Browsing the archives for the Democratic Party category.


You Won’t Get It If You Don’t Ask for It

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Democratic Party, Health Care

Hubert Humphrey at the 1948 Democratic National Convention

Hubert Humphrey’s Civil Rights speech at the 1948 Democratic National Convention was one of the great moments in the party’s history.

“Friends, delegates, I do not believe that there can be any compromise on the guarantees of the civil rights which we have mentioned in the minority report,” he said. “In spite of my desire for unanimous agreement on the entire platform, in spite of my desire to see everybody here in honest and unanimous agreement, there are some matters which I think must be stated clearly and without qualification. There can be no hedging — the newspaper headlines are wrong. There will be no hedging, and there will be no watering down — if you please — of the instruments and the principles of the civil-rights program.”

Humphrey was speaking in support of the civil rights plank of the 1948 Democratic Party platform, which said this:

The Democratic Party is responsible for the great civil rights gains made in recent years in eliminating unfair and illegal discrimination based on race, creed or color,

The Democratic Party commits itself to continuing its efforts to eradicate all racial, religious and economic discrimination.

We again state our belief that racial and religious minorities must have the right to live, the right to work, the right to vote, the full and equal protection of the laws, on a basis of equality with all citizens as guaranteed by the Constitution.

We highly commend President Harry S. Truman for his courageous stand on the issue of civil rights.

We call upon the Congress to support our President in guaranteeing these basic and fundamental American Principles: (1) the right of full and equal political participation; (2) the right to equal opportunity of employment; (3) the right of security of person; (4) and the right of equal treatment in the service and defense of our nation.

This platform also said “We favor legislation assuring that the workers of our nation receive equal pay for equal work, regardless of sex,” and called for some kind of national health care. Seriously, this is a very progressive platform, the domestic policy section especially. The Dems would have to update the foreign policy section, but the domestic policy section could be adopted in 2020 with just a little tweaking.

Did I mention this was said in 1948?

Of course, there were many years of struggle ahead before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made discrimination illegal. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement forced the Democratic Party to introduce that law,  and we’re still struggling to fully implement that law.  My point is that before change could happen, somebody had to stand up and say this. Somebody had to commit to this. Somebody had to say, this is the right thing to do.

I’m sure Hubert Humphrey didn’t expect racial discrimination to disappear after the election. As it was, the entire Mississippi delegation and half of the Alabama delegation stomped out of the convention in protest of the civil rights plank. Two weeks after the convention, President Truman issued executive orders mandating equal opportunity in the armed forces and in the federal civil service. Southern segregationists  organized to form a “states’ rights” party and nominated Strom Thurmond as its presidential candidate.  Civil rights was a divisive issue for Dems in 1948. But they adopted that platform because it was the right thing to do.

Today, we’re squabbling over an issue that shouldn’t be that divisive — universal health coverage. Whether you call it “single payer” or “Medicare for All” or just “universal coverage,” by now it should be obvious to anyone with a functional brain that achieving this is going to require some sort of national, taxpayer-supported system that sidelines for-profit insurance companies and includes controls to prevent price gouging. It’s almost certainly going to mean phasing out job-based group insurance. Beyond that, the hundreds of other nations that provide universal coverage for its citizens have gone about this in various ways, not all of them “single payer,” strictly speaking. We should be studying them.

The hysterical reaction against the Affordable Care Act never made sense, if you realize that just about all the ACA did was regulate health insurance to force insurance companies to cover more people and provide some subsidies so that poor people could pay the private insurance company premiums. That the premiums were still not affordable for a lot of folks is largely the fault of the insurance companies, and indeed it’s the fault of the whole idea that private-for profit insurance can pay for most medical care with affordable premiums and without bankrupting people. It can’t. All the other nations of the world figured that out a long time ago.

But in the U.S., the insurance companies, the medical-industrial complex and the conservative media-think tank network that largely controls public opinion have made universal coverage a taboo subject. Until now.

There are 16 Democratic senators supporting the bill, a remarkable number considering where the healthcare debate was two years ago, when Sanders first campaigned for president as a democratic socialist long shot. At the time, pundits, political operatives and countless elected officials dismissed the single-payer Sanders dream as a disingenuous moonshot.

Now, the man who told Obama to lay off Bain Capital (Cory Booker) and the woman who once voted in favor of withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities (Kirsten Gillibrand) are co-sponsors of Sanders’ bill. Times, indeed, have changed.

Some are not persuaded.

In an interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein, Clinton repeated attacks on single-payer she made during her primary campaign against Sanders, arguing that more modest measures like a public insurance option or a Medicare buy-in for people 55 and older are more realistic and achievable.

“I don’t know what the particulars are” on Sanders’s latest plan, Clinton said, but added, “He introduced a single-payer bill every year he was in Congress — and when somebody finally read it, he couldn’t explain it and couldn’t really tell people how much it was gonna cost.”

She clarified that she’d support a bill opening up Medicare or Medicaid and cutting prescription drug costs, but cautioned, “I think it’s going to be challenging if within that bill, there are tax increases equivalent to what it would take to pay for single-payer, and if you’re really telling people — about half of the country — that they can no longer have the policies they have through their employer.”

She noted that this issue arose in 1993-’94, when she was crafting a health reform plan in the Bill Clinton administration, and she concluded then that the forces arrayed against single-payer, not least of which were the public’s fears about such a program, were insurmountable.

Those forces may have been insurmountable in 1993-1994; there are people who argue that the Clintons themselves blew the opportunity then, but let’s set that aside. I personally think it was insurmountable in 2008; just getting the ACA passed was a massive achievement at the time.

But it’s not 1994 any more. It’s not even 2008 any more.

I’ve long believed that universal health care would become politically viable in the U.S. as soon as a big enough part of the working and middle class in the U.S. realized that they are being screwed by the medical-industrial complex, and I think we’re about there.

When Mike Dukakis talked about health care reform in his presidential bid in 1988, all the Republicans had to do was trot out some hard hat guys with union benefits to talk about the great health coverage they had for a few dollars a month, and why mess with that? But those hard hat guys are harder to find these days.

In  1999, 67 percent of nonelderly Americans were covered by employee insurance. In 2014, that had fallen to 56 percent, as the old-fashioned full-time job with benefits became more and more  elusive in the U.S.  If we include all Americans, less than half are covered by employee benefit insurance now. See also “Let Them See How We Live. Let Them Come.”

People in the U.S. don’t know what solutions are possible because nobody tells them. Sanders’s cardinal sin, according to some, is that he stood up and told people what is possible. Apparently, according to some Democrats, this is not allowed. We are not allowed to speak the name of a thing until we have a fully formed program with all the details ironed out, and even then we must limit ourselves to those programs that are achievable in the near term, under current political conditions. This means Democrats negotiate with themselves until they come up with something that they think Republicans might accept, so that it can be watered down some more before passing.

Under those rules, Hubert Humphrey wouldn’t have been allowed to speak at the 1948 Democratic Convention, and the civil rights plank would have been axed from the platform. Yes, the 2016 Democratic platform has a section about “securing universal health care,” but the verbiage that follows is about protecting the status quo —

Democrats will keep costs down by making premiums more affordable, reducing out-of-pocket expenses, and capping prescription drug costs. And we will fight against insurers trying to impose excessive premium increases.

— and maybe throwing in a few tweaks to existing programs, but it offers nothing that looks anything like genuine universal coverage.

Paul Waldman wrote last week,

Support for some kind of universal coverage is now the consensus position among Democrats. And Sanders’ single payer plan is the one that has gotten the most attention, so it’s going to be the one against which other plans are measured.

But we have to understand this plan for what it really is: an opening bid. While he won’t say so himself, I doubt even Sanders believes that something in this form could pass through Congress. Even so, it represents an important strategic shift for the Democratic Party.

Waldman goes on to say that both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton tended to negotiate with themselves, giving away too much too quickly before negotiations with Republicans even started. On the other hand, Sanders’s Medicare for All asks for everything. It covers everything, without co-pays or deductibles. It even covers abortions. And, as a lot of people have pointed out, such a bill has no chance of passage in Washington now. But a watered-down bill has no chance, either.

Waldman continues,

This bill is being offered in 2017, when there’s a Republican president, a Republican House, and a Republican Senate. It doesn’t have to be realistic. It can be a way of saying, “This is what as Democrats we think a perfect health insurance system would look like.” In that sense, this bill could be extremely useful, since it will communicate the Democratic vision to voters in a way that isn’t too hard to understand. …

… Once the Sanders plan is in wide circulation, if I said, “How about an expansion of Medicaid to become a basic plan for all adults, while private insurance would still exist to offer supplemental coverage?”, you might now say that sounds pretty reasonable. If you did, it would mean that Sanders had effectively widened the debate and made what not long ago would have seemed like radical ideas look like moderate compromises.

Exactly. It tells people what is possible. It’s saying, we can have this, or something like this, if we demand it. We don’t have to put up with the status quo.

To me, one of the biggest mistakes Hillary Clinton made last year was not just to dismiss Sanders’s health care plan as politically untenable, but to compare even asking for universal coverage — which is what most people mean by “single payer” — to believing in unicorns. The widely circulated video of her proclaiming that single payer will “never ever come to pass” damaged her more than she seems willing to admit.

Josh Marshall wrote last week,

Medicare for All is a horizonal demand. It satisfies a basic need and does so by looking beyond the corrupt, meretricious system we now have. The activity of private insurance companies symbolize much that is wrong with contemporary capitalism. You don’t have to be a leftwinger from Park Slope to hate these companies. Believe me: a lot of those people who voted for Trump (whom the liberal elite dismisses as racists and misogynists) hate insurance companies.

While Medicare for All would cause an upheaval in the health insurance markets, it is actually based on expanding a system that works and that has remained intact for over fifty years. It’s incremental in its own way. It is also very easy to understand, while most of the incremental reforms I’ve seen require a degree in healthcare economics to comprehend and rarely seem to apply to “you.”

Unfortunately, a lot of Democrats are still too mired in learned helplessness to stand up for what’s right; see Democrats Against Single Payer by Branko Marcetic at Jacobin. So it’s going to be up to voters to continue to apply pressure on the Democrats to grow a spine. Watch them fold up like cheap lawn chairs as soon as Republicans begin their pushback. Socialized medicine! Higher taxes! Booga booga booga booga!

I say, let the Republicans go to their constituents and tell them no, you can’t have this. We must support the medical-industrial complex. We must support the rights of insurance companies to make lots of money, even if you or your loved ones are cut off from life-saving medical care for the sake of profit. Let the Republicans defend that position. Stop being afraid to stand up for the right thing.

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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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