I keep hearing people arguing about “electability”. Specifically, who would have a better chance of defeating Donald Trump (or Ted Cruz) in the general election.
Personally, I think this debate is pointless. The more important issue is, whoever the Democratic candidate happens to be, how are we going to defeat Donald Trump. Trump seems to be a difficult person to attack – the Republican primary seems to be (figuratively) littered with the corpses of candidates who tried to attack him.
Nevertheless, Vox recently published a very good article by Matthew Yglesias comparing the electability of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and what the issues are. I like that he isn’t trying to convince you one way or the other, he’s simply reviewing all the arguments over a question that can never really be answered. There aren’t any pithy conclusions for me to quote, so I recommend that you go read it.
Meanwhile, an article published Thursday actually hits the nail on the head about the whole problem of electability.
The issue isn’t really about whether Sanders or Clinton is more electable. In fact, the issue is, the issues! For example, in the Vox article they point out that both Clinton and Sanders want to do something about climate change. A strong majority of Americans say that human-caused climate change is real and the government should do something about it, which is good. Sanders has come out strongly in favor of a carbon tax. Personally, I agree with him. However, Vox points out that in survey after survey, Americans rate a carbon tax as their least popular climate fix: 75 to 80 percent of Americans favor EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, only 25 to 45 percent favor a carbon tax. (Why? Probably propaganda from the right, like Fox News.)
So the next president can either spend a bunch of political capital trying to enact a carbon tax (which would likely fail), or they can get the EPA to cap emissions of greenhouse gasses, which has a much better chance of being enacted. But there is another solution – change the game. Get more progressives elected and turn the political tide. This is nothing new – the Republicans did it with their “Southern Strategy” – the progressives just need to do the same thing. They need to get progressives elected at all levels of government.
Why? Because while Democrats seem completely focused on national politics (and on the presidency in particular), it doesn’t do any good to have a progressive president if they don’t have a progressive Congress passing the laws we need. And Congress is elected state by state. It is ridiculous that even though Democrats outnumber Republicans that at the state level Republicans control both the legislature and governor’s office of 23 states, while the Democrats have similar control over only 7 states. This has significant consequences, not the least of which is that the states control redistricting, which is one of the big reasons Republicans also control the House of Representatives.
The good news is that a group of former Sanders staffers are launching a new political action committee (PAC) whose goal is to get more progressives elected to Congress. Their name “Brand New Congress” reflects their goal of taking the things that worked in Sanders’s campaign and turn them to the task of electing a new Congress that will enact progressive laws.
I think this is a fantastic idea, regardless of who becomes the next president. Sanders showed that he could raise lots of money, and that kind of money will be a potent weapon against the money being poured into congressional elections by people like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers.
Meanwhile, the timing is right. A new poll shows that 62% of Americans have an unfavorable impression of the Republican party, compared to 33% who view the party favorably. This is the worst unfavorability ratings for the GOP in decades, and the trend is getting worse.
“75 to 80 percent of Americans favor EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, only 25 to 45 percent favor a carbon tax”
The cynical part of me wonders if this really matters in terms of getting something enacted. While I agree that taking the less popular, more effective route of pursuing a carbon tax might be difficult with opponents saying “look how unpopular it is!” I think most of us can agree that the GOP would oppose EPA action regardless of the polls. Most Americans favor some sort of strengthened background check for firearms purchases, but Congress (or its largest party, anyway) seems perfectly content to do nothing.