Manchin-Sinema Ticket Could Offer Escape From ‘Crazy Versus Preachy’ Two-Party Trap
Republicans won’t abandon crazy unless a sustained string of electoral losses or policy disasters demands it. The Democrats aren’t rushing to abandon preachy, either.
A group of white female suburban swing voters recently sat for a political focus group. The research firm that runs the group intentionally segregates the sessions, figuring participants among their own kind will feel comfortable enough to be candid about their views.
The suburban women were the sort you used to see described as carpool-driving soccer moms — they made a difference for Barack Obama, went for Donald Trump in 2016, then swung back to Joe Biden in 2020. Like a lot of Americans, they aren’t party loyalists. They are independents, centrist Democrats or Main Street Republicans.
While there are plenty of other coveted demographics in American politics, the behavior of this particular subgroup of voters varies considerably from election to election. As a result, political consultants pay them extra attention. So should you, if you are wondering, or worried, about what will happen in the midterm elections or in the 2024 presidential race.
These voters weren’t wildly enthusiastic about either the Republicans or the Democrats, about either Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden.
The Republicans, they said, seemed “crazy” — storming the Capitol, refusing to accept the election results, denying climate change, refusing even commonsense gun safety laws, declining Covid-19 vaccines, criminalizing abortion, participating in the Trump personality cult.
The Democrats, they said, are “preachy.” Anyone who fails to keep up with the latest progressive terminology — “what are your pronouns?” “Latinx” — gets looked down on. Anyone who doesn’t buy into every element of the progressive agenda — ban private health insurance, defund the police, impose a wealth tax on billionaires, forgive student loans, offer reparations for slavery, begin each public event with an indigenous land acknowledgment ceremony, slash military spending, double the minimum wage, ban fossil fuels, eliminate the internal combustion engine, whatever Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s most recent tweet demands — is complicit in perpetuating systemic racism, imperialism, settler colonialism, white supremacy, and species extinction.
The terminology to describe the offense changes rapidly, but the constant is the condescension. The actual policy details are not so important: They’ll never get the support necessary to be implemented. What it’s all really about is the sense of smug moral superiority conveyed by those dictating the agenda. Voters can sense it a mile away, and they are rolling their eyes.
Some Democrats are aware of the problem and are trying to adjust their rhetoric accordingly. A congressman who represents Silicon Valley, Ro Khanna, told NPR, “Preachy is just go on TV and say, ‘Well, if you’re not for Medicare for All, then you must be evil. And you must want people to die. And you must be wrong’ — right? — as opposed to saying, ‘Here is why.’”
When forced to choose between a vote for crazy and a vote for preachy, one focus group participant said she’d go with crazy.
It’d be nice to have some other options. Getting there, however, may take some time. Republicans won’t abandon crazy unless a sustained string of electoral losses or genuine, real-world, large-scale policy disasters demands it. Even then, who knows?
The Democrats aren’t rushing to abandon preachy, either, as attested by the popularity, among core Democrats at least, of figures such as AOC and Senator Warren. The least preachy Democrats? The ones like Senators Manchin of West Virginia and Sinema of Arizona, whose political survival depends on their winning votes from independents and members of the other party. In Arizona, “other” and “Republican” are 34 percent each of registered voters, while Democrats are 31 percent. In Mr. Manchin’s West Virginia, Republicans are 39 percent of the electorate, Democrats are 34 percent, and “no party” is 23 percent.
It could be that America’s best path out of the “crazy versus preachy” bind is a Manchin-Sinema 2024 ticket. It’s too early for an endorsement, but not too early for encouragement. I can see the bumper stickers now: “We won’t condescend to you. And we already stopped most of Joe Biden’s worst ideas.”