I’m pretty sure I’d be a terrible political strategist since I never really know why people vote for what they do, but I have been observing this primary very closely and have some takes that no one seems to be saying so I thought I’d put them out there.
Joe Biden is winning mostly because people think he’s electable. That’s what his entire candidacy is built on, and the only way to beat him is to take that away.
Bernie Sanders and his people are absolutely obsessed with ideological purity. As a Warren supporter, the #1 thing Sanders supporters have expressed to me is that Warren being registered as a Republican in the 80s (even though she didn’t vote) is disqualifying, even though she displayed a record in the Senate that was arguably even more progressive than Sanders. He has built a reputation of a person that has never changed his mind on anything, and then contrasts that with his opponents. That works when the goal is to become the King Progressive, but it doesn’t work when trying to win the primary of an ideologically diverse party.
I think this primary has shown us that most people don’t actually care about what a candidate’s position was 40 years ago. Kamala Harris tried to hit Biden on his position on busing in the 70s, and she’s out of the race and he’s dominating. And not just dominating, but absolutely crushing among black voters, the folks most affected by the busing issue. This race is about TRUMP. It’s about 2020. Your ideological purity in the 70s has no sway here.
Compared to Joe Biden, I believe Bernie Sanders is the FAR superior candidate, in terms of both policy and electability. He both has a good political platform and, although unfortunately being a 78 year old man with heart problems, is vastly more mentally sharp than Biden. But if undecided Democratic voters think the choice is between a guy that polls well among swing state voters and minorities (Biden does!) versus a guy that was right about some stuff in the 70s, they’re going to pick the first one!
This whole idea has been weighing on me since Super Tuesday. It seemed obvious to me. But just today, Sanders used his Detroit rally to rail on Biden for some comments he made on abortion in 1974. 46 years ago! Since then Biden has been a Senator and Vice President. In the 2012 Obama campaign he unabashedly identified as pro-choice. Sanders die-hards may value life-long consistency over all other attributes, but most people have changed their mind on major issues at least once in their lives and are fairly sympathetic to others who have too… especially when that mind change happened decades ago.
So if ideological purity isn’t going to win it for us, we need to be honest about what will: electability. And in that regard, Biden is a paper tiger. A candidate propped up by endorsements and media hiveminds is electable, until he isn’t. All of his wins came in a very short period of time under very little scrutiny. Sanders needs to just forget about the shit from decades ago and focus on what could make Biden lose an election to Trump THIS YEAR. Here is how I think he should attack Biden:
- Biden recently lied about being arrested with Nelson Mandela several times. Hammer this and let voters know that if you give them a choice between a liar and a liar they will choose neither… which helps the incumbent.
- Biden has been forgetting his talking points, performing terribly in debates, and constantly getting numbers wrong. Scare voters by telling them “imagine how the GOP would use this”. We need a President aware of the crises we’re facing.
- Biden has a corrupt son and a fake “scandal” just sitting in the GOP’s lap ready to go. Convince voters that they will use the same playbook they used on Hillary Clinton to tank his support. This is the ULTIMATE fear of Dems and it can easily be exploited.
- Accept the torch Elizabeth Warren held and hit Biden on his delusional belief that he can work with Republicans. Show specifically how he would get his lunch money stolen by trying to compromise with Mitch McConnell.
- I know Bernie will hate this, but it needs to be done: stress that the videos of Biden being super weird around women will constantly circulate during the general election and at the very least turn independent voters off… at the worst it will discourage many women.
- Joe Biden has a history of saying insanely stupid shit, and he is almost guaranteed to do it between today and election day.
- Focus on how Biden won by collecting momentum in an insanely short period of time (while Bernie was the frontrunner otherwise) to show that this momentum won’t last.
- All in all, the overarching message should be that Biden’s approval rating is highly variable and subject to tank due to the fact that he fails in a lot of the same areas that Trump fails and is vulnerable to attacks from all angles.
Bernie Sanders doesn’t have all these vulnerabilities. He’s a super left wing guy and everyone already knows that, so it’s built into his approval numbers. The skeletons in his closet are mostly nothing, he’s a good debater, and he doesn’t fuck up and say stupid shit. But the narrative on him is that he is not electable and Biden is, and that’s what people are basing their votes on.
The Sanders-adjacent left tends to be very confident about the outcomes of inherently unpredictable political races. “If they don’t nominate Bernie they want to lose” is a sentiment I hear often. This assumes that the Sanders campaign is more politically savvy than any of his opponents, and is a unique foil to Trump because of it. But if Sanders couldn’t see his opponents consolidation against him coming, and he can’t pivot his attacks against a candidate with glaring weaknesses just asking to be attacked, then how politically savvy is Sanders really? And if Sanders really is a one-trick pony that isn’t up to the challenge of taking out an incredibly flawed opponent, then why is he the best choice to face Trump?
The electability argument must first be won by taking out Biden, and Biden won’t be taken out by bringing up some shit from the 1970’s.