Sunday, April 23, 2017

If The Democratic Party Doesn't Stand For Something, It'll Just Turn Into A Clintonian Mush In A Big Pointless Tent


As I've been explaining over the last couple of weeks, when Blue America tries to get to know candidates as part of our vetting process, we basically try to understand where they are on the issues involving economic opportunity. Where do they stand on living wage vs minimum wage? How do we achieve universal healthcare? How do we come up with a fair taxation system? But we never even get to those questions if the candidate is anti-Choice, anti-LGBT or unsupportive of racism equality. I hate identity politics but and the reality of divisiveness used for political purposes isn't something you can wish away by burying your head in the sand.

Egged on by a fully corrupt Democratic establishment and donor class fearful of losing ground to the increasingly popular Bernie Sanders and his movement, the media has been trying hard to drum up an internal Democratic Party conflict over "unity." Scratch the surface and who do you find inciting the disunity? The Hillary dead-enders so aptly described in Jonathan Allen's and Amie Parnes' new book Shattered. If you don't want to read the whole book-- I don't blame you-- read Matt Taibbi's review in Rolling Stone. These are the people whose arrogance and incompetence helped pave the way for the worst thing that's happened to America since the Civil War.
What Allen and Parnes captured in Shattered was a far more revealing portrait of the Democratic Party intelligentsia than, say, the WikiLeaks dumps. And while the book is profoundly unflattering to Hillary Clinton, the problem it describes really has nothing to do with Secretary Clinton.

The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people outside the Beltway.

In fact, it shines through in the book that the voters' need to understand why this or that person is running for office is viewed in Washington as little more than an annoying problem.

In the Clinton run, that problem became such a millstone around the neck of the campaign that staffers began to flirt with the idea of sharing the uninspiring truth with voters. Stumped for months by how to explain why their candidate wanted to be president, Clinton staffers began toying with the idea of seeing how "Because it's her turn" might fly as a public rallying cry.

...Most don't see elections as organic movements within populations of millions, but as dueling contests of "whip-smart" organizers who know how to get the cattle to vote the right way. If someone wins an election, the inevitable Beltway conclusion is that the winner had better puppeteers.

The Clinton campaign in 2016, for instance, never saw the Bernie Sanders campaign as being driven by millions of people who over the course of decades had become dissatisfied with the party. They instead saw one cheap stunt pulled by an illegitimate back-bencher, foolishness that would be ended if Sanders himself could somehow be removed.

"Bill and Hillary had wanted to put [Sanders] down like a junkyard dog early on," Allen and Parnes wrote. The only reason they didn't, they explained, was an irritating chance problem: Sanders "was liked," which meant going negative would backfire.

Hillary had had the same problem with Barack Obama, with whom she and her husband had elected to go heavily negative in 2008, only to see that strategy go very wrong. "It boomeranged," as it's put in Shattered.

The Clinton campaign was convinced that Obama won in 2008 not because he was a better candidate, or buoyed by an electorate that was disgusted with the Iraq War. Obama won, they believed, because he had a better campaign operation-- i.e., better Washingtonian puppeteers. In The Right Stuff terms, Obama's Germans were better than Hillary's Germans.

They were determined not to make the same mistake in 2016. Here, the thought process of campaign chief Robby Mook is described:

"Mook knew that Hillary viewed almost every early decision through a 2008 lens: she thought almost everything her own campaign had done was flawed and everything Obama's had done was pristine."

Since Obama had spent efficiently and Hillary in 2008 had not, this led to spending cutbacks in the 2016 race in crucial areas, including the hiring of outreach staff in states like Michigan. This led to a string of similarly insane self-defeating decisions. As the book puts it, the "obsession with efficiency had come at the cost of broad voter contact in states that would become important battlegrounds."

If the ending to this story were anything other than Donald Trump being elected president, Shattered would be an awesome comedy, like a Kafka novel-- a lunatic bureaucracy devouring itself. But since the ending is the opposite of funny, it will likely be consumed as a cautionary tale.

Shattered is what happens when political parties become too disconnected from their voters. Even if you think the election was stolen, any Democrat who reads this book will come away believing he or she belongs to a party stuck in a profound identity crisis. Trump or no Trump, the Democrats need therapy-- and soon.
These people are petrified that Bernie's revolution is taking over the Democratic Party and they're using their one and only weapon (aside from the corporate cash that keeps them afloat and motivates their existence)-- identity politics-- to fight back. The NY Times' Jonathan Martin, thrilled to emphasize that Bernie "is not even a Democrat," was their stenographer yesterday:
“This is very raw,” said Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, conceding that “after the presidential election, there is still this ongoing debate about identity politics versus economic opportunity.”

Mr. Sanders and the new leadership of the Democratic National Committee touched a party sore spot this week when they took their “Unity Tour” to Omaha to rally for a mayoral candidate who opposes abortion rights. Mr. Sanders, repurposing the themes of his presidential bid, told a crowd of about 6,000 on Thursday night that the candidate, Heath Mello, 37, would be a future star in the Democratic Party who could help break the grip of big money on the nation’s politics.

Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a prominent abortion rights advocacy group, called it a betrayal, especially of the women who have fueled the “resistance” that has energized Democrats since Mr. Trump’s unexpected triumph.

“It tells your most active political base that we’re just negotiable political property,” Ms. Hogue said of the statement sent by Mr. Sanders and Representative Keith Ellison, the Democratic National Committee’s new deputy chairman, who appeared with Mr. Mello. “Since the election, women have been engaged on the front lines of every progressive fight. So what message does it send for the party to start this tour with an anti-choice candidate?”

Mr. Mello, a practicing Catholic, supported a Nebraska State Senate bill requiring that women be informed of their right to request a fetal ultrasound before an abortion. The anger over that position reflects a long-running argument among Democrats over whether, or how much, to support candidates who depart from party orthodoxy on abortion.

But the ferocity of the dispute this time reveals a much deeper debate on the left: Should a commitment to economic justice be the party’s central and dominant appeal, or do candidates also have to display fealty to the Democrats’ cultural catechism?

An Omaha mayoral election on May 9 may seem an unlikely place for this fight to play out, but a collision was inevitable. Despite being the most sought-after Democrat in the country today, Mr. Sanders is actually an independent and self-described democratic socialist animated chiefly by class uplift. But the clamor for his attention comes as the party is increasingly defined by its positions on issues related to race, gender and sexuality.

The wounds from his clash with Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary clearly have yet to heal, in large part because the overarching debate between them has yet to be reconciled.

Mr. Sanders has emerged as the most popular active politician in America, according to a new survey by Harvard University and Harris Insights and Analytics, and his presence is demanded in Democratic campaigns no matter the political tint of the region. Yet his recent moves have infuriated some progressives.

First, Mr. Sanders campaigned with Tom Perriello, the Virginia Democratic candidate for governor who supported some anti-abortion measures during a single term in Congress (though Mr. Perriello has apologized for doing so).

Then Mr. Sanders pointedly declined to campaign for Jon Ossoff, a Democrat running for an open House seat outside Atlanta, deeming him insufficiently populist. (Mr. Sanders issued a statement on Friday offering his support for Mr. Ossoff.) Not only is the Ossoff race the highest-profile campaign of the moment, but the Republican nominee, Karen Handel, is loathed by the abortion rights movement for her role as an official at the Susan G. Komen foundation in separating that group, the nation’s largest breast cancer organization, from Planned Parenthood.

Then Mr. Sanders arrived in Omaha for Mr. Mello, after persuading the Democratic National Committee to make the rally a part of a party-sanctioned tour.

Coming against the backdrop of Mr. Trump’s election and the wave of new, female-led activism in opposition to a leader they believe is a repugnant misogynist, many female progressive leaders are adamant about keeping reproductive rights front and center. And they see the matter of Mr. Mello as an opportunity to send a statement to the party’s leadership.

“It is incredibly important that people within the progressive movement and Democratic Party realize that women are sick of this” stuff, said Erin Matson, a Virginia-based abortion rights activist, “and we’re not going to take it anymore.” (She used a more pungent word than “stuff.”) “What Bernie doesn’t seem to realize,” she added, “is that the abortion rights movement has really bucked up and gotten some tough ovaries in the last couple of years.”

Tom Perez, the party’s newly elected chairman, had been campaigning with Mr. Ossoff in Georgia when Mr. Sanders was in Nebraska. But in interviews leading up to the event, Mr. Perez was unapologetic about supporting Mr. Mello, who has recently said that although he personally opposed abortion, he would uphold abortion rights as mayor.
An aside here-- that's exactly what the dishonest and untrustworthy Perriello told me-- on tape-- to get a Blue America endorsement. And then he stabbed us in the back by voting generally with the Blue Dogs and specifically against Choice.
Yet after the backlash, Mr. Perez retreated. He conducted some quiet diplomacy, telephoning Ms. Hogue and Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, according to Democrats briefed on the calls. Casting aside their efforts at unity, Mr. Perez’s aides blamed Mr. Sanders for the event, putting out word that it had been the senator’s idea to include the rally on the tour and criticizing him for not vetting Mr. Mello.

By Friday afternoon, Mr. Perez had issued a far more strongly worded statement. “I fundamentally disagree with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health,” Mr. Perez said. “It is a promising step that Mello now shares the Democratic Party’s position on women’s fundamental rights. Every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period.”

In an interview on Friday, Mr. Perez further toughened his language, saying he respected those Democrats who “have personal beliefs” against abortion rights but warning them not to pursue such policies in office. “If they try to legislate or govern that way, we will take them on,” he said.

Not every liberal sees the issue as so clear-cut. Ms. Weingarten, who was a Clinton supporter, argued that the question of whether to focus on economic justice or social issues was “not an either-or” proposition. The red-and-blue-state tour that Mr. Sanders and the Democratic National Committee officials are on “conveys to the public that the Democratic Party is first and foremost a party of economic opportunity,” she said.
That back-and-forth is an extension of Democrats’ soul-searching after losing an election that they thought they would win. Many Democrats believe that Mrs. Clinton erred by not making economic populism more central to her campaign against Mr. Trump, relying instead on a mix of cultural liberalism and character attacks.

Just as the Republican establishment battled the nascent Tea Party over conservative purity after its 2008 loss, Democrats are enduring internecine strife over what it means to be a progressive.

“Anytime your party is out of power, you face a choice,” said Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist. “Do you want to hunt down heretics or seek out converts?”

Mr. Sanders and his supporters are the ones preaching inclusion, at least on social issues.

“Every single Democrat is not necessarily pro-choice,” said Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator from Cleveland and an ally of Mr. Sanders. “And Democrats need to understand that, and not vilify people because of it.”
Absolutely-- and keeping them out of leadership positions is absolutely essential. They can be anti-Choice if they want to but if they are they can't be nominees of the Democratic Party. Is that so difficult to understand? As I explained the other day, the racists who once dominated the Democratic Party's congressional caucus are no longer welcome, nor should they be, as candidates. The party has to stand for something or it becomes irrelevant.

This morning, addressing this privately, author and native Nebraskan Mike Lux told a large group of activists why he wasn't withdrawing his support from Mello: "One of the hardest things about politics is the contradictions of it. Last year for me was the ultimate example. The issue I have spent more time on than any other in recent years is Wall St reform, because I think it is the financialization of the economy that is at the heart of the 1% having dominion over everyone else. There is no more core issue for me. I also care enormously about peace issues, which are so central to who lives and dies; and to fracking, which is poisoning the water for so many people in this country. Hillary sucked on all of those issues. But she was running against Donald Trump so I dropped everything to go help her in the general election.

"Politics is not pure, it is messy as hell. And progressives sometimes don't get to have completely progressive politicians to support. That is in absolutely no way to diminish the choice issue, it is so important and central. But the incumbent mayor in Omaha is a terrible person, worse than Heath on abortion, much worse on Planned Parenthood and family planning, and dreadful on everything else that matters to people on this list. I don't want to consign the people of Omaha to that awful mayor when there is someone much, much better on most things as the alternative to her."

Yep, "politics is not pure" and its a sign of maturity to deal with it from that perspective. I'm glad Blue America chose to not endorse Heath Mello for mayor (or Tom Perriello for governor) and I find Lux's argument acceptable-- even if it isn't one I'd adopt for myself or advocate for Blue America to adopt.

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At 7:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Social justice can only exist if there is economic opportunity, so for Democrats to assert that economic opportunity is more important than social justice, is not inherently contradictory. And so, fighting for higher education, equal pay, subsidized day care and protected maternity leave for women provided women the economic power to effectively advocate for a women's right to choose. I agree this is a nuanced issue that needs to be threshed out, but that is my view.

At 8:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed. Also, I can respect a consistent "pro-life" Catholic's right to their private !! beliefs AS LONG AS THEY LOUDLY REFRAIN FROM TRYING TO ENACT THEM INTO LAW!!!

At 10:37 AM, Blogger lukeness said...

It reminds me of NARAL and Planned Parenthood coming out against our Colorado universal healthcare initiative last year, because the plan was not explicit enough in its support for abortion rights. This gave cover to other progressive organizations to come out against it and it ended up getting overwhelmingly defeated. (Conspiratorially minded among us my wonder if healthcare industry dollars going to those organizations had more to do with their opposition than the technical interpretation of abortion laws.)

Meanwhile the oil and gas industry put gigantic sums of money into a proposal to make it much more difficult for grassroots initiatives in Colorado in the future, meaning that future healthcare proposals will be even more nearly impossible to pass. But NARAL and PP couldn't be bothered to work to defeat this oil proposal. I am an incredibly strong supporter of abortion rights, but we can't make the perfect the enemy of the good over and over again. That's partly how we end up in the situation we're in.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Robert said...

I rely like your stuff, but the only thing anyone should get from political-gossip books like "Shattered" is warmth from burning the pages.

At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Anytime (democrats are) out of power, you face a choice,” said Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist. “Do you want to hunt down heretics or seek out converts?”

Actually, you should first decide whether your party is about money or people. If the latter, hunt and kill the heretics, like scummer and Pelosi and 95% of the party... and THEN you should seek the like-minded and invite them to join.

If the former, there is no need for further action as that is the status quo.

At 5:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If The Democratic Party Doesn't Stand For Something, It'll Just Turn Into A Clintonian Mush In A Big Pointless Tent "

You mean, like the one it already is, only with Bernie atop the pile?

At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah. I think you mean "if the democraps don't pretend to stand for the 99%, it will stay the clintonian, corrupted, fetid mush in a shrinking tent".

They clearly STAND for their donors' interests (money and power).


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