by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Some recent news stories verge on the bizarre: the House Democrats’ futile fuss over impeachment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s acceptance of President Trump’s US-Canada-Mexico trade treaty. But they’re not as bizarre, or possibly as consequential, as unanticipated developments in the Democrats’ presidential nomination contest.
Consider the role of money, which Democrats are always saying plays too big a role in politics. This year, it plainly isn’t. Their two billionaire late entrants, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, aren’t running away with the contest.
Steyer is at 1.7% in the RealClearPolitics average, and Bloomberg’s 5.5% surely owes as much to his formidable three terms as New York mayor — and his groveling apology for his successful stop-and-frisk policy — as his $30 million Thanksgiving week ad buy.
Internet technology has made big money less important. Twitter and Facebook are orders of magnitudes cheaper than TV ads, which used to be the only way to reach voters post-Iowa/New Hampshire.
And the internet has enabled seemingly long-shot candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg to substantially out-raise former Vice President Joe Biden, who relies on traditional Democratic big contributors.
If money doesn’t work the way it did, neither do ethnic or racial identity. John Kennedy could count on Irish Catholic voters and Barack Obama on blacks; Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton ran well with white Southerners back when they cast a big share of Democratic primary votes.
But this year, half of black Democrats, about one-quarter of primary voters, are supporting Biden, and only handfuls have supported the three black candidates.