Home 2016 elections My Two Cents: #Humphrey #Mondale #Gore #Kerry #Clinton2008

My Two Cents: #Humphrey #Mondale #Gore #Kerry #Clinton2008


There are few artificial constructs as specious, manipulative and deceptive as the ever-present BS term “electability.” It was pitched in 1968, yet the “electable” and “inevitable” Humphrey lost. He lost despite many of us holding our noses and supporting him anyway. Yet time and again the electability myth was used to shut down any well-thought-out or heartfelt support of an alternative candidate. (Don’t vote your heart, they argue. Vote your fears.)

The myth was pitched again in 1984 when the most “electable” Democrat (Walter Mondale) lost. We got a steady diet of it in 2000 (Al Gore) and 2004 (John Kerry). We lost again, twice. We did so, I might add, with nearly every Democrat I knew at the time stumbling all over themselves to flee the Howard Dean campaign to support the more “electable” Kerry. (“et tu Brute.”) At some point you have to ask, when will our party learn?

Electability is a hypothetical construct conceived in gaming a candidate’s chances of winning. The thing is that all the early data is biased–by cognitive biases, such as familiarity, and heuristics. You do not know who is electable until the votes are counted. But although electability is nothing more than a fiction. It can be used to create a self-fulfilling prophesy. This is what Hillary Clinton pins her hopes to, creating that self-fulfilling prophesy, her version of inevitability The thing is she does it against all evidence, the evidence that Hillary’s numbers tend to fall rather than rise and the evidence of her heavy negatives. The Clinton campaign tried this before in 2008. And lest anyone forget, she lost! Yep, President Obama was oh so “un-electable,” wasn’t he, twice!

Based on all the evidence, Hillary Clinton is not more electable than Bernie Sanders. Do I have to embolden this? And she is making all the same 2008 mistakes again in 2016. By the way, Sanders is an FDR-style candidate making the FDR-style case Democrats should have been making for the past 70 years. Need I remind you that FDR won THREE FOUR times. Count ’em–threefour.

  • Aww

    Walter Mondale ran in 1984, not 1988.

    • Good catch, I just fixed that in Kathy’s post. Thanks.

      • KathyinBlacksburg

        Right you are. Thanks for catching and fixing that.

  • Quizzical

    The point you make is a good one, everyone should vote for the person whom he or she believes would be the best President. The outcomes of the primaries will show us who can get the most votes. I trust you all to get it right for the Democratic primary in Virginia; I’m planning to cross party lines to vote in the Republican primary, because I think Trump would be a disaster as President.

    Concerning the historical analysis, I was wondering how George McGovern fits into it? George McGovern was a populist, grassroots candidate who bested Ed Muskie, the establishment candidate, in the primaries. Nixon’s operatives used their dirty tricks on Muskie. In the general election, Nixon won virtually every state. I remember that election, and how McGovern was trashed by Nixon’s campaign as a leftist once the general campaign started. I mention this because Bernie Sanders’ campaign reminds me somehow of George McGovern.

    The Cold War is now 26 years behind us, so maybe being labeled a leftist, or a socialist, or a near communist, is not going to be so deadly now as it was back then. But I’ve noticed at least one right wing radio host, Mark Levin, is already labeling Bernie Sanders as a “near-communist” and a “danger to the country.” So that’s already going on under the radar.

    Concerning the 2000 election, Al Gore was not only electable, he in fact did win the popular vote in the general election. He had a challenger in the primaries, Bill Bradley, but I don’t think Bradley even came close to winning the nomination. I don’t think we need to regret the nomination of Gore instead of Bradley.

    As for the choice between John Kerry, John Edwards, and Howard Dean in 2004, I don’t think that the Democratic party got that wrong either. We all know, now, that John Edwards had a serious problem. As for Howard Dean, I don’t know what happened, his candidacy kind of imploded after the “Dean Scream”.
    Who knew that the Republicans would be able to turn Kerry’s two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star from combat in Vietnam, into a political liability? Also, since we are looking at this with hindsight, it is fair to observe that as Secretary of State, Kerry has shown that he has a good grasp of diplomacy and foreign affairs. So he probably would have been a good President, if he had won.

    As Bill Clinton likes to say, the people are pretty smart, they will figure it out.