I figured some stuff out that I hope to remember the next time USA presidential primary season rolls around.* Leading up to the primaries, people argue about electability. Pundits use electability to hand-wave away idealists' objections to milquetoast candidates. I think there's something to the idea of electability. But it doesn't make me want to listen to pundits. It makes me want to listen to people from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Because I'm Californian, I'm in an echo chamber with a higher-than-USA-normal number of liberals: any democratic candidate I recommend might alienate voters in redder states in this nationwide race. As the Dead Milkmen sang in "Brat in the Frat",
♫ I do not like you radical,
I hate you and your fancy school.
You're wrong about the working class.
I hope they kick your Berkeley ass†! ♫
For the opposite-yet-similar reason, you wouldn't ask a Wyoming Democrat, surrounded by an echo chamber of Republicans, to pick a candidate. They might choose a candidate so anodyne that they were very electable…but there's no reward for winning 70% of the votes versus 50+ε% of the votes. And then you end up with a president unwilling to pursue useful policy.
I figure that to pick an electable-but-not-useless candidate, you should listen to states with median levels of liberal-ness—with some "weighting" to account for effects of the electoral college. (You might also consider "weighting" the states equally, not considering the electoral college—lest you choose a presidential candidate that scares voters away from your party when electing senators.)
Taking the voting numbers (so far (Alaska's still only 52% done counting votes, apparently)) from the recent presidential election, we find the median-liberal states. Here I've marked the electoral-college median, Pennsylvania, with an E and the senate median, Georgia, with an S, listing them along with other states nearby in the list sorted by liberal-ness:
# State libness EC votes Biden% Trump% 24 North Carolina -0.0132 15 48.7000 50.0000 S 25 Georgia +0.0020 16 49.5000 49.3000 26 Arizona +0.0051 11 49.5000 49.0000 27 Wisconsin +0.0061 10 49.4000 48.8000 E 28 Pennsylvania +0.0071 20 49.7000 49.0000 29 Michigan +0.0264 16 50.5000 47.9000 30 Nevada +0.0276 6 50.2000 47.5000
What do you know—it's those battleground states that have been in the news so much lately.
Because the USA is a two-party country and because we're looking for the median, note that the Republicans also want to listen to these states in particular to choose electable candidates. I wish the states would re-schedule their primary elections based on this list—both Democrats and Republicans would benefit by front-loading the high-information median-state elections early in the year. But of course the state folks who decide these things don't like it when you point out that some other state's opinion might be more important… Anyhow.
Anyhow, the next time a pundit brings up "electabiliy" at the start of an interview on the political views of a hog farm owner from Idaho, I'll know better than to keep reading.
*I dunno how serious the next Democrat party primaries will be. At one point, it sounded like Biden was only aiming for one term. That might make sense; he's pretty old. On the other hand, a lot of times when I hear news about some politician saying "I'll retire after this term," that rarely turns out to be true when the next election comes along.
†Yes, the official lyrics are "kick your Harvard ass." But when the Dead Milkmen sang that song in Berkeley, California, they sang "Berkeley".