It’s looking like the revolution may have to wait a while.
Bernie Sanders’ socialist-tinged drive to upend the system, which was red hot here in our state until about five minutes ago, instead appeared to be running Tuesday into a mass of voters who are suddenly seeking something more boring: safety.
Call these voters the … Sanitizer Moms?
Sanders was widely expected in recent months to win our Democratic primary, just as he had steamrolled the Democratic caucuses here against mainstream favorite Hillary Clinton four years ago. But in early returns in Washington’s presidential nominating contest Tuesday, he was in a dead heat with the more moderate Joe Biden. And if exit polling is to be believed, Biden looks set to win as later votes get counted this week.
You don’t have to wade very far into that polling to see what’s happening. Which is: Democrats here are a little freaked right now. Both by the coronavirus outbreak, and, maybe even more so, by Donald Trump.
Local voters are just as liberal as ever, as people voting on the Democratic side agreed across the board with Sanders’ democratic socialist positions, much more than they did with the moderate Biden, the exit poll showed.
But this election is no longer about issues. It’s about who can beat Trump. And increasingly, who might best whip the virus.
Get this: 82% of Washington Democratic voters told election pollsters they’re concerned about the coronavirus outbreak. Maybe that’s not so surprising given all that’s happened. But just a week ago in the primary in California, won by Sanders, only 52% said the virus was a big concern in their vote.
And among the voters most worried about the virus Tuesday, Biden bested Sanders more than 2-to-1, the Washington poll showed.
Pollsters also asked: Which candidate do you trust most to handle a crisis? Washingtonians picked Biden over Sanders by a 19 percentage point margin. That’s game over in the state hardest hit so far by the outbreak.
Maybe Biden was going to win the Democratic nomination anyway. But these huge jumps in agitation about the virus in one week’s time appear to be accelerating a major flight to safety among the Democratic faithful. Biden may be a bit doddering, but he’s tried and true, they seem to be saying.
The exit poll survey of Washington is really just a phone poll, because voters here don’t “exit” any polling places. The poll, conducted by Edison Research for a consortium of news networks, asked 607 confirmed Washington voters about attitudes and demographics. No exit poll of the Republican primary was done, so we can only analyze the Democratic voters today.
A whopping 58% of people voting in our Democratic primary were women, according to the poll. Women favored Biden by 19 points, while Sanders was winning men here by five points (yes, the Bernie Bro stereotype is really a thing).
The other startling finding from the poll is that when asked to describe their feelings about the Trump administration, 83% of Democratic voters picked “angry” (the other choices were enthusiastic, satisfied or dissatisfied).
No other state that has voted thus far is as riled against Trump as we are, according to exit polls of voters. Washington Democratic voters are 10 percentage points angrier than even California voters, and 22 points angrier than Democratic voters were on Tuesday in Michigan.
So even though local voters agree with Sanders that there should be a universal, government-run medical insurance program, they tended to back Biden anyway, who doesn’t share that position. By a forty-point margin, 69% to 29%, voters said the issues weren’t as important as: Just. Beating. Trump. Sanders handily won the voters who care most about the issues. But Biden was winning the far larger Just Beat Trump faction, by a 2-to-1 margin.
It’s been said countless times, by me included, that the nation is polarized to an unusual degree. But polarized around what?
It’s looking like it’s no longer right-left, or capitalist-socialist or any of the other traditional political measuring scales. It’s for Trump or against him. All other questions — and revolutions — will have to wait.