Democratic voters have a big decision in front of them today with the arrival of Super Tuesday, when roughly a dozen states hold democratic primaries/caucuses. Hillary Clinton currently has the lead in pledged delegates with 90, but Bernie Sanders is still close with 65, especially when you consider that 880 delegates will be awarded on Super Tuesday. But if Sanders doesn't have a stronger-than-expected showing on Super Tuesday, Clinton may be able to essentially lock up the nomination with an insurmountable delegate lead.
So in light of that, I have a question I'd like to ask Democratic Super Tuesday voters:
Who would you nominate for president if you were 100% sure that the candidate you chose would become the next president?
Because, guess what? It's true! Congratulations!
How do I know this? I can explain it in just six words: Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
I believe that "electability" is overrated. Candidates like John Kerry, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were deemed "electable" and got trounced, while even liberals like me couldn't imagine that a black candidate with a name like Barack Hussein Obama could be elected president in this (or, frankly, even the next) century.
But while I set a low bar for who can broadly be considered electable, I strongly believe that a candidate can be so bigoted, offensive, dishonest, ignorant, and ridiculous that a majority of American voters will never elect them to be president. Trump embodies this description, as did republican candidates before him like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke.
In 2012, the Republican National Committee attempted to do some soul searching after losing big in their second straight presidential election. In a refreshingly blunt post mortem, the RNC concluded that in a country that was becoming more diverse, tolerant, less religious, and would soon have a population with a non-white majority, republicans would continue to lose national elections if they continued to cater solely to their all-white, aging, rural, xenophobic, misogynistic, religiously extreme base. Republicans would have to shelve divisive social issues and start listening to minorities, women, and the non-rich to show that they could provide solutions for the important issues in their lives.
And how have Republican voters responded to this sobering reality check? By voting for Donald Trump, a fascist billionaire plutocrat warmonger who thinks poor people are "losers", wants to make gay marriage illegal, aims to defund Planned Parenthood, is hell-bent on embroiling America in intractable Middle East wars, has the open support of white supremacists, and has alienated, angered, or insulted Mexicans, gays, the disabled, blacks, prisoners of war, women, the Pope, Asians, and Muslims (and I'm sure I'm leaving some out). Trump, who thinks immigration reform is forcibly deporting over 11 million illegal immigrants (and their American-born children) and building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. A candidate who thinks global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese.
Does this sound like a candidate who can win in 2016? Not a chance, especially since a less offensive, less extreme Republican candidate like Mitt Romney couldn't win in 2012. And America hasn't gotten more white and racist since then, despite the fact that white racists have gotten louder in their losing battle with diversity and progress.
That's why the Republican establishment has been struggling in vain to find a more palatable candidate to oppose Trump, ignoring the fact that the republican party as a whole has become so extreme, uninterested in governing, and divorced from reality that even the GOP's allegedly "electable" and "establishment" candidates share most of Trump's views about militarism, the economy, the poor, immigration, global warming, women's rights, and minorities -- they just present them in a more genteel, coded manner that the Tea Party base no longer trusts. And if Trump somehow loses the nomination to an "establishment" republican, Trump has demeaned and insulted both the other republican candidates and the republican establishment so much that his fanbase might find them hard to support.
The Republican establishment has become so desperate because they know what will happen if Trump is nominated. His extreme, bigoted stances and repulsive personality will drive away virtually every demographic except for the most ignorant white racists and the greediest plutocrats. The fear of a Trump presidency will cause saner Republicans to stay home on election day while energizing a diverse coalition of left-leaning voters to support the Democratic nominee, whoever it might be. This Democratic wave will then spill over into down-ballot contests, imperiling vulnerable republican congressmen and governorships, and would put liberals in control of the Supreme Court for a generation.
While I don't want to seem dismissive or breed complacency, Trump and the dysfunction, lack of leadership, and radical conservatism of the Republican party has practically guaranteed a Democratic win. Which brings us back to my original question of who Democratic Super Tuesday voters would vote for if they knew that whoever they chose would win.
There's a well-worn saying that people should vote based on their hopes, not their fears. However, this is easier said than done since fear is such a powerful motivator, and the idea of a Trump presidency is pretty damn terrifying. But if you're like me (and, apparently, the Republican party) and believe that Trump winning the presidency is virtually impossible, hopefully some of that fear will go away and Democrats can vote for the candidate who best represents the vision of America they actually want instead of the candidate trying to scare us with their vision of what might happen if they don't win.
Of the two Democratic candidates, I think it's safe to say Hillary Clinton is the one running a more fear-based campaign while Bernie Sanders has the bolder, more hopeful vision for America's future. Clinton has (dishonestly) claimed that a Sanders presidency would mean the undoing of Obama's legacy, particularly Obamacare, when Sanders' plan actually builds on Obamacare's expansion of Medicare so it covers all Americans. Her campaign plays on the fear of a Republican presidency, claiming that voters should vote for Clinton because Sanders won't be able to beat the republican nominee, even though polls have shown Sanders beating Trump by wider margins than Clinton would in a hypothetical matchup. She says that the size and boldness of Sanders' vision is a negative (even though she claims to share its goals) because Republicans would oppose it so vehemently, essentially saying that we should elect her out of fear of how Republicans will treat Sanders' unabashed liberalism as opposed to her more "modest" (assumedly meaning more republican-friendly) proposals. Of course, this ignores the way Republicans tried to destroy her with their endless Benghazi "investigation", that Republicans are little more than an obstructionist party, and that she may be tied with Obama for the Democrat Republicans hate the most. As far as I can tell, Clinton's vision for America is "Like Obama's, but slower, and more to the right."
With Republicans in such historic disarray and upheaval that some pundits are even pondering if the party is on the brink of collapse, Democrats have been handed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put our dream candidate in the White House, with no compromises for "electability", and have that candidate put the Supreme Court solidly in liberal control for decades.
Now is not the time for Democrats to vote out of fear or caution. The rise of Trump, while frightening, is only scary because it's the wild flailing of a Republican party in its death throes. If Democrats can get over their fears and fully grasp the opportunity we've been handed to gain control of two of the three branches of government, things have rarely looked more hopeful.