The John Fetterman - Mandela Barnes 2022 Experiments
Democrats are trying out different theories. Will they learn from the results of their experiments?
Come hang out with me tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
I’m hosting the livestream with the OGs, Mona Charen and Bill Kristol. We’re going to talk about Peter Meijer, Kari Lake, John Fetterman, the primaries. Basically all of my fetish objects.
I’m coming loaded for bear.
Will see you right here at 8:00 p.m.
Leave your questions here. Only for members of Bulwark+.
This poll caught my eye the other day:
If John Fetterman takes 17 percent of Trump 2020 voters in his race that’s game over. There is no election, anywhere in America, where Rs can win if they’re giving up 1-in-5 Trump 2020 voters.
If this result manifests, it will validate the propositions that the Fetterman 2020 campaign has put to the Democratic party: What could Democratic populism look like? And could it win over white working-class Trump voters? Can a Weed and Carhartt platform succeed in purple states?
These midterms are going to test a number of Democratic propositions.
For example: One thing progressives have long maintained is that a full-spectrum prog who is totally committed and unafraid could turn out liberals and young voters at such a high level that it could create a winning coalition.
Mandela Barnes is going to test that proposition in Wisconsin.
Barnes is an impressive guy. He’s young and charismatic. He’s a bold progressive. He’s won statewide and he’s challenging an old, crazy Republican who is clearly damaged goods. And Wisconsin is a purple state that’s winnable for Democrats.
If Barnes wins, that’s a real signal for Democrats. And if Barnes loses, that’s a signal, too.
Another interesting experiment is Tim Ryan in Ohio. If Fetterman and Barnes are testing two competing theories for purple-state races, Ryan’s candidacy is a test for red-state Democrats: Is it even possible for them to win statewide anymore?
Ohio is about +8 Republican. Not Wyoming, maybe, but solidly red. Ryan is a great candidate running an exceptional campaign for an open seat against a weak Republican who is running a terrible campaign.
If Ryan can’t win, it signals that the entire Democratic party—not just individual candidates—would have to tack to the right in order to be competitive in red states again. And that if the party isn’t willing to shift, then it’s going to have to write off another swath of territory.
Then there’s John Gibbs. Democrats wanted Gibbs instead of Peter Meijer in Michigan’s 3rd District. They are running a centrist candidate, Hillary Scholten, against him.
If Scholten flips the seat in what is more-or-less a tossup district, then their scheming looks smart. Or at least lucky. Depending on your worldview.
But if Gibbs wins, it’s a blow for the leveraged view of politics.
I talked about the differing mindsets—hedged vs. leveraged—last week:
Let’s rank the general election outcomes by utility, if your guide star is defending democracy:
(1) Hillary Scholten (the Democrat in the race) wins
(2) Peter Meijer wins
(3) John Gibbs wins
There are two ways of looking at this matrix: leverage and hedging.
The leveraged outlook would conclude that it’s worth increasing the downside risk (Gibbs wins) if it also increases the upside potential (Scholten wins).
The hedged outlook thinks it’s better to eliminate the chances of the worst outcome, even if it lowers the probability of the best outcome.
I am, by nature, a hedger. Leveraged risks sometimes pay off in the short term, but in the long term they’re dangerous. When it comes to saving democracy, we ought to always keep an eye on the tail risk and hedge against it if that option is available.
I am, as always, #TeamTailRisk. That’s why if I had lived in MI-3, I’d have voted for Meijer on Tuesday with a song in my heart. We’ll see what happens.
If Scholten wins, Democrats may decide that these sort of leverage plays are worth it. If Gibbs wins, it should be a strong signal that they aren’t.
2. Peter Meijer
I was worried yesterday that I was being too mean to Peter Meijer.