minority rules. Even a Sanders or Warren will make incremental changes to health care.

          1. Here are just a few things we know about military spending. In 2019 the base budget was $686 Billion. At the end of the cold war it was $428 Billion – 1989. So the price has been going up and up since the end of the cold war. If you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We currently spend more each year than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, U.K., India, France and Japan combined.

    2. “We could pay for a really good health care system with the waste currently going up in military smoke.”
      You are off by an order of magnitude. I believe Sanders acknowledges that Medicare-For-All would cost $3 trillion per year compared to under $1 trillion in defense spending.

      If you eliminate a third of defense spending (which I would support), you could pay for about 10% of M4A.

      1. Yes, I should have said a good start at paying for it but also, who knows what it will cost and who cares. You can’t say we should not afford it unless we really are that third world country we pretend to be. Taxes will pay for a lot of it and everyone who can should pay. After all, people on Medicare now are paying and always have. I recall paying the entire time I worked. I also have paid since then….I think about $135 a month. Just like social security it is not a hand out, we pay some for it now. If necessary we pay more.

        Why do people think it is smart to pay thousands to a private health care firm and think they are getting a wonderful deal. Hell, most people on medicare are also paying for a private health care supplemental now. You can easily look up how much is going out to pay for medicare now, but does it tell you how much they take in? No. Everyone thinks it is a handout to all.

  15. I agree with most of what he says, particularly since it’s likely that the Senate will remain under GOP control, so any successful bill would have to be moderate enough to get some GOP Senators to vote for it.

    But I think that still leaves some important differences.

    1. Sanders and Warren are sitting Senators in states with a GOP Governor. If either of them become the Dems candidate, the chance of taking the Senate goes down. Probably, losing that one additional Senate seat won’t matter. But if the fairly unlikely event happens where the Dems earn 49 other seats (combined, I know only 1/3 of senators are running), then that would make a HUGE difference.

    2. Assuming the President has to negotiate with a GOP senate, someone they respect and knows how to swing votes probably gets more done. Gets more liberal legislation passed, in both senses of the phrase (i.e. more legislation, and legislation that has a more liberal bend). So Biden probably gets more done almost certainly. Klobuchar and Warren also probably get more done. Sanders not so much because evidently other Senators don’t like him, and Buttigieg not so much because he has no experience with those folks.

    3. Foreign policy and the dove/hawk divide. Frankly, the only one I know much about on this issue is Biden, and I think it’s pretty clear we can expect Obama-like policy from him. But I suspect that Sanders or Warren would give us significantly different foreign policy than Biden, Klobuchar, or Buttigieg.

    4. DHS, CBP, ICE, and immigration. I expect all the candidates to swing our immigration policy much left. But as with foreign policy, I would expect perhaps Sanders and Warren go further left in terms of setting DHS priorities and guidance than than the other three.

    Just my thoughts, of course. I have no real insight.

    1. Good thoughts, especially number 3. On foreign policy, the President acting alone has enormous influence. Unconstitutional amounts of influence, but America’s founders never anticipated that Congress would voluntarily surrender its powers to the presidency.

      Since there are very significant differences in viewpoint on foreign policy between the candidates, and since I rate foreign policy as at least equally important, Krugman is at most only half-right. From that standpoint, I rate Bernie best, and Warren second.

      But for electability, I rate Bernie dead last. Not so much because Americans won’t like his policies, but because the mainstream press absolutely hates the guy, and don’t mind showing it. Warren is a woman, so she’ll be battling uphill to avoid, to take one example, being called “shrill” when getting angry at Republican outrages. Journalists and pundits can claim to be non-sexist, but putting “woman” and “leader” together without cognitive dissonance may be harder than it looks. And that dissonance leaks out, and colors the coverage.

      1. I agree with Bernie and Warren being “least electable”. While I agree with Krugman that the end result on healthcare is likely going to be the same regardless of which candidate sets it, I think Bernie and Warren are much more vulnerable to Trump’s attacks on healthcare than the others. If either of them wins the primary, we’re going to be hearing “the Dems will take away your doctor and force you to give up your current policy” for months. And I expect it will work, somewhat.

        But that may all be my bias…

        1. For what it’s worth, I don’t think that Warren is 2nd to least electable. She has strengths – her record, her general approach – that could compensate. Bernie has strengths too, but the hatred of the media may be too big to overcome. And Bernie doesn’t know how to, or doesn’t care to, play the media and (hence) its viewers like Trump does.

  16. No matter which candidate wins he/she will be branded a communist/socialist/vampire/America hating baby-eating monster.

    Unless people start voting against Republicans at every level of government nothing will change. Trump is enacting Republicans agenda, not Trumps. Trump’s only agenda is self aggrandizement and self enrichment. Republicans do the same, just more quietly. They wait until they get out of office to cash the checks.

    1. I wrote the “baby-eating monster” as hyperbole. It seems I neglected to take Poe’s law into consideration. There are in fact conspiracy theories going around that some liberals eat aborted babies. Apparently in Brussels.

  17. I agree that electability as a criteria for supporting a candidate is nice in theory, in practice it is difficult or near to impossible to pick that candidate. The vast majority of pundits thought Trump was unelectable. Biden has touted himself as the most electable Democrat. But, he was a flop in the Iowa caucuses. He probably he won’t do very well in New Hampshire. He may do better in primaries whose electorate is more ethnically diverse. Could he do better than Bernie in the general election? It is mere speculation at this point. Will Bernie’s socialism scare off voters more than attract previous non-voters who want a more leftist candidate? Again, nobody knows. Since the Trump cult will never vote for a Democrat over Trump, Bernie’s socialism is irrelevant. Will it scare off moderate Democrats or will Bernie supporters not vote for anyone but him? It’s impossible to say.

    Whoever the Democratic candidate is, it may be the best electoral strategy to run a campaign on the principle of negative partisanship. At least, that’s what two political scientists say:

    “Over the past few decades, American politics has become like a bitter sports rivalry, in which the parties hang together mainly out of sheer hatred of the other team, rather than a shared sense of purpose. Republicans might not love the president, but they absolutely loathe his Democratic adversaries. And it’s also true of Democrats, who might be consumed by their internal feuds over foreign policy and the proper role of government were it not for Trump. Negative partisanship explains nearly everything in American politics today—from why Trump’s base is unlikely to abandon him even if, as he once said, he were to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, to why it was so easy for vulnerable red-state Democrats to resist defecting on the health care bill.”

    The intense negative partisanship is really not a good thing, but if it gets rid of Trump then it is better than the alternative. Still, they warn:

    “Dislike, even at times hatred, of the opposing party and its leaders reflects a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans over a wide range of economic and social issues. But it also reflects a growing divide over race, religion and values—a chasm that could become dangerous as partisans come to see each other not just as political adversaries, but as enemies who want to harm the nation.”

    Their last statement reflected how poisoned American politics is. Trump didn’t cause this, he exploited this and made it worse. Trump most go, but his departure will be like pulling a spear out of a person’s body. The person may still die, but if he survives, healing will take a long time, and his body will never be as good as it was before the incident.

    Krugman is right that it probably doesn’t matter much which Democrat gets elected in terms of major policies since Congress will determine the details of legislation is up to it. Yes, there may be some differences between various Democrats in terms of what they will do regarding regulations and foreign policy. But, these differences pale as to what Trump has done and will do.

    So, my conclusion is that Democrats must unite behind whomever the candidate is. Relentlessly show how Trump is ruining the nation and hope that this strategy can increase the turnout of previous non-voters and hope the strategy works.

    I close on an optimistic note. Political Scientist Rachel Bitecofer was right on the mark in predicting the 2018 vote. She proclaims boldly that 2020 is now in the bag for the Democrat. Her theory is this:

    “What if everything you think you know about politics is wrong? What if there aren’t really American swing voters—or not enough, anyway, to pick the next president? What if it doesn’t matter much who the Democratic nominee is? What if there is no such thing as “the center,” and the party in power can govern however it wants for two years, because the results of that first midterm are going to be bad regardless? What if the Democrats’ big 41-seat midterm victory in 2018 didn’t happen because candidates focused on health care and kitchen-table issues, but simply because they were running against the party in the White House? What if the outcome in 2020 is pretty much foreordained, too?”

    Of course, pundits are wrong often and so may this one. Still, I urge Democrats not to despair. All is not lost. If the Democrats stay united and get out the vote, Trump will be gone (unless he incites civil war).

    1. I think whoever the candidate is for the democrats, they just need to go after the African American vote and the female vote. It should be simple. Everyone, especially democrats are overthinking this thing.

  18. Beating Trump is priority no 1. IF it appears that 2 candidates have an equal probability of beating Trump, then it matters to me. But only then.

  19. Impeachment originates in the House. If the House stays in Democratic hands, there will be no impeachment of a Democratic President.


    1. I hope that’s not true. I would hope that if a president engaged in serious, proven corruption, he or she would be impeached regardless of party. I realize that Republicans have given up their souls and spines in this regard, but I hope that Democrats have not yet sunk to that level.

      1. You may want to check the record of the Clinton impeachment:

        Many more Republicans voted across party lines than Democrats.

        Of course, the issues were different. On the other hand, Bill did later accept legal disbarment, rather than fight it, and pay out a reputed $850,000 in alleged sexual charges.

        1. Today’s Republican party has little in common with the Republican party during the Nixon and Clinton trials.

          I watched the Nixon hearings, and yes, there were several brave and honest Republicans back then.

  20. I agree with Krugman. This is no time to stay home from an election because you aren’t 100% happy with a Democrat candidate. Now is the time for thinking strategically. This is how Republicans win….you need to adopt this same attitude.

    1. I’ve been confidently thinking that there must be very many like me who would gladly climb the highest mountain to vote against tRump. I’d down and oxygen mask and shovel my way through snow to the top to pull the leaver for a tree stump. But, I’m beginning to get nervous that I might be in the minority. tRump has hardly ever been more popular. I’m scared. So many people think he’s wonderful.

  21. My thoughts on this won’t be popular but here goes: all this frothing at the mouth about the Dem candidates is really just subterfuge. It matters little who gets the nod when the voting systems are compromised and corrupted. That is where all of the voters and all of the press should be focusing their attention, period. Any one of those Dem candidates could easily beat Trump in a world where the electoral system was not compromised. While the country is up in arms about the primaries Mitch McConnell is all smiles because the FEC is depleted and thus cannot investigate any future polling place anomalies.

    Bloomberg: “After a resignation in August, the six-seat commission is down to only three members. The commission needs four for a quorum, and requires a quorum to authorize investigations by its office of general counsel. So FEC lawyers can work on cases previously authorized, but they can’t investigate new ones until the president nominates, and the Senate confirms, at least one new commissioner.”

    I’m a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic but there is plenty of evidence that the vast number of our voting machines are wide open to hacking and were indeed hacked in 2016. As I have mentioned previously, please follow @jennycohn1 on twitter. Here is a page of her most relevant articles on the topic:

    The results of the general election rest on whether or not we continue to use BMDs. We need to mandate hand-marked paper ballots if we want to ensure that all votes are counted properly. If the system is secure, Trump cannot win.

  22. Unless they change the senate rules, it will still take sixty senate votes to bring a bill to a vote. Democrats are not likely to get sixty seats. Likelihood of a progressive, or even s moderate getting much passed is not very high. Afraid we will be stuck with gridlock for quite a while

    1. That is not correct actually. If the Democrats become the majority they can bring bills forward for votes. The problem with Moscow Mitch is he is majority now and he can stop all bills from coming forward and does not need any vote. The 60 votes thing is to stop a filibuster.

      1. If McConnell brought a bill to the floor the democrats do not like, the democrats can filibuster snd the republicans could not stop the filibuster and bring the bill to s vote since they do not have sixty votes.

        Any group of forty one senators can filibuster and prevent a vote on a bill in the senate under present senate rules.

        The same would be true if the democrats win the senate but do not have sixty votes. Any bill they introduce could be stopped by a republican filibuster.

        1. Right now in Congress, in the Senate, the filibuster is not the problem. There are around 300 bills passed by the house just sitting there going nowhere. Mitch says no and the bill is dead. You do that with a simple majority. That does not even take a vote.

          1. If he brought one of those bills to the floor, any senator could filibuster and the filibuster could only be broken by sixty votes.

            If there were no filibuster, the bills would be defeated by the republican majority.

            1. No bill an be defeated (or passed) without being brought up for a vote. Only one member of the Senate controls that matter these days.

  23. Because *anybody*, even a sane Republican (if such could be found), would be better than the deranged loony you’ve got now.


    … okay, almost anybody. There may be a few narcissistic obsessive monomaniacs even more deranged than tRump, but you’d be extremely unlucky to come across one.

  24. As some people have been saying on Twitter
    (and presumably elsewhere), “Vote Blue No Matter Who.”

    That’s where I stand.

  25. Sanders might not get his agenda through in the short term, but his presidency would mainstream his policies, which are actually very popular (e.g. This could then lead to more candidates of his ilk succesfully primarying incumbent democrats in both chambers of the Congress, eventually getting him – or his successor – the votes he needs.

    Bernie could essentially do to the Democratic party what Trump has done to the Republicans – minus, hopefully, the personality cult. And that would be fucking great! A return to social democracy is long overdue in this country.

  26. “Vote blue, no matter who,” is my motto for next November.

    I think Krugman is right that, if the senate flips Democratic, it won’t matter which Democrat were to get elected president: there will be a modest shift to the Left; that’s all.

    If the senate stays Republican, it won’t matter policy-wise which Democrat were to be elected president, either: like the worst case of legislative diverticulitis ever, nothing will move through Mitch McConnell.

    1. Yes, it is just as important for the democrats to get the Senate as the President. I think this will happen.

  27. I’m sure that some would talk about impeaching Biden but it would immediately evaporate just like Trump’s calls for prosecuting Schiff for treason. They are completely baseless and would produce an embarrassing spectacle that would only hurt the perpetrators. They know this.

    1. Those polls don’t show what Trump and the GOP will do to Bernie once they get their socialism-is-evil bus rolling. It’s been a significant theme in American politics for a century or so. All they have to do to hobble Bernie is crank up the volume. I’m not saying it’s justified but all they have to do is scare a relatively small percentage of voters to shift the balance to Trump.

      1. Sanders’s core demographic (young people) aren’t scared of socialism. They like it somewhat better than capitalism, even. (Will look up the source if anyone asks.) So I can’t seem to see red scare hurting Sanders much. If calling him a socialist will work then you’d think some primary candidate will have tried it by now and it should have been working. They haven’t and it isn’t.

        But enough of my own speculation. If I could vote (not American, for better or worse) I wouldn’t base my decision on such an uncertain quality as electability. People speak as if they knew Sanders isn’t electable. They don’t know that, is all I’m saying.

        1. I’ve seen those polls too but I am not sure I believe them. I have no real data, of course, but here’s the scenario that plays out in my mind’s eye:

          Young person only knows socialism via Bernie and what they hear on college campuses. It sounds fantastic. Why can’t we all get along with socialism?

          Then the GOP ad blitz hits, telling them that socialism was responsible for all these ugly events in the twentieth century. Their parents and other boomers tell them that it is all true. Youngster says, “That was socialism? How awful. I had no idea.”

          Bernie says that his socialism isn’t like that. Youngster says, “I hear you Bernie but I’m not so sure. I’m scared.” Bernie has just been swift-boated and covered in FUD.

        2. Am reminded of Hitch quoting Oscar Wilde: “Socialism would relieve one of the burden of having to live for others.” Of course, capitalists have always been so relieved. (Re: Milton Friedman and his “private morality.” world view. I’ve always wondered just what was his own private morality.)

      2. How many times need it be said that the Republican playbook WILL NOT CHANGE based on who the Dems nominate?

        If Dems trotted out a biological clone of Trump running under all of Trump’s policies but with a D at the end of his name, they’d still slander him as a pinko commie librul soshalist gun-hatin’ boogeyman.

        It does not matter. It has never mattered.

    2. Probably because some people just don’t like Bernie Sanders.

      No.No.No. No Bernie, please.

      I will send more money to my candidates next.

    3. I agree with you that idle speculation, the specialty of pundits, is no match for the hard data. It does appear at the moment that Sanders can beat Trump as perhaps any Democrat can. What we need are polls from the battleground states, which can tell us how Sanders and other potential Democratic nominees are doing.

      The main fear of centrist Democrats is that the general public is unaware of Bernie’s radical background, which the Republicans will remind it thousands of times during the general election. At heart, Bernie is an unreconstructed 1960s radical. I doubt that his views have changed very much in more than 50 years. Whether or not his background will erode his support cannot be measured at this time. Let’s not forget how John Kerry was “swift boated” in 2004. Of course, if Bernie gets the nomination, I will be supporting him without a second thought.

      1. Actually, Bernie reminds me more of the old 1950s’ Leftists than of the Sixties’ New Left — the lefties for whom the defining event of their young lives was the Red Scare, the Left that split off from the Democratic Party when Henry Wallace ran as a third-party candidate against Harry Truman in 1948.

        Bernie is younger than that cohort, of course, but I’m sure they influenced his thinking as a young man. Sanders also graduated from college before the Vietnam War became the defining issue that birthed the New Left on college campuses in the latter half of the 1960s.

    1. Exactly. Trump will manage what no other republican candidate has done and that is to lose the military vote. They hate this clown as much as anyone. Women cannot stand the guy and the minorities are the same. All they have to do in November is get out the vote and this guy is gone.

      We should all quit worrying about Bernie or Buttigieg or whoever. Just vote

      1. Yeah it’s simple but they’ll make it complicated and stay home sulking if they don’t get their perfect candidate. Perfect has become the enemy of the good or so it goes.

  28. There was a pretty good article in the Post today by Dana Milbank. Titled: This vulgar man has squandered our decency. If you take the Post you can read it. It ends this way:

    With Republican’s latest embrace of this man of the lowest character, they are becoming who he is.

    And as our children see our feckless leaders tolerate a president without a fiber of virtue, I fear that we will all become who he is.

  29. It’s a complete myth that social democratic, i.e. “left “ policies increase government and that right wingers reduce it. Conservatives are also not better with the economy and aren’t fiscally more careful. People believe and repeat this total baloney while American military spending spirals totally out of control. I guess it also doesn’t count as “government” to run the world’s largest prison population — typical right wing projects, and there’s always money for this. Right wingers may not want to regulate the drinking water, but they sure want to regulate your sex life. Not to mention how they tend to leave things in a worse state for everyone else but the rich.

    The USA is just about fading out of its prime century. All of the fantastic riches generated, the spoils looted from countless wars, opportunities taken by generations; and yet Americans are begging on GoFundMe to foot medical bills.

    The US is such extremely right wing to the detriment of ordinary people that Americans have inferior conditions than common in ordinary European countries. Take a random metric. Europeans have about a month off paid leave per annum while American workers start at zero and probably have to be lucky to get some days off (if only to work the second job).

    This is why it’s high time for social democratic policies. I don’t see it happening under normal circumstances. There’s too much money in the political system which is more than a thumb on the scale. Gerrymandering, vote supression, making people vote on busy tuesdays (where people have to use one of their zero days off), few locations, “locked in” outcomes (red/blue states), easily corruptible two party system, huge money that runs through giant media and propaganda machines, electoral college, Moscow Mitch and that’s just the start. In result, even the typical blue team is pretty Tory or conservative most of the time.

    Everything about Sanders is “just right” for this term. He’s in fact not too extreme and even enthused a Fox News audience. Most Americans, in their heart of hearts, would want a decent system that takes care of the medical problems — any — that works in a dozen of countries. It’s also not more expensive elsewhere, which is another myth. The US system is expensive and ineffecient, and does the bidding of corporations. Most Americans, in their heart of hearts, would want elections that matter, are not rigged and so on.

    Sanders is the one candidate that is social democratic. He has a long track record, and, rarely for a politicians, seems to have principles for a long time. His agenda sounds fairly European or Scandinavian and Americans could have some politics like that for once.

    But the USA is what it is, and will likely unable to make the move. The money already works overtime to prevent it. Even saying that Trump prefers Sanders is most certainly a tactic. Why would Republicans give honest tips which candidates make it easier for them? “Honest” and “Republican” should never be in one sentence, I apologize: it’s absurd.

    1. I’ll add that Sanders, to his credit, is the only candidate that seems to relish the prospect of firing up the citizenry, so that they get involved in a 1960s-style (or maybe better, 1930s style) uprising. That is exactly what is needed. Nixon was, as is often said, our last liberal president (OSHA, EPA, coal mine safety administration, detente, fought for a national health plan) only because there was undeniable pressure from millions of citizens. The neoliberal onslaught was the vengeful comeback of concentrated wealth and power, who just couldn’t handle that much civic engagement for much longer.

    2. ” . . . while American workers start at zero and probably have to be lucky to get some days off (if only to work the second job).”

      All praise, honor and glory to their capitalist masters.

    3. Yeah, as a Canadian I know Americans won’t go for Saunders but I also know his ideas are hardly radical and would be considered mainstream in Canuckistan. You can’t convince Americans though. They take a very long time to change and they have their own ideas about things.

  30. Much truth being spoken here, sadly including Aneris’ perspective. However, what seems to be missing is the specificity of the electoral college vote. The election will likely once again come down to the results from a handful of states. There will be some states that will vote Democrat no matter which Democrat, and some states that will vote Republican no matter which Democrat. That is probably not true for states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, etc. The so-called swing states are where the Democrats need to focus their strategy.

    I also think that is imperative that the Democrats retain the House and flip the Senate. Here in Colorado folks are so pissed at Gardner’s obsequiousness to Trump and his middling record on the environment and other important state issues, I am hopeful that he will go down in flames with the Dems picking up a seat [likely Hickenlooper].

    It is also imperative to get out the vote. Pew research shows that non-voters handed Trump the election Only 42% of eligible voters voted. Pew research also shows that we old farts are the ones who vote, with the 50+ accounting for 56% of the vote and the 18-29 folks only 13%.

    1. You would think the Democrats would fight hard as hell to make Election Day a holiday, or move it to a weekend. And make voting registration automatic nationwide (with “opt out”, rather than “opt in” by default).

      Or even better, have voting be mandatory, including a “no one” option if a person dislikes all available candidates.

        1. WA and OR also have a mail-in ballot system. The 2018 midterms had a 72% and 63% turnout, respectively. Those are the kind of numbers that will trounce Trump.

          Unfortunately, states run by republicans don’t want their citizens to vote. Funny, huh? We supposedly have a democracy, yet one party does everything to impede the one thing that makes a healthy democracy function: one person, one vote. Republicans are an American scourge…indeed, a world scourge.

      1. “Or even better, have voting be mandatory, including a “no one” option if a person dislikes all available candidates.”

        I would be fascinated by, and most interested in hearing from, the psychological mindset who would object to that.

  31. I don’t think Biden is electable at all. He has long been famous for his gaffes, and he has gotten much worse within the last year or so. After the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Biden expressed condolences to the victims of “the tragic events in Houston and Michigan.” And in one of the Democratic debates, he appeared unable to understand the difference between text messages and websites when he erroneously said, “Go to Joe30330.” (His rivals promptly set up a fake website at I doubt Biden would fare well in a debate against Trump, and the Trump campaign would have no trouble painting him as an incompetent buffoon.

    He also has a history of creepiness–coming up behind women to rub their shoulders or smell their hair, and telling a 10-year-old girl, “I’ll be you’re as bright as you are good-looking.” While these things pale in comparison to Trump’s own history of creepy words and actions, it is now abundantly clear that Trump is simply immune to such things while his opponents are not.

    But perhaps most significantly, there are enough questions surrounding Biden and his son’s dealings in Ukraine that people will be chanting “Lock him up!” at Trump rallies all across the country. How bad were Biden’s dealings in Ukraine really? It might not matter. I didn’t think Hillary’s email scandal was that bad, but Trump had half the country thinking she deserved to be sent to prison for it. Biden is an uninspiring candidate, and my feeling is that he is the go-to default candidate in just the same way that Hillary was the default candidate in 2016. And falling back on the default candidate didn’t work.

    I’m hoping Buttigieg will get the nomination. He’s not as polarizing as Sanders and Warren, and he knows how to speak to rural working-class voters without sacrificing progressive values. He’s relatively young and inexperienced, but that has an upside: there is virtually no dirt that Trump can use against him. Some people will refuse to vote for him because he’s gay, but the vast majority of those voters (evangelicals?) are probably already in Trump’s pocket anyway.

    Sorry for the ridiculously long comment.

    1. Buttigieg’s support among blacks, who make up about a quarter of the Democrat electorate, stands at about 0%. I think it’d be a risky move to hope blacks will turn out in big numbers for him.

      1. This is an urban myth that the Republicans and several Democrat candidates would like you to believe. Buttigieg does not have a black voter problem – black voters have a gay problem. Black voters favor Mayor Pete 57 to 4 versus Trump, compared to Joe’s 82 to 4 and Sanders’ 74-4. The 40% of black voters that do not support Pete explicitly state that it is because he is gay. Data at

      2. Yes, it’s a big problem. On the other hand, I can’t imagine many black voters for Trump. Many who may have done so in 2016 won’t be back now that the consensus is in on Trump’s racism. They’ll vote for Mayor Pete if they actually vote at all, which is no small issue. On balance, I think Pete’s centrism is a bigger positive than his black problem is a negative.

  32. To the original question, no it does not matter. I will vote – and campaign – for the Democratic nominee, no matter who it is. But as of right now, I don’t think there is a Democrat in the race that can beat him. His approval rating is now up to 49%, which is higher than Obama’s at this point in his first term.

  33. I agree whole heartedly. None of the democratic candidates represent a danger to world democracy and our Constitution as does trump. I have little patience for political idealists who ignore the real-world consequences of not endorsing a qualitatively better choice. And claiming that it doesn’t matter because one lives in a Democratic state ignores the political value of the national popular vote. I fear that if a moderate candidate is selected, a substantial number in the Sanders camp will boycott the election—as they did in 2016—thus extending the nightmare of the trump administration. Everyone, please, please, please vote in the general election!

  34. Ever since Americans re-elected George Bush Jr. I’ve never overestimated the American public. (Or some frighteningly large portion of it). I was thinking “Well, at least they won’t make THAT mistake again!” And then…whoah…repeat!

    Even as a Canuck I’ve been white-knuckling it through Trump’s presidency thus far and yet I have a very bad feeling about this election.

Leave a Reply