Browsing the archives for the Democratic Party category.


Saving Nancy Pelosi?

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Democratic Party

Part of the fallout of the John Ossoff loss is that a number of people are now calling for Nancy Pelosi to step down as Minority Leader in the House. I understand Handel used the terrifying specter of Pelosi in her ads against Ossoff, and it worked. Last year I saw a lot of Republican ads here in Missouri that used Nancy Pelosi against a Democrat, and they appeared to be effective.

I’m ambivalent about Pelosi, frankly. On the one hand, I agree with what Charles Pierce wrote here

In my time on this earth, I’ve seen Republican propaganda turn a decent centrist like Michael Dukakis into a signatory of the Port Huron statement. I’ve seen it turn a decorated war hero like John Kerry into a Francophone poltroon. I’ve seen it turn a radical centrist/Rockefeller Republican like Bill Clinton into a dope-smoking refugee from the Monterey Pop Festival. I’ve seen kindly old Tip O’Neill turned into a Thomas Nast cartoon, and I’ve seen Barack Obama turned into an Islamic Kenyan holy man. I’ve seen an audience created for every one of these manufactured creations, and I’ve seen that audience respond to them as if they had the firmest basis in reality.

So you will pardon me if I’m dubious of the notion that congressional Democrats have to rid themselves of Nancy Pelosi because she was so easily demonized in that Georgia special election. If it wasn’t her, it would have been somebody else. To paraphrase the editor in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, if there’s a conflict between the person and the legend, slander the legend.

On the other hand, I think that the debacle that was last year’s election revealed the Dems desperately need to rebuild the brand. And they’re not going to do that with the same old faces in the top leadership positions. Tessa Stuart wrote in Rolling Stone,

Mailer after mailer, TV ad after TV ad reinforced the link between Ossoff and Pelosi, who internal GOP polling showed had strong negatives for Republican voters in the district. According to the Washington Post, Pelosi had 98 percent name recognition in the district but her approval rating was “35 points underwater.”

In South Carolina, the GOP similarly took pains to link Parnell and Pelosi – even as Parnell campaigned with Tim Ryan, the Ohio congressman who challenged Pelosi for minority leadership in November.

I confess, I don’t entirely get why Pelosi in particular is so hated in red America, but she is. Sexism plays a role in that, I’m sure, which makes it unfair to Pelosi. But last year, as I watched from a red state, it seemed all the Republicans had to do is somehow tie any Democratic candidate to Nancy Pelosi, and that Dem was toast.

Matt Stoller wrote,

Popularity isn’t everything, but in this case, the American people are right. It is time for Pelosi to go. Passing the torch would be the right thing to do, and not just because of horserace politics. Pelosi is an excellent vote-wrangler and fundraiser, and she has a long and honorable record of defending a certain type of Democratic politics. But at this moment in history, her political frame is a barrier to the much-needed renewal of the Democratic Party.

Stoller calls this the “pity problem”:

When Pelosi sees poverty or discrimination, she sees the people being affected as unfortunate victims who need and deserve a helping hand. Poverty and discrimination are unfortunate. But more fundamentally, they represent a lack of freedom ― freedom that someone, or some system, has taken from you. You are not free if you can’t afford to see a doctor. You are not free if you cannot access a good education because of your race or income. You are not free if your landlord can cheat you because you’re poor. You are not free if you are a family farmer being driven under by meatpacking monopolists. 

Poverty as a lack of freedom connects with a larger problem: More and more of us are having our liberties stolen. Entrepreneurs are savaged by private equity firms and monopolies, young lawyers are burdened by student debt, and we are all being subjected to a health care system full of egregiously large and mismanaged hospital systems, pharmaceutical companies and drug stores. Poverty is a concentrated form of the problems all Americans are increasingly facing.

Too many Democrats have never thought about their politics in this way, or considered the notion that there might be an alternative frame through which to pursue a progressive agenda.

This issue, as venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, put it, is deep. “Pelosi, and the rest of the party learned everything they know about economics from Trickledown’ers,” he said on Twitter. “Thus, they think there is a trade-off between growth and fairness and cannot articulate an economic story distinct from Republicans, except with pity.” 

Put another way — the Dem leadership suffers from a big lack of imagination and a narrow perspective on what’s needed and what’s possible. This in turn has left a lot of people frustrated with the Dems.

Alejandro Chavez, Democracy for America’s campaign manager, told The Fix:

Nancy Pelosi is not where we need to go. She’s failed leadership. While she might be doing some great things in her district, the truth is she’s the person who’s been leading this front that we’ve been running on for years, so she has to go as leadership.

What she’s doing isn’t working. She’s the leadership, it’s failed and, ultimately, it’s her responsibility.

But then there’s the question of who should replace her.  And this brings up another issue that is not just true of Pelosi, but of the Democratic Party national leadership generally. It seems to be more difficult for younger talent to break into the Dem Party power structure than is true of Republicans. Dem leadership is just plain old. Dana Milbank wrote last year,

Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, will be 77 next year.

Steny Hoyer, her deputy, will be 78.

Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 Democratic leader, will be 77.

Their current ages, if combined, would date back to 1787, the year George Washington presided over the signing of the Constitution.

It is time for them to go.   …

… Democrats would benefit from some fresh blood to take on Donald Trump, the oldest president ever elected for the first time, and to revive enthusiasm among millennials, who didn’t turn out in the numbers Democrats needed.

After the debacle that was last year, the Democratic Party needs to be able to hang out a shingle that says “under new management.” Seriously.

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Jonathan Chait and the Susan Sarandon Hypothesis

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Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Republican Party, Trump Maladministration

I’ve tried to avoid replaying the issues of the election, but it interested me that Jonathan Chait, possibly unwittingly, recently endorsed the Susan Sarandon Hypothesis. Chait wrote,

Imagine what the political world would look like for Republicans had Hillary Clinton won the election. Clinton had dragged her dispirited base to the polls by promising a far more liberal domestic agenda than Barack Obama had delivered, but she would have had no means to enact it. As the first president in 28 years to take office without the benefit of a Congress in her own party’s hands, she’d have been staring at a dead-on-arrival legislative agenda, all the low-hanging executive orders having already been picked by her predecessor, and years of scandalmongering hearings already teed up. The morale of the Democratic base, which had barely tolerated the compromises of the Obama era and already fallen into mutual recriminations by 2016, would have disintegrated altogether. The 2018 midterms would be a Republican bloodbath, with a Senate map promising enormous gains to the Republican Party, which would go into the 2020 elections having learned the lessons of Trump’s defeat and staring at full control of government with, potentially, a filibuster-proof Senate majority.

Instead, Republicans under Trump are on the verge of catastrophe. Yes, they are about to gain a Supreme Court justice, no small thing, a host of federal judges, and a wide array of deregulation. Yet they are saddled with not only the most unpopular president at this point in time in the history of polling, but the potential for a partywide collapse, the contours of which they have not yet imagined. The failure of the Republican health-care initiative was a sobering moment, when their early, giddy visions of the possibilities of full party control of government gave way to an ugly reality of dysfunction, splayed against the not-so-distant backdrop of a roiled Democratic voting base. They have ratcheted back their expectations. But they have not ratcheted them far enough. By the time President Trump has left the scene, what now looks like a shambolic beginning, a stumbling out of the gate, will probably feel like the good old days.

Chait gets things wrong sometime. He may be wrong this time. But he might not be wrong. We’ll see.

The Sarandon Hypothesis is from 2016. I confess I didn’t pay much attention to Sarandon, but as I understand it, she argued that it might be better in the long run if Trump beat Clinton, because Trump would be such an awful president he would destroy the Right and bring on the progressive revolution. A Clinton presidency, on the other hand, would have simply continued the slow death of progressivism in the U.S.

Trump is proving to be such a disaster there might not be anything left of the United States to salvage. But so far, his administration has not helped the Republican Party one bit.

For as unpopular as the president has become, Trump’s own party has been hit even harder when it comes to poll results. Republican support has dropped significantly over the past few weeks, with Americans now disapproving of Republicans 70 percent to 21 percent — a 14 point negative swing from two weeks ago.

The HuffPost aggregator has the Republican Party at 37 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable. Democrats aren’t doing much better, however. They’re at favorable 40 percent, unfavorable 50 percent. But you know who’s even less popular? Congress.

So we’re a long way away from seeing whether the Sarandon Hypothesis holds water. The strongest factor working against it, IMO, is the Democratic Party, which still seems reluctant to own up to what it got wrong last year. But we’ll see.

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How to Fight Back

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Democratic Party

I’ve been checking in with people whose pre-election comments tell me they perceived what was happening better than most. Among these is Andrew O’Hehir, who tells us now to fight any effort to “normalize” Donald Trump.

At the very least the Trump election is a moment of unprecedented national emergency, and a critical symptom of how badly American political life has decayed. …

… Those who try to assure us that the emergency is not an emergency, or to insist that the enduring institutions of democracy will surely triumph over this mass hallucination, are either cowardly or stupid or have their heads buried somewhere that isn’t the sand. Furthermore, they haven’t been paying attention: Aren’t these the same responsible grownups who understood how things worked in the real world, and who felt sure that Jeb Bush would be the Republican nominee, and that Hillary Clinton would win the election in a historic landslide? At some point, clinging to your broken idols while barbarians ransack the temple just becomes pathetic.

To be more charitable, the “normalizers” are just afraid. Which is understandable; we should all be afraid. We have good reason to be afraid if we are Muslim, if we are gay or lesbian or trans, if we are black, if we are recent immigrants with or without papers. We have good reason to be afraid if people in those communities are our neighbors, our family members, our friends, our loved ones. We have reason to be afraid if we are Americans who do not define that nationality by looking backward to an imaginary past. The question now is how we respond to that fear. What we do with it.

What we’ve done with it so far is to squabble about who is to blame for the crushing defeat of the Democrats in the recent election. I had originally consoled myself by thinking that now, maybe, the Democrats would wake up and become the ideologically left-wing party we have needed them to be for a long time. But if online debates are any indication, probably not. The consensus about what went wrong seems to be forming around voters are just stupid, and we hate them. But I’ll come back to this some other time.

Robert Reich had some concrete advice. Here’s the first bit:

Get Democrats in the Congress and across the country to pledge to oppose Trump’s agenda. Prolong the process of approving choices, draw out hearings, stand up as sanctuary cities and states. Take a stand. Call your senator and your representative (phone calls are always better than writing). Your senator’s number can be found here . Your representative’s number can be found here.

Can’t argue with that. Right now we’ve got to keep pushing Democrats to get some fire in their bellies. And please, please do not be the Democrats who welcomed George W. Bush into the White House in 2000. As a reminder, here is Russel Baker, writing in 2003 about the 2000 election:

It is hard to imagine the Republicans, had the Supreme Court appointed a Democrat to the White House, accepting the decision as meekly as the Democrats accepted the Court’s anointing of Bush. Republicans thrive on combat and have a passion for opposing, which is rooted in all those years of opposing the New and Fair Deals, not to mention Theodore Roosevelt’s “square deal” a century ago. Theirs is a party so dedicated to opposition that it opposes government itself and often seeks power mainly to dismantle a great deal of it. A favorite Republican battle cry is: “Government is the problem!”

Democrats have a flabbier tradition. Congressional Democrats, who might have been the natural source of an opposition to Bush, chose instead to be good sports about the aborted election. They promptly joined the President in granting lavish tax cuts to the richest part of the population, then moved en masse to endorse his request for authority to make the war he wanted in Iraq. After managing to lose the off-year congressional elections of 2002, they settled into a torpor so restful that they are still vexed with Howard Dean for disturbing their peace.

The rest of Reich’s advice is a bit iffier. I don’t blame people wanting to protest, but there was all kinds of protesting during the Bush Administration, and none of it had any effect. I’ll wait and see what happens, but as soon as the megaphones all fall into the hands of 20-something white guys who endlessly repeat the same tired, unoriginal slogans punctuated liberally by the F word hour after hour, I’m so not there. And don’t talk to me about the goofy costumes and the sock puppets.

Do keep speaking up, and flooding local newspapers with op ed contributions (another of Reich’s ideas) can’t hurt.

Todd Gitlin was not especially perceptive before the election, but the advice he has now isn’t bad.

Be on the lookout for all practitioners of bad faith, those who profess innocence and renounce their own responsibility.

Gitlin doesn’t say so, but I say that would be the DNC and most of the Democratic Party, not to mention the rabid Clinton supporters who refused to see what a weak nominee they were pushing on the rest of us.

Confront the media moguls, editors and reporters who delighted in Trump’s spectacle, reveled in the eyeballs they gathered by treating him as a decent and qualified candidate, and then scrambled to wash their hands, bleating all the while that after all, viewers were always free to change the channels.

Yes, election coverage was horrible, as it has been for many years. We need massive media reform, as many of us have been saying going back to the Clinton and Bush II years. I wish George Soros would use his money to do something about that, instead of whatever it is he allegedly spends money on that never works.

Confront the Republicans who covered for this unscrupulous man and bent their knees once they realized they had no plausible deficit hawk to put up against him.

Exactly what Trump does to the true blue conservatives in the GOP remains to be seen, since a lot of his campaign agenda is very different from their agenda.  However, he may very well jettison his campaign agenda and just let Republicans do whatever they want, as long as they don’t get in the way of his business ventures.

This one I disagree with:

Confront also those who, in the name of their fantasy revolution or their plain rage, declined to vote or stood with Jill Stein and Gary Johnson in oblivion, preferred the gestures of nihilism to the hard work of politics that they find boring and corrupt.

Yeah, the Steiniacs in particular were annoying as hell, but unless somebody has new numbers saying otherwise, they had a negligible effect on the election results. They’ve become a handy scapegoat, though.

I’d say right now the most important thing is to try to keep a fire lit under Democrats so that they don’t get flabby, and also to encourage whatever shakeups might still be possible in the DNC.

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The Squabble Over Identity Politics

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Democratic Party, liberalism and progressivism, self-destruction

Or, Why We’re Doomed, Part the Infinity …

A few days ago, this happened:

In Boston on Sunday night, former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders asked Democrats to pay close attention to the lessons of the election, arguing that the party needs to have a reckoning about why it lost.

“The working class of this country is being decimated — that’s why Donald Trump won,” Sanders said. “And what we need now are candidates who stand with those working people, who understand that real median family income has gone down.”

The Vermont senator spoke to a sold-out crowd of more than 1,000 mostly young people at the Berklee Performance Center, promoting his book, “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In.”

Asked by a questioner how she could become the second Latina senator in U.S. history, Sanders said a candidate’s gender or race isn’t enough.

“I have to know whether that Latina is going to stand up with the working class of this country and is going to take on big money interests,” Sanders said.

He added:

[H]ere is my point — and this is where there is going to be a division within the Democratic Party. It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.

In other words, one of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics. I think it’s a step forward in America if you have an African-American CEO of some major corporation. But you know what, if that guy is going to be shipping jobs out of this country, and exploiting his workers, it doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot whether he’s black or white or Latino.

Here are his extended remarks, in full:

Let me respond to the question in a way that you may not be happy with. It goes without saying that as we fight to end all forms of discrimination, as we fight to bring more and more women into the political process, Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans — all of that is enormously important, and count me in as somebody who wants to see that happen.

But it’s not good enough to say, “Hey, I’m a Latina, vote for me.” That is not good enough. I have to know whether that Latina is going to stand up with the working class of this country, and is going to take on big money interests.

One of the struggles that we’re going to have right now, we lay on the table of the Democratic Party, is it’s not good enough to me to say, “Okay, well we’ve got X number of African Americans over here, we’ve got Y number of Latinos, we have Z number of women. We are a diverse party, a diverse nation.” Not good enough. We need that diversity, that goes without saying. That is accepted. Right now, we’ve made some progress in getting women into politics — I think we got 20 women in the Senate now. We need 50 women in the Senate. We need more African Americans.

But, but, here is my point, and this is where there is going to be division within the Democratic Party. It is not good enough for someone to say, “I’m a woman! Vote for me!” No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry. In other words, one of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics. I think it’s a step forward in America if you have an African-American head or CEO of some major corporation.

But you know what? If that guy is going to be shipping jobs out of this country and exploiting his workers, it doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot if he’s black or white or Latino. And some people may not agree with me, but that is the fight we’re going to have right now in the Democratic Party. The working class of this country is being decimated. That’s why Donald Trump won. …

We need candidates — black and white and Latino and gay and male — we need all of that. But we need all of those candidates and public officials to have the guts to stand up to the oligarchy. That is the fight of today.


Now, that seems to me to be clear and sensible. However …

Talking Points Memo — and I usually respect Talking Points Memo — published an article about this talk under the headline “Sanders Urges Supporters: Ditch Identity Politics and Embrace the Working Class.” The article began:

In a speech Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) urged attendees to move away from “identity politics” and towards policies aimed at helping the working class.

And the shitfest was on.

If you’ve already read what Sanders said, you will know that TPM got it wrong. But the damage was done. Those predisposed by the headline to be angry seized on these remarks to claim Sanders is a racist who wants to favor the needs of white blue-collar workers over the cause of racial and gender justice. And, of course, that is plainly not what he said, but people in the grip of Righteous Outrage can’t read. Even when you patiently point out to them what he actually said, they still see racism.

Plus, a number of people took the quote  “It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ No, that’s not good enough” to be a dig at Hillary Clinton, which set up another shitstorm from Hillary supporters who still blame Sanders for her loss.  (As this guy forcefully mansplains to a group of mostly women arguing in favor of Sanders’s position.)

See also: This, this, and this.

This is why we can’t have nice things. I’m sure part of the problem is that it can’t be easy for people of color to consider having to make common cause with working-class whites. But as this election ought to have shown us, if that common cause doesn’t happen, eventually the Democrats won’t be able to win elections outside of San Francisco and Brooklyn.

(Right now a lot of people are clinging to Clinton’s growing popular vote victory to assure themselves that the people really love her, and if it weren’t for Comey and a few other things she would have squeaked out an Electoral College victory, too. But I’m sure it’s also true that if the Republicans had nominated a less odious candidate than Donald Trump, the GOP would have won in a landslide. The real message of this election isn’t that racists elected Donald Trump but that way too many people didn’t vote at all. You could argue that both candidates lost the popular vote.

A few weeks ago Thomas B. Edsall wrote in the New York Times that the Democrats are no longer a “class-based coalition” with an economic agenda, but a loose coalition of “upscale well-educated whites” mostly cut off from the rest of America plus African-American and Latino voters in big cities. Clinton’s lopsided victories in urban liberal coastal states show us he was pretty much right.)

Sanders attempted to clarify his position in this article:

The Democratic Party is the party of diversity. We have proudly led the fight against racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and for the rights of immigrants. Especially under a Trump administration, we are not turning back. We are going forward. There can be no compromise on bigotry.

Our job is to expand diversity. We want more women, more African-Americans, more Latinos, and individuals of all ages, colors and creed to be involved in the political process. But to think of diversity purely in racial and gender terms is not sufficient.

Yes, we need more candidates of diversity, but we also need candidates — no matter what race or gender — to be fighters for the working class and stand up to the corporate powers who have so much power over our economic lives. We need all of our candidates to have the courage to stand up to the Koch Brothers, Wall Street, drug companies, insurance companies, oil companies, and fight for working families — not just the top one percent.

(Note that Talking Points Memo linked to this article under the headline “Sanders Doubles Down.” Arghhh!)

Sanders concludes:

Our rights and economic lives are intertwined. Now, more than ever, we need a Democratic Party that is committed to fulfilling, not eviscerating, Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of racial, social, and economic justice for all.

Clearly, he’s not saying that racial/gender issues must take a back seat to class issues; he’s saying that racial/gender and class issues are linked, and both must be addressed. Neither should be shoved aside in favor of the other.

Clio Chang at New Republic:

Post-election, there have been attempts to divide the left between those who support identity politics and those who support class politics. But the two are often inextricable, given the large percentage of minorities in the working class. In his speech last night, Sanders made an argument for both kinds of politics.

This is the shitstorm that’s been eating up social media this week.

The New York Times got into it, too, with a “Room for Debate” page asking the question “Is Criticism of Identity Politics Racist or Long Overdue?” One individual argued for the priority of identity by assuming that class/economic issues would necessarily drive out identity issues.

We have a long history in this country of responding to the suffering of “working class whites” not by leveling the playing field for everyone, but by maintaining their status above people of color and immigrants. The labor movement, the New Deal, the G.I Bill, are just three examples.

And of course those examples are valid, but they are also from several decades ago. Most people alive today weren’t yet born when those things happened. Our culture really has shifted quite a bit since then, race-wise.

And I don’t see anybody on the independent progressive Left or from within the Democratic Party arguing for compromising on racial and gender equality to advance economic equality. The argument is that we have to do both, or we’ll never accomplish either one.

Some of the other commenters in this New York Times section make the argument that increasing economic inequality combined with the Democrats’ consuming focus on identity politics is increasing racial resentment. It’s making racism worse, in other words. There may be some truth in that. Conversely, IMO, rallying working people of all races around a common cause might actually alleviate some of the racism. We really are all in this together.

Finally, journalist Michelle García wrote,

The attack on political correctness fits within the brand of identity politics Donald Trump exploited during his campaign. Mr. Trump’s victory relied on fusing a culture of racism and sexism with economic anxieties and the backlash against neoliberalism. Economic challenges are real, demographic changes are real. Mr. Trump seized them to peddle well-worn cultural myths of a nation under siege by the Mexican menace, “bad hombres,” Muslims and other cultural “outsiders.”

Victimhood was contained in the message that America was once great, but no longer. His message imbues victims with unquestioned virtue and obliterates the needs, indeed the humanity, of everyone else.

Ms. García is criticizing right-wing demagoguery and reminding us that the Right has its own version of “identity politics.” But it struck me that some on the Left and/or in the Democratic Party are in danger of falling down the same rabbit hole. Some have taken on the righteous mantle of unquestioned virtue that obliterates any perspective but their own. They trash the rest of us as racist, sexist troglodytes interested only in enhancing the status of white guys.

They aren’t listening, in other words. The lessons of his election are not being learned, I fear.

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Racism Is No Excuse

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Bad Hair, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Racism, Republican Party

Let’s not overstate the racism factor. While there is much wailing about those awful racists who voted for Trump, a closer look at the numbers suggest that the real story of this election was the people who didn’t vote for Trump … or Clinton, or anybody else.

Carl Beijer, who writes for leftie publications, argues that this wasn’t so much the bigot election as the apathy election.

From 2012 to 2016, both men and women went from caring about the outcome to not caring. Among Democratic men and women, as well as Republican women, care levels dropped about 3-4 points; Republican men cared a little less too, but only by one point. Across the board, in any case, the plurality of voters simply didn’t care.

White voters cared even less in 2016 then in 2012, when they also didn’t care; most of that apathy came from white Republicans compared to white Democrats, who dropped off a little less. Voters of color, in contrast, continued to care – but their care levels dropped even more, by 8 points (compared to the 6 point drop-off among white voters). Incredibly, that drop was driven entirely by a 9 point drop among Democratic voters of color which left Democrats with only slim majority 51% support; Republicans, meanwhile, actually gained support among people of color. …

… The major trend in 2016 was one of increasingly apathy. Within that broader trend, the demographic patterns are muddy. Deviations in relatively support from group to group don’t map well onto the standard media narratives that dominated this election; for example, apathy grew more among women and voters of color than among men and white voters. Among the candidates, Clinton either broke even or lost support among every single demographic group, while Trump won support among voters of color and boomers.

See Carl B’s blog for more data.

I’ve read that, particularly in the Rust Belt states, if the same numbers of people who came out for Obama in 2012 had voted for Clinton in 2016, she would have won those states, even though Trump did better than Romney did in those rust bucket states. For example, this anecdote is from Wisconsin:

Urban areas, where black and Hispanic voters are concentrated along with college-educated voters, already leaned toward the Democrats, but Clinton did not get the turnout from these groups that she needed. For instance, black voters did not show up in the same numbers they did for Barack Obama, the first black president, in 2008 and 2012.

Considering how razor-thin the margin of victory was in Wisconsin and elsewhere — there’s your loss.

It also appears that some people who voted for Obama in 2012 voted for Trump in 2016. So were they not racist in 2012?

Was the loss this year a “whitelash” against the Obama Administration? If so,why didn’t that cost President Obama the election in 2012? I can believe that some bigots are more worked up now than they were in 2012, considering that Trump and his followers have been stoking the fires. But if Democratic voters, including nonwhite ones, had voted as usual, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

During the primaries we were way oversold on Hillary Clinton’s alleged support among African American voters. She clobbered Sanders in the early southern primaries because huge majorities of black voters chose her, and that gave her a lead that he could never catch.  Clinton supporters even held this up as proof that Bernie Sanders is racist, which was absurd, and not that Democratic voters in the South just plain didn’t know who he was. As I wrote several times during the primaries, as time went on he won larger and larger percentages of black voters, and he had the support of a majority of black millennial voters.

But Beijer wrote back in June that people were misreading this.

Hillary Clinton has won an overwhelming majority of black voters who have participated in the Democratic primaries: the Wall Street Journal places her share at 75.9 percent, and my math puts it at 77.9 percent. This is certainly a better showing than we’ve seen seen from Bernie Sanders, who has won support from about a quarter of black voters.

But on this basis, Clinton’s partisans have routinely concluded that their candidate has won some kind of democratic mandate from black Americans. While this is true in the trivial sense — she has won votes from a majority of those who actually voted — this framing overlooks the overwhelming majority of voting-age black Americans who either voted against Clinton or declined to vote at all. In fact, based on an analysis of exit pollsturnout numbers, and census data, an extraordinary 87.9 percent of voting-age black Americans have not voted for Clinton.

The news stories revealing that the Clintons were worried about African American voters began to turn up in September.

“Hillary Clinton’s campaign is in panic mode. Full panic mode,” said Leslie Wimes, a South Florida-based president of the Democratic African-American Women Caucus.

“They have a big problem because they thought Obama and Michelle saying, ‘Hey, go vote for Hillary’ would do it. But it’s not enough,” Wimes said, explaining that too much of the black vote in Florida is anti-Trump, rather than pro-Clinton. “In the end, we don’t vote against somebody. We vote for somebody.”

This article is from November 1.

African-Americans are failing to vote at the robust levels they did four years ago in several states that could help decide the presidential election, creating a vexing problem for Hillary Clinton as she clings to a deteriorating lead over Donald J. Trump with Election Day just a week away.

As tens of millions of Americans cast ballots in what will be the largest-ever mobilization of early voters in a presidential election, the numbers have started to point toward a slump that many Democrats feared might materialize without the nation’s first black president on the ticket.

The reasons for the decline appear to be both political and logistical, with lower voter enthusiasm and newly enacted impediments to voting at play. In North Carolina, where a federal appeals court accused Republicans of an “almost surgical” assault on black turnout and Republican-run election boards curtailed early-voting sites, black turnout is down 16 percent. White turnout, however, is up 15 percent. Democrats are planning an aggressive final push, including a visit by President Obama to the state on Wednesday.

But in Florida, which extended early voting after long lines left some voters waiting for hours in 2012, African-Americans’ share of the electorate that has gone to the polls in person so far has decreased, to 15 percent today from 25 percent four years ago.

Voter suppression was a factor in some states that Clinton lost, but not in all of them.  See Voter suppression didn’t cost Hillary Clinton the election at Vox.

Here’s another analysis:

Of the nearly 700 counties that twice sent Obama to the White House, a stunning one-third flipped to support Trump.

Trump also won 194 of the 207 counties that voted for Obama either in 2008 or 2012.

By contrast, of those 2,200 counties that never supported Obama, Clinton was only able to win six. That’s just 0.3 percent crossover to the Democratic side.

Again, if we were to claim that racism cost Clinton the election, we’d have to conclude that people who were not racist in 2008 and 2012 had become so in 2016. Or, maybe, Clinton lost because not enough voters were enthusiastic enough about her to go to the polls and vote for her. Take your pick.

It’s true that a lot of outspoken white supremacists supported Trump. But I’m writing this because I’m seeing way too many people say that we can’t win over those racist voters who elected Trump, so we’re doomed. It isn’t that simple.

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Blame Where Blame Is Due

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Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton

I began this post with an anecdote about a restaurant manager who sat in a booth studying spreadsheets while the restaurant was in chaos and failing to get food on the tables. This article from the Washington Post made me think of it again. Apparently the Clinton campaign was being run by a computer algorithm named Ada.

According to aides, a raft of polling numbers, public and private, were fed into the algorithm, as well as ground-level voter data meticulously collected by the campaign. Once early voting began, those numbers were factored in, too.

What Ada did, based on all that data, aides said, was run 400,000 simulations a day of what the race against Trump might look like. A report that was spit out would give campaign manager Robby Mook and others a detailed picture of which battleground states were most likely to tip the race in one direction or another — and guide decisions about where to spend time and deploy resources.

The use of analytics by campaigns was hardly unprecedented. But Clinton aides were convinced their work, which was far more sophisticated than anything employed by President Obama or GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, gave them a big strategic advantage over Trump.

So where did Ada go wrong?

About some things, she was apparently right. Aides say Pennsylvania was pegged as an extremely important state early on, which explains why Clinton was such a frequent visitor and chose to hold her penultimate rally in Philadelphia on Monday night.

But it appears that the importance of other states Clinton would lose — including Michigan and Wisconsin — never became fully apparent or that it was too late once it did. …

… Like much of the political establishment Ada appeared to underestimate the power of rural voters in Rust Belt states.

There are Democrats in Michigan, right? Did the Clinton campaign not speak to actual human beings outside the Beltway?

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Voters Are Not Mind Readers

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Democratic Party, Republican Party

Following up on yesterday’s postCharles Pierce wrote,

Today’s installment of our continuing series, People With Whom I Empathize But Do Not Understand, comes to us from the small town of Mexico, in Maine, courtesy of The Portland Press-Herald. …

Leo Grassette gave 41 years to the Rumford mill. He’s 80 now and still works part time at the Mexico Trading Post. He doesn’t have a career to worry about. If the mill closes and takes with it all the jobs, it won’t affect him. His pension is safe. But Grassette and his wife of 57 years have children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. In the 15 presidential elections held since he began voting, Grassette had never voted for a Republican. That changed last week. Like many, he felt Clinton was dishonest but it was more than that. She talked more about why Trump was bad than about why she was good. “Democrats used to be for the working class,” Grassette said. “I don’t feel that anymore.”

There is one party that wants to privatize Leo’s Social Security and one that does not. There is one party that wants to hand him a worthless voucher and call it Medicare and one that does not. There is one party that at least tepidly supports organized labor through which Leo got his pension, and there is one party that does not. There is one party that wants to keep Leo’s pension out of the hands of hedge fund cowboys and Wall Street thieves, and one that wants to hijack Leo’s pension into the casino economy.

How, I wonder, are the Democrats no longer “for the working class,” and why doesn’t Leo feel that anymore?

Because most non-college-educated  voters don’t know that Republicans plan to privatize Social Security. Most don’t know that Republicans want to privatize Medicare. Most don’t understand what how the loss of organized labor has hurt all working people.

And that’s because nobody bleeping tells them.

Indeed, if you were to walk up to a standard red state voter and tell him that Republicans are planning to gut Medicare and Social Security, they probably wouldn’t believe you. Republicans like to tell voters that they are the ones who are going to protect Social Security and Medicare from those goofy liberals. However, somehow, they’ve got it in their heads that the Democrats are the party in thrall to Wall Street and the Republicans aren’t. Having Hillary Clinton as the party’s standard bearer didn’t exactly correct that misunderstanding.

For at least 30 years the U.S. has needed an ideologically progressive, left-wing party to counter the Republicans, which have become an ideologically conservative, right-wing party. We’ve needed a party that would champion progressive economic populism and working people, and which would get blue-collar folks enthusiastic about progressive policy proposals instead of allowing right-wing hegemony to go unchallenged in all but urban and liberal coastal circles. We also needed a party that appreciated how much our younger people are being exploited instead of encouraged by the system.

And we needed a party that knows how to take the fight to the Right. We need a party that won’t negotiate with itself out of fear of what the Right will do. That approach doesn’t work.

Maybe now, if we can move the centrist/neoliberal/Clintonite/DLC crew out of the way,  we’ve got a chance at building that party.

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The New Iron Curtain

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Democratic Party, News Media

Joan Walsh complains that it isn’t true Clinton didn’t have policy ideas that would have helped working women. “Clinton proposed steep tax hikes for the rich, to pay for things like paid family leave and tuition-free college, a precisely redistributionist approach,” Walsh wrote.

I know she did. But I’m the sort of politics nerd who actually goes to candidates’ websites and reads them. I can assure you that hardly any voters in Missouri heard anything about Clinton’s paid family leave and other proposals.

Clinton could have run television ads here talking about what she wanted to do for working people. Instead, she ran ads letting us know that Donald Trump ties are made in China. I saw that one multiple times.

It might have helped if the debates had been a little more focused on issues instead of gotchas, but as I wrote a couple of days ago, Clinton doesn’t know how to frame arguments in language that a red stater could understand. The kind of shorthand or boilerplate language Democrats in blue states use with each other is alien in these here parts. So when Clinton in the debates talked about investing in the middle class, I knew what she meant. But that’s a meaningless phrase to red state folks. They have no grounding in what that might actually mean, because such things are never talked about here.

I don’t know how much more I can emphasize that if you live in a red state, and you are not the sort of person who enjoys reading newspapers from around the world through the Internet, you don’t hear liberal/progressive perspectives on anything. You will not have heard them since the Lyndon Johnson Administration, frankly, meaning that if you haven’t yet achieved Geezerhood you may not know there ever were liberal/progressive arguments for anything. All you know is that “libtards” like raising taxes, just because, and like big government programs, just because.

And, again, if you were watching this election from a red state or district, and all you knew about Hillary Clinton was what you saw on the television and in social media, you wouldn’t have liked her, either, regardless of how racist or sexist you might or might not have been.

I don’t know that all the small-town newspapers and red state television and radio stations are owned by wingnuts, but I suspect most of them learned a long time ago to be cautious about how they handle political news. As their marketing areas got redder and redder, too anti-conservative a message, or even coverage that too vigorously questioned the Right’s hegemony, could have cost them their business.

That leaves us with the national television news, which is mostly worthless. I know a lot of people blame the loss of the Fairness Doctrine for this, but IMO what really killed it were decisions made, many years ago, to consolidate news and entertainment programming. News departments used to be entirely separate from entertainment and were run by senior news people who were serious about, you know, news. Now news departments are considered part of entertainment and are managed by the same people who thought spinning the Geico Cavemen into a sitcom was a great idea.

See also Allan Chernoff, Blame the Rise of Trump on the Failure of Network News.

So if there’s one thing I wish I could get across to the Democrats in the Beltway, it’s that they’re going to have to make an extraordinary effort to break through the iron curtain of disinformation in red states. A couple of rallies and some meh campaign ads won’t cut it. They need to begin a barrage of progressive policy arguments in these states. They should drop pamphlets from airplanes, if that’s what it takes. And they need to begin it now, before the next election campaigns begin.

Walsh ends by issuing some snarky “apologies,” ending with “I apologize for thinking that the country was ready to elect a woman president.” Well, they might be ready to elect a woman president; they just weren’t ready to elect Hillary Clinton.

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Postmortems

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Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton

I’ve spent the past four days pouring my thoughts into this blog, and while I have more to say I need to get some air, so to speak. So for today, here are links to the best analyses of the debacle I’ve seen so far. I may add to these as I see more. In no particular order:

Frank Bruni, The Democrats Screwed Up

Thomas Edsall, The Democratic Coalition’s Epic Fail. See also this Edsall column from August, Is Trump Wrecking Both Parties?

Dan Roberts, My Journeys in Trumpland

Matt Taibbi, President Trump: How America Got It So Wrong

 

 

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Dear Sister and Brother Progressives:

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Democratic Party

Once upon a time — 1986, actually — the late great Mike Royko wrote a Chicago Tribune column about the lack of short Greeks in the restaurant industry. The column had been inspired by lunch at a restaurant in which the orders were wrong, the service was terrible, and the beer didn’t arrive until he’d finished his sandwich. While this was going on the manager — a young man with a brand-new college degree in restaurant management — was sitting in a corner booth cheerfully sipping coffee and studying spreadsheets, completely oblivious to what actually was happening in his restaurant. One assumes the spreadsheets told him everything was fine. Royko wrote,

I don`t want to an alarmist, but when this nation collapses, he and those like him will be the cause.

First, we had the MBA–especially the Harvard MBA–who came along after World War II and took over American industry. With his bottom-line approach, the MBA did such a brilliant job that the Japanese might soon buy the whole country and evict us.

But we`re told not to worry. Now that we don`t manufacture as much as we used to, we`ll be saved by the growing service industry.

The problem is that the service industry is being taken over by people like the restaurant manager and his corporation. They go to college and study service. Then they install computers programmed for service. And they have meetings and look at service charts and graphs and talk about service.

But what they don`t do is provide service.

Royko went on to explain that he favored restaurants run by short Greeks. They may not have bothered with spreadsheets, but they could run a kitchen and get food on a table while it was still hot. Why the Greeks had to be short I’m not sure, but this was Royko’s column.

My point is going to be that we college-educated liberals/progressives who complain about Trump voters are too much like that manager studying spreadsheets. Everybody’s got data telling them those people don’t have anything to complain about. They supported Trump only because they are ignorant racists who don’t get what the world is really like. And while there’s a lot of truth in that, that’s not the whole picture.

You need to haul your faces out of the spreadsheets and spend some significant face time with those people to get the whole picture. And by “face time” I don’t mean yelling at them about how awful they are.

Although I’ve lived in the greater New York City area for the past 30 or so years,  I am originally from small-town Missouri and am the daughter and granddaughter of mine workers. The people I grew up with are the same ones Joe Bageant wrote about in Deer Hunting With Jesus, if you’re familiar with that book. And I spent the past four months leading up to the election staying with an aunt back home, watching everything unfold from within a very red state. And there are two things that I wish I could get across to those of you who are blaming racism and misogyny alone on the result of this election.

Executive summary: The first thing is that the population of people who swung the election to Trump — and no, they were not the third-party voters — have real grievances. It isn’t just the racism, even though racism is there. Second, I cannot emphasize enough that this population never hears progressive/liberal ideas explained to them. They have no idea what Democrats stand for, except higher taxes and Big Government.

One: No matter what the data tell you, to blue-collar workers in the midwest and “rust belt” the world is a much more economically precarious place than it used to be. I realize that much of this precariousness comes from Reaganomics and the slow dismantling of the New Deal, but globalization and neoliberal policies had a hand in it as well.

There are communities all across the midwest and northeast in which, 50 years ago, a young white guy could graduate from high school one day and get a steady job paying decent wages with benefits the next day, and as long as he showed up for work on time and sober and did his tasks competently, he probably kept that job for life. The wages from the local industry — whether manufacturing or mining — stayed in the community and supported lots of locally owned retail shops, roofers, automobile dealers, restaurants, etc.

(There was always poverty on the edges, and that poverty wasn’t necessarily nonwhite poverty. Some all-white sections of the Ozarks and Appalachia have never not been sunk into poverty, because they were areas that didn’t support large-scale farming or industry. These were people the white blue-collar workers used to look down on, also, when they weren’t their cousins.)

Now mines and factories are closed, and the big employers are no longer locally owned. It’s all Walmart and other big chain stores and restaurants, out by the nearest interstate somewhere, and the once-busy Main Street shopping areas are boarded up or taken over by shabby little insurance offices and Come to Jesus Gospel Tabernacles. The profits from the chain stores don’t stay in the community but go to far away corporations and stockholders, or the Walton family.  The young folks graduating high school either settle for minimum wage service industry jobs with no future or move away. If they go away to college they probably don’t come back.

Somehow, that picture doesn’t show up on the spreadsheets.  There is data showing us that the white working class is under serious stress (see Juan Cole on that point), but somehow that information is not sinking in.

Compared to 1999, white workers, according to another recent study in the Commonwealth Foundation: “have lower incomes, fewer are employed, and fewer are married.” This study found other causes for the increased death rates than just the ones mentioned above, but didn’t deny the Princeton findings. Here is their chart …

See also Why Poor White Males Are the Core of Trump’s Support and The White Man Burden.

So, something’s going very wrong in this population, and yelling at them about how racist they are really isn’t helping. But it does take me to the second point.

Two: Nobody talks to those people except to manipulate or exploit them. And by manipulating and exploiting I mean stirring up racism and xenophobia and scapegoating liberalism for their problems.

If you’ve lived all your life in the liberal northeast or Pacific coast regions, this may come as a shock to you, but folks here in the heartland never, ever hear progressive/liberal arguments for anything. Right-wing hegemony is so dominant that the progressive perspective on anything is completely shut out.

I do blame television news for a lot of this, because television news (particularly the networks people actually watch here) never explains anything. It just reports the sound bites du jour. And, frankly, right-wing arguments for anything come across better on television, because they are short and simple. Cutting taxes creates jobs, for example. Now, you and I know that isn’t true except under very particular circumstances that don’t prevail anywhere in the U.S. these days, but never mind. That’s what everybody says, so it must be true. The liberal argument for raising taxes to invest in, say, infrastructure, takes more than thirty seconds to explain. It doesn’t come across on television.

I wrote this the day after the election:

A day or two ago some talking head on the teevee said that most voters couldn’t name five things Clinton stood for, but they knew what Trump stood for. I had said something like that to a Clinton supporter awhile back, and she pooh-poohed the idea and began to rattle off Clinton’s policy positions, which I knew as well as she did. But, I said, I don’t think most people who are not politics junkies are getting that information. And then I was told that if people were too lazy to study Hillary Clinton’s website to learn how wonderful she is, that was their own fault.

Harry Truman wouldn’t have made that mistake.

But the problem isn’t just Hillary Clinton, but the whole attitude of the Democratic Party. We’ve needed them to be an ideologically left-wing party for a long time. We’ve needed them to go to those rust-bucket states and sell people on progressive economics for a long time. And nobody bothered. The only messages received by most voters not in the liberal coastal states are ideologically right-wing messages.

It may stun some of you to realize that the average voter here in Heartland World really never heard five things Hillary Clinton stood for. But they didn’t. The ads she ran in the St. Louis media market were nearly all anti-Trump ads. Television news (the networks most people watch) certainly never discussed Clinton’s policy proposals. Even if you watched the debates, what she said about policy wouldn’t have translated into anything recognizable. For example, Clinton said this in the first debate:

And so what I believe is the more we can do for the middle class, the more we can invest in you, your education, your skills, your future, the better we will be off and the better we’ll grow. That’s the kind of economy I want us to see again.

Those words mean something to those of us with some depth of knowledge of progressive ideas. But I can assure you those words didn’t register with the blue collar workers. They would have no idea what those words even meant. “Invest” how? In education? What does that mean? Sending us back to school? And where will jobs actually come from? “Invest in you” were just empty words to them.  All Trump had to say was “NAFTA,” and people sorta kinda know what that was and that it took jobs away, and Clinton was for it.

There was a time when at least some nationally known Democrats could connect to the poor white folks — the image is of Bobby Kennedy in Appalachia, sometime in the 1960s.  But in recent years the Democratic Party has seemed focused on how to win elections without their votes.

Back to the spreadsheets — if we can win x percent of these other demographics, we’re in! But it’s not working so far.

I certainly do not deny that there is a lot of racism and sexism in this population. That’s one reason those people are so easy to exploit and manipulate. And because racism especially is being exploited and manipulated, it stays alive. As a rule, whatever you feed will grow. 

Sometimes it’s pretty raw; a short time back I stopped at a little restaurant/market to pick up eggs and sandwiches, and a guy having lunch there was sneering loudly that Trump was gonna defeat that woman. And the way he said it made me want to smash him in the face with a ketchup bottle (I didn’t). Another patron, a woman, was screeching that Hillary wants to rip babies out of wombs and should be shot.

But, y’know what? Nobody ever explains to people here what Roe v. Wade really says, that late elective abortions already are effectively illegal and that there’s no such thing as a ninth-month abortion.  And who is to teach them not to be sexists or racists? How do you do that, especially if right-wing demagogues are so busily keeping the racism factor pumped up? Whatever you feed will grow. 

See also “Michigan Democrat slams Hillary Clinton’s terrible campaign strategy: ‘How would any sane person not predict how this one would go?‘”

Please, blue state folks, stop trying to interpret the rest of the country from what you see on spreadsheets. And there’s nothing here I haven’t said before, but I keep repeating this stuff in the hope that somebody starts listening.

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