Dear Sister and Brother Progressives:

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.

43 thoughts on “Dear Sister and Brother Progressives:

  1. And they never, ever learn. The New York Times is reporting that Hillary blames James Comey for her defeat, and this is what she said: “Our analysis is that Comey’s letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be, stopped our momentum.”

    What on earth does will it take to get theses nincompoops to reevaluate their “analysis”?

  2. Comey really did help Trump, and a lot of heartland people know that Dems care more about their real problems than the Reps, but they don’t care.
    All they want to do is hate blacks and women for coming up in the world when they haven’t.


    “She said, ‘Now, don’t get me wrong, I hate that Obama, and if he were here in this bar right now, I’d shoot him right in his head.’ She literally was pointing between her eyes as she said it. She continued, ‘But that Obamacare, my daughter got Medicaid because of it. We can’t afford health insurance and I don’t know how we would have paid for that surgery without it. Obamacare saved my daughter’s life.’ She then went on some more about how she hated Obama.”

    Eff her and anyone who would defend that shit.

    Read it until it sinks into your Hillary-hating brains. It is a total refutation of your whole BS argument.

    • Ed2 and KC — Yes, the Comey letter probably did shift the election to Trump, but if Clinton’s lead hadn’t been so fragile, and indeed if the person at the top of the ticket hadn’t been Clinton, some nothingburger like that wouldn’t have mattered. Clinton went into this campaign with enough baggage to sink the Titanic without the iceberg, and a big chunk of the electorate was already primed to hate her because of who she was. Why did *she* have to be the nominee? Another establishment Dem with less baggage wouldn’t have been nearly so vulnerable.

      Ed2 — Yes, a single anecdote that you got second hand totally eclipses my 65 years of experience living in two cultures. I feel so refuted. (/sarcasm)

  3. Well, from what I’ve read, the Clinton campaign saw their numbers drop significantly after the Comey letter. Especially the second one. Many folks online feared it would damage Senate candidates, but thought she had enough to put her over the top. Obviously that was wrong and it likely damaged everyone. We were openly discussing its effect before the election, why are things different now?

    This is not to say the party doesn’t need to make inroads beyond its confines. I live and work in a very conservative area of California so see it first hand. But, this would also mean electing people who a good deal of folks in progressive circles would turn around and call sell outs, neolibs, etc.

  4. Maha, your post is spot on. There were times during September and October when I wished I had some way to communicate something to the Dem campaign, but there was no channel that I know if. Not that I had a solution, but I had thoughts in the same territory as this post. But your comments here really pull together the vague and partially formed thoughts that I was having.
    Good job.
    I don’t know what the solution is. If we could find someone who could explain things in simple terms in those markets, are there even any media outlets that would broadcast them? It’s depressing. We need “Radio Free Europe” for the center of the country.

  5. I miss the hell out of Joe Bageant. One of our great humanists. Have you also read his other book “Rainbow Pie”? It’s largely a family history, but I don’t know if anyone else has explained so well how rural America became wage slaves to corporate America. Although many of his essays were written during the Bush regime, they seem as relevant now as then, maybe more so.

    FYI – Most of Joe’s essays are still freely available to read at and at (PDF’s).

  6. From your executive summary “The first thing is that the population of people who swung the election to Clinton — and no, they were not the third-party voters — have real grievances.”
    I am confused, do you mean swung the election to TRUMP or , swung the election FROM Clinton??
    The rest of the article I get.

  7. I live in a red state. Here there is no democrat progressive message. In red states people go to church and the preacher tells them that that woman is going to take away their religious freedom and keep roe v wade. Obama was right , they have god and guns and they are a tribe. Now If the Dems want to make inroads they have to start from the ground up, go to the states , start pushing to get into state legislatures again so we don’t have all the constant ten commandments bills and anti abortion bills and lgbt bathroom bills dominate the state legislatures while the states’ budgets are sinking and basic public needs are going unmet. This is a result of talk radio, also . That is what this white tribe listens to day in day out. One ex dj admitted that he would not support trump but that the Talk radio guys all played him up because they were afraid to lose their audiences if they didn’t.This damage is corrosive and it has been going on since the 80’s. so yes these people are illogical, they vote against their own self interests because they are racist and deeply sexist Now there is economic stagnation, but at the same time, most of the people who voted this in are not hurting at all, in fact more Dem voters are low income than trump voters. Again it is culture and not a good one. You can’t turn this around over night. it is going to take a lot of education of the population. And again not long policy explanations but something they can grasp. frankly for the older crowd there is no hope, but the Dem party could reach the younger generation if you can get their attention. Hillary had baggage but it was Bill’s baggage and I refuse to blame her for the 1990’s. The sad part is we do not have the senate and there is no counterbalance. So it is all on them now. The white tribe is not loyal though and if Trump does not magically fix their problems they will turn on him. If he does create jobs it will not be for them. I just hope he doesn’t redecorate the white house like trump tower- all the gold, like al faw palace and the golden toilets. Uday Qusay and Goldilocks are now in charge of the cabinet appointments and trump inc will dwarf Halliburton in government contracts. The plan is to build infrastructure with private $ so it won’t be public but user tolls.

  8. I moved from San Francisco to Cobb County, Georgia in 1976 (Newt Gingrich County.) There were many around here then who were democrats (Jimmy Carter governor of GA 1977-81) but as the county got richer and people moved from the north it became more and more republican. This year for the first time our county became blue, thanks to the southern part of the county that voted for Hillary – the poor part of the county. But around here, where McMansions are constantly being built, this part of the county went 75% for Trump. I also saw in the NYT results that as a rule people making less than $30K voted for Hillary, so I do not believe it was a working-class revolt – almost 50% of those making over $250K voted for Trump. Some of the poorest counties in GA went blue and the richest were red. In my part of the county almost everyone listens only to Fox News – you cannot go to any business, doctor’s office, oil change repair place, etc. and see another channel. How could people hear any good arguments about democratic policy on Fox News? People totally refuse to hear “liberal” arguments, they are deaf to them and would never listen or learn. I worked in a major aircraft corporation here, peopled with engineers, technicians, and the regular hourly union workers – they all listened to Fox News, and conservative talk radio during their breaks. These people are not un-educated; they just don’t want to hear anything that does not reflect their own views, or prejudices.

    Maha you said “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?” – In the US people have to go to school, they understand about racism and sexism. They believe in it because that is the way their family and their church raised them. I am an immigrant with an accent (from Paris, France) and some of the worst offenders have been the white rich republicans around here, not the uneducated who have not been taught. I believe that Fox News, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and all have had a huge influence on conservatives and have shaped million of Americans’ opinions. I also know that most churches here pass out “voting guides” to their faithful and cannot understand why the US does not tax these religious establishments. Churches teach their flock what they want them to believe – politically. Getting rid/silencing Fox News and hate radio’s distortions, and taxing churches that dabble in politics would help truth and understanding.

    • vagabonde — I hope I was being clear that my post was only about white voters in the Midwest and “rust bucket” states. When you go into Georgia you’ve got a different set of cultural/social/political/economic/historical dynamics going on, and what I wrote doesn’t apply there.

  9. aj, love your comment and it’s spot on. I live near and work in State of Jefferson territory of California. It’s the most conservative part of the state, where a bunch of counties voted to secede, so they could create Mississippi on the west coast (as the joke goes). At any rate, whether you are in the way northeastern part of the state or in Redding, the one constant you’ll find is generally right wing am radio always comes in. It’s an area where there used to be good jobs in logging, but the environmentalists killed them, or so says the legend (in a few cases it is kind of true). Guns are a huge thing. Almost everyone I work with has a few, whether they hunt or not. Sadly, meth appears to be a huge thing too. The irony is as much as people want government out of everything, everyone would love a government job, as they are pretty much the best around.

    What’s different about this part of “red” country is that the main crop grown up there. It was finally legalized in this election. A lot of folks are worried about what this will mean for their pocketbooks though, as a price crash is feared. If things are handled right, I’m hoping Dems can make some headway. If it’s one more hit on top of losing logging, I suspect there will be a new round of secession from the state under discussion.

  10. Just reread my comments above and noticed I wrote my dates wrong – we moved to GA in 1973 because Jimmy Carter hired my husband. Carter was a governor in GA from 1971 to 1975 and president from 77 to 81.

  11. Uday Qusay and Goldilocks are now in charge of the cabinet appointments and trump inc will dwarf Halliburton in government contracts. 🙂

    Yeah, there’s a Clampettesque quality about them. At least where it comes to being ignorant about how our government operates and how much they can get away with.
    I suspect that as a nation we’re all going to get a crash course in Trump University. The fact remains that no matter how things went down in the election..Trump can’t deliver on any of his empty promises. And we’re going to have a very disillusioned electorate in a very short time.

  12. I _hope_ he can’t deliver on his promises! I _hope_ he was lying about wanting to! He lies so often; but he told the truth about himself on that bus. He isn’t even reliably unreliable!

  13. I’ve haven’t had a good night’s sleep since the election. I don’t expect to for a while. We’re heading off to Asheville for a few days rest. The funny part is that we’ll probably be perceived as Trumpsters by most of the folks there. That’s happened before.

    At this point, I am not thinking clearly, so I won’t try to add to the comments, except to say that a lot of them are right on the money.

    I grew up in a very rural farming community and I live in a complete bubble. But, it’s a red bubble, the God, guns and anti-abortion bubble. I think this article, taken with the comments has been about the best account and analysis of recent events that I’ve come across, in the light of the long years since Saint Ronnie. So, many of the other post mortems seem to be flogging the same criticism that the authors would have made prior to the election. That means tagging one or two “reasons,” and glossing over others.

    At this point I am clueless. For my own sanity, I have to avoid making predictions or thinking about the road ahead. I have to live in this red bubble for the foreseeable future, and it’s probably going to get a little crazy. As Tom suggests above, it could get pretty dicey for liberals out here in the sticks. To give you a bit of local color, a lot of my neighbors have their own shooting ranges, so I hear fifty to a hundred gunshots a day on weekends. Hunting season is coming. The main task ahead will be trying to “get along” while I am watching the horror show unfold. It will be a spiritual challenge to empathize with with the Trumpsters without validating their more destructive attitudes.

    Anyway, this comment is obviously going nowhere. I probably should just have said that I think you guys are on to something. Thanks.

  14. If I may, I would like consideration of an additional idea.  Not even the heart of Mormon America could IOIYAR be challenged.  The double standard was never so evident and the attack on Christianity so apparent yet nowhere,  was any organized Christian religion,  able to draw a moral or ethical line in the sand.  I think the election data supports that notion. 

    Might I suggest that hypocrisy won a stunning victory last week. 

  15. Here’s my e-mail to my friends, if you’re interested”
    “They’re protesting the election in NYC, LA, and Washington, DC?
    They’re not even qualified enough to be considered ‘useful idiot’s!’

    You wanna make a difference, folk’s?
    Go to NC like I did.
    Go DEEPER!
    That wasn’t my express purpose, obviously. Chris and TWC were offering a good job at good pay.

    But I’ve always been politically involved.
    Little did I know what I was getting into…

    When I helped organize for NYPIRG in the NE part of the US back in the late 70’s to early 80’s, I never got any real violent push-back. Hell, at Three Mile Island, at one protest, the cop’s picked-up and carried away EVERY OTHER protester. When I said to the last cop, “What about ME?!? ” He looked at me, and said, “You’re too big, mother-fucker for me to lift and drag. Now, go home!”
    And that was back when I was young and in shape – unlike now…

    Not even when I lived and got minimally politically involved in liberal Chapel Hill, where I lived for the first 3 years.

    But go to live in mostly white and golf-centric Southern Pines, and try to organize there!
    Much more interesting!

    And then, live in Fayetteville, NC – home of Fort Bragg – for 4+ years,
    Go do theatre there.
    Do “The Laramie Project,” a play about a gay college student who was killed for the “sin” of being gay, and talking to the wrong people in a bar one night.
    What do you hear? “Listen, you fucking cock-sucking faggot (who, btw, me I’m talking about, is not gay, and never ever sucked another man’s cock – NTTAWWT!), go away, you Yankee gay-loving fucking scumbag!!! ”
    But I hung out with the gay’s, so there apparently was plenty wrong with Me TOO!!!

    Protesting the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and occupations? Bad.
    Being a lead organizer? Worse.
    “No, I just think W’s needlless wars and occupations are killing peopl…”
    “FUCK YOU, YOU LIBTARD COCKSUCKER! I saw you drive in to begin your Communist rally!
    It was YOU who gave da opening! It was a Saturn Vue you drove in with, wasn’t it, you faggot fuck-face? I got the plates, you fucking traitor!!!”
    And later that night, I got a message in the middle of the night on my answering machinr, threatening to kill me.
    It wasn’t the first.
    And it sure as Hell wasn’t the last death threat…
    I called and notified the police.
    Nothing they could do, they said.
    Nothing they WANTED TO DO, I reaized….
    So, I left my phone downstairs, and tried to sleep, the best that I could…

    I never said much shit before about any of this, because my little minor horror stories don’t mean a load of jack fucking shit, compared to real heroe’s tales, like MLK Jr’s, Rep. Lewis’s, and countless other REAL HERO’S! THEY, were “Profiles in Courage.” Not me.

    But please, don’t whine and protest in NYC!
    Or LA!!
    Or DC!

    We’re all pretty cool and ok, here and there…
    You want change?
    Don’t leave it to others.
    Don’t bitch from you safe little enclaves in NY, LA, or DC!

    We ALL have a stake!
    Help make real, good, positive, change happen!
    Little things can mean a lot.

    Apparently, wearing a safety-pin is the new message of inclusion
    I wore one in the Punk v. Disco wars back in the late 70’s – so, why not now?!!?

    It’s the very least I could do…

    Hug one another.
    I know several gay people where I shop. I’m going to say to them, “If you need me, I’m there for you. Here’s my phone number.”
    Ditto. with Muslim people that I know.
    Ditto with everyone NOT in the white “Christian” (mostly male) “American” world!

    Love one another…
    Cling to one another…
    Help one another.

    If we hold and cling and love one another, it’ll make the Fascist’s jobs that much harder………..
    And if there’s one fucking thing these vicious dumb-fucÄ·’s hate, it’s any more fucking work than they need to do!!!!

    t-RUMP is stupid, ignorant, and bigoted.
    But he’s also lazy.
    We can maybe make that work for us.
    We won’t know unless we try.

    And I guess protesting in media capitals like NYC, LA, and DC, will help. Ad they used to say in the classic movies, “It can’t hoit!”
    But more so, we’re going to need a presence in the rural areas.
    Are you game?
    Because, if not, we’re ALL game. To be devoured here.
    Yes, it CAN happen here!
    It’s happening now.
    NOW, is the time to nip these prot-Fasist/Authoritarians in the butt!

    Upstate NY is as red as rural AL, GA, KY, TN, etc.
    So is nearby NJ.
    And PA.
    Work there a few days a year.
    I will…

  16. I’ll be trying to tell my wingnut neocon evangelical in-laws that the Clintons suck not because of Vince Foster, emails, Monica, or an unkempt White House. They suck because they got rich helping to eliminate millions of good American livelihoods.

    (I’ll try not to mention that all the side show crap is R obfuscation, that eliminating millions of good American livelihoods was an R idea to begin with, since that’ll cause the Great Wall of mental defenses to go up. Maybe they can figure that one out on their own.)

    I will have to warn them that many Trumpers are going to demand that “Make America Great Again” actually really happen, regardless of the inevitable fetus or freedumb sideshow crap. If Trump doesn’t deliver, the city demonstrations will be a whole lot more than just scared and hopeless millennials.

  17. Accurate voter prediction spreadsheets would include both ‘Clinton technical analysis’ and ‘Michael Moore’s hobnobbing with the masses’. And there’d always be a column for growth or decline for every possible defined group.

    Personally, I would’ve hired at least a couple professional naysayers to try and keep my campaign more honest. It’s so easy to BS oneself with so many sycophants around.

  18. The answer for the democratic party is not rocket science, it’s Politics 101: visit with voters you profess to serve, really listen to what their needs are, craft policies that meet those needs and pitch it to them in simple enough terms that are sound bite explainable, and then enlist them in their own communities in the fight to make it happen. Again, it’s not rocket science; advertisers have been doing this for years. The dems have to get off the wealthy first path they’ve been on for the last two decades, and stop being afraid to run on progressive policies that are really in line with the needs of most voters, including those “traditional” democratic voters who have been voting republican of late, hence the commonality between Sanders and Trump supporters.

    The theme song of the Clinton campaign may well have been Fleetwood Mac’s (no offense to them, I’m a fan) “Don’t, Stop, Thinking About Tomorrow” as the Clinton camp ran as if it was the 1990s. Back then the wretched DLC adopted a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” strategy. To make the party competitive, mimic the right in tactics and policy, make fundraising, money and the concerns of wealth the main if not only concern. The republicans use fear, hate and racism to misdirect their base voters from the fact that in the end GOP policies didn’t help them, because they aren’t really intended to. In the case of the democrats, “hope” is used to assuage their voters and distract them. But subtle, race-based pitches were not beyond them as well.

    Besides the ACA, there really have been no real, significant or substantial push by the democrats to make the concerns of “Main Street” into policy that they would communicate and support. My challenge is this: name one policy in the last 20+ years that was designed solely to provide significant, and tangible relief to alleviate a specific issue that impacted working people that didn’t have some component of it that was a sop to wealth?

    So you had the Clintons selling NAFTA when they knew what the impact on their own voters would be, just like you now have Obama selling TPP, when he knows how bad it would be for working people, and yet he sells it as a positive. Democrats had been flirting for years with “fixing” social security, using the easily discreditable right wing, Heritage/Pete Petersen arguments about the fund going broke, in order to claim they “got something done.” It’s all of a piece; it’s the DLC “piss on ‘em and tell ‘em its rain” approach. Both parties do it, but at some point while the things that impact the workaday lives of people become more intractable, they get fed up. That this was a “change” election meant business as usual from both parties wasn’t going to be enough. This is why Trump and Sanders resonated. And yet, Clinton camp/DNC said incremental baby steps on policy that you couldn’t explain to voters or couldn’t convince them in straightforward terms how it helps was the only way we could win!

    Democrats and progressives who were willing to go along with Clinton as the nominee literally begged her campaign and its supporters to articulate the reasons why anyone should vote FOR Clinton, and the answer was always a mix of “she’s the most qualified candidate that ever ran for President,” or “Bernie can’t win because he’s a socialist,” or “Trump is bad.” If you can’t tell consumers who aren’t already convinced why they should buy a product, they won’t buy it.

    They say white voters heard the clarion call of racism, bigotry and misogyny and they “voted against their own interests.” For a lot of these people, hate was their interest, but for a lot of others, they just couldn’t get past an unpopular nominee who had a reputation of untrustworthiness, right or wrong, who would not bother to articulate what she would do for them and why she should be trusted to do it. It’s even estimated that 10% of voters who supported for Obama voted for Trump. The Clinton camp kept coming back to “she’s the most qualified candidate for President, ever.” You can be the most qualified candidate applying for a job, but if you cannot articulate why you should have the job, you won’t get it.

    In the end, I’m pissed. This was not only a very important election, given the stakes, but it was winnable. I was told constantly, there is too much at stake – climate change, the Supreme Court, to even risk not nominating someone other than Clinton because SHE is the ONLY ONE who can win. Even though the facts said otherwise. And the party made sure voters saw and heard as little as possible from other candidates.

    And now, as we sit here having to sift through the wreckage and pick up the pieces, with the gates of hell flung wide open, my question is, why were the career ambitions of Hillary Clinton and her close supporters and donors who’d benefit if she won, given priority over the voters and the nation, given the stakes? The Clintons are wealthy enough to go on, but the nation and the world is in real trouble. Also, how can we not now cut out, root and branch, a party leadership that would make a calculation like that?

    • csm — Lots of good comments, thanks. It’s been clear to me for a while that the Democratic Party couldn’t reform until the old Clintonite/neoliberal contingent retired. I was opposed to Clinton being the nominee because I worried that if she won the Democratic Party would die of slow strangulation as the Clinton crew continued to use up all the oxygen for themselves for another eight years. But now we’ve got a shot at a housecleaning, which is why I hope Dems and independent progressives use this hideous defeat as an opportunity to remark the party from the ground up and top down.

  19. All true. However, I think the rust-belt or rust-bucket concerns (at least those not grounded in racism) were and are a direct result of globalization and I don’t know what we do about that, at least in the short term. Before globalization, it was factory automation that threatened jobs, and before that it was the industrial revolution and the invention of the automobile, and before that…etc., etc. And, in the not to distant future, it will be artificial intelligence and robotics that threaten even highly-skilled white collar service jobs (i.e. doctors and lawyers).

    So, at least if we’re being honest, I don’t know what we’re supposed to tell the now middle-aged and unemployed high school graduate who remembers how his dad had an unskilled factory job for life on which he could support a family of four in a pleasant and safe Mayberry-style town. The Republican response is to lie and say they have the answer. When those jobs don’t come back under a Republican administration, the Republicans will lie again and somehow blame it on the result of Democratic policies.

    The only solution I can see is changing the fundamental belief, drilled into the heads of most in this country since birth, that the magic of the “free” market ensures that personal income and wealth is a direct result of skill, talent and hard work, rather than the result of a system intentionally designed to channel almost all gains in productivity to a relatively small handful of people.

    Bernie seemed to be making some progress in this regard, but changing one of our country’s foundational beliefs will take decades (and a great deal of pain), I’m afraid.

  20. What is the way to “explain” Liberal/Dem ideas in a way that these people will listen to long enough to understand? Because the times I’ve tried it is like talking to a brick wall. Or, occasionally, I will get somebody to seem like they are understanding, but the next time I see them it is like the previous conversation never happened.

    • Viking Kitten — It won’t be easy. Especially since Reagan Democrats let right-wing hegemony and talking points go unchallenged. Bill Clinton’s particular genius was that he found a “third way” to move right on critical right-wing issues and win elections, but he didn’t really challenge the hegemony, and it hasn’t been challenged since. At this point it’s going to take a lot of work to reach those voters with a progressive message they can understand.

  21. Bush’s war approval numbers went from over 80% to below 30%, as the war costs went quagmire. They’re not all crazy.

  22. Maha, I agree, and that is the silver lining in this disaster, that we now have an opportunity to remake the Democratic Party, and rebuild it from the bottom up, but it won’t be easy. Even with the Clintons gone, Clintonism has had a cult like influence; its deeply rooted in too many party insiders who maintain, as Royko alluded to in his column, a too smart for their own good aversion to facts and reality.

  23. Strangers in their own land
    Anger and Mourning on the American Right
    by Arlie Russell Hochschild

  24. “What is the way to “explain” Liberal/Dem ideas in a way that these people will listen to long enough to understand?”

    There does not seem to be a way. Can you imagine them changing your mind? We can only marshall our own side to the greatest extent possible and be as uncompromising as they are: Jobs, Peace, Justice. We continue to consolidate the big population states. We hang on. We never surrender. We give not an inch. Their overreach is virtually guaranteed. And in the end, we do not convince them. We beat them.

    Addendum: It angers me to see a country with rather racist outcomes, but we cannot call that sad state of affairs what it is. It is a peculiar kind of sophistry that says to me, “Surrender. Then you win.” That is madness.

  25. Well put, esp. the part about Clinton’s policy points, if one can call them that. The whole language of “invest” is first, neoliberal, and to the point here, second, highly unemotional. Add in things like not visiting Wisconsin since April, so stuff like this couldn’t be explained in places where it might do good …

    Bill and CSM, among commenters, “get it.” Ed2 will never get it until he stops blaming Comey.

    My take:

  26. Pingback: The New Iron Curtain | The Mahablog

  27. SocraticGadfly, you will never get it until you look beyond blaming Clinton. Clinton was serially ratfucked, over and over. Comey was just the final ratfuck. IMO, the SCLM is to blame. Any Dem would have been ratfucked just as hard. Just ask Kerry or Gore. The right has been saying “liberal media” so long, even you have internalized it, and don’t hold them accountable. The SCLM is not liberal, and it is not our friend. It will continue to do this to any Dem we put up until we put a stop to it by abandoning them. Let them get their ad dollars from the conservatives they truckle to so assiduously, if they can. We have that power, if we choose to use it. The NYT won’t be missed by me since with friends like those who needs the rightwing media Wurlitzer. I’ve deleted my browser links to them, WaPo, LA Times, Dallas Morning News and others.

    I suggest you all read some Krugman, Marcotte and Boehlert. They have covered most of the salient angles. This “blame it on Clinton since she was a bad candidate” meme is pure rubbish from people who long ago decided they didn’t like her.

    And the “she got rich selling out our jobs to overseas” meme is the most idiotic thing I’ve heard since Trump last opened his mouth. How does that even work? Yes Hillary, you have no say in our corporate decisions, but if you just pass NAFTA we’ll give you lots of money and then move all our good paying factory jobs overseas. Did she write and pass NAFTA all by herself? I must have missed the constitutional amendment that gave her all that power. Last I heard, it took the Senate to ratify a treaty. Can you not give her the benefit of the doubt of making a good faith mistake by thinking it would increase bilateral trade and so create as many jobs as it exported? Many if not most economists were saying just that back then.

    IMO, it isn’t me who needs to get it, it’s people who need a perfect candidate. They seem determined to not realize that every liberal will be tarred and feathered by the corporate media – i.e. all media. The SCLM pretend to be liberals because they know they without our patronage, they’ll die. It’s the same con Trump pulls on his supporters. The media are sycophants to the rightwing bullies, and consider liberals to be cowards. And what is more cowardly than laying the blame on your own perfectly good, but imperfect candidate (one who was more liberal than Obama) who was repeatedly ratfucked until she was defeated in the EC by an orange turd who lost the popular vote by 2 Millions? Here’s a prediction: you’ll find your perfect candidate in 2020, and after he’s ratfucked to death by the same unholy loose alliance that did in Clinton/Kerry/Gore/Dukakis/Mondale/Carter/McGovern/etc, you’ll blame him too. God forbid you actually stand up to the real bullies. It’s just so much easier to blame the candidate’s lack of purity.

    If you want to do something useful, why don’t you try organizing a drive to get rid of the EC? Trump and every other Rep in the last few decades keep saying they will be victimized by the EC, but they only do that to co-opt us from saying it. They have always been its beneficiaries, and they know it. Call them on it. Get their quotes and throw it back in their faces. Better yet, start a drive to pressure the electors to give their votes to the popular vote winner. Make the media cover that story. But I’m sure you’re going to say that’s a waste of time. Much more productive to bellyache about what a bad candidate Clinton was. Gets you on teevee too.

    MAHA, I apologize for some of my language here and my previous post. You run a clean site and I appreciate it. But IMO this is one of those times clean language won’t suffice. I’m 60, and I’ve lived in OC CA, Pittsburgh PA and Dallas TX. I’ve heard similar things to that anecdote from rightwingers many times. That anecdote was pretty outlandish, but it’s in the same vein as some of my experiences with heartland conservatives, especially Texans. I don’t discount it. It rings true. After 20+ years of Fox and Limbaugh, practically all they know is hate. Even when they reflect on some liberal policy that did them some good, they always come back to the hate of all things liberal. We’re just the “wimmin and nigger-lovin’ libruls” to them. Trying to get through to them is a fool’s errand. Dems need to abandon old white men (like us) and throw in 100% behind women and minorities. Otherwise, the party is doomed.

    • Ed2 — I don’t have time to respond to all of your comment right now, but let me say I cannot take Amanda Marcotte seriously any more. She wasted too much time during the primaries dismissing every principled objection to Clinton as the nominee as “sexism.” I’m sorry, but Hillary Clinton was not a generic woman. She was a particular person, and there was a great deal about her that made her a weak candidate that had nothing to do with gender.

      I don’t see anyone here holding out for a “perfect” candidate. And, certainly, any Dem who runs is going to get beat up by the GOP Noise Machine. But Hillary Clinton was a particularly bad candidate for this election cycle. I’ve spent the past week repeating my arguments for this, and I’m not going to go into them again now. But the loss wasn’t just the fault of Clinton but of the entire leadership of the Democratic establishment, as far as I’m concerned. Do read Frank Bruni’s “The Democrats Screwed Up,” as he gets pretty close. See also “What Trump Got Right About American Democracy” by Kevin Baker.

  28. “And the “she got rich selling out our jobs to overseas” meme is the most idiotic thing I’ve heard since Trump last opened his mouth. How does that even work?”

    Reread that entire comment from which it came within its context as many times as it takes. Then you go ahead and explain it all to my Trumper in-laws. Bet you get thrown out.

  29. Bill,

    Why don’t you explain how she got rid of our factory jobs all by herself, because I don’t see it above. And while you’re at it, explain why the Trumpers were not poor but had incomes $20K above median household income. Doesn’t sound like factory work to me. I regularly see a Trumper at the gym. Nice man. He makes 6 figures and is a realtor specializing in $1M homes here in Irving, TX. His job did not get shipped to Mexico. I asked him why he is voting for Trump. He said “Because things are bad.” “Bad? How?” Couldn’t tell me. But he was sure it was so. He’s 67, so they’ll grandfather in his Medicare. I’m 60 and about to get shafted with an insufficient voucher. That is my definition of bad. When I asked him what Trump would do to fix things, he again didn’t have a clue. In fact, he said not knowing what Trump would do was a feature not a bug. Besides, you can’t trust any politician. I looked around for the kitchen sink he was about to throw in.

    And did anyone here ever stop to think that, as the Rude Pundit said:

    “Goddamn, I’m so sick of hearing about how Bernie Sanders could have beaten Trump. It’s a waste of time because we have no idea how the public would have reacted to the inevitable reaming of Sanders. Hell, if we’re playing Fantasy Election, you could make just as valid a bullshit argument that what really damaged Hillary Clinton was Sanders running in the first place. Think about it: most progressives might have coalesced early around Clinton and, instead of a bruising primary that ended up creating animosity among Democrats, we might have…See? It’s an enormous waste of time. Do you feel any better? Of course not.”

    So if you want to get credit for being right because she lost, great, take all you want. And thanks a whole lot for helping out by dividing us so bitterly.

    I voted for Bernie in the primary. Even though I figured he would probably lose. Why? Because we’ll never get what we want unless we vote for it. But once he lost, I backed Clinton to the hilt. Didn’t go on and on saying how rigged it was (it was, though not enough to throw the results to Clinton) and how terrible she was. I thought all Dems would be just as practical/loyal to the party. But unfortunately for us and the world, we are not that sensible or disciplined.


  30. Anybody posting here went Sanders to Clinton. My in-laws went Cruz to Trump. I know why here, but why there? Even after the likes of Erick Erickson and George Will basically proclaimed him an antichristian sociopath? I need to know, but will have to remain calm and disciplined to learn why, instead of just smugly ‘knowing’ why.

    If the Clintons were to take some of their $35-50 mil to encourage work on an accurate poll assessment of what really happened (getting others equally able to contribute of course), I’d be impressed. Sure, they’d find that Comey was a part of it. But what else would they find? Would it be worthy of discussion?

  31. Bill,
    The fault, imo, lies not in the polls, but in the hands of conservatives.

    The exit polls reflected the polling done – for the most part.
    So, why the discrepancy?
    Different registration and voting’ strokes for different folks;’ different states; hell, different counties, cities, towns, etc.
    Voter suppression is tied in with that, obviously.
    People, due to voter suppression, having to post provisional and other ballots – including overseas ones, students from other states, military overseas ones, etc… And then they’re held unless/until the election is close – and then if that’s the case, they can be “misfiled, lost, etc.
    And, the conservative age-old favorite: Electronic Voting Machines that flip (see 2000, 2004, and, possibly/PROBABLY, 2016.
    Conservatives were too afraid to do that in 2008 & 2012, because Obama had such a big lead. This years varied, tightened for a while, and then went for Hillary toward the end. But, BUT, the results were close enough for the Republicans to take the chance.

    If we chase what went wrong with the polling, we’ll be chasing ghosts. Which is exactly what they want us to do.
    Take a look at our insane (mostly antiquated) registration and voting system – again, which vary too often.

    Don’t chase the polls!
    Invstigate what I mentioned above.
    They WANT us to blame the pollsters.
    They’re terrified of anything beyond that.

  32. I’m not against conspiracy theories such as russian aided poll hacking. Well within the sociopathic moral skillset. Everything should be considered, but only reality should be accepted. In a saner world full of rational people it shouldn’t have even been close to begin with. But we don’t live in that world. Note all the different flavors here from cynical youth to blind faithers who should know better:

  33. Pingback: Blame Where Blame Is Due | The Mahablog

  34. Viking Kitten: the Republicans showed how to do this. You don’t have to explain liberal talking points. You talk first about how “Hah, yeah, the party of layoffs and offshoring aren’t going to help here.” That’s when you hit with the liberal idea, in a dumbed down, common-sense, sound-bite way.

    There is one problem especially in lower wealth areas of rust belt states. No one is going to help them. No one can. There isn’t any thing one could do that would soak up all of the un-and-under- employment in those areas… not without some form of make-work program that’s deliberately not intended to be competitive. A guaranteed basic income would help, also, but a make-work program would have a far better chance of passing, which really shows how dumb our priorities are. Make-work is not ennobling, and only helps for people who haven’t developed good work habits. So just paying people is cheaper – no need to check to make sure they’re accomplishing their make-work, see? No need to *invent* their make-work. And now, they have some cash so they might be able to move to where jobs are, or, if they have the resources, take a day trip to interview.

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