Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What Happened With Those Special Elections Down South Yesterday?


The Democrats will never win with this running the show

The Democratic candidates in 2 deep red, Deep South Republican districts lost, albeit very narrowly, to Republicans. One way to look at it is that they lost. Another way is that they did incredibly well in those districts. Karen Handel won the GA-06 seat 134,595 (52.6%) to 124,893 (47.4%) and Ralph Norman won the DSC-05 seat by a narrower spread-- 44,889 (51%) to 42,053 (48%). Both Democrats ran centrist campaigns, although Ossoff started out as a progressive until the DCCC got their hands on him and turned him away from Medicare-for-All and away from a fairer tax system in their unending quest to force Democrats to sound more like moderate Republicans.

A few days earlier, Franklin Foer, writing for The Atlantic, talked about how the conflicted elite centrists in control of the Democratic Party have turned it into a stinking pile of shit. The Democratic Party has gone from the proud vehicle for the legitimate voices of the working class to some kind of values-free Republican-lite amalgam that barely knows what it is. Not even Trump or the Ryan-McConnell overreach can change the a dried up turd into the vibrant and unstoppable winning machine it should be.

The careerists who have wrecked the Democratic Party would rather keep their grasp on power within the shrinking party than see it expand in a progressive direction foreign to their own tastes… and agenda. Foer wrote that “Leaderless and loud, the Resistance has become the motive power of the Democratic Party. Presidential hopefuls already strive to anticipate its wishes. Elected officials have restructured their political calculus to avoid getting on its wrong side. The feistiness and agitation of the moment are propelling the party to a new place. But where? The question unnerves Democrats, because the party has no scaffolding. All the dominant leaders of the last two generations-- the Clintons, Barack Obama-- have receded. Defeat discredited the party’s foundational strategy—or, at the very least, exposed it as a wishful description of a more distant future, rather than a clear plan for victory in the present. Resistance has given the Democrats the illusion of unity, but the reality is deeply conflicted. Two of the party’s largest concerns—race and class—reside in an increasing state of tension, a tension that will grow as the party turns toward the next presidential election.”
By the spring of 2016, one top Clinton adviser explained to me, the campaign’s own polling showed that white voters without a college degree despised Clinton. The extent of their loathing was surprising-- she polled far worse with them than Obama ever had, especially in states like Ohio and Iowa. Trump compounded her challenge. From the moment he announced his candidacy, he aimed his message at the white working class. He pursued that group with steadfastness. The threat that he might capture an unusually large chunk of it persuaded Clinton to pursue professionals with even greater intensity in an attempt to offset Trump’s potential gains.

With hindsight, it’s possible to see the risks of her strategy. Her campaign theorized that dentists, accountants, and middle managers needed to fully understand how Donald Trump surrounded himself with bigots and anti-Semites. “From the start,” she argued in a sharply worded speech in August, “Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia.” Her campaign ads against Trump emphasized his misogyny. The attacks highlighted Trump’s greatest weakness, but also played to his greatest strength. Trump had spent the entirety of his campaign trying to foment a culture war, and Clinton zealously joined it. He talked endlessly about political correctness—trying to convince his voters that they weren’t just losing the debates over gay marriage or immigration, but that the elite wanted to banish them as bigots if they even dared to question the prevailing liberal view. Clinton boosted that cause when she told donors in September, “To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’” It was meant to be a sotto voce comment, but that’s never how it works, as Mitt Romney could confirm.

The current politics of the Democratic Party make it less likely than usual that the nominee will be a centrist in the traditional mold. During the Democrats’ long losing streaks in the late 20th century, the party ritualistically engaged in postmortems that propelled it toward the center. That was the natural cycle of politics: Getting repeatedly clubbed by conservatives suggested trekking in a more conservative direction. But as a candidate, Trump placed little priority on traditional conservative positions, and often flouted them. His victory suggests a very different set of lessons, lessons in tune with the mood of the Democratic Party’s base.

Since 2008, energies have been building on the left—fueled by growing inequality, mass incarceration, and the inevitable frustration with a party that held the White House for eight years but couldn’t deliver everything activists wanted. Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter arose. A self-proclaimed democratic socialist captured 43 percent of the primary vote. Then Trump was elected, an event that was received by the party as a catastrophe and that has extended the activist spirit to a far broader audience.

Anger and activism are an opportunity for Democrats to grow their nucleus of supporters motivated to vote in midterm elections. The main question is whether those energies will be channeled in a way that reinforces the long-building demographic divide in American politics or in a way that—at least to some extent—blurs it. Or to put it another way: whether the Democrats accept the continued outflow of the white working class into the arms of the GOP as a fait accompli, or whether they try to stanch it.

There are in fact two different lefts in bloom today, with differing understandings of American politics. One strain practices what its detractors call identity politics-- it exists to combat the bias and discrimination that it believes is built into the system. What it seeks isn’t just the protection of minorities’ and women’s rights, but the validation of minorities and women in the eyes of the national culture, which it believes has marginalized them.

The cultural left was on the rise for much of the Obama era (and arguably, with the notable exception of Bill Clinton’s presidency, for much longer). It squares, for the most part, with the worldview of socially liberal whites, and is given wind by the idea that demography is destiny. It has a theory of the electorate that suits its interests: It wants the party to focus its attentions on Texas and Arizona-- states that have growing percentages of Latinos and large pockets of suburban professionals. (These states are also said to represent an opportunity because the party has failed to maximize nonwhite turnout there.) It celebrates the openness and interdependence embodied in both globalization and multiculturalism.

While this cultural left has sprung into vogue, the economic left has also been reenergized. It has finally recovered from a long abeyance, a wilderness period brought on by the decay of organized labor and the libertarian turn of the post–Cold War years. As the financial crash of 2008 worked its way through the Democratic Party’s intellectual system, the economic left migrated from the fringe protests of Occupy Wall Street to just outside the mainstream. While the cultural left champions a coalition of the ascendant, the economic left imagines a coalition of the despondent. It seeks to roll back the dominance of finance, to bust monopolies, to curb the predations of the market. It wants to ply back the white working-class voters-- clustered in the upper Midwest-- whom Greenberg deemed persuadable.

Neither strain of activism has much disagreement with the broad goals of the other. On paper, they can peaceably coexist within the same platform. But political parties can have only one main theory of the electorate at any given time-- and the prevailing theory tends to prioritize one ideology. The Republican Party’s pursuit of the South shaped its view of race; the Democratic Party’s wooing of professionals led it to embrace globalization.

The tensions between the cultural left and the economic left were evident in the last Democratic primary, and they have persisted. In a November talk after the election, Bernie Sanders railed against identity politics with an abandon that would have been foolish on the campaign trail. “It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me,’” he complained. In a way, this squabbling is a prelude to the next presidential primary, a contest that will be packed with candidates, each attempting to show him- or herself as the truest champion of minorities or women or the working and middle classes. Seeking victory, candidates will accuse their competitors of not authentically believing in the cause they themselves elevate most highly.

…[Elizabeth] Warren is most focused on the concept of fairness. A course she taught early in her career as a law professor, on contracts, got her thinking about the subject. (Fairness, after all, is a contract’s fundamental purpose.) A raw, moralistic conception of fairness—that people shouldn’t get screwed-- would become the basis for her crusading. Although she shares Bernie Sanders’s contempt for Wall Street, she doesn’t share his democratic socialism. “I love markets-- I believe in markets!” she told me. What drives her to rage is when bankers conspire with government regulators to subvert markets and rig the game. Over the years, she has claimed that it was a romantic view of capitalism that drew her to the Republican Party-- and then the party’s infidelity to market principles drove her from it.

Trump managed to exploit populist anger in part because he could go places ideologically that no Democrat would ever travel. As a matter of politics and policy, Democrats will never be the party of economic nationalism. Its voters are, on balance, more globalist than the Republican base. They tend to live in places that have prospered from trade and technology. They typically support immigration. But Warren has begun to outline the possibilities of a new center-left populism—one that gets beyond wealth redistribution alone.

At the core of Warren’s populism is a phobia of concentrated economic power, an anger over how big banks and big businesses exploit Washington to further their own interests at the expense of ordinary people. This fear of gigantism is a storied American tradition, descended from Thomas Jefferson, even if it hasn’t recently gotten much airtime within the Democratic Party. It justifies itself in the language of individualism—rights, liberty, freedom—not communal obligation.

There’s a growing consensus among center-left economists that the dominance of entire industries by a few enormous companies is one of the defining economic problems of the era. The issue has gravitated toward the mainstream of Democratic Party thinking partly due to the work of Barack Obama’s in-house economist, Jason Furman, a protégé of former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. Furman revolted against the behavior of business leaders who came to call at the White House. Many of them didn’t seem especially committed to capitalism. With their privileged access, they groveled for favors that would further their dominance. “They were like the Chinese,” he told me recently. “They craved certainty. They wanted everything planned.”

Everyone can plainly see the lack of competition in many sectors-- the way that there are five big banks, four big airlines, one dominant social-media company, one maker of EpiPens. What’s more, a small set of institutional investors-- BlackRock, Fidelity, Vanguard-- holds stock in a vast percentage of public companies, so even sectors that look somewhat competitive are less so than they appear. CVS and Walgreens, for instance, have a strikingly similar set of major shareholders. The same is true for Apple and Microsoft.

Furman argues that such business concentration is a leading cause of inequality and wage stagnation. Warren has come to believe in this same idea. As a senator, she can see how the ills of finance-- the industry’s concentration, its abuse of political power-- have been replicated across the American economy. Last June in Washington, she gave an important speech, naming a long new list of enemies-- oligopolistic companies like Comcast and Google and Walmart, which she blamed for sapping the life from the American economy. “When Big Business can shut out competition, entrepreneurs and small businesses are denied their shot at building something new and exciting.” In making a Jeffersonian argument, she has begun to deploy Jeffersonian rhetorical trappings. “As a people, we understood that concentrated power anywhere was a threat to liberty everywhere,” she argued. “Competition in America is essential to liberty in America.”

Warren has not committed to running for president, either publicly or, according to close associates of hers, privately. But if she does run, she will likely seek to channel working-class anger toward behemoth firms, their executives, and the government officials who coddle them. It’s not a terribly complicated case to build, since the headlines are so packed with the rent-seeking exploits of those firms: the continued predations of banks on their own customers; airline overbooking; life-saving allergy injections that cost hundreds of dollars; cable companies exacting ever-higher fees; the exposure of low-level workers to such erratic hours that it becomes impossible to establish a daily routine; a broad indifference to consumers.

The approach exudes a Trumplike hostility to Washington elites, but not necessarily to government. And nearly the entire Democratic agenda can be justified through its prism: Obamacare preserves freedom and loosens corporations’ grip on their employees, by allowing workers to switch jobs without fear of losing health insurance. Criminal-justice reform is an effort to secure liberty and equality from an abusive apparatus of the state.

A turn toward populism will never be enough to win back a state like West Virginia, which is now deep-red. And there are legitimate questions about whether a strident former Harvard professor, no matter her Oklahoma roots, can effectively purvey that message to a sufficiently broad audience. But Warren’s brand of populism could help cool white-working-class hostility toward the Democrats and persuade the likes of Greenberg’s focus-group members to switch allegiance again. Empathy with economic disappointment, and even anger over the status quo, might reduce the sense that Democrats are perpetrators of the status quo. And liberal populism would take the party beyond ineffectual arguments about Trump’s temperament. A populist critique of Trump would point to his fraudulence as an enemy of the system, a fraudulence that perfectly illustrates everything wrong with plutocracy.

…To win again, the Democrats don’t need to adopt an alien agenda or back away from policies aimed at racial justice. But their leaders would be well advised to change their rhetorical priorities and more directly address the country’s bastions of gloom. The party has been crushed-- not just in the recent presidential election, but in countless down-ballot elections-- by its failure to develop a message that can resonate with people beyond the core members of the Obama coalition, and by its unwillingness to blare its hostility to crony capitalism. Polling by the group Priorities USA Action shows that a stunning percentage of the voters who switched their allegiance from Obama to Trump believe that Democratic economic policies favor the rich-- 42 percent, nearly twice the number who consider that to be true of Trump’s agenda.

The makings of a Democratic majority are real. Demographic advantages will continue to accrue to the left. The party needs only to add to its coalition on the margins and in the right patches on the map. Doing that does not require the abandonment of any moral principles; persuasion is a different category of political activity from pandering. (On page 60 in this issue, Peter Beinart describes how Democrats might alter their language and policies regarding immigration to broaden appeal without sacrificing their principles.) A decent liberalism, not to mention a savvy party, shouldn’t struggle to accord dignity and respect to citizens, even if it believes some of them hold abhorrent views.

Victories in the culture wars of the past decade seemed to come so easily to liberals that they created a measure of complacency, as if those wars had been won with little cost. In actuality, the losers seethed. If the Democrats intend to win elections in 2018, 2020, and beyond, they require a hardheaded realism about the country that they have recently lacked-- about the perils of income stagnation, the difficulties of moving the country to a multicultural future, the prevalence of unreason and ire. For a Democratic majority to ultimately emerge, the party needs to come to terms with the fact that it hasn’t yet arrived.

This is how Democratic consultants get rich-- selling meaningless pap to frightened, easily manipulated candidates. This TV buy was never going to sway a single vote.

Eric Levitz, writing for New York Magazine yesterday offered one path: an iron worker with a great mustache coming for Paul Ryan’s seat. “Bruce Springsteen’s discography,” he wrote, “has taken on human form-- and now it’s trying to kick Paul Ryan out of Congress.” David Atkins, at the Washington Monthly, was right out of the gate within minutes of yesterday’s losses with the lesson the DCCC will never learn, at least not while Pelosi and Hoyer control it: the path forward lies in winning back Trump voters, not in courting Romney voters.
In July of 2016, Senator Chuck Schumer made a statement that will go down as one of the greatest political miscalculations in modern history: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”

This strategy undergirded every decision of the doomed Clinton campaign, from ignoring the white working class in her Rust Belt firewall, to chasing suburban Republican women in Missouri and the South. It is a strategy that establishment Democratic operatives continue to pursue to this day.

That same strategy may well have cost Democrats a House seat in last night’s special elections, where Democrat Jon Ossoff underperformed expectations in a loss in Georgia’s 6th district, while the more ideologically aggressive Democrat Archie Parnell dramatically overperformed expectations in a loss in South Carolina’s 5th.

The two districts in play last night that could not have better mirrored the dilemma facing Democrats over whether to pursue Trump-averse Republican suburban voters, or working class whites and Obama-Trump switchers. Georgia’s 6th District is full of the former: a traditionally heavy Republican district, it veered away from Donald Trump because its residents are less attuned to Trump’s economic populism and—it was believed—his appeals to bigotry. These are the very voters Clinton and Schumer salivated over, and the national Democratic Party pushed very hard for the seat, spending upwards of $5 million.

South Carolina’s 5th district is much more rural and hardscrabble, and was much more favorable to Trump. Establishment Democrats mostly ignored the race, spending no money there.

In GA-06, Jon Ossoff ran a deliberately anti-ideological campaign. Centrist think tank Third Way bragged that Ossoff used a “centrist message aimed at attracting disillusioned Republican voters.” South Carolina’s Parnell, despite his Goldman Sachs background, ran a much more hard-charging campaign of Democratic values.

…The lesson of the special elections around the country is clear: Democratic House candidates can dramatically outperform Clinton in deep red rural areas by running ideological, populist campaigns rooted in progressive areas. Poorer working class voters who pulled the lever for Trump can be swayed back to the left in surprisingly large numbers-- perhaps not enough to win in places like Kansas, Montana and South Carolina, but certainly in other more welcoming climes. Nor is there a need to subvert Democratic principles of social justice in order to accomplish this: none of the Democrats who overperformed Clinton’s numbers in these districts curried favor with bigots in order to accomplish it.

But candidates like Clinton and Ossoff who try to run inoffensive and anti-ideological campaigns in an attempt to win over supposedly sensible, wealthier, bourgeois suburban David-Brooks-reading Republican Romney voters will find that they lose by surprisingly wide margins. There is no Democrat so seemingly non-partisan that Romney Republicans will be tempted to cross the aisle in enough numbers to make a difference.

Goal Thermometer The way forward for Democrats lies to the left, and with the working classes. It lies with a firm ideological commitment to progressive values, and in winning back the Obama voters Democrats lost to Trump in 2016 without giving ground on commitments to social justice. It does not lie in the wealthy suburbs that voted for Romney over Obama in 2012, or in ideological self-effacement on core economic concerns.
Do you agree? So do we. Tap that thermometer and contribute what you can to candidates like Randy Bryce, Matt Coffay, Jenny Marshall, David Gill-- men and women who are values-driven and aren't likely to be swayed by DCCC centrism and cowardice, not now, not ever.

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At 6:29 AM, Blogger Steven Dorst said...

Nothing you said is wrong about the Democratic Party. But one big factor in the losses could well be election fraud!

There is little doubt that Interstate Crosscheck likely threw out registered voters who were entitled to vote. And that the "lost" voters were more likely to vote Democratic than to vote GOP.

More than that, there is no way to prove that the reported vote counts reflect the actual votes cast! Both districts use only Direct Record Electronic voting machines without a paper trail! There is NO way to prove that they reported the actual vote as there is: A) Nothing to audit, B) Nothing to recount, and C) No way to examine the software actually used - it's proprietary!

Democratic losses stem from multiple causes. The fecklessness of the Democratic Party "leadership" and consultants is what you tend to focus on. But other factors are in play - I think you should mention them occasionally.

At 7:54 AM, Anonymous Dorothy Reik said...

The Democratic Party needs to listen to Howie Klein!!!

At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ossoff started out as a progressive until the DCCC got their hands on him and turned him away from Medicare-for-All and away from a fairer tax system in their unending quest to force Democrats to sound more like moderate Republicans."

THIS is why I don't believe all the happy talk about how the Democrats are going to take over in 2018. THIS is why I refuse to believe that the Party can be repaired. THIS is why I will support all efforts to create a new party and leave Democrats in the dust.

And let's address 6:29's argument. Yes, it's a valid argument. But the Democrats have done NOTHING about this since HAVA was passed and Diebolding the vote became the norm. As I see it, THEY DON'T WANT TO CHANGE ANYTHING. They make too much money off of losing, and electoral fraud is what delivers the dollars.

At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with 8:39. The Democratic establishment appears brain dead. I see four inevitable crises emerging in the near future that Dems should be positioning themselves to take advantage of but they aren't, or simply don't want to because it might upset the donor class:

1) a major healthcare failure because Obamacare is already failing due to Republican sabotage, and Trumpcare--if it passes--will certainly kill it. And yet the Democrats can't agree on Medicare for all.

2) a student debt crisis now totaling over 1.4 trillion dollars and still growing with no refinancing or bankruptcy relief in sight. Dems should be pushing debt relief now since repayment in full (like the Greek debt crisis) na ga happen.

3) Another major recession is inevitable, almost certainly before the 2020 elections. Neo-liberal capitalism is failing on a worldwide scale. Increasing inequality, even as we reach near full employment continues to reduce demand. Thanks to near monopoly power among large business sectors, small business formation is failing, and large companies are no longer competing or investing in the future but simply engaging in financial engineering to increase share prices (and CEO compensation). Finally, the stock market is nearing bubble altitude with valuations in the stratosphere. This ain't gonna end well.

4) Climate change/global warming. It's happening more quickly than predicted. Trump and the Republicans are in full denial, in fact, they are busy locking in catastrophic failure by ensuring we can't respond in time. Democrats should be making this a major issue and demanding that corporate media start reporting it as if an asteroid were headed our way. But their response has been tepid at best. Pathetic!

Dems should have clear and easily explained responses to all of these crises. Ones that all its candidates agree on. But it is not even close to agreeing on single payer, student debt relief, an economic response to neo-liberal capitalism, or even a carbon tax. And I haven't even mentioned the Democratic non-response to the ongoing, permanent, unauthorized war(s) in the Middle East. In short, I think the Democratic Party is quickly becoming irrelevant.

At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dorothy, the democraps don't give a flying fuck about Howie. He's an irritant. He just doesn't know it... yet.

Steven and 8:39 are spot on. This has been ongoing for nearly 2 decades through 2 supposedly D admins and they did jack shit about voting verifiability and fairness; they even ran fraud in their own 2016 primary. So, yeah, they don't give a flying fuck about it.

9:39, the obamneycare failure was their vow to not include a PO (so sworn to the relevant lobbyists who then wrote the pos for the Ds). Each and every market "failure" is due to either the corporations colluding to make it look like market failure or, less likely, actual market failure. A PO would make each market failure moot because everyone would be covered if all the greedy corporations decided they couldn't clear a fat enough profit to make it worth their bother. The PO would also have been a competition to the greedy corporations keeping their obscene rate increases and policy restrictions in check.

The PO that obamanation unilaterally conceded, prior to the bill even being started, is why the ACA has failed. Someone like me who knows a thing or two might presume that the lobbyists who wrote the bill put this particular loophole in so that their corporate lords could collude to make it look like market failure instead of yet another violation of Sherman.

But a PO would have been progressive. And obamanation and MOST of the democraps are ANTI-progressive. So it's a religion thing with them.

Student debt is a bubble that they'll inflate until it bursts and takes our economy down with it... again. The lenders will be bailed out. And debtors will be crushed without any help. again.
Ditto for the WW neoliberal capitalism collapse. The rich will ride that horse until it dies underneath them. Again, bailouts for the rich and shit tacos for the rest.
Forget climate change. We'll burn until no more coal nor oil is underground or until humankind is culled (by us or by the planet, doesn't matter) to a puny number.

Ds have no answers because they rep only the money. And the money has both created these and will ride them to the bitter end (for laughs and profit). Thus, Ds have nothing. at. all. Never. Will.

At 7:49 PM, Blogger mainstreeter said...

To spend millions on a seat that will have to run again in a year and a half might have been better spent to wait it out while Handel does all the pick and shovel work under Trumpism and then frame the narative as a failed representative would seem to be a better plan. BTW isnt Nancy Pelousy past her sell by date?

At 6:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's worst than that, mainstreeter.

This only proves that:
sub-sentient voters still outnumber the barely sentient in the south and most gerrymandered R districts -- duh! that's why they gerrymandered them.

democraps can take a promising candidate and flip him, or they can primary him, or even defraud him (see: Bernie) snatching decisive defeat from the jaws of a closer defeat.

Even with this level of overt evil on display from the Rs and their sock puppet with the orange muskrat on his head, the democraps are so hapless and corrupt that they can't win.

Begs the question: How much worse would the Rs have to be for the democraps to be viewed as better? How much worse could the Rs even get without martial law?

Pelosi died 35 years ago. The money has been doing the "Weekend at Bernie's" thing with her ever since (and does anyone else see the irony in this?).

At 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happened down south is what ALWAYS happens down south. Hate wins over less hate. Evil wins over less evil. More corrupt beats less corrupt.

A democrat can't win. A waffling democrat can't win.

They're 0 out of 5 so far in the drumpfsterfire admin.

Pelosi wins by losing once again.

Now a thinking person might ask... what can be done? And a thinking person would see the only possible answer. But evidently nobody is a thinking person any more.


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