Friday, June 23, 2017

Bernie Won The Wisconsin Primary, 567,936 to 432,767. Trump Won Wisconsin Too... With Just 531,129 Votes


I spent about an hour or so, spread over a couple of phone calls, with Jon Ossoff right after he declared. I was impressed with his energy and verve, his dedication to oppose Trump and the House Republicans and his eagerness to do what’s necessary to win. He didn’t come across as a Bernie Sanders or a Pramila Jayapal or Elizabeth Warren but he did come across as kind of progressive. Blue America endorsed him, I contributed some money to his campaign and we started raising money for him.

It didn’t take long before I started regretting it. It wasn’t even that he started inching inextricably towards the center really fast, as much as something else I smelled. The DCCC moved in immediately and took over with their crooked money-sucking consultants. Everything I started seeing coming out of the Ossoff campaign started looking bad to me-- the multiple e-mails with no content everyday was an immediate give-away. When I complained, they took me off their mailing list. Every time I asked Jon substantive policy questions for follow-up posts, he wouldn’t respond. By the time he said he opposed single payer, I realized I’d been had by another establishment suck-up. But I generally held my tongue and hoped he’d win just for the message it would send to Republicans wavering in their support for the Ryan-Trump agenda. That was fucked up of me. Because there was another message an Ossoff victory would have sent, one the media would have crowed about endlessly-- how the Democratic Party can only win with centrist candidates who don’t have campaigns based on strong values. Maybe Ossoff can now go off and join Jason Kander in whatever he’s doing to push backward centrism on unsuspecting Democrats.

Right after the votes were countered and people started asking themselves what happened down in Georgia, Matthew Yglesias took the opportunity to propose that this might be a good time for the Democrats to stop trying to expand their Big Tent to accommodate every Republican who isn’t a neo-Nazi and instead come up with a coherent and substantive agenda. Imagine that!
Ossoff falling short-- while coming closer than Rob Quist-- and Jeremy Corbyn’s surprisingly strong showing in the recent UK election suggest a possible synthesis of these views.

Corbyn’s electoral map, in the end, turns out to look a lot like Hillary Clinton’s. He did well in the most diverse and most educated parts of the United Kingdom and worst among older voters. Whites with college degrees, in short, weren’t secretly dreaming of socialism. At the same time, running on a bold progressive policy agenda didn’t stop him from picking up support in exactly the kind of upscale precincts that the Democratic establishment has been trying to target. And it did succeed in doing what post-Obama Democrats have failed to do-- engage young voters and encourage them to come to the polls.

But perhaps most of all, running on a bold policy agenda helped focus voters’ minds on policy rather than on the (extremely long) list of controversial Corbyn statements and associations from past years. Pundits had long expected Corbyn to get crushed at the polls, and had Theresa May succeeded in running an election focused on the Falklands War, the Irish Republican Army, and unilateral nuclear disarmament, she would have won. But instead, the UK ended up with a campaign about promises to nationalize utilities, eliminate university tuition, and raise taxes.

Ossoff’s effort to stay bland and inoffensive let hazy personal and culture war issues dominate the campaign-- and even in a relatively weak Trump district, that was still a winning formula for Republicans.

A chief of staff on Capitol Hill observed to me Tuesday morning that absolutely every faction in the Democratic Party-- from Third Way to the Berniecrats-- thinks Democrats “need a positive economic vision,” and not just to talk about Trump. The DCCC’s analysts agree.

“But when the rubber hit the road,” the chief of staff said, “we didn't produce a positive alternative on health care.”

Not exactly because Democrats don’t have any ideas of how to make the American health care system better. But because in some respects they have too many ideas-- ranging from small tweaks to improve the functioning of the Affordable Care Act to the idea of radically transforming the entire health care system by having taxpayers foot the bill for everyone’s insurance. The easiest way to maintain party unity was to stick with what Democrats could agree on-- that financing an enormous tax cut for the rich with stark cuts to Medicaid and deregulation of the insurance industry was a terrible idea.

Still, it should be sobering to Democrats that a CBS News poll released Tuesday morning filled with devastatingly bad approval numbers for the Trump administration found that only 31 percent of voters thought a Democratic takeover of Congress would make their lives better.

If your opponents are unpopular enough, it’s certainly possible to win elections this way. But especially for the party that has a more difficult time inspiring its supporters to turn out to vote, that’s an ominous sign. Right now on health care and many other issues, Democrats suffer from a cacophony of white papers and a paucity of unity around any kind of vision or story they want to paint of what is wrong with America today and what is the better country they want to build for the future. And until they do, they’re going to struggle to mobilize supporters in the way they need to win tough races.

And that brings us right to the candidates who are very much not Jon Ossoff-- not children of privilege, not bland, not malleable, not puppets. Wednesday, Will Bunch asked if a mustachioed ironworker from Wisconsin save the Democratic Party from itself. “I used to think,” he wrote, “the pain of being a Philadelphia sports fan was something unique to Philly-- until I started mulling the current state of the national Democratic Party. I mean, the Phillies have only been in rebuilding mode since 2013 or so. What can you say about a political party that’s been trying to retool, in one form or another, since 1981…if not longer? In fact, I’m starting to get confused between the agonizing rebuild of my beloved Phillies (feel free to substitute the Eagles/76ers/Flyers/Union) and the muddled state of a political party that-- for all its myriad flaws-- is the last remaining bulwark against totala-Trumpism. Why didn’t they call up Scott Kingery to run in South Carolina-05? When will Jon Ossoff learn to hit the curve ball? Why did they just reward Nancy Pelosi with a long-term contract?”
The glass is not empty for the Democrats. Their candidates in the four special elections over-performed the party’s expected norm by about 8 percentage points, and a similar showing in 2018 would-- according to the pundits-- probably be good enough to re-take the House. Districts that aren’t blood red but reddish purple-- like the seats held by GOPers Pat Meehan, Brian Fitzpatrick and Ryan Costello in the Philadelphia suburbs-- would be prime candidates for flippage 17 months from now. But the glass isn’t even really half-full… maybe closer to 40 percent full, at best. After all, partisans have been shouting from the mountaintop that Trump is an epically bad president of historical proportions-- either inept or a proto-dictator or both--and that the GOP on Capitol Hill will kill you with climate change if losing your health insurance doesn’t strike you dead first. Shouldn’t that produce a political tidal wave? So where is it?

…[T]here’s a lot of talk today that the Democrats can’t win if all the party stands for is being against Trump. That’s true-- but it’s even worse than that. In Georgia-06, the Dems didn’t even try to do much with the president’s rising disapproval numbers.

Jon Ossoff was a very sincere candidate, and he seems like a nice young man. Running for office in today’s climate is a brave thing. But I listened to an interview that he did with NPR on Tuesday morning, and by the end I practically wanted to gouge my eyes out. It was the some of the most insipid, focus-group-tested-and-consultant-approved meaningless happy talk I’ve ever heard from a Democrat, which is saying a lot. He wanted to bring tech jobs to Atlanta, and cut wasteful spending. Health care needs to be-- somehow-- “affordable.” Ossoff and the Democrats couldn’t have run a more effective “show about nothing” if Seinfeld’s Larry David had been their show-runner. No wonder voters curbed their enthusiasm.

The Democrats won’t truly emerge from rebuilding mode until they have the courage to stand for something. One role model-- sort of-- for this emerged from across the pond, in the UK’s recent national election. True, Labour’s fiery leader Jeremy Corbyn-- somewhere to the right of Che Guevara (barely) and to the left of Bernie Sanders-- didn’t win, but no one expected him and his party to do nearly as well as they did, and, given the shaky status of Tory Theresa May’s government, Corbyn may yet become prime minister sooner rather than later. They achieved this by doing something that would terrify America’s Democrats. They published a manifesto of bold, uncompromising measures that the Labour Party stood for. The party called for eliminating university tuition, raising the minimum wage, boosting spending on infrastructure, and undoing school budget cuts. Britain’s political pundits pontificated that the platform spelled doom for the left-leaning party, but the document instead energized young voters, who turned in droves for Corbyn earlier this month. And I believe a similar-style Democratic Party manifesto here in the U.S. could have the same type of electrifying effect.

I don’t think Corbyn clone would do well here-- but America doesn’t need one. We have Randy Bryce. A longtime ironworker with a solid 6-2 frame, an Army vet, with Mexican and Polish ancestry (with a mustache that looks like what you’d see if you stumbled into the wrong 1970s movie house, if you know what I mean), Bryce sent shockwaves this week by announcing his plan to challenge House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose congressional district in southern Wisconsin is not nearly as solid red as one might expect. In comparison to many mealy-mouthed Democrats, listen to what Bryce-- @IronStache on his Twitter feed that is exploding with new members-- told the Payday Report:
“Being an ironworker, I have seen some things that, unless I have seen them with my own eyes and been part of it, I would say you can’t do that-- that’s impossible,” says Bryce. “You know, you are gonna walk up on a two and half inch piece of metal, you are gonna be up three hundred feet in the air and walk across and carry something to get to a place to wield– that’s impossible…When ironworkers hear somebody say, ‘We can’t, it means ‘I won’t.’”

“Let’s trade places,” Bryce quips. “Paul Ryan can come work the iron and I’ll go to D.C.”
Now, watch his ad (and compare it to Ossoff’s spot). This is truly one of the best political commercials that I’ve ever seen-- and it casts Bryce as someone who will fight for health care and the rights of workers:

Goal Thermometer Look, I know what people will say-- that Bryce’s challenge is a political death trap, a suicide rap. If the polls show an even remotely close race, the powerful House speaker Ryan will call in every chit with every hedge-fund guru and insurance company CEO that he knows, and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to save his job. (And, yes, Bryce has run for office before, and lost… but not with a killer ad like this). Maybe that’s not the point. The spirit of what this man called @IronStache is doing here-- taking a stand on the high ledge of politics, with no fear-- is that spirit that the Democratic Party will need in all 435 House districts and a 33 Senate races if Trumpism is to be stopped now rather than later. There’s a reason that voters in suburban Georgia fell for something-- and it’s because the Democratic Party didn’t stand for anything.

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At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coupla unsettling things about Bryce:

1) he's a vet, served in HONDURAS!?! You know what the US did in Honduras (at the behest of sec state $hillbillary)?!?!? If Bryce was part of that, I'll pass, thanks very little.
2) Is he for or against war? nothing on the website. But the playing on being a vet is disquieting wrt war in general.
3) MFA? still can't tell.
4) who's paying? Who's helping? Same incestuous "consultant" scheming? What will they demand for their... um... help?
4) bank fraud? torture? BLM? Free College? vote fraud? drone murder? privacy? impeachment? DCCC? Pelosi? DNC?

The democraps are ZERO-for-Drumpfsterfire. I see nothing that indicates more lefty voters are about to emerge from hibernation to vote for anyone, much less boilerplate DxCC pablum candidates. And in the most evil red districts, like ryan's, it even seems like they're able to find more hate/greed/evil voters.

But I suppose this is Pelosi/hoyer/dws/crowley/scummer/murray's "trickle-down" voting theory (you know, where you subtract your voters and add their voters to balance the voting and quickly get a voter surplus). Yeah, sure, that'll work.

Look, the "I may (or may not... you have to trust me on this) suck but I'm not as bad as _________" isn't going to get ANYONE elected any more. This much is pretty clear.


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