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Elections Good Government

2020’s Woke Population

“I am not sure how we parse out how much of [the result] might have been related to reaction to Clinton and how much of it is motivated by the panic so many Democratic voters seem to be expressing in their desperate search to decide which candidate will beat President Trump,” University of Wisconsin political science professor Kathleen Dolan tells Vox.[1]

Don’t overlook that comment on the 2020 Michigan Democratic presidential primary election.

I think “the panic” accounts for some, maybe much, of the difference between 2016 and 2020. The 2020 voters are “woke” in a way that they were not in 2016. There was a confidence in 2016 that Clinton was a shoo-in, that the Obama legacy would carry on, that the Republican misbehavior in Congress would be their undoing, that Sanders was an outlier, that the issues Sanders was raising were fringe issues – in short, a complete misreading of the public mood.

By 2020, the population had been subjected to 3 years of actual Republican lies and abuse, this time in both the Congress and in the White House, and culminating in the “he did it but we don’t care” impeachment verdict in the Senate.

More importantly, the population had also been subjected to 3 years of open, vocal, and organized resistance from the many grassroots opposition groups, starting with the massive demonstrations of the Women’s March and the historic opposition victories in the 2018 election.

So the 2016 Clinton-v-Sanders contests don’t compare to the 2020 Biden-v-Sanders contests. Yes, this is in part because of the gender difference between Clinton and Biden. But it is also because of the monumental difference in the population – particularly in the public opposition to Republicans’ embrace of Trump. The grassroots opposition efforts from 2017 to 2020 have been stronger, more widespread, and more effective than in 2016 and that, I believe, dramatically impacted the 2020 primary results.

We didn’t just change the candidates. We changed the voters.


[1] Zhou, Li (March 13, 2020) “The Michigan primary results raised a striking question about sexism”. Vox. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2020/3/13/21174841/michigan-primary-sexism-hillary-clinton-joe-biden

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