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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP Mess Won’t Secure Democratic Victory in November

In his Mother Jones post, “The 2016 Election Is Likely to Be a Close One,” Kevin Drum quotes from an L.A. Times article by Maria Bustillos, who writes in making her case for Sen. Sanders that, “the very clownishness of that madly tootling Republican vehicle, I believe, virtually ensures that whichever Democrat secures the nomination will win the general.”
Drum warns, however, that this is a very dangerous assumption for progressives. “Democrats have held the White House for eight years and the economy is in okay but not great shape. Those are not great fundamentals for a Democratic victory.”
Given the chaotic mess of the Republican campaign for their party’s presidential nomination, it’s understandable why many Democrats are expecting an easy victory in November. There is reason to hope for a Democratic landslide, but assuming it will happen is a big mistake. Further, adds Drum,

Now, it’s also true that demographic shifts are making the electorate steadily more Democratic. And candidate quality matters: If Republicans nominate a Donald Trump or a Ted Cruz, they’ll be shooting themselves in the foot. Nonetheless, every bit of history and political science modeling suggests that this will at least be a close election–and possibly one that favors Republicans at the start.
You should vote for whomever appeals to you. But if you’re operating under the delusion that Democrats can literally nominate anyone they want because nobody sane will vote for any of those crazy Republicans, you’d better think twice. This is a belief that betrays both a lazy liberal insularity about the nature of the electorate and an appalling amnesia about a political era that’s brought us Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Dick Cheney, Paul Ryan, and the entire tea party. This election is no runaway, folks.

A sobering assessment, and one which ought to cause supporters of both Clinton and Sanders to reject overconfidence about the general election. American voters are evenly divided on many issues, and numerous factors, including a national security crisis, a sudden economic downturn and voter suppression, to name a few possibilities, could tip the election to the right. (This video clip should be required viewing for overconfident Democrats).
A Democratic victory in November will certainly require an all-hands-on-deck commitment to electing the Democratic nominee, even if their first choice doesn’t win the nomination.

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