Show of hands on immigrant health care belies a thorny issue (copy)

In this June 27, 2019 photo, Democratic presidential candidates, author Marianne Williamson, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., raise their hands when asked if they would provide healthcare for undocumented immigrants, during the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

A common observation made about those who get the bulk, if not all of their news from conservative talk radio and Fox News, is that they live in a right-wing "bubble." We've all seen this. We in fact have a president who inhabits a world of "alternative facts" and to this day insists that his inauguration drew more people than any other in history. Everybody knows this is untrue, and that in fact he didn't even draw a fraction of the crowd that attends any AC/DC concert in any place in the world.

But there's a left-wing bubble, too. And at this early point in the race for the White House, it seems poised to decide the outcome.

One aspect of the right-wing bubble is a seemingly pathological aversion to address something anyone outside that bubble might consider worth looking at. That is that going back to 1992, when Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton defeated incumbent President George H.W. Bush, the Republican Party has won the popular vote in a presidential election exactly one time in seven tries. The aversion is so entrenched that President Donald Trump and his supporters continue to insist, with zero credible evidence, that it was voter fraud that delivered close to 3 million more votes to Hilary Clinton in 2016. One in seven over 24 years is a bad trend. That a party and an ideological movement steadfastly refuses to examine why it consistently has more people voting against it than for it is telling. Unless you've decided that it's all made up by the "fake news" cabal.

Conversely, the liberal bubble has swollen to similar levels that threaten to snatch away an exceedingly winnable election against perhaps the most disliked incumbent president in history.

What the left doesn't seem to grasp is that there is still a vast middle of independents and non-ideologues out there, many of whom recoil watching a debate stage where every candidate raises his or her hand in favor of free health care for people who cross the border illegally as they spend every day trying to fend off debt collectors because of their own medical bills. While they don't see themselves as anti-immigrant, they are reflexively branded as racists and xenophobes by those inside the bubble.

The left also refuses to recognize that many of these citizens don't identify as pro-life, but at the same time are uncomfortable with practices such as late-term abortion, think there ought to be some basic limitations, and don't feel all that comfortable having their tax dollars pay for it. They, of course, are branded as haters of women.

Others are small business owners who want to do as well by their employees as possible, but shudder at the thought that a federally mandated minimum wage, combined with higher taxes and increased regulations under a Democratic administration, may well make it impossible for them to stay afloat. They are branded as capitalist pigs getting fat off of the blood and sweat of the exploited.

By all accounts, a lot of these people stayed home in 2016, neither enthusiastic about Clinton, nor in any way fond of Trump. The way things are shaking out now, even more of them might stay home in November 2020 —especially if the economy remains strong.

In the fairly recent past, both parties sought out ways to build broader coalitions, to bring in voters who don't take their marching orders from the professional outrage industries on either side, who assess elections individually rather than from a strident partisan perspective. Candidates of both parties endeavored to at least present the illusion of a "big tent," under which everyone shared common goals, if not the exact same policy prescriptions.

Nobody tries to build a broader coalition anymore. They all just blow bubbles. This race will be all about which side manages to alienate the least amount of voters.

It's a bold strategy on the part of the left. Whichever Democrat gets the nod had better hope the base turns out in historic fashion. Otherwise, here comes the Electoral College and all those people who decide to sit it out to Donald Trump's rescue.

Bryan Sabella lives in Fitchburg and works in inventory management.

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