I will now attempt to answer your questions.
Why is it that the most electable candidates are the ones who have left the race soonest?
I am glad you asked! I am taking “electable” in the sense in which it was generally used: to mean, loosely, a moderate governor with a name like Steve or Tim who never quite gained traction. But that is how electability works! Leave the hand open, and it stays; try to grasp it, and it flies.
Is this how the system is supposed to work?
Broadly speaking, yes. The primary system is set up so that you run until people lose interest in supporting you, and then you stop. This is called democracy.
That is why Harris is no longer in the race, and why . . . Tom Steyer is? Because whereas people have heard enough from Harris on the one hand, on the other hand, people are still enormously interested in hearing more from Tom Steyer?
Well, now that you mention it, there is also something called money. Money is good because, if you have enough of it, people have to keep hearing from you and being interested in you — whether they want to or not. It is a wonderful invention that allows you to be indifferent to the wishes of voters. They can tell you, personally, to go away, but they cannot tell your thousands of paid Facebook ads to go away. And we all know that if people see enough paid advertisements in their social feeds, eventually they will cave and buy the plaid holiday dress that is only somewhat flattering.
As Abraham Lincoln would have said, had he been running under these conditions, you can lose some of the people and some of the money, but you can’t lose all of the people or all of the money. Unless you are a billionaire! Then you can pretty much run as long as you would like, and it does not matter what people want. This is because if there are two things we know the Founders wanted to be well-represented, they are tracts of land and accumulations of property.
What if these trends continue?
Eventually, President Trump will square off on the debate stage against an enormous platinum statuette studded with gems that suddenly dropped into the race after the Iowa caucuses, crushing Pete Buttigieg beneath its weight. (Elizabeth Warren will have vanished after shaking hands with what turned out to be an enormous corporation, her sworn enemy; Bernie Sanders’s voice will still be heard on still winter evenings, but it will be muffled by an enormous pile of wallets that decided to run after hearing someone wanted to tax something.)
But some candidates who have less cash on hand than Harris are still in the race?
Yes! This is because they have support from people, or because they have concentrated all their money into the most powerful asset of all: a Malarkey-themed bus.
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