What strategy? Dems need good candidates



April 8, 2018 - 11:00 PM

This year confronts Kansas Democrats with something new: a primary challenge in the governor’s race. Former Governors John Carlin and Kathleen Sebelius are split—Carlin backs former State Representative Josh Svaty while Sebelius prefers State Senator Laura Kelly. House Minority Leader Jim Ward and former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer are also credible candidates. What to do?

My suggestion: just nominate good candidates, then let the nature of the times and the will of the voters do the rest.

One thing Democrats do not need to do is get all wrapped up in the idea called strategic voting—the idea that each candidate must be vetted for his or her electability versus the others. In fact, all of the Democrats are probably equally likely to beat the Republican nominee. The rest depends on circumstances like the state of the state’s economy, the popularity or unpopularity of President Trump and Governor Colyer, Greg Orman’s third-party, wild card candidacy, and which candidate wins the Republican nomination. Democrats have no control over any of these things.

By contrast, Democrats over 40 reflexively recite the names McGovern, Mondale, and Dukakis as an admonition to practice strategic voting. Yet those three landslide presidential defeats of the 1970s and 1980s are over-analyzed. 1972, 1984, and 1988 were all good years for incumbent presidents. Any Democrat would have lost. It was not an issue-based choice—in ’84, for example, polls showed voters closer to Mondale than to Reagan on many key issues. It was Reagan’s image, and his incumbency, that led to his landslide. Meanwhile, Democrats usually retained their large majorities in Congress and most state legislatures back then. They can only dream of having such numbers today.

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