A Full-On Populist Biden Would Have Won Florida

[Quick note: this is a softish launch of one of two newsletters I’m developing. I hope to begin posting here daily asap…So: feel free to subscribe below]

Yawn. That’s my reaction to this perennial debate about whether a progressive agenda is a winning agenda. Of course, it is—and that has a lot to do with how you define “progressive”.

At least, on economics, it’s clear: what puts more money in peoples’ pockets, what makes it possible for people to make a decent living and what narrows the inequality gap.

People are very practical. They aren’t going to get lost in the weeds of policy debates cuz who has time for that.

What they want to see is simple: is what you are proposing going to help me pay the bills?

Which brings me to Florida.

I’m going to show you, with data, how, arguably, Joe Biden could have defeated Trump in Florida—perhaps, easily. And there is a lesson going forward about how to run winning campaigns.

What really grabbed my attention in the Florida results was a relatively unremarked upon, at least nationally, Florida victory—the passage of Amendment 2, which will raise the state minimum wage to $15-an-hour by 2026. (Side point for now: keep in mind that $15-an-hour, though a huge leap above the putrid federal minimum wage of $7.25-an-hour, is still below what the minimum wage, federal or state, should be…at least $20-$22-an hour).

The vote on the initiative was overwhelming: 6,377,444 in favor (60.8 percent) and 4,111,094 opposed (39.2 percent) [votes are as of November 11th 2020]. That is a winning margin of over 2.2 million votes.

The presidential election results: Trump 5,658,847 (51.2 percent) versus Biden 5,284,453 (47.9 percent). That is a winning margin of just 374,000 plus votes out of more than 10.9 million votes.

I decided to look county-by-county at the Florida Trump vs. Biden race compared to the Yes-No vote on Amendment 2. In virtually every county, Amendment 2 outperformed Biden’s numbers—in some cases, by a lot (20-70 percent)—and that was true in counties that voted for Trump and even in counties where Amendment 2 lost but still tallied more votes than Biden.

Consider these examples, looking at the total votes cast and the percent differences, and the “under-performance” of Biden versus Amendment 2:

Miami Dade County

  • Biden: 617,201 (53.4 percent)

  • Trump: 532,409 (46.1 percent)

Amendment 2

  • Yes: 751,866 (70.55 percent)

  • No: 313,922 (29.45 percent)

[Biden “under-performance”: 134,665]

=========================

Palm Beach County

Biden: 429,856 (56 %)

Trump: 332, 760 (43.4 %)

Amendment 2

Yes: 503,661 (68.61%)

No: 230,457 (31.39%)

[Biden “under-performance”: 73,805]

=========================

Broward County

Biden: 617,689 (64.6 %)

Trump: 332, 960 (34.8 %)

Amendment 2—

Yes: 666,522 (75.24%)

No: 219,328 (24.76%)

[Biden “under-performance”: 48,833]

==========================

Duval County

  • Biden: 251,952 (51.2 %)

  • Trump: 233,316 (47.5 %)

Amendment 2—

  • Yes: 278,164 (58.1 %)

  • No: 200,624 (41.9 %)

[Biden “under-performance”: 26,212]

==========================

Polk County—

  • Trump: 194,271 (56.7%)

  • Biden: 144,775 (42.3%)

Amendment 2—

  • Yes: 187,576 (56.79%)

  • No: 142,715 (43.21%)

[Biden “under-performance”: 42,801]

==========================

Marion County—

  • Trump: 127,744 (62.6%)

  • Biden: 74,802 (36.6%)

Amendment 2—

  • Yes: 110,020 (55.56%)

  • No: 88,002 (44.44%)

[Biden “under-performance”: 35,218]

==========================

Orange County—

  • Biden: 394,602 (61%)

  • Trump: 245,162 (37.9%)

Amendment 2—

  • Yes: 429,155 (70.01%)

  • No: 183,847 (29.99%)

[Biden “under-performance”: 34,553]

==========================

Collier County

  • Trump: 128,820 (62.1 %)

  • Biden: 77,529 (37.4 %)

Amendment 2—

  • Yes: 105,594 (55.49 %)

  • No: 84,693 (44.51 %)

[Biden “under-performance”: 28,065]

==========================

Sumter County

  • Trump: 62,753 (67.9 %)

  • Biden: 29,326 (31.7 %)

Amendment 2—

  • Yes: 50,090 (56.53 %)

  • No: 38,514 (43.47%)

[Biden “under-performance”: 20,764]

==========================

Pinellas County (Tampa Bay-St. Pete area)

  • Biden: 277,191 (49.6 %)

  • Trump: 275,949 (49.4 %)

Amendment 2—

  • Yes: 312,569 (59.65 %)

  • No: 211,452 (40.35 %)

[Biden “under-performance”: 35,378]

==========================

Hillsborough County (Tampa—the fourth most populous county in FL)—

  • Biden: 375, 714 (52.8 %)

  • Trump: 326,158 (46 %)

Amendment 2—

  • Yes: 402,095 (60.3 %)

  • No: 267,685 (39.97 %)

[Biden “under-performance”: 26,381]

==========================

Walton County

  • Trump: 32,924 (75.4 %)

  • Biden: 10,333 (23.7 %)

  • No: 23,296 (54.78)

  • Yes: 19,230 (45.22)

    [Biden “under-performance”: 8,897]

    ==========================

I want to be clear about a couple of points. First, “under-performance” has to be qualified by acknowledging that there is not a one-to-one relationship between each vote. In other words, not every vote cast in favor of Amendment 2 would automatically be a person who would ignore the other anti-Biden dynamics/messaging (“He’s a socialist controlled by Bernie Sanders”!) and vote for Biden.

But, the above differences in the numbers are pretty stark—and raises a legitimate argument that Biden should have put a wildly popular Amendment 2 at the forefront of his campaign in Florida, ESPECIALLY in communities where he had perceived weaknesses or a lack of excitement for his candidacy. And even if Biden still fell short in the state, a full-throated embrace of a stark, pocket-book appeal would likely help win other down-ballot races and, long-term, help the party build.

Second point: I don’t share the progressive knee-jerk argument that polling shows the majority of the American people support progressives ideas like “Medicare For All” and, so, you just have to roll these ideas out and, presto, the people will vote in favor.

That’s rubbish—because (a) polling questions are very dodgy in how they can be framed [as an aside: it’s amusing to hear my fellow progressives denounce polls…and at the same time use polls to back up a central argument…makes for great fundraising emails, though!] and (b) polling never can factor in a brutal, well-funded, pro-corporate anti-campaign once an idea hits the streets.

And that’s the point going forward: Progressive ideas are big winners BUT you need good organizing to win.

[I will be talking about this on the next Working Life YouTube Podcast which you can also subscribe to here]

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