• Peter Alson

The Trap of “More Electable”

Updated: Dec 28, 2020


Now that it’s looking more and more like Donald Trump is going to win the Republican nomination, I think it’s time to take a step back and think about what this means and portends for the general.

For Democrats, the question now is, whom should they pit against Trump? Who’s the best bet to beat him? A lot of my friends and the people whose posts I read on Facebook have been lobbying for Hillary because they think she is more “electable,” and they’re afraid of what will happen if the Democrats lose this election.

I get that. There’s a lot at stake here. We want the most electable candidate. But what does that mean in this particular cycle? On the Republican side, most people considered Jeb Bush the most “electable” candidate at the beginning of primary season. Lately, Marco Rubio has received the “most electable” mantle from the establishment. The voters ain’t buying it. Clearly something weird is going on. Traditional notions of what constitutes an electable candidate seem not to matter to the people pulling the voting levers. To anyone who is looking at this election season it should be clear by now what’s going on is indicative of a tremendous dissatisfaction with the status quo, and instead of resisting that idea, we need to understand it. Why is Trump dominating the primaries? Why is Sanders doing as well as he is?

The answer is actually not all that complicated. The system isn’t working for the masses. The American people are fed up with the establishment. They’re fed up with politics as usual and the idea that big money is running the show. They want somebody from outside the mainstream, somebody they perceive as uncorrupted. Yes, Hillary is leading Bernie right now, but that’s mostly because people who want to vote for Bernie are afraid he won’t win the general. I strongly believe that if Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, she will do so not because most Dems really prefer her, but because they’re afraid that Bernie isn’t electable. If a Jeb Bush or a Marco Rubio were leading the way on the Republican side, that would probably be true. But Trump’s ascendence changes everything. It totally alters the dynamics of how things will play out this fall. I’m now convinced that succumbing to fears about Bernie’s electability will be a huge mistake–and will actually ensure the opposite of the desired outcome, namely a Dem victory. Because I think that versus Trump, Bernie will be a much better candidate than Hillary. I think that Hillary is going to have a really tough time beating Trump and overcoming the anger of voters who are sick of the Bush and Clinton legacies. And I think a lot of people will be shocked to have so misread things.

This election will come down, as elections usually do, to the so-called independent voters, the swing voters. I think it’s pretty clear that Trump is going to get most of those independents in a matchup with Hillary. But in a race against Bernie, the independent vote will be a toss up. Not only will Bernie win more than his share of the swing voters, he will also pull some Republicans into his camp, people who would never in a million years vote for Hillary.

The Republican primary has been a referendum against the establishment, against Bush, against the mainstream. Anyone who thinks that the general election will not follow suit isn’t really paying attention.

Until now, I’d been on the fence about Bernie. I was worried that the people who were saying he was unelectable were right. But now I’m absolutely convinced that we NEED Bernie to be the Democratic candidate if we’re going to win this election. A lot of people see Bernie versus Hillary as a heart-versus-head question. As for me, my heart has always been with Bernie, but my head was telling me that Hillary would be our best chance in the general. Now my head is telling me that the game has changed, and I’m scared–really scared–that my friends and fellow Democrats won’t see this. If we look at this election the way the Republican establishment has been doing until now, we’ll be in for a painful surprise come November.

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