After a year of listening to discourse, Massachusetts voters headed out to the polls on March 5th to weigh in on Democratic candidates. Home turf for 2020 candidate Elizabeth Warren, the state saw a tight race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in 2016. However, the 2020 Democratic primary ballot saw significantly more candidates than before: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Mike Bloomberg, and Tulsi Gabbard were among those listed.
This year, Joe Biden won Massachusetts with 33.4% of votes, beating Bernie Sanders (26.6%), and Elizabeth Warren (21.4%). With fewer than eight months until the General Election, the pool of Democratic candidates competing for nomination has, as of April 8th, been dramatically reduced to just one man: Joe Biden. The nominee for the 2020 presidential election will be formally selected at the Democratic National Convention in mid-July by delegates elected in the primaries.
This year, the town of Concord voted 35.5% for Biden, 30.1% for Warren, and 15.3% for Sanders. At Concord Academy, according to a survey sent over spring break, 46.7% of respondents voted for Warren, 33.3% for Sanders, and 20% for Biden.
One respondent said that they voted for Warren because they “liked how clear and comprehensive her plans were and how she engaged with voters with empathy and compassion.” Other CA Warren supporters valued her leadership skills, her clear and comprehensive plans, work ethic, and focus on rectifying inequality. Moreover, the prospect of having a female president after Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 campaign excited and invigorated many, especially first time voters.
Sanders’s allies valued the Vermont senator’s stability, consistency, and perseverance in working toward his goals, specifically his ideals of universal healthcare, raising the minimum wage, eliminating student loan debt, and reforms on the immigration system. His extensive experience working in foreign policy and in the legislative branch gives him particular insight. Furthermore, Sanders’s dedication to climate change and his Green New Deal is close to the hearts of many in the CA community.
On the other hand, students and faculty voted for Biden because they believe in his capability to beat Trump and a dislike for Bernie Sanders. While some of Biden’s critics have condemned him for being “too moderate”, many of Biden’s proposed policies overlap with Sanders’s, with one notable exception being Medicare for All (which Sanders supports). Biden has proposed a $750 billion expansion of the Affordable Care Act, a $1.7 trillion climate plan, and a $750 billion education plan. Moreover, his previous experience as Vice-President during the Obama administration means that he has witnessed firsthand the struggles and responsibilities of the presidency.
Although voting isn’t mandatory, 1,397,679 Massachusetts voters turned out at the polls on Super Tuesday, representing around 21% of the total state population. In the US, primary election participation is consistently lower than the general election turnout. In 2016, only 1,204,928 Massachusetts voters participated in the Democratic primaries. It’s unclear what drove the sharp increase in voter participation between 2016 and 2020. Political commentators have noted that one possible explanation for this upward trend is the possibility of defeating Donald Trump, preventing him from winning a second term as president. Besides this possibility, the current Democratic race is simply more competitive than in 2016 – Hillary Clinton was widely seen as the Democratic nominee even before the 2016 primary results were revealed, and the current primary is a much tighter competition.
The excitement brought about by this hotly-contested race was also likely to drive more people to the polls. Stephanie Manzella, who teaches a course on US constitutional law, believes that voting in primaries is important: “The primaries establish the issues which are important to Americans. This primary season, the candidates engaged deeply in discussing substantive issues. Theoretically, voters get to express their preference, though this time voters often said they were afraid to vote for the candidate they preferred.”
High turnouts across the country on Super Tuesday do not necessarily mean that Democratic turnout will surge during the presidential election in November. But the increase in voter turnout? It means that Democrats are getting more excited about voting for their presidential candidate.