The Democrats’ most interesting conflict isn’t moderates versus the left. It’s the never-Trump Republicans versus the left.
The never-Trumpers, best embodied by The Lincoln Project, romped through the last campaign with verve and wit. They lasered in on crushing Donald Trump.
The Democratic left, by contrast, is deep into grievance. Yes, its members wanted Trump defeated but were too much into their humorless selves to go for a clean kill. Prominent voices treated the campaign to save the democracy as an appropriate time to, in effect, threaten Joe Biden if he didn’t do their bidding. Never mind that he needed to get elected first.
The two groups have very different styles: The Lincoln Project fights. The left wing withholds.
In April, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Bernie Sanders surrogate, told VICE TV, “I have not yet endorsed Vice President Biden, but I will be voting for him in November.” She added, “I don’t necessarily know if he’s going to move us forward.”
It’s April. The alternative is another four years of Donald Trump, and AOC is holding back a straightforward endorsement of Biden. For what reason? To force him into taking positions that would cost him states he needed to win? She had absolutely no idea what time it was.
The Lincoln Project, meanwhile, was running viral ads that scorched Trump on the coronavirus catastrophe, his laziness and the dangers he posed on America’s security. “Thank you, Mr. President,” one mocking ad went, “for threatening America with violence when you lose, demanding only your votes are counted.”
Small wonder so much anti-Trump money gushed into The Lincoln Project and it was able to spend $48 million getting rid of him. All that gusto aroused jealousy on the left.
After the election, AOC tweeted, “Lincoln Project should ... publicly pledge to give a lot of their fundraising to the people who actually made a big difference.” Presumably, she meant her and her cohorts.
To which Reed Galen, a Lincoln Project founder, responded: “Hi Congresswoman. We have 500,000 individual donors who gave an average of less than $60. I think it’s up to them to decide whether @LincolnProject is worth their investment.” He added, “And WE were in the fight.”
And so, who made the difference? The activist left may very well have brought some new voters to the polls. But its defund-police nonsense and irritating cancel culture may have cost Democrats even more votes. Someone will undoubtedly try to build that balance sheet.
The Lincoln Project went for disaffected Republicans and independents. The goal was to breach the “Bannon line,” the 3% to 4% of Republican voters whom Steve Bannon said Democrats would need to beat Trump.
To get there, the never-Trumpers targeted a key demographic: white male college graduates. “We were just pounding these voters,” Mike Madrid, another Lincoln Project founder, said. In the end, this group made a 9-point shift from Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020.
In Arizona, 10% of Republican Trump voters moved to Biden. Arizona flipped to blue.
Independents (aka “dual haters”) were also essential. They went for Trump by 4 percentage points in 2016. Four years later, they backed Biden by 12 points.
The left wing does not speak to Republicans and independents. And so, it doesn’t have much role to play in the all-important senatorial runoff races in Georgia, a purple state that just switched from Trump to Biden. But that’s a custom-made job for the never-Trumpers.
The left can keep itself busy griping that Biden probably won’t grant Sanders’ apparent wish to be named labor secretary. And The Lincoln Project can take on Georgia.
Trump is over. Now on to Trumpism.