How bad is Hillary as a candidate? This election cycle is the second time the Democratic establishment has tried to clear the field for her, and while her sacking by the uniquely positioned Barack Obama eight years ago is understandable, to see her struggling to overcome the challenge from a glowering grouchy grandfather socialist like Bernie Sanders tells us a lot about how far left the Democratic base has drifted. Liberals like to spout the nonsense that Reagan couldn’t get nominated in today’s Republican Party (but somehow the GOP nominated John McCain and Mitt Romney instead??), but why not ask whether Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis—or Bill Clinton—could be nominated in today’s Democratic Party.
I’ve already mentioned that Slow Joe Biden’s recent comments appear to be calculated to keep the door open for a last minute run if Hillary is indicted or suffers some other kind of collapse. The Washington Post reported a couple days ago that the Democratic establishment is “anxious” about Hillary’s apparent weakness:
Some leading Democrats are increasingly anxious about Hillary Clinton’s prospects for winning the party’s presidential nomination, warning that Sen. Bernie Sanders’s growing strength in early battleground states and strong fundraising point to a campaign that could last well into the spring. . .
On Capitol Hill and in state party headquarters, some Democrats worry that a Sanders nomination could imperil candidates down the ballot in swing districts and states. Others are expressing a sense of deja vu from 2008, when Clinton’s overwhelming edge cratered in the days before the Iowa caucuses.
Ah, but demographics will save the Democrats, right? Not so fast says lefty author John Judis, one of the co-authors of the thesis popular 15 years ago that demographics were tilting massively in the Democrats’ favor—a prediction that seemed to have been borne out in 2008 and 2012. Judis now says Democrats are in trouble on the demographic front:
“The Republican party is in a death spiral,” Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg warns in his new book America Ascendant. It is in a “pitched fight” with what Greenberg calls the “new American majority,” which is composed of “African Americans, Hispanics, Millennials,” who “will constitute 54 percent of the electorate in 2016.” If one includes “seculars with no religious affiliation,” then this group amounts to 63 percent of the electorate that is sympathetic to the Democrats.
Greenberg’s claim is merely the latest version of an argument that Celinda Lake and other Democratic pollsters as well as analysts from the Center for American Progress have been making for the past three or four years. The heart of the argument is that the groups in the population that are likely to vote for Democrats are growing, while those that are likely to vote for Republicans are shrinking as a percentage of the electorate. As a result, Democrats will inevitably win political majorities.
This argument is at least half-wrong. . .
From here Judis walks through a number of different demographic trends that look to favor Republicans going forward (including one trend that shows Republicans gaining strength with some Hispanics), and concludes:
By sheer demographic calculation, you can’t plausibly predict which party will capture Washington over the next decade or two. What finally makes the difference in overall election results is not demographics but politics. . .
Imagine that! Candidate quality and ideas matter! Hillary is short on both accounts.
Judis, who is, remember, a lefty, worries that Democrats are once again lurching off the edge of the planet on social issues:
Democrats have also suffered when they have become identified too closely with the social or cultural agenda of groups within their coalition. . . Democrats’ identification with Black Lives Matter protests against the police — no matter how justified — could also cost them in the coming election. In a special election last May in a Staten Island and Brooklyn congressional district that voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, where Democrats enjoy a 16-point edge in voter registration, the Republican district attorney who had failed to secure an indictment against the cop who killed Eric Garner routed a Democratic opponent who had been critical of his handling of the case.
In these instances, Democrats have lost votes not simply because they backed measures favored by their base, but because they became identified primarily with those measures to the exclusion of a more generalizable appeal on economics and national security — the kind that got Bill Clinton elected in 1992 and Barack Obama in 2008.