It is legitimate for moderates to be concerned about progressive policy proposals driving away some moderates and driving up voting rates within Trump’s conservative base. But where is the concern about all the white swing voters Clinton lost in 2016, even as she failed to turn out the Democratic base? Where is the recognition by moderates that public support for progressive policies has reached a 60-year high?
Moderate fears of a progressive losing to Trump are valid. But progressive fears of a moderate losing to Trump are valid too.
When moderate Democrats assure us that they would win back more white swing voters than progressive Democrats would, I am haunted by the thought that the evidence is hardly so reassuring. I see moderate candidates struggling with younger voters, who are more likely to favor progressive policies, and are more likely than older voters to stay home or vote third party if they don’t like the Democrat. The leaders of nine progressive organizations recently told The Atlantic that a Biden nomination “would trigger a huge deflation in enthusiasm, and a shrinking ... volunteer pool.”
Ibram X. Kendi: The greatest white privilege is life itself
Already “Russians are repeating the same tactics” of deflating voters. Other state actors have joined the fray, and “the United States has no national strategy to counter foreign influence.” American trolls and bots have evolved since 2016, and reportedly may pose a greater threat in the 2020 election. The steepest declines in voting among black people in 2016 were among young black men, and Trump is tailoring his pitch to black men. The election will, in part, hang on whether young voters and especially young black voters will be willing and able to run the gantlet of intense trolling and voter suppression to cast a ballot for a moderate Democrat they may not like. I am haunted most of all because the only thing we can safely predict about an election with Trump is that we can’t safely predict anything about an election with Trump.
I don’t prefer the misleading term moderate (or progressive for that matter). Self-identified moderates, independents, and undecided voters are not necessarily centrists. But there are Democratic candidates claiming that they are best equipped to win these moderates, independents, Republicans, and undecided voters. There are candidates opposing Medicare for All, free public college, the Green New Deal, and a wealth tax. I will call these candidates moderates. And these are the Democrats I fear will lose to Trump.
I am not alone. Nearly one-third of Democratic-primary voters fear their party could lose the presidential election if their nominee is not progressive enough. A relatively equal number of Democratic-primary voters fear their party could lose if their nominee is not moderate enough. But it seems like moderate fears have received the most airing. Every time I looked up over the past year, I saw broadcasts of “stark” warnings like “The latest wave of far-left ideas ... could lead to electoral disaster in 2020.” I heard moderate candidates like Biden saying, “Show me the really left-left-left-left-wingers who beat a Republican.” After stepping off a summer debate stage, Senator Amy Klobuchar said on CNN, “People [who] are watching right now” are “moderate Republicans, and we need to win them to win the election.” In The Atlantic, Yascha Mounk urged Democrats to win back those Obama-to-Trump voters who “made a real difference” in the 2016 election.