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The Carletonian

Do not vote for the most “electable” candidate in 2020

The 2020 election cycle is ramping up, and although it’s early, people are beginning to form their opinions of the candidates. A prominent factor in many Democrats’ decisions on who to support is electability. 2016 burned Democrats pretty good, and I think many of them are more focused on beating Trump than on electing the candidate who best serves their needs. 

It is not necessarily bad that people are considering candidates whom they believe can realistically win over candidates that they may agree with more. However, voting based on electability alone is dangerous because it is quite difficult to predict. There are tons of factors that influence presidential elections, and innumerable things can and will change between the primaries and the general election. 

The average voter cannot possibly gather enough data and political expertise to accurately predict who can win an election. Due to the difficulty of actually determining electability, voters as well as the media look to past elections and compare previous winners to current candidates. This creates a vision of electability that reinforces characteristics of past presidents, specifically that they are white and male. 

Only one non-white man has ever won the presidency, and no women have ever won. This predictably leads voters to believe that a woman or person of color has a slim chance of winning the presidency.

However, there is no evidence that suggests that voters are actually predisposed to avoid these types of candidates. 

To put things in perspective, consider Donald Trump. Did you deem him an electable candidate in 2015? Few people thought Trump was a legitimate contender until he defeated Ted Cruz in the Republican primary. Just because a candidate is significantly different from previous presidents does not necessarily count the out of the race; Trump had success in part because he was so unconventional. 

When people talk about the most electable candidates in the 2020 election, they often bring up Joe Biden. This is because he has a lot of support among white Rust Belt voters. Many of these voters voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Trump in 2016, flipping key states in Republicans’ favor. Democrats obviously want to focus on regaining the support of those voters, and Biden seems to be the party’s best shot at doing so. This is not the only way to win the election, however, so it would be unwise for voters to choose Biden simply because he could capture white, working-class votes. 

Electability as it stands now is most often taken to mean the candidate who would most appeal to moderates who voted for Trump. People seem to believe that the answer to this is a white, male candidate, though there is no evidence to suggest that race or gender will make a difference here. It is likely that the voters who actually do prefer a white, male candidate are more conservative and will vote for Trump anyway.

So, if you’re deciding who to support in 2020, I’d avoid thinking about electability. It doesn’t mean much and the primary system is generally pretty good at nominating the candidate with the best chance to win anyway. If I haven’t convinced you and you’d still like to consider electability, here’s my take: I think Joe Biden is most likely to win. In addition to the support he has among Rust Belt voters (a key Trump demographic), black and latino voters support Biden at greater levels than any other Democratic candidate.

Given the broad coalition he has already built as well as the huge advantage he has in name recognition and media coverage, he looks poised to be the eventual nominee. It’s still early though, so that could certainly change.

If 2016 showed us anything, it’s that no matter how well you think you know Americans, you’re probably at least a little bit wrong. So vote for the candidate who you agree with the most, and hope that the best candidate wins. 

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