Last weekend, The New York Times ran a supposedly “straight” news story headlined: “Should a White Man Be the Face of the Democratic Party in 2020?“ It is a discussion occurring in traditional and social media, most often pushed by elites whose answer is already “no.” Overall, however, Democrat voters seem much less consumed by identity politics than do those with soapboxes and megaphones.
Most Democrats would prefer to win the 2020 election. A few weeks ago, YouGov conducted a poll for the HuffPost (of all outlets) indicating 51 percent of Democrats think it is more important to nominate a candidate who can beat Donald Trump, while only 35 percent think it is more important that the nominee be closer to them on issues. Among Democrats and Dem-leaners, only the 18-29 age group prioritizes issues over winning.
YouGov also asked whether various demographic traits make a candidate more or less electable. The answers from Democrats were not quite what people may guess from Big Media’s political coverage.
For example, 30 percent of Democrats think people would be more likely to vote for a white candidate. In contrast, 8 percent think voters would be less likely to support someone who is white. Thirty-four percent of Democrats believe voters would be more likely to back a male candidate. A mere 5 percent of Dems think people would be less likely to vote for a man. Considering age, 24 percent believe voters would prefer a candidate younger than 50 years old; 12 percent believe a younger candidate is less electable.
On the other hand, only 12 percent of Democrats opined that a nonwhite candidate would attract more voters, while 29 percent thought voters would be less supportive. Seventeen percent think a female candidate would be more electable. Thirty percent answered that a woman would be less electable. Democrats further believe that a candidate older than 70 years old would be less electable (10 percent versus 32 percent).
What accounts for these attitudes? One reasonable theory would be these answers conform to Democrats’ view of their current field of candidates and potentials. After all, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders lead the polls and many believe this is a matter of name ID. But the theory is incomplete. Both Biden and Sanders are older candidates. Conversely, Democrats are coming off a successful midterm election that was a “year of the woman.”
Another possible explanation is that Democrats believe whites and men are marginally more electable because they think voters are racist. The YouGov poll could be read to support this theory. Ironically, Republicans generally tended to think identity matters less in general, so Democrats’ answers may reflect what they think of non-Democrats.
Yet this theory is also incomplete. Most Democrats stereotype Republicans as prejudiced, but it is not an overwhelming majority.
Moreover, if Democrats strongly believed electability were driven by prejudice or identity politics, it does not show up in the YouGov data. Forty percent of Democrats do not believe a candidate being white makes a difference. Another 23 percent are unsure whether being white matters. Similarly, 34 percent of Dems think that being nonwhite does not make a difference, with 23 percent unsure.
The same pattern appears with respect to sex. Among Democrats, 33 percent believe a female candidate does not affect voting behavior, with 22 percent unsure. The difference for a male candidate is 41 percent “does not matter” and 19 percent unsure. This basic dynamic also applies to the age categories. Nevertheless, the party’s far-left elites and pundits have been pushing the theory that winning 2020 requires nominating a progressive of color to mobilize the party’s base.
The 2018 losses of statewide candidates like Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams should have been a wake-up call for the woke. Gillum did not overperform with nonwhites (particularly Hispanic voters) sufficiently to overcome the large block of right-leaning white seniors in Florida. Abrams was more successful in turning out nonwhite voters and suburban whites in Georgia, but seemingly fell behind in with rural African-Americans.
Instead, the woke persist in the delusion that the election was stolen from Abrams. At the very least, they are unwilling to contradict Abrams on this nuttery in public.
Progressive elites and pundits would do better to consider how little Democrats believe identity matters to electability. Then again, they also would do better to realize that, while the Democratic Party is shifting leftward, it remains 56 percent white and 48 percent older than the age of 50. Indeed, whites without a college degree, whom the woke seem bent on pushing out, remain the largest segment of the Democratic Party. Perhaps the woke will own the party’s future; they have not won it yet.
The discussion as conducted now in the Times (with “dozens” of self-selected people who attend Democratic speeches in early 2019)—or on cable television or social media—is essentially a joke. In particular, it is the joke about the man who gets drunk at a bar, loses his keys, and decides to look for them only under the streetlamp because that’s where the light is. In both cases, it can only be hoped that the keys are not found until they sober up.