The Real Electabliity Questions

Over the last few election cycles we have learned pretty definitively that we know a lot less about electability than we think we do. Our last two presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, were both viewed as axiomatically unelectable when they began their campaigns for the White House. Moreover, most candidates have both positive and negative and electoral traits so their overall electability becomes a post facto assessment rather than having any predictive value. For example, in 2016 Hillary Clinton was very electable until she wasn’t. Similarly, had John Kerry beat George W. Bush in 2004, the punditry would have explained that as a war hero with years of experience he was the perfect candidate, but he lost narrowly, so we have been told he was a northeaster liberal with limited charisma and therefore a week candidate. Given this, when somebody tells you they think a particular primary candidate is electable, what they usually mean is simply that they are supporting that candidate. 

Misreading Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Campaign

It may be that in 2016, it was not Sanders who consolidated the anti-Clinton sentiment, but Clinton who consolidated the anti-Sanders sentiment. As the primaries went on voters who found Sanders too far left, did not like his inability and seeming unwillingnessto connect to non-white voters, or chafed at the sexism of many in his campaign, had nowhere to go but to Clinton. In 2020, according to this view, the vote that went to Clinton will be dispersed among all the other candidates while Sanders will hold his base. If that happens, Sanders will be in a very good position to win the nomination.

Turkey, Nice and the Value of Political Stability

litical instability is lurking on the sidelines of American political life as well. The frequency of extra-judicial killings of African Americans by police from Staten Island to Baron Rouge, the killing of five police officers in Dallas and, perhaps the willingness of Donald Trump to dance up to, and occasionally cross, the line of encouraging insatiably are all evidence of this. The widening wealth gap, a sense among many that socio-economic mobility is limited, and more general racial and ethnic tensions also raise questions about continuing political stability in the US.

Bernie Sanders' Vanishing Act

The presidential race has moved on and Sanders is no longer leading a political revolution, but is trying to remain relevant, and maintain some leverage, in a fast-moving election where fear of the Republican nominee has, as expected, helped solidify the Democratic base around Ms. Clinton and largely put to rest concerns about Sanders supporters refusing to support the former first lady.

The Primaries Aren't Rigged, but the Two Party System Is

The two-party system endures through a combination of residual political loyalty, entropy and, most significantly, a set of legal and electoral structures that create extraordinary barriers for potential third parties or independent bids for office, rather than because it is a rational organization of political interests. Rules making ballot access for independent candidacies difficult, the challenges independent candidates face getting media coverage or even participating in debates and state and primary elections that are paid for, in substantial part, by the states rather than the parties all contribute to the dominance of the two party system. Blurring the line between state and party has been a problem of authoritarian regimes for decades. In the US, the phenomena is slightly different, but line between the state and the two major parties is frequently difficult to identify.