Just as it seems Pete Buttigieg may have won Iowa, I read that polls show many Americans believe the country is not ready for a gay president. There are even stories of a voter wishing to change their vote after learning that ‘Mayor Pete’ was gay. However, there has also been suggestions voters are also hesitant on electability of:
- candidates older than trump
- progressive candidates
Does this means almost the entire field of candidates have ‘electability’ problems? Between the impeachment that would never win the senate vote, the debacle of the Iowa primary, and a field of candidates that it can be said have electability limitations, it can appear that democrats are sabotaging their own changes of winning the upcomming mid-term election. Are the electability problems real, or given Obama proved that a African-American candidate can be elected, does none of this really matter?
While there are rules protecting against discrimination on the basis of race, sexual orientation, age or gender, such rules mean nothing in t an electoral context. Voters have the right to let anything they choose influence their decision. If any meaningful percentage choose to to discriminate for any reason, then the impact could be sufficint to alter the result of an election.
So how might the various potential sources of discrimination play out? Looking at the ‘electability issues’ one by one:
- Sexual Orientation
(No front runners, Deval Patrick perhaps?)
Obama is seen as the first ‘black’ president, despite another perspective that he should be considered ‘mixed race’. I suggest those most likely to discriminate on the basis of race would identify Obama as ‘black’. The fact remains, Obama won both nomination as the democrat candidate and two general elections. This proves that if race does present a hurdle, it is a hurdle that can be overcome.
Non-Hispanic ‘white’ Americans are calculated to represent 60.7% of the US population in 2010. This leaves approximately 40% ‘something other than ‘simply white’ with 1.5x as many in the ‘white’ group as in the ‘not simply white’.
While it would be expected that any bias towards a ‘white’ candidate would only exists within ‘white’ 60%, there may be also some within that same group who feel it is time for a ‘non-white’, as well as those who see the issue as irrelevant. It is possible that the number of pro ‘non-white’ voters (arising from both groups) could be a larger number than the ‘must-be-white’ voters. Impossible to be certain, but with greater motivation for ‘non-whites’ to finally even the balance, it is certainly feasible.
This all comes from the majority being only 60/40, the potential for more passion within the minority, and the potential for crossover support for the minority from within the majority group. It is quite possible that support from the voting population is less of a hurdle than support from the ‘establishment’, which has a significantly higher ratio of ‘whites’ to ‘non-whites’.
There is no previous case of an ‘openly’ gay president. Another difference to ‘race’ is that the percentage of gay people within the population is far lower than the almost 40% percentage of ‘non-white’ people. Clearly there are some people who will change their vote to avoid voting for a gay candidate, there are likely to be other people who will balance the equation and prefer a gay candidate. Sexual orientation is the smallest minority group in consideration here in terms of pure numbers, but there are many supporters of this minority from those outside the minority.
(Sanders, Biden, Bloomberg)
Donald Trump raised the age of the oldest elected president by almost an entire year. Bernie Sanders, if elected, would raise that bar again by almost an entire decade. A decade is a far larger step than the one year with Trump. Unlike other minorities, even people older than Trump are not likely to be feeling it is about time they were represented. Older Americans are not really a discrete group in the sense of race or sexual orientation or gender as they have lived their entire life being elderly. They can also identify with being younger, and in many cases, more capable when they were at least slightly younger.
One a candidate reaches a certain age, it is difficult for age to be seen other than as a hurdle. Other hurdles have a compensating ‘from the same minority’ group of passionate supporters, but with age, it is difficult to see what would inspire the passion for such a group.
(Warren, Klobuchar, Gabbard)
A woman has managed to win the democrat nomination previously, and has managed come extremely close in the presidential election. Women are actually the majority, so it women are more motivated to vote for a woman, then ‘non-women’ are motivated to not vote for a woman, then female nominee should have an advantage.
In a bizarre twist, polls record that the majority of Americans feel they personally would accept a woman president, but that others would not. In fact women have least faith others are ready for a woman president. If this is true, it should make it more difficult for a woman to win nomination (as party supports may be reluctant to vote for someone they do not believe others will vote for), than win the presidential election.
Socialists. Left wing candidates. When you move to the extreme of your party, then winning votes from the other party can become almost impossible. In fact you may lose centrist voters. In the USA voter turnout is between 65 and 68 percent, so the hope is to motivate more people to vote.
With a field of candidates where every single candidate has a ‘hurdle’ to clear, it may seem the Democrats are starting from a difficult position. However there may be two ways to beat Trump:
- a hero
- a combatant
Clearing a hurdle is a great step to becoming a hero. Can people rally around the eventual winner as a form of hero, or will they be seen as yet another politician? As a combatant, Bloomberg may be best positioned to Trump style fight ‘fire with fire’, but may move the whole debate to the right.