On this week’s episode of The Brief, hosts Markos Moulitsas and Kerry Eleveld unpacked everything that’s happened since last Tuesday and what the future of the Democratic Party is going to look like. They were joined by guests Carolyn Fiddler, communications director at Daily Kos, and Dave Weigel, national reporter covering politics for the Washington Post.
Any postmortem of this election sensibly starts with the Democrats’ choice of candidate—Joe Biden—and Markos, Kerry, and Carolyn discussed how it might have gone differently with, say, Elizabeth Warren or Cory Booker as the contender against Donald Trump. With record turnout for this election, courting diverse sets of key voting groups like white moderates and Black and Latinx communities was key to clinching a win.
Carolyn believes the safe and steady image portrayed by Biden helped, and that he became the candidate of choice across various groups not only because he was a foil to Trump’s irrational and unpredictable behavior, but because peoples’ thinking was influenced by the pandemic itself. As she said,
I think there was a lot of comfort for a lot of people in having a boring old white guy at the top of the ticket—I mean, Joe Biden doesn’t tweet—and also as a known commodity; he’s been in politics for a long time, he was vice president. I think that had a lot of cache that a lot of Democratic primary voters didn’t quite expect to have at the beginning of this cycle, because pre-COVID, the world felt like a different place. And then COVID set in, and then suddenly everything unfamiliar started feeling extra scary, because we were in uncharted waters compared to everything else. So that might be an element in his success—but, again, it’s hard to know.
Kerry added an insight: “You build your strategy around your candidate.” For instance, she noted that Biden was always going to be the Rust Belt candidate because he could appeal to the groups there, whereas Bernie Sanders, for example, would’ve had a different coalition because he did better with the Latinx community and non-college educated white men. Overall, though, she said, “Joe Biden and his team did an amazing job with the candidate they had … improving their margins where they could.”
Dave Weigel joined for the second half of the show to talk about what he’s learned about 2020 voters while traveling across the country to cover the election for the Washington Post over the course of the cycle, the lawsuits, and lessons from Georgia. While he says Republicans are good at turning voters out, he believes that it’s specifically Trump who is turning out all these Republicans who normally don’t vote. Markos agreed and noted that, because Trump seems to cause increased turnout, turnout among the Republican base is lower when he isn’t on the top of the ballot.
Georgia, in particular, provided interesting lessons for both parties. As Weigel explained,
The whole discussion about whether we can trust polls or shy voters [is interesting] … because that honestly didn’t work in this election. In Georgia, this is a state where Biden is up 2-3%. [Republicans’] gamble on being as Trump-y as possible is super interesting … it’s a hell of a gamble.
Markos and Weigel also touched on the “defund the police” messaging and if it helped or harmed. Dave thinks it harmed more than it helped in certain areas, like Iowa.
You can watch the full segment here: