Democrat candidates out of touch with their own voters
On the one hand, a new Fox News poll spells doom for Donald Trump, with a fistful of Democratic presidential candidates beating the incumbent. Former Vice President Joe Biden cleans Trump's clock by 10 percentage points, 49 percent to 39 percent. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) wins 49 percent to 40 percent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) ekes out a 43 percent-to-41 percent victory. And Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg both squeeze out a 1-point margin, 42 percent to 41 percent.Biden has his own problems with corruption allegations involving his son and his trips that coincide with his huge windfalls from Ukraine and China. But the bottom line is there is actually small support for the agenda being pushed by the Democrat candidates.
On the other, more consequential hand, that same poll underscores why Trump is almost certainly going to win reelection in 2020. One of the questions asked Democratic voters whether they will vote for a candidate with a "bold, new agenda" or one "who will provide steady, reliable leadership." Fully three-quarters of respondents want the latter, with just 25 percent interested in the sort of "bold, new agenda" that virtually all Democratic candidates are peddling so far. This finding is consistent with other polling that shows that Democratic voters are far more moderate than their candidates. Even allowing for a doubling of self-described Democrats who identify as liberal over the past dozen years, Gallup found last year that 54 percent of Democrats support a party that is "more moderate" while just 41 percent want one that is "more liberal."
Yet with the exception of Joe Biden (more on him in a minute), all of the Democratic candidates—certainly the leading ones—are pushing a massively expansionist agenda, thus putting themselves at odds with their own base. Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All would cost $37 trillion in new spending over a decade and his free-college plan would cost the federal government about $47 billion a year. He plans to spend much, much more, as does Elizabeth Warren, who is running on promises to spend $3.3 trillion over a decade in new giveaways that will be paid for by an unworkable, probably unconstitutional "wealth tax" that will at best raise $2.75 trillion.
To greater and lesser degrees, the other Democratic candidates are also offering variations on the big government or "bold, new agenda" theme. For this, they get massive online attaboys, which makes it seem as if there is a groundswell of support for such positions. Based on data from The Hidden Tribes Project, which uses polling and survey data to get a truer sense of voter and partisan ideology, The New York Times reported that the "outspoken group of Democratic-leaning voters on social media is outnumbered, roughly 2 to 1, by the more moderate, more diverse and less educated group of Democrats who typically don't post political content online." That same dynamic plays out in the more-traditional commentariat as well. Writing in The New Republic, Alex Pareene takes it as a given that the Democrats should nominate a big-spending president and effusively praises Elizabeth Warren especially for demonizing specific individuals and companies. Despite her weak poll numbers, Politico claims that Warren is now a "potential compromise nominee," a fantasy belied by the small number of actual Democrats interested in anything resembling a "bold, new agenda."