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  • Clyde Duncan  On March 14, 2020 at 5:13 am

    CHECKS and BALANCE:
    Why Democrats Have Proved More Resistant to Populism Than Republicans

    James Astill – Lexington columnist | THE ECONOMIST

    A WEEK IS A LONG TIME IN POLITICS, THE LATE BRITISH PRIME MINISTER HAROLD WILSON ONCE REMARKED.

    WERE DONALD TRUMP GIVEN TO REFLECTION, HE WOULD SURELY CONCUR.

    It is only a little over a month since the “BEST WEEK OF HIS PRESIDENCY”, according to the conventional wisdom in Washington, DC.

    Way back in mid-February he was enjoying impeachment survival, rising approval ratings, record Stock Market Highs and the prospect of a Democratic challenger who had honeymooned in the Soviet Union.

    NOW, AS WE REPORT THIS WEEK, THE PRESIDENT IS ASSURED THE DEMOCRATIC OPPONENT HE MOST DREADED: JOE BIDEN.

    The Stock Market has erased most of the gains it made during his presidency. And Mr Trump is confronted with a twitter-resistant pandemic that he and the institutions he oversees seem desperately ill-equipped for.

    How America makes up its lost ground on COVID-19 – assuming it can – how serious the economic fallout is and how this affects Mr Trump’s prospects of re-election will preoccupy us in the coming weeks.

    But the other big development, the triumph of moderation over populism that is Mr Biden’s impending victory over Bernie Sanders, now looks less like a variable than a political reality that was hiding in plain sight.

    Mr Biden led the Democratic primary throughout last year because Democratic voters, as they kept telling pollsters and reporters, cared less about the intricacies of notional health-care policies than beating Mr Trump. And they suspected an inoffensive, middle-of-the-road white man — a creaky old Mr Biden — would be likeliest to do so.

    The former vice-president’s return to the top of the field, after his wobble in Iowa and New Hampshire, is therefore more an assertion of the status quo than a turnaround. Indeed, emphatically so: There can be little doubt that moderate voters have rallied to him so strongly — including this week in Michigan and Washington state — in response to the spectre of a Sanders win.

    WHY HAVE DEMOCRATS PROVED SO MUCH MORE RESISTANT TO POPULISM AND DEMAGOGUERY THAN REPUBLICANS?

    Mr Biden’s emerging coalition offers a few clues. FIRST, black voters, the engine of his resurgence, have lower expectations of politicians and a correspondingly higher BS intolerance than entitled white voters. They want their leaders to offer credible promises or go home.

    SECOND, the Democratic mainstream appears to have been bolstered by the addition of many white, somewhat conservative, suburbanites, repelled by the Republicans’ drift to extremism. Nostalgic though Mr Biden is for all things Obama, the coalition he is assembling is not quite the “Obama coalition” of non-whites and zesty young metropolitans. Though racially diverse, it is older and more suburban. One Democratic operative calls it the “Spanberger Coalition”, after one of the flag-carriers of the new suburban centre-left, Representative Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer who flipped a once-safe Republican district in Virginia in 2018.

    A THIRD REASON is that the increasing diversity of the Democrats’ rattlebag coalition is in itself a force for moderation. It has embedded compromise in the party’s fibre: Without it, the Democrats would fall apart. And they yet may, of course, but probably not before they have seen the back of Mr Trump.

    THE FOURTH BIG FACTOR BUTTRESSING THE DEMOCRATIC MAINSTREAM IS TO DEFEAT DONALD TRUMP.

    Notwithstanding the grumbling of disappointed Sandernistas, most Democrats understand that the cost of disunity would be four more years of his stable genius. That does not look terribly likely just now.

    BUT THERE ARE STILL EIGHT MONTHS TO THE ELECTION — AN ETERNITY IN POLITICS.

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