Twilight of the Berniecrats

Misty SnowUtah Democratic social media exploded, as much as it can, over the weekend arguing about Misty Snow’s attack on fellow Democrat Doug Owens.

In case you missed it, Snow lit into Owens during a meeting with the Salt Lake Tribune editorial board, claiming that Owens should do more to stand up for the middle class if he wants to beat Mia Love in November.

Her argument is one that left-wing Democrats have been making for years now – that they keep losing elections because Democrats are trying to be too much like Republicans. They argue the “GOP lite” path does not provide a “real choice” for Utahns.

Of course, this stance presupposes that Utahns are primed to vote for progressive Democratic candidates and policies, they just don’t know it. It also ignores the reality in Utah – that Democrats can’t win elections by appealing just to the fringe elements in their party.

Snow is trying to replicate the success Bernie Sanders had in Utah during the March presidential preference vote where he wiped out Hillary Clinton. Snow was able to catch lightning in a bottle and win the Democratic nomination by defeating moderate Jonathan Swinton. However, even if he won the Democratic nomination, Sanders was not going to win Utah. Remember, Ted Cruz got 122,000 votes during the March GOP caucus to Sanders’ 61,000.

Snow’s candidacy is a “put up or shut up” moment for the progressive wing of the Utah Democratic party. If Snow pulls off a miracle and beats Republican Mike Lee, then it will validate what she’s been saying. But, if she loses, then it proves that Utahns are not buying what she’s selling.

But, Snow is not going to win. In fact, it’s entirely likely she’s will be annihilated by Mike Lee. Polls have her down by at least 35 points to Lee and Snow is struggling to get above 30-percent. In fact, her poll numbers are the lowest we’ve seen since 1980 when Dan Berman lost to Jake Garn by 48-points. In fact, only four times since 1970 has a Utah Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate failed to get 30-percent or more in an election. Snow is well positioned to become the fifth to achieve that ignominious feat.

Some may argue that Snow’s candidacy, win or lose, will help push the Utah Democratic party to the left and make them more progressive.

That way lies madness.

Utah is not a progressive state. Democrats cannot win elections in Utah by putting up liberal candidates. Look at the numbers from the Utah Elections Office:

  • Only 11% of Utah voters are registered as Democrats
  • 50% of Utah voters are Republicans
  • 37% are unaffiliated

If every single unaffiliated voter, plus every Democrat joined in a grand coalition, they still would not have a majority in Utah. That means Democrats must appeal to Republicans if they’re going to win. It’s simple math.

To appeal to Republicans, Democrats have to field candidates that Utah Republicans would be comfortable voting for. Candidates who are acolytes of a Vermont Democratic Socialist are definitely not in that category.

Who is?

Mostly those “GOP lite” candidates that Snow was railing against. There’s a reason Jim Matheson kept his seat in Washington for more than a decade despite massive GOP opposition. He was someone Republicans could vote for without hesitation.

The best current example is Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams. Nearly 1 out of every three Mitt Romney voters crossed over to cast a ballot for him in 2012. Without that, he would not be in office now.

Sense a theme?

That brings us to Snow’s attack on Owens. According to the Cook Political Report’s partisan voting index, Utah’s 4th Congressional District is +16 Republican, one of the most Republican-heavy in the nation. Hardly a progressive paradise.

Progressives like to think Snow is a change agent. The argument being that a progressive candidate can even win the nomination in Republican Utah means the tide is beginning to turn ever so slightly.

That’s a colossal misreading of the political climate.

The better bet is Snow will lose by 30 points or more in November, and Democrats will continue to flail in mediocrity.