Voting Is a Complex Calculus
This past weekend, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders before a rally in Queens. One couldn’t help thinking: How racist and sexist of her to endorse an old white guy to be the Democratic nominee. As per the left’s woke philosophy, AOC should have endorsed, in sisterly solidarity, the female frontrunner Elizabeth Warren, or gone with the African-American female, Kamala Harris, or the African-American male, Corey Booker.
Outside the realm of woke philosophy, the above is all ridiculous, of course. One likes and votes for a candidate based on a number of factors which don’t usually have to do with gender and race, and Sandy O obviously endorsed Sanders because she considers him a true democratic socialist.
But the left doesn’t understand that, or pretends not to, when it comes to voters and voting. In 2016, you were somehow a traitor to your gender if you were a female Democrat and couldn’t stand Hillary Clinton, or favored Bernie Sanders over Hillary. Remember Madeleine Albright scolding female voters in 2016 that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
For many of us female Democrats (I was one in 2016, but no longer), you couldn’t have paid us to vote for Hillary because we (correctly) viewed her as dishonest and corrupt. And it was galling to hear mainstream media elites trying to shame us into voting for their favored establishment candidate.
The reality is that voting is a complex calculus, and voters come at it from a hundred different angles. Take Joe Biden’s frontrunner status in the Democratic race for several months, for instance. There are a dozen reasons why Biden shouldn’t be the Democratic frontrunner to today’s hyper-woke left: he is a white male, a much older one to boot, and one seemingly stuck in the past. Plus, he has undeniably lost a step and often has memory-and-cognition lapses that are only politely called “gaffes.” Yet, many Democratic primary voters, especially African-American voters, are sticking with him, no matter what.
Again, the reasons for that are all over the place: Biden is a known entity to many older voters; he is perceived to be electable; most importantly, he is the moderate, centrist candidate against candidates that’ve veered into far-left, crazy territory on many issues.
To paraphrase another noted political figure, until fairly recently it seemed Joe Biden could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and still be the frontrunner in the Democratic race. That has changed as the race progressed, of course.
The idea that voting choices often have complex underpinnings especially needs to be said in the context of Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory. The left and the mainstream media painted the victory in only one possible way: as a bevy of deplorables -- racists, sexists, bigots, nativists, white nationalists -- voting for the supposedly racist Trump who pushed supposedly racist policies.
Never mind that Trump won 29 percent of the Latino vote, and roughly 29 percent of Asian-American votes. Were these voters racist and white nationalist too for voting for Trump?
And let’s not forget the left’s continued tarring of evangelical voters for voting for Trump. As per their flawed logic, voters can only vote for a candidate who perfectly aligns with their values and lifestyle.
By all accounts, the left and the media are doing it again in advance of the 2020 race: attacking and painting Trump supporters or anyone thinking of voting for him as “racist.”
But the thing about attacking too much and too often is that the attacks lose their power and become white noise.
Meanwhile, the left, and especially media elites need to understand some truths about voting choices and methods: When it comes to voting, the heart wants what it wants. Voters are a savvy bunch -- they may not have gone to Ivy League colleges, but in the game of life they’ve been around the block a few times and can size up a presidential candidate pretty efficiently, no matter how much the nattering nabobs in the media try to push this or that establishment candidate.
And especially in 2019, voters have become savvier still. They may not even go for a conventional, charismatic candidate if he/she is seen to be favored by wealthy donors and media elites.
The reality is that presidential candidates have to work harder than ever to earn voters’ liking and trust. The days of the media building up and pushing a candidate on voters is over. Race, gender, and other superficial check-your-box preferences have never worked and never will.
Saritha Prabhu is a freelance writer