Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Democratic Party Brand Needs Some Work-- But Not By The People Who Ruined It


In his Rolling Stone essay after Gianforte beat Quist in Montana Thursday night, The Democrats Need A New Message, Matt Taibbi included a litany of excuses the DC Dems always have on hand to explain why they've been losing all the time-- even to monstrosities like Gianforte, Staten Island Mafia thug Michael Grimm, patient-raping-doctor Scott Desjarlais, and, worst by far, Señor Trumpanze.

One of the excuses Taibbi mentioned was how the GOP uses corporate cash to overwhelm less well-financed Democrats. It reminded me of a conversation I had with an exceptionally bright congressmember last November. I predicted that the Republicans would use their all-branch dominance to overreach and turn the voters against them. My congressional friend disagreed--not about the overreach but about voters turning against them. He predicted that they would leverage their power to unleash a flood of corporate money into party coffers and drown the Democrats with it. And Taibbi acknowledged that "Republicans have often, but not always, had fundraising advantages in key races.

Taibbi was talking about how much more Hillary had to spend in 2016 than Trump did. I want to reinforce that on a congressional level. A few days ago we looked at how the Rahm Emanuel DCCC's toxic candidate recruitment resulted in dozens and dozens of Blue Dogs and New Dems been swept out of Congress in the 2010 midterms when Democratic voters boycotted the elections rather than vote again for the DCCC's Republican-lite candidates. And that wasn't because of the Republicans having more corporate cash. In fact, in many cases it was the exact opposite. Republicans beat shitty Blue Dogs and New Dems who had more special interest cash than their GOP opponent did. Here are just a few random examples:
Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL)- $1,435,526 vs Martha Roby- $1,240,276
Harry Mitchell (Blue Dog-AZ)- $2,308,400) vs Dave Schweikert- $1,721,364
Ann Kirkpatrick (New Dem-AZ)- $1,956,364 vs Paul Gosar- $1,168,287
Tim Mahoney (Blue Dog-FL)- $2,756,453 vs Tom Rooney- $1,597,768
Suzanne Kosmas (Blue Dog-FL)- $2,561,831 vs Sandy Adams- $1,266,664
Walt Minnick (Blue Dog-ID)- $2,473,287 vs Raul Labrador- $686,293
Debbie Halvorson (New Dem-IL)- $2,502,037 vs Adam Kinzinger- $1,827,192
Baron Hill (Blue Dog-IN)- $2,167,570 vs Todd Young- $1,950,159
Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD)- $2,621,893 vs Andy Harris $2,383,184
John Adler (Blue Dog-NJ)- $3,285,638 vs Jon Runyan- $1,518,073
Michael McMahon (Blue Dog-NY)- $2,897,473 vs Michael Grimm- $1,249,139
Dan Maffei (New Dem-NY)- $3,114,128 vs Ann Marie Buerkle- $758,777
Scott Murphy (Blue Dog-NY)- $5,321,745 vs Chris Gibson- $1,734,219
Mike Acuri (Blue Dog-NY)- $1,886,555 vs Richard Hanna- $1,260,258
Zack Space (Blue Dog-OH)- $2,931,978 vs Bob Gibbs- $1,090,872
Kathy Dahlkemper (Blue Dog-PA)- $1,957,701 vs Mike Kelly- $1,235,460
Patrick Murphy (New Dem-PA)- $4,287,244 vs Mike Fitzpatrick- $2,062,733
Chris Carney (Blue Dog-PA)- $1,657,586 vs Tom Marino- $704,457
Taibbi continued that "The unspoken subtext of a lot of the Democrats' excuse-making is their growing belief that the situation is hopeless-- and not just because of fixable institutional factors like gerrymandering, but because we simply have a bad/irredeemable electorate that can never be reached. This is why the 'basket of deplorables' comment last summer was so devastating."
But the "deplorables" comment didn't just further alienate already lost Republican votes. It spoke to an internal sickness within the Democratic Party, which had surrendered to a negativistic vision of a hopelessly divided country.

Things are so polarized now that, as Georgia State professor Jennifer McCoy put it on NPR this spring, each side views the other not as fellow citizens with whom they happen to disagree, but as a "threatening enemy to be vanquished."

The "deplorables" comment formalized this idea that Democrats had given up on a huge chunk of the population, and now sought only to defeat and subdue their enemies.

Barack Obama, for all his faults, never gave in to that mindset. He continually insisted that the Democrats needed to find a way to reach lost voters. Even in the infamous "guns and religion" episode, this was so. Obama then was talking about the challenge the Democrats faced in finding ways to reconnect with people who felt ignored and had fled to "antipathy toward people who aren't like them" as a consequence.

Even as he himself was the subject of vicious and racist rhetoric, Obama stumped in the reddest of red districts. In his post-mortem on the Trump-Clinton race, he made a point of mentioning this-- that in Iowa he had gone to every small town and fish fry and VFW hall, and "there were some counties where I might have lost, but maybe I lost by 20 points instead of 50 points."

Most people took his comments to be a dig at Clinton's strategic shortcomings-- she didn't campaign much in many of the key states she lost-- but it was actually more profound than that. Obama was trying to point out that people respond when you demonstrate that you don't believe they're unredeemable.

You can't just dismiss people as lost, even bad or misguided people. Unless every great thinker from Christ to Tolstoy to Gandhi to Dr. King is wrong, it's especially those people you have to keep believing in, and trying to reach.

The Democrats have forgotten this. While it may not be the case with Quist, who seems to have run a decent campaign, the Democrats in general have lost the ability (and the inclination) to reach out to the entire population.

They're continuing, if not worsening, last year's mistake of running almost exclusively on Trump/Republican negatives... But "Republicans are bad" isn't a message or a plan, which is why the Democrats have managed the near impossible: losing ground overall during the singular catastrophe of the Trump presidency.

The party doesn't see that the largest group of potential swing voters out there doesn't need to be talked out of voting Republican. It needs to be talked out of not voting at all. The recent polls bear this out, showing that the people who have been turned off to the Democrats in recent months now say that in a do-over, they would vote for third parties or not at all.

People need a reason to be excited by politics, and not just disgusted with the other side. Until the Democrats figure that out, these improbable losses will keep piling up.
One Democratic congressman who gets it right is California's Ro Khanna. Watch this clip of a powerful messaging interview he did yesterday with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC. We talked to him about it after he was done with Andrea. He reiterated that "the Democrats need to be for fairer rules in the economy. But we also have to have a vision of job creation in middle America. We need to be a party that is both progressive and aspirational."

We talked to two Illinois progressives who are running against entrenched conservative incumbents this cycle. Marie Newman's Chicagoland district around Bridgeport, Canaryville, West Lawn, Midway Airport, Oak Lawn, Hickory Hills and the way out into the suburbs as far as Lockport and Homer Glen. It's a solid blue bungalow belt district with a far right-wing Blue Dog incumbent, Dan Lipinski. Newman's campaign platform has been very focused on the struggles of small businesses. "To be clear," she told us, "Trump’s budget is anti-small and mid market business. Defunding programs enabling small and mid-size manufacturing companies to retrain, scale and in turn, drive jobs, is ridiculous. Rather than taking away those programs, we should be increasing them. Small business is the fastest growing sector and where most jobs are being created, it should be supported. We need to stop favoring large corporations and start supporting small business."

Greg Petzel is also a small businessman and a Chicagoland candidate, running in a district further west. And his opponent, knee-jerk Republican Pete Roskam, is even further right than Lipinski.
I have always believed that the majority of people who enter political life do so because they want to make their community, state or nation better and improve the lives of the people they represent. Based on that concept I also believe that almost everyone shares the same values and that our elected officials have a responsibility to transfer those values into legislation. I believe this is fundamentally true. Have you ever met anyone who prefers polluted air and toxic water over fresh air and clean water? Have you ever met someone who seeks less opportunity at improving their income, or someone who would prefer to go without essential medical treatment? I think Americans have a united set of values.

Unfortunately we often divide ourselves into class, race, or party and our values get trampled on by rhetoric, money, power or special interest agendas. In my district, we have a large number of folks considering running against our radical right-wing congressman, Peter Roskam. Most will tell you they are running because they oppose the Trump Agenda and want to get rid of our congressman because he votes with Trump every time. But simply not liking our congressman isn't enough-- if it were, we would have 143,591 (votes against him in 2016) candidates qualified to run against him. This idea that we oppose an agenda and have no clear agenda or values as a party is exactly why we keep losing elections.

Democrats controlled the House of Representatives from 1955-1995 and stood firmly for strong values-- civil rights, workers rights, women's rights and environmental protection. During that time we created almost all of the nations environmental laws, we created Medicare, and we solidified civil rights legislation. The Democratic Party stood for values that most Americans believed in. And we won elections. And we made our nation and peoples lives better.

Today that Democratic Party-- the one I was taught growing up would fight for me, only exists through a minority of progressive members of Congress. I am happy to bash Democrats or Republicans who try to crush the values I am fighting for. As a party, or at least as individual candidates, we should be fighting for the values that historically drove the Democratic Party. Those values are American values- they are fundamentally ingrained in our hearts and minds and souls as Americans. We don't need the DCCC or any political party to tell us what our common values are. I believe that our fight should be one based on fundamental values that are shared by all people-- Democrat, Republican and Independent. If we can overcome the rhetoric and money and special interests and win elections on real fundamental values, rather than opposition and dislike of our opponents, we can re-establish not only the America I believe in, but the Democratic Party that once fought for us. And in that America, we all win.

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At 6:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "brand" is owned and operated by those who have ratfucked it. They're not going ANYWHERE. So wazzat say about any prospects of working on it?

And here we go again, extolling the virtues of obamanation, who was point man on the most recent round of ratfucking of the D "brand". Lemme see, if only that pos (and his hired pos, holder) had put 200 bankers in prison for fraud, put cheney, bushbaby, Rumsfeld and a dozen others in prison for torture, stood on his "principle" of an ACA with a PO, backstopped people instead of bankers and big traders, broke up the banks and a host of other needed changes that would have single-handedly refurbished the corroded "brand".

But he and his party refused to do any of those things. Instead, they made nearly every single R policy enacted since 1980 worse. And some worse by orders of magnitude (drone murder...).

And to the one who said this: "Democrats controlled the House of Representatives from 1955-1995 and stood firmly for strong values..."

Horse shit! The Ds were just fine from '36 through about '82. But from '82 until their demise in the near future (hopefully), they stood only for corporate and billionaire interests/donations and their own personal fortunes. (see: the Clintons, obamas, holder, Pelosi, hoyer, scummer...).

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Well it is true that when The Clintons created The DLC in the 90's that started the party's shift from progressive to The Blue Dogs, etc now it's controlled by Third Way & believe me i have just about had enough of these guys controlling the party & losing every single race it's time to clean house from top to bottom & it's us voters that have to do the work & get rid of them completely.

At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My particular issue with the likes of Zuckerberg leading the effort to create new jobs is that employment is already too concentrated in the corporate sector. Corporations are hardly democratic organizations, operating under the principle of my way or the highway. The only way anyone can maintain any independence under such a situation is to never add any additional mouths to feed off one's meagre pay. Japan is already worried about the economic effects of a declining population. How will this play with the likes of Zuckerberg when this worry goes global?

At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ap215, the Clintons and others created the DLC in the early '80s.


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