Shortly after major news outlets officially called the Presidential election between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump in Mr. Biden’s favor, Democrat and Republican party officials began opining what went right or wrong for them this election. Republicans, though they lost the White House pretty decisively, are favored to retain control of the Senate, and unexpectedly cut into the Democrats’ house majority by ousting many first time Democrat nominees, and flipping competitive house districts. Still, Mitch McConnell lamented the party’s poor showing in the suburbs, with women, and with college-educated voters, echoing the Republican Party’s infamous “autopsy” after Mitt Romney’s failed Presidential bid in 2012.
Centrist Democrats were quick to hang their poor showing in House races on the party’s progressive wing. Blaming someone else’s platform for your own political shortcomings is a tenuous excuse for underperforming in an election — especially one in which progressive candidates won elections in battleground states like Arizona and Pennsylvania, and progressive organizers played a crucial role nationally by raising turnout in states like Nevada, and cities like Milwaukee, Detroit, and Philadelphia.
In-fighting between the Moderate and Progressive wings of the Democratic party reached a public crescendo when representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez NY-14, and Conor Lamb PA-17 traded interviews in The New York Times following a contentious party meeting. When asked to diagnose Democrats’ shortcomings in House races, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez wondered how moderates could blame progressives after failing to run a “full-fledged campaign,” and cited Mr. Lamb’s $2,000 spent on Facebook advertising the week before the election as evidence of digital advertising incompetency and “malpractice.” Mr. Lamb insisted Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, “doesn’t have any idea how we ran our campaign, or what we spent […] her statement was wrong,” and remained unconvinced that progressive policies like single-payer health insurance and the Green New Deal were winning strategies in swing districts: “people are not clamoring for [those] two policies.”
In a democracy with stabler, more electorally proportional institutions, the outcomes of Ms. Ocasio-Cortezs’ and Mr. Lamb’s races would have little to do with Democrats’ national showing. Yet, intraparty squabbling between the moderates and progressives is almost inevitable given the current Republican bias of the Electoral College. Scaling moderate campaign strategies that succeed in swing state districts like Mr. Lamb’s up to the national stage, the thinking goes, is a party’s best shot at capturing the White House. Failure to fall in line with the moderate messaging is viewed as a threat to the party’s national success.
Historically, both Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates have benefited from an unbalanced electoral map, but according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, Republicans’ current advantage is unmatched in modern elections. In today’s polarized political environment, the Republican electoral college advantage is turning into a deep partisan one. Take a look at this chart, showing the partisan lean of reliably Republican states, according to FiveThiryEight’s partisan lean ratings, and their electoral college vote share.