US election: Why these voters rejected Hillary Clinton but are backing Joe Biden

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NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – Samantha Kacmarik, a Latina college student in Las Vegas, said that four years ago, she had viewed Hillary Clinton as part of a corrupt political establishment.

Flowers Forever, a black transgender music producer in Milwaukee, said she had thought Clinton wouldn’t change anything for the better.

And Thomas Moline, a white retired garbageman in Minneapolis, said he simply hadn’t trusted her.

None of them voted for Clinton. All of them plan to vote for Joe Biden.

“I knew early that Trump definitely wasn’t the guy for me,” recalled Moline, an independent. But when it came to Clinton, “I guess I had a bad taste in my mouth from her husband’s eight years in office.”

He voted for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, a decision he regrets, and he feels at ease backing Biden.

“I identify more with Biden – whether that’s being a male chauvinist or whatever you want to call me,” he said.

The point seems almost too obvious to note: Biden is not Clinton. Yet for many Democrats and independents who sat out 2016, voted for third-party candidates or backed Donald Trump, it is a rationale for their vote that comes up repeatedly: Biden is more acceptable to them than Clinton was, in ways large and small, personal and political, sexist and not – and those differences help them feel more comfortable voting for the Democratic nominee this time around.

Biden also benefits, of course, from the intense desire among Democrats to get Trump out of office. And a majority of voters give the president low marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the dominant issue of the race.


Retired garbageman Thomas Moline (left) voted for Gary Johnson while waitress Nikki Baker voted for Jill Stein in 2016. They both plan to vote for Joe Biden. PHOTOS: NYTIMES

But a key distinction between 2020 and 2016 is that, four years ago, the race came down to two of the most disliked and polarising candidates in American history, and one of them also faced obstacles that came with being a barrier-breaking woman.

Biden now leads Trump in many public polls by bigger margins than Clinton had in 2016. In private polling and focus groups, voters express more positive views of Biden than of Clinton, though they know far less about his decades in political office, according to strategists affiliated with both Democrats’ campaigns.

Interviews with dozens of voters, union members and Democratic strategists reveal a party embracing Biden – a 77-year-old white man – as a familiar political pitch, though some bristled at what they saw as the gender bias in that assessment.

“The Republicans did a fantastic job of making Hillary Clinton seem like the devil for the last 20-plus years, so she was a hard sell,” said Aaron Stearns, the Democratic chair in Warren County in northwestern Pennsylvania.

“It’s just a lot easier with Joe Biden because he’s a guy and he’s an old white guy. I hate saying that, but it’s the truth.”

Even as Biden proposes a significantly bigger role for government than Clinton did four years ago, some voters view the Democratic nominee as more moderate compared with how they saw her. And they don’t see him as being as divisive a political figure as they did Clinton, despite Biden’s long record of legislative battles.

“I didn’t like Hillary. I felt that she was a fraud, basically, lying and conniving,” said Sarah Brown, 27, of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, who regrets her 2016 vote for Trump and plans to vote for Biden.

“I’m not a superbig fan of him, either, but the two options – I guess it’s the lesser evil.”

Since 2019, Biden has held an advantage of 4 to 8 points over Clinton in key swing districts, according to an analysis by John Hagner, a partner at Clarity Campaign Labs, a Democratic data analytics firm.

Polling shows Biden scoring higher than Clinton among a wide range of demographic groups – most notably older voters, white voters and suburbanites. But his advantage is stark among those who sat out the 2016 election or backed third-party candidates.

Biden leads Trump, 49 per cent to 19 per cent, among likely voters who backed third-party candidates in 2016, according to recent polling of battleground states by The New York Times and Siena College. Among registered voters who sat out the 2016 election, Biden leads by 9 percentage points, the polls found.

At times, Biden has been notably critical of his party’s 2016 nominee, arguing that she lacked “vision” and failed to connect with working-class voters and openly relitigating what he saw as Clinton’s debate missteps.

He has also noted “unfair” sexism against her, adding at an event in Iowa, “That’s not going to happen with me.”

Clinton, too, has reflected on how she was perceived during the race.

“You should also be prepared for the slights, the efforts to diminish you – you personally, you as a woman,” she advised Senator Kamala Harris on Clinton’s podcast before the vice presidential debate.

In 2016, Trump’s appeal as a political leader was intriguing to many voters, given that he was an outsider and that few expected him to win, while Clinton was a Washington veteran.

“Always, institutionally, people want to get change,” said former Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a close friend of the Clintons.

“Trump was anti-establishment, anti-swamp. They now have seen the horror that this man has done to our country.” Yet, even as votes are being cast in 2020, Democrats still worry about some of the reasons for their loss in 2016.

Clinton’s campaign was criticised over its ground game in some battleground states; Biden’s campaign avoided direct contact with voters for months. Clinton was attacked for keeping a lighter schedule than Trump at times; Biden made his first visit of the year to Wisconsin in September.

But Biden has never been torn down like Clinton, who had faced more than two decades of unrelenting GOP attacks by the time she ran.

Internal polling conducted for the Bernie Sanders campaign found that Biden had a reservoir of goodwill that Clinton did not possess.

“He was a hard guy to hit,” said Ben Tulchin, Sanders’ pollster. “There’s not a lot of passion for him, but they like him.”

Voters who rejected Clinton and who now back Biden present varying rationales. Midwestern union workers, most of them men, said they had found it hard to identify with Clinton, never mind picture her as president.

“I have more faith in Joe Biden than Hillary because I like his background, where he grew up,” said Dave Clawson, the Democratic treasurer of the United Steelworkers chapter in Lorain, Ohio.

“He’s middle class, worked his way up. I saw her as not a very nice person. I don’t know how to explain it.”

John Melody, a retired steelworker from South Euclid, Ohio, said he had questioned why Clinton wanted the job, attributing most of her success to her husband.

“I thought the girl just wanted the job because she wanted to be the boss, that’s all,” said Melody, 76, who often votes Democratic for president but supported the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, in 2016. “Biden’s a regular guy.”

In focus groups, black voters who sat out 2016 said they hadn’t believed that Clinton would tangibly improve their lives, said Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, a super PAC that aims to energise black voters.

“With Biden, their assumption is, he will mitigate their pain and suffering,” Shropshire said.

Liberal Democrats, too, are showing more willingness to set aside their ideological differences, following the lead of Sanders, who quickly backed Biden after ending his primary bid.

“In the last election, I didn’t see things as being as dire as I do in this election, and I didn’t think that Donald Trump could win,” said Nikki Baker, 66, a Minneapolis waitress who voted for Stein in 2016.

“When Angela Davis and Noam Chomsky are saying you have to vote for Joe Biden, then I have to vote for Joe Biden.”

A Global Asset Management Seoul Korea Magazine

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