Matthew Yglesias Shows That Republican-Lite Democrats Are Not More Likely To Win

The conflict between the DCCC and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party seen in a Texas primary this week was just one instance of them supporting conservative over progressive Democrats. Democrats tried to run as a Republican-lite party in 2010 and 2014 and did poorly. They nominated the most anti-liberal pro-status quo candidate possible in Hillary Clinton for the presidency in 2016 and lost to a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump. On the other hand, non-establishment candidates have been doing better than many expected.

Matthew Yglesias, who is generally supportive of the Democratic establishment, has noted that the party’s view that more conservative Democrats are the key to victory has not been valid. He provided some examples, and then discussed studies regarding this at Vox in an article entitled,  The DCCC should chill out and do less to try to pick Democrats’ nominees–There’s very little evidence that “electable” moderates do better.

The real truth, however, is that politics is hard to predict. Extensive empirical research shows that it matters less than you might think whether a party goes with an “electable” moderate.

This suggests primary voters should probably be inclined to vote for candidates who they think will be smart, hard-working advocates for causes they believe in rather than focusing too much on “electability” concerns.

It’s natural, in particular, for a national party committee whose work heavily features fundraising to be strongly biased toward candidates who are good at fundraising. But there’s very little evidence that this is genuinely the key to political success (Donald Trump, for example, was a terrible fundraiser in 2016), and overemphasis on donor-friendly candidates ends up putting a thumb on the ideological scale in an unseemly way.

Some other things to consider are that the old linear left/right political spectrum no longer applies. Last year a change candidate was desired, and Bernie Sanders polled much better than Hillary Clinton in head to head tests against Republicans. There were a substantial number of Republicans as well as independents who would vote for Sanders, but not for Clinton. When the Democrats made the mistake of nominating Clinton, the remaining anti-establishment change candidate won (even if he advocated the wrong kind of change).

Voters also prefer candidates who stand for something, while the types of Republican-lite Democrats who fail to stand for anything come across as fakes more interested in their own gain. Many Republican voters were willing to switch from traditional Republican views to those of Trump, suggesting that they were not really ideological conservatives while voting Republican. A large share of Sanders voters did not support him due to being far left on the traditional spectrum, but because they wanted a change from the corruption of the status quo. In contrast, the efforts of establishment Democrats to move to move the party of to the right has been a failure in election after election.