New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was one of the more animated participants during the second round of the Democrat presidential debates, particularly with his exchanges with Joe Biden on the issue of criminal justice reform.
However, another moment featuring Booker proved that some Democrats still, almost three years on, don’t understand why they lost in 2016 to Donald Trump.
If the Democrats want to rebuild the toppled “blue wall” — Midwestern states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin which Hillary Clinton lost during the last election — the lessons should be pretty clear. All you have to do is try to win back blue-collar voters and other Middle Americans that don’t necessarily ascribe to coastal values and are put off by the Democrats’ drift to the left. This isn’t a difficult thing. At the very least, feigning interest in their interests and not calling them things like, oh, say, a “basket of deplorables” would be a good start.
For all I know, Cory Booker can and will do that if he ends up becoming the nominee. However, at least if we’re to go on his performance during the debate in Detroit on Wednesday night, Booker has a different take on why the Democrats lost to Donald Trump in Michigan: the Russkies and voter suppression.
“We lost the state of Michigan because everybody from Republicans to Russians were targeting the suppression of African-American voters,” Booker said.
“We need to have a campaign that is ready for what’s coming: an all-out assault, especially on the most valuable voter group — in fact the highest performing voter group in our coalition, which is black women.”
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 1, 2019
Oh, good grief.
Booker seemed to be referring to studies which say Russians targeted black Facebook users in order to convince them not to vote, as The Hill pointed out. Mind you, there’s not actually any evidence that the Kremlin’s election meddling actually changed a single vote. In fact, there’s a certain degree of contempt for the American voter when you tell them that Russian sock-puppet social media accounts are the reason they decided to vote for Donald Trump. (Or, conversely, to not vote for Hillary Clinton.)
Don’t worry, Cory Booker says. He knows you can’t make up your mind on your own with all of those nasty — particularly if you’re a person of color — and he’s here to stop you from being suppressed. The condescension here is both stunning and galling.
As for suppression by Republicans, how?
Voter ID laws? Well, the state of Michigan allows you to cast a vote without photo ID if you sign an affidavit. So, there goes that theory.
Perhaps he was trying to make the case that laws that prevent ex-felons from voting inordinately target African-Americans. Except Michigan doesn’t have such a law; once you’re released from prison, your voting rights are restored. Does Cory Booker want to make the case that those in prison should be able to vote? Good luck on that one: 69 percent of Americans are against those currently incarcerated casting a vote, according to a Hill-HarrisX poll earlier this year.
They also don’t care about Russia, either. In a Gallup poll taken before the midterms last year, only 45 percent of voters said they cared about the “Investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. election.” That was dead last among the 12 issues polled — even before the Mueller report — and the only one to score below 50 percent interest. (Climate change was the next-lowest at 53 percent, which should augur well for a Democrat field that seems intent on having a national discussion about both.)
By the way, other candidates actually had ways to take back Michigan during the debates that didn’t involve blaming it on Putin and non-existent voter suppression.
WXYZ-TV noted that New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said that her appeal to voters across a diverse state proved she could do well in swing states. Joe Biden reminded voters that he was part of an administration that helped bail out General Motors. (At least he didn’t bring out that tired old line about GM being alive and Osama bin Laden being dead.) Andrew Yang said they had to make the case to Midwesterners that the economy “has left them behind.”
“If you go to a factory here in Michigan, you will not find wall-to-wall immigrants, you will find wall-to-wall robots and machines,” Yang said. “Immigrants are being scapegoated for issues they have nothing to do with in our economy.”
Do I agree with any these? Not really. In fact, I’d argue they all amount to lawn fertilizer for different reasons. However, at least it’s lawn fertilizer that evinces some level of rudimentary thought about the matter.
Booker’s explanations, at least as much as we can glean from what he had to say, don’t.
“The Russians done did it” and “voter suppression” aren’t real arguments. They’re buzz-phrases. Liberal voters respond to them, but neither is terribly factual. Neither caused the Democrats to lose Michigan.
Say what you will about Booker’s Democrat brethren, at least none of them had the temerity to suggest that winning Michigan in 2020 will involve going after the Kremlin and those dastardly vote-suppressors. If Sen. Booker actually believes his own nonsense, his campaign is in worse trouble than we thought.
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