The Biden candidacy is based on a mistake – the erroneous impression that he is more electable than any of the other candidates in the Democratic field. This erroneous impression flows from journalists and Democratic voters forgetting the underlying dynamics of the upcoming presidential contest. The most electable Democrat will be the person who can both:
(1) Win back working class white votes in the mid-West, AND
(2) Stimulate a high turnout of Millennials (voters ages 18-37).
The geographic distribution of Democratic-leaning voters demands that the next presidential candidate be capable of pulling off both of these tasks. Millennials, along with people of color, are key voters in the swing states of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia. Meanwhile, working class white voters are a key voting bloc in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Both collections of states are essential for a Democratic victory.
Young voters do not come to the polls for Democrats they don’t like
The case for Joe Biden being the most electable Democrat incorrectly assumes that anti-Trump anger will, by itself, stimulate a big turnout of Millennial voters. Previous election losses show that this does not always happen.
For example, in 2000, Al Gore, Bill Clinton’s Vice President, in the middle of an economic boom, lost the presidential election to George Bush, a little known, one-term governor of Texas. As I point out in my book, The Roots of Defeat, “Reflecting the evolving Third Way emphasis on moving closer to Republicans on social issues, seeking out elusive swing voters in the suburbs, and attempting to be “moderate” on economic issues, Gore downplayed partisan politics.”
Lack of enthusiasm for his Third Way policies led to a low turnout, with only 51.3% of eligible voters participating. While voters ages 18-29 supported Gore over Bush by a narrow 53% to 46% margin, only 40% of Americans in this age group came to the polls.
A similar phenomena occurred in the 2016 presidential election. While six million people who supported Barack Obama in 2012 voted for Trump, 4.4 million Obama supporters didn’t vote at all, and another 2.3 million voted for a third party candidate. Half of those Obama supporters who didn’t vote were people of color. More than 23% of them were below the age of 30, while just 10% of the Obama supporters who voted for Hillary Clinton were below the age of 30. Being a member of the Obama administration doesn’t automatically mean young people and people of color will come out and vote for you.
Millennials for Biden?
As they were in 2016, the majority of Millennial voters (people who turned 18 in 2000 and later) face stressful economic times. For example, the median income for young men in the 25 to 34 age group, adjusted for inflation, is 10% lower than it was in 1975. Student loan debt has soared to more than $1.5 trillion. These voters are now much more aware of the political roots of their distress. They want Democrats who respond to their needs with bold proposals. In response, a wide variety of candidates with startlingly progressive ideas have entered the Democratic primary.
Will these “woke” voters turn out for Joe Biden? That is, will these voters participate in the general election if the progressive candidates they rally for and vote for in the Democratic primary lose to a candidate who represents the Democratic establishment? A candidate who is clearly favored and financed by Wall Street and High Tech Democrats? For an establishment candidate who only receives 30 to 35% of the vote in primary elections against “their” candidates. Some will, but a critical percentage won’t – the danger that lurks behind the “Biden is the most electable Democrat” argument.