What Warren’s Downfall Really Tells Us About American Voters

Much ink has been spilled about Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s decision to drop out of the Democratic primary. We have been told by the insulated journalistic and commentary class that Warren’s down fall is somehow due to sexism although little evidence has been provided to support this claim. However, Warren’s lack of appeal to voters in her own party was due to what was considered by many to be her strength: her plans.

Warren billed herself as the one who “has a plan for that.” Her plans were a grab bag of leftist goodies that one would think Democratic primary voters would be all over, but they were not. Warren was the candidate for left-wing technocrats and the percentage of technocratic voters is minuscule in comparison to non-technocrats.

In primaries there are typically two sets of voters. One is the true believers who want their party to stand for something. They will often cite the need to provide clear and stark contrasts with the opposition. They want candidates to be in line with their policies, but are not too concerned with details. This is largely the Bernie Sanders crowd.

The second is the loyal foot soldier who just wants to win. These are typically more moderate voters who believe moderates can better appeal to independents or those who want power for its own sake. Joe Biden dominates with these voters.

Warren’s problem was she was stuck in the middle. Her solution was to try to be the compromise candidate who could appeal to both camps, especially if the race went all the way to Milwaukee, but both camps had serious problems with her. The true-believers viewed her as a relatively recent arrival and flip-flopper. The pragmatists viewed her as an unelectable progressive ideologue.

What made Donald Trump’s nomination in 2016 so remarkable was that he did not fit into either camp. He was able to siphon off enough true-believers with hard-line immigration policies, but outside of the wall and trade he was remarkably short on policy. His prescription for everything else was not to be stupid and make better deals. He was however able to supplement the lack of policies with a rage focused at the Washington establishment that is much more differentiated in the Republican Party.

If policies do not really matter in primaries, they latter less in generals. After the primaries end, partisans mostly coalesce into their respective camps. Undecided voters, as a general rule, do not care about policy. If they did, they would not be undecided.

General elections are decided more by personalities and circumstances than anything else. Consider the past three elections. Donald Trump wanted to Make America Great Again, Hillary Clinton wanted to make Hillary Clinton great again.

In 2012, people felt that Barack Obama cared about them whereas Mitt Romney was an aloof multi-millionaire who had problems with women, elderly folks, poor people, and dogs. In 2008 Obama was the candidate to bring hope and change after a massive recession that occurred on the other party’s watch, not to mention the historical nature of his candidacy, while John McCain’s campaign lacked a raison d’etre.

Assuming Biden is able to clinch the nomination, he will talk about the soul of the nation and how Trump is a stain our reputation and that we are better than Trump. Trump will counter by calling Biden corrupt — Quid Pro Quo Joe — and also talk about the soul of the nation by trying to tie Biden to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Talib and argue their left-wing radicalness threatens the very idea of America.

The amount of policy in the fall campaign will be very low and traditional economic indicators probably mean less today than they did once upon a time. The electoral ramifications of coronavirus are still unknown.

It is not something that people who write or read articles such as this like about the system, but it is hard to escape it. How many undecided voters are truly going to decide who to vote for based on some esoteric health care question or some complicated foreign policy issue that even most self-described nerds do not know the answer to.




Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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Alex Christy

Alex Christy

Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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