In the wake of the Democrat debates over the last two days I’ve heard complaints from moderate Democrats and some anti-Trump ex-Republicans. “They’re throwing away the election! We’re going to have another four years of Trump!”
No, they’re not.
This is a primary. Even with heightened interest in the primary – and there was a viewership roughly 50% higher than expected for the first debate – there’s only one thing that matters in the primary, and that’s winning it.
For those who don’t believe me, think back to the Republican primary of 2016, where Trump issued an open threat to our military, lied about knowing 9/11 victims and promised that he would fund his own campaign, among dozens of other offenses and lies.
When the general election came, the only thing that mattered was that he wasn’t Hillary. All the rest wound up being useful for sound bites in commercials to influence independents, and that’s all.
Republicans complain that the Democrats control the media. To a significant extent, that’s true… and the media the Democrats don’t control, the Republicans tend to control. The Republican media will be framing the Democrat as the worst creature in the world during the general election and portraying Trump as a saint; the Democrat media will be doing the reverse. The advantage the Democrats hold in media coverage will be important.
Most independents, even if they’re paying attention to the primaries – and few of them are – won’t remember or care about what was said at this time, come the election. They will carry forth a feeling about particular candidates, not disagreements with their policy.
The Democrat activist leaders know this, which is why they’re pushing their hard left candidates now. It is not necessarily that the party has skewed far left; it is that Trump is viewed by a majority of Democrats as a living nightmare, and they can get that base to vote for just about anyone instead of him.
This is exactly what happened in 2016, when Republican activist leaders argued that anyone could beat Hillary, and it was their best chance to elect another Reagan, that there was no need to push a centrist that could lure Democrat votes because Hillary herself would push many centrist Democrats away.
The Republicans were right… and the person they chose for their “easy win” slot was an anti-Reagan instead. That person had a more difficult election than most, but won anyway for the simple reason that he wasn’t Hillary. He was likely to be bad… but it was known that Hillary would be awful. Many people stayed home.
The best chance that Trump has of retaining control is that the Democrats elect someone like Bernie Sanders. All that will do is make the election competitive. It will not lose the election for the Democrats; they still have the upper hand, as they were able to get a majority of the popular vote last time while running Hillary – about as disliked and distrusted as Sanders is likely to be – and they are also seeing a shift toward the Democrat in nearly all “swing” states.
Nominating a hard left Democrat is likely to result in a win for the Democrats instead of a landslide for the Democrats. It will make the race uncertain, not lost.
That is why the value of the Democrat primary is simultaneously hugely important in that it chooses a combatant, and completely unimportant because things stated in it will have virtually no effect on the general election.
Meanwhile, their rhetoric should hammer home an important point to all non-leftist viewers: these people are not our political friends. There are many among the rank and file who are, and there may be some allies among the moderate Democrats, but on the whole the Democrat party is not a party I wish to associate with any more than I do the modern Trumpublicans.
This should be a time when ex-Republicans rally behind Republican dissidents like Bill Weld or seek outside the two largest parties for candidates to promote.
If there is any chance to avoid more choices between political immolation or political drowning, it has to be sought early. Independents aren’t listening right now. They have to be exposed to just how awful the ideas on both sides are, and also told that there are options – and those options need to be framed as potentially viable.
That is the task before us. Not to cheer a Democrat against Trump or a Republican against Sanders, but to cheer for liberty and freedom against anyone who would usurp it.