The Wildcat Tribune

The progressive strategy suppresses results

Sanjana Ranganathan, Staff Writer

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President Trump’s average approval ratings have plummeted since his election, standing at just 40 percent, according to Project Fivethirtyeight, with numerous polls pegging the number even lower.

The Robert Mueller investigation, controversial tweets, anti-immigrant rhetoric and the barrage of accusations surrounding Trump’s ties with Russia are starting to take a toll at a critical time with the 2020 elections nearing, and Democrats are certainly taking notice. Over the last couple of months, more and more Democrats, specifically progressive ones, have announced their bid for candidacy.

The idea that whoever gets the Democratic nomination will have an easy road to the White House has been seared into Democrats’ heads, encouraging greater involvement in the upcoming presidential race. For progressive candidates specifically, many of which garner the attention of those directly alienated by the Trump administration, running for president seems to be an easy choice.

Unfortunately, the policies and views progressive candidates have chosen to back threaten the clear lead they hold entering the 2020 elections, particularly through the large influx of progressive candidates. Candidates such as Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, among others, maintain similar stances on some of the largest issues in the 2020 elections, such as the Green New Deal, reparations for African Americans and health care.

However, having similar candidates causes competition of both resources and voters, pitting Democrats against each other when a united front is more needed than ever. Ed Kilger, a journalist for the New York Magazine, has dubbed this the “lane theory,” where candidates are isolated by “lanes” that all share similar ideologies and thereby compete, making it harder for any candidate in their lane to win.

In the 2016 elections, for example, 16 Republican candidates were in the primary, competing in around five separate “lanes.” By competing with each other, none of the lanes ended up winning the nomination. Instead, it went to President Trump, who, while controversial, had no competition for resources. His base was isolated and gave him undividing support.

Similarly, in the current election, lanes with less candidates or even a single, unconventional candidate, would leave progressive Democrats scrambling as their support became increasingly divided. Let alone winning the presidency, progressives will have a tough time even winning the Democratic nomination.

Critics argue that having more candidates makes it easier for voters to support the Democratic movement as a whole, because they do not feel trapped by a single candidate’s ideology.

However, with the record low approval ratings for President Trump, the Democratic Party does not require greater support, as most voters are willing to support a Democratic nominee. This was clear in the recent midterm elections where Democrats had a sweeping victory and support for the Democratic cause was relatively high, even in historically red states such as Texas. At this point, the tough role for the Democrats is to find a candidate who will not alienate the voters already pledging support and remain consistent. Progressives who increasingly compete with each other only unnecessarily divide voter support.

Some may assert that more candidates means whoever ends up winning the nominee will be resilient and highly popular. However, this may be true if every “lane” in the Democratic Party were equally crowded. Robert Kuttner of the Huffington Post reports that six progressive Democratic candidates are already set to run in 2020, dividing resources within the progressive “lane” uniquely.

But, given that as of now there seems to be an increasing number of candidates labeling themselves as “progressive,” any candidate slightly more centrist than those currently running as progressive would easily be able to overpower the progressive lane due to the immense vote and resource splitting already occurring. Therefore, the candidate who wins the nominee need not be resilient or have high popularity, but may just be lacking the high levels of competition evident in the progressive lane.

This is especially critical in the context of state-by-state primaries, where candidates move from state to state to campaign, starting with Iowa, creating a set of problems unique to progressive candidates.

Even if most Democratic voters would rather have a progressive candidate, their votes and support become divided, making it harder for progressive candidates to gain the limelight needed to continue in the primaries. This means that more candidates mean a further division of the limited votes and support they are given.

While it is easy to understand why progressive candidates are looking to run as well as why a progressive nominee may be the best choice for Democrats, it is also equally clear that it is time for progressives to look at the big picture. If they truly want to win, not as individuals but as a cause, then they should refrain from announcing candidacy and further splintering progressive support.

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About the Writer
Sanjana Ranganathan, Staff Writer

Sanjana joined the Tribune to have a forum for expressing her views on local issues. This is Sanjana's first year of journalism. Her favorite TV shows are Grey's Anatomy and Parks and Recreation.

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The progressive strategy suppresses results