Monday, May 13, 2019

Will the Real Democrats Please Stand Up?

Jonathan Chait attempts to unlock the riddle of why Joe Biden seems to be doing so well, even if he doesn't seem to represent the leftward shift of the Democratic party. Chait points out that the general leftward shift of the party is frequently confused with the viewpoint of its leftmost adherents, which does't really make sense. The whole party can be shifting to the left--I believe that it is--but the median Democrat, even if more left than they once were, can still be pretty different from the aggressively left activists who seem to get most of the attention. Maybe that's why Biden is doing so well, much to the dismay of the Twitterati and the puzzlement of political observers who pay attention to that world. The median Democrat simply wants to beat Trump and a generally left program, even if falls short, of the current AOC-approved laundry list, will be just fine with them.
Of course, that's not what you'll see on Twitter. But, as Chait rightly observes:
"The most important ingredient in the delusion [of a left takeover of the Democratic party] was Twitter. It is hard to exaggerate the degree to which the platform shapes the minds of professional political observers. Part of Twitter’s allure to insiders is that it creates a simulacrum of the real world, complete with candidates, activists, and pundits all responding to events in real time. Because Twitter superficially resembles the outside world’s political debate — it does, after all, contain the full left-to-right spectrum — it is easy to mistake it for the real thing.
But the ersatz polity of Twitter doesn’t represent the real world. Democrats on Twitter skew young and college educated. A study last month found that the Twitter-using portion of the Democratic electorate harbors far more progressive views on everything than the party’s voting base.
One striking example of the disconnect took place earlier this year in Virginia. An old medical-school yearbook showed Ralph Northam, the state’s Democratic governor, in a picture featuring a blackface costume and Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. If you followed the debate on Twitter, as nearly all political reporters did, Northam’s resignation was simply a given. The debate turned to when he would step down, who would replace him, and what other prominent people would have career-ending blackface yearbook photographs.
Virginians, however, were split in ways the political elite would never have guessed. Whites and Republicans favored his resignation, while African-American voters believed, by a 20-point margin, that Northam should not resign."
So don't believe what you see or hear on Twitter. Biden doesn't and that appears to be serving him very well. Other candidates should take note.
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His apparent resurrection from relic to front-runner has illustrated a chasm between perception and reality about the party’s leftward shift.

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