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The Simple Answer

Don't overthink your Super Tuesday vote.
March 2, 2020
Featured Image
(Art Hannah Yoest, photo Getty Images)

“They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers.”

 —Ronald Reagan, “A Time for Choosing,” Oct. 27, 1964


You are a normal American. You don’t like demagogues of the right or the left. You want competent, responsible governance somewhere in the vicinity of the broad center. You cherish American exceptionalism, and you know that means rejecting European-style demagoguery of the right and left that exploits people’s anxieties and seduces them with false promises. You dread a future featuring an authoritarian and illiberal party facing off against a socialist and illiberal party. And so you don’t want to face a choice–you don’t want the country to face a choice– between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in November.

What are you to do? Well, if you’re a Democrat and live in one of the 14 states voting Tuesday, you can of course participate in your state’s Democratic primary contest. If you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, or Virginia, you might be surprised to learn the Democratic contest is an open primary, and you can participate no matter your party registration or non-party registration. In some of the other remaining states, you can vote if you’re unaffiliated. So an awful lot of you can vote Tuesday. But for whom?

The American process of presidential selection is complex. The Democratic nominating process is complex. Super Tuesday, with 14 very different states operating under somewhat different rules, is complex. A multi-candidate field with proportional representation, but not exactly proportional representation—because there are thresholds at both the state and CD level—makes everything more complex. And so a voter, trying to cast a meaningful vote that will further an outcome he prefers—sane, moderate governance—can feel perplexed.

But though the situation is complex, the answer actually is simple. Whatever the substantive case for either Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, and despite the flashes of electoral strength each has shown, neither is going to be the nominee. And despite what once seemed a possible, though unconventional, path to the nomination, it’s not going to be Mike Bloomberg either. So it’s Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden. Which means, if you’re inclined toward American constitutional democracy, the rule of law, and a free economic order–as well as a liberal world order anchored by the United States–it’s Joe Biden.

And if you’re not, then it’s Bernie Sanders.

To be sure, there could be cases where, if you live in a particular congressional district with a particular distribution of the vote, you might—if you had perfect advance knowledge—engage in complex calculations that might make you think a vote for one of the other candidates would have more effect. But your calculations are as likely to be wrong as right. It’s much safer to vote your actual preference between the two candidates who have a realistic shot at the nomination, and who represent wildly different paths for the future: Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

And that’s a simple choice.

William Kristol

William Kristol is editor-at-large of The Bulwark.