A special type of Democratic voter lives in the suburbs of DC that conservatives heavily caricature whose existence I couldn’t confirm until now. Overwhelmingly white, young, progressive, desperately out of touch, and they love Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Warren fans are hard to come by nowadays, but I was lucky enough to find one of her last pockets of support at an Arlington Democrats and Arlington Young Democrats election night party. Nearly a hundred of the club’s members gathered at William Jeffrey’s Tavern, a bar with plenty of craft beers on tap and a projector screen set up to display live Super Tuesday results. Local news crews swarmed the small section of the bar reserved for the group.
I was relatively surprised when I approached a small gaggle of attendees and every single person told me quite confidently that they had voted for Warren. The Massachusetts senator has been dropping like a rock in the polls since her peak in the fall and is now widely viewed as a spoiler candidate as she has failed to finish better than third in a single state ahead of Super Tuesday. Her eight pre-Tuesday delegates came from a third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
The last Warren supporter I had met in real life was a former Occupy Wall Street activist who was working for the campaign in New Hampshire. However, I shouldn’t have been too shocked given I was speaking to a bunch of DC-adjacent political activists who are probably quite enticed by phrases like, ‘I have a plan for that.’ Warren was the de facto candidate, of course, of the intelligentsia and the coastal elites.
‘She does really well with party activists,’ one club member told me. ‘People who have really been on the ground running for a long time.’
Another noted ‘people who work in government’ as a Warren stronghold. Sounds like a winning coalition.
According to Arlington Young Democrats president Dan Matthews, the club is filled with Warren supporters. His assertion proved to be correct — everyone I spoke to said they had voted for her and I overheard numerous bits of chatter wondering what her prospects were if she performed poorly this evening.
‘The night is still young,’ one apparently delusional Warren supporter told me when I asked if they were disappointed that she hasn’t won a single state. The supporter also noted that only 30 percent of the votes were in from Virginia, not realizing that most major news outlets had already called the race for Joe Biden.
‘Massachusetts isn’t in yet,’ another supporter said of Warren’s home state, as I started to wonder if they were reassuring me or themselves that she still had a chance. Warren is currently slated to finish third in Massachusetts, according to the New York Times.
Others were more realistic — statements like ‘this is bad for Warren,’ ‘she’s done,’ and ‘this is not good’ were as plentiful as the plates of bar nachos and wings.
One group of young men told me that they hoped Warren would stay in the race until the Democratic National Convention (which seems to be her campaign’s strategy — win just enough delegates to compete in a brokered convention) apparently unconcerned about the general election chances of a candidate who can’t even win her own state’s primary.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with supporting a candidate who best aligns with your ideology. But more alarming than the Young Democrats’ overwhelming support for a floundering candidate was their insistence that the party will have no problem uniting to defeat Donald Trump, even if it goes through a nasty contested convention.
Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight puts the odds of that happening at 7 in 10, and pols predict such a scenario could easily break against Bernie Sanders given the party’s super delegates are usually more wedded to establishment candidates. This is dangerous for party unity given Sanders’s fervent base already feels burned by 2016, during which leaked emails revealed Hillary Clinton had almost entirely purchased the party apparatus before ever becoming the nominee. If Sanders is again viewed as being robbed of the nomination, his anti-establishment and populist supporters could very well turn their backs even harder on the Democratic machine.
In 2016, for example, 12 percent of Sanders supporters ended up voting for Trump. The candidates do have some overlap in the types of people they attract — individuals who don’t usually vote in elections or who were not traditionally registered with either party. And their stances on trade give them the potential to appeal to the working class Obama voters in the middle of the country.
The Sanders-Trump effect was so strong, in fact, that if those voters had gone for Clinton in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, she likely would have won the election. Nonetheless, most of the Young Democrats brushed off these types of voters as nonexistent, a lost cause, or nonessential to the mission of defeating Trump.
‘If you’re a Bernie supporter, you understand that the stakes are too high,’ one voter said. ‘If you’re really bitter, like if you’re a far left activist that never votes, then you’re just not gonna vote.’
Matthews was one of the few individuals I spoke to at the party who seemed in tune with the threat a contested convention could pose to the party — it seemed wise that the Young Democrats chose him to be their president.
‘Realistically, what I would like to see is the Democratic Party coalesce around one candidate,’ Matthews told me. ‘I’m really concerned that we’re running towards a contested convention and a circumstance in which we won’t be able to unite and fight the actual battle we need to fight.’