I’ve managed to miss most of both major party conventions both by intent and circumstance. I am frankly uninterested in watching 16 hours of partisan informercials and I am on vacation.
Darrell and I are taking a road trip through the Mountain West. As of this writing, we are on the leg from Jackson, Wyoming to Green River, Utah. Jackson Hole pro tip: It is an awesome place if you like to be outside all the time doing stuff like paragliding, fly fishing, ziplining and backcountry hiking. If you’re like me and like your magnificent views in a comfortable seat with a lovely icy cocktail in hand, Jackson Hole is a really long drive to accomplish what we in the East Mountains can do every night from our backyards. At any rate, if I were to go again, I’d probably try to learn to ride a bicycle or something first.
Back to those conventions. Here is what really struck me: both parties lost the independents and a lot of moderates in the 2016 election. They have had four years to get us back and they haven’t made much progress. A Morning Consult poll (check them out; one of the fastest growing tech companies out there, with polling capability that keeps up with 21st century big data) shows Joe Biden and Donald Trump in 2020 this week almost exactly where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were this week in 2016 among likely voters. Most compelling to me—independents and “decline to state” voters are virtually unchanged.
That’s because the Democrats and Republicans are not bothering to engage independents. And they are really ignoring moderate Republicans, which is a major mistake for both parties. The coverage I see of the Democratic convention shows the DNC trying to bring its moderate, progressive and far left branches under the same umbrella with a couple sops to anti-Trump Rs with speeches from Colin Powell and a message from the McCain family.
The Republican convention coverage has been all Trump, all the time, with two notable exceptions: what seems to have been a great speech from the Black attorney general from Kentucky who talked about important Republican party roots tracing back to Lincoln, Grant, Eisenhower and Reagan; and a genuinely erudite, compelling and unifying speech from the First Lady.
What the two conventions show is that the DNC takes for granted that independents, DTS, and GOP Never-Trumpers are going to vote for Biden, and that Trump’s campaign (which has essentially subsumed the RNC) wrote the same group off as “traitors, RINOs and snowflakes” long ago. I’m not sure either party is going to get the desired result—White House, Senate and House—without moderates.
Let’s look at the Democrats’ case. They may be right that the moderates—women in particular—are finished with President Trump. But that sentiment may not follow down the ballot. In particular, I am finding that New Mexico moderates, in particular the group of folks who steer their vote to economic issues, are not impressed with the ouster of fiscally conservative Democrats in the 2020 New Mexico legislative primaries. They may vote for Biden but stop there. Of note, I find my moderate friends are unaware of the moderate Democrat candidates in legislative races—these neighbors aren’t aware they have any options.
Republicans also have a problem with going all in for Trump. This super-MAGA-orthodoxy has created many candidates who are in zero-compromise lockstep with the President, or who are zero-compromise single-issue candidates. It’s hard to vote for someone who insults your views and calls you names on a regular basis. It’s also hard to vote for someone who has little depth in their platform in the most turbulent year most of us have ever seen. I had a brief discussion earlier this month with a lovely Republican woman standing for office. She is a conservative with depth. I am afraid she is going to miss votes because she is forced to run under a Republican—which means Trump—label.
My advice for center-right, center, and center-left candidates? Keep running your campaign as usual with three updates in the next 60 days: first, take your party affiliation off your campaign materials; next, ask your moderate friends to set up Zoom calls with their neighbors so they can learn about their options; finally, work your moderate, independent, and DTS voter lists like you never have before.
Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and a former Navy officer. She lives amicably with her Democratic husband and Republican mother north of I-40 where they run two head of dog, and two of cat. She just uploaded her column from the passenger seat of her car, since Idaho has far better rural cellular coverage than New Mexico.