Thursday, August 09, 2018

How To Win In November


There was some excellent news for progressives Tuesday night. If you think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is wonderful, you're going to love Rashida Tlaib from Detroit. And James Thompson from Wichita was the first candidate Alexandria (with Bernie) went to campaign for after her own win. His win was a landslide. In southwest Michigan, Matt Longjohn is likely to prove himself to be one of the best members of the class of '19.

I'm not a big fan of identity politics. I'm happy Rashida will serve as a positive role model for Muslim women and Palestinian-Americans-- she will be the first member of both groups to be a member of Congress-- but the reason I'm so excited about her is because she has proven herself to be an effective progressive while she served in the Michigan legislature. That said, The Atlantic ran an interesting report by Elaine Godfrey about Netroots Nation over the weekend that is based on winning in November by putting together a multiracial coalition. That's good, as long as the candidates are the best candidates, although the point was mostly about voters rather than candidates per se. Alexandria: "Our swing voter is not red to blue. It’s nonvoter to vote."
The line was met with huge applause from the audience at Netroots Nation, the annual gathering for progressive candidates, activists, and organizers. Whereas last year’s conference attendees saw a gubernatorial candidate’s speech interrupted with shouts of “Trust black women,” this year’s felt like a very intentional tribute to people of color, especially women. The conference offered more than 20 training sessions and panels specifically addressing how to reach those voters, as well as the millions of eligible Americans who aren’t registered to vote. The majority of panelists and presenters, according to Netroots organizers, were people of color.

Democrats have been grappling with key questions about coalition building since the 2016 election: Should they prioritize winning back the voters they lost to Trump? Should they attempt to woo the white voters gradually fleeing the party? Progressives this weekend said, emphatically, no. It’s a genuine attempt to remake the Democratic Party at a time when racial and class tensions are the highest they’ve been since the 1960s-- and it’s also put them on a collision course with party leaders and other Democrats.

“I think Trump’s win scared the shit out of everybody,” said Anoa Changa, a progressive activist and the host of the podcast The Way With Anoa. “I think it’s been a wake-up call for a lot of people that we have to invest. We can’t just do the traditional model where we only talk to super voters.”

That doesn’t mean ignoring whites and Trump voters, she says. Instead, “it’s rejecting the notion that our way to victory is having a centrist, moderate right-leaning strategy that feels like we could peel off Romney Republicans, versus investing in communities of color, marginalized groups, and progressive white people,” Changa said. “There is this notion that … we can’t address the issues of race, systemic oppression, because we don’t want to piss these voters off. We have to find a way to do both.”

A key voting group that progressives want to mobilize consists of the more than 4 million voters who supported President Barack Obama in 2012 but didn’t vote in 2016. More than 50 percent of them were people of color, and almost one-quarter were under the age of 30, according to data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study. “If 2016 had happened with the same voter-turnout patterns as 2012 then [Hillary] Clinton would have won,” said Brian Schaffner, a political-science professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who helped conduct the survey. “Clearly turnout can influence outcomes.”

But it’s bigger than the Obama voters. Roughly 59 percent of black Americans and 48 percent of Hispanic Americans voted in 2016, compared to 65 percent of whites. If progressives could just close this gap, they argue, Democrats would win more often. They aim to do that by mobilizing already registered voters—and by registering new ones: Roughly 30 percent of the citizen voting-age population is unregistered, and those Americans are more likely to be young people and people of color. These are the people activists call the “New American Majority.”

The Democratic Party so far has leaned into economic messaging as a way to win in 2018: After the 2016 election, they unveiled “A Better Deal” aimed at appealing to moderates and weary Trump supporters. They’ve been backing Conor Lamb–type candidates who, through their backgrounds and a focus on jobs and wages, are able to come off as more independent. In 2016, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York told the New York Times last week, “there was a blind spot that we had as Democrats with respect to engaging with the American people around the economic anxiety that they continue to experience.”

But progressives are adamant that the only way to win in November and beyond is to be about more than economics, and that the right message-- the one that will appeal to progressive whites, as well as turning out more people of color to the polls-- invokes both race and class equally. Two Netroots trainings on developing a “Race-Class Narrative” were completely filled this weekend, with activists and organizers participating in mock-canvassing sessions in which they practiced delivering lines that contained both racial and economic messages. “The status quo has been not to talk about race, and there’s a myth out there is that if you talk about race you’ll lose,” said Causten Rodriguez-Wollerman, one of the leaders of the training and a strategist with the public-policy organization Demos. “You cannot build a multiracial coalition by being silent on race.”

Some Democrats have poked holes in this “emerging majority” strategy on logistical grounds. “I don’t think there’s a secret progressive nonvoter bloc that, if we just say the magic words, is gonna show up and, voila, fix the Democrats’ problems at the polls,” said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, the vice president for social policy and politics at Third Way, a think tank advocating for center-left ideas. Nonvoters, she said, are going to be hard to engage. “Is it easier to activate a whole bunch of people that haven’t voted in 20 years or persuade the people who are already showing up?”

To counter that, though, progressives offer up Alabama as a test case: In December, Doug Jones became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from the state in 25 years with the help of 96 percent of black voters. They also point to the Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, an African American woman who structured her campaign around minority empowerment and outreach in order to beat her more moderate primary opponent. To defeat the Republican Brian Kemp, Abrams is attempting to do what Obama did in 2008: build a coalition of progressive whites, but also turn out minorities to the polls at far greater numbers than usual. If Abrams can pull that off, writes Time’s Molly Ball, “the implications would be profound, not just for Georgia but for the whole region and potentially the nation.”

On Saturday, the final night of this year’s Netroots conference, a small group of young protesters from the “Black-Ass Caucus” took to the stage. “We will no longer be tokenized by so-called white allies,” one man shouted to the audience. Another protester, a young woman, criticized progressives who speak about economics and class without mentioning race. “Everything-- including class issues-- are built on race issues!” she yelled into the microphone.

“I’m a woman of color and people do not pay attention to us, even in the littlest things, but we are always the ones saving the Democratic Party,” the 27-year-old Ianthe Metzger, a staffer for the Human Rights Campaign and a Netroots attendee, told me earlier in the weekend. “Finally it feels like we have a say … It’s like finally, this is our moment.”
I'd be very happy to see Georgia elect a woman as governor, I'd be very happy to see Georgia elect an African-American as governor. I'd be happier yet to see Georgia elect an exceptionally good governor. Fortunately Stacey Abrams is all three in one. As the NY Times mentioned a couple of weeks ago, "Georgia’s captivating governor’s race between Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams has taken on the dimensions of a defining moment, one that will, regardless of outcome, determine what the state represents and how it is perceived. That voters chose these two candidates reflects how Americans are embracing politicians on the basis of culture and identity, and how Georgia’s politics are catching up with its rapid demographic change: The nonwhite population has grown to 40 percent from 29 percent since 1990. But Georgia’s political middle, long the dominant force behind the state’s thriving commerce and pragmatic leadership, suddenly finds itself all but abandoned."
Ms. Abrams, 44, a brainy Yale Law graduate from Atlanta, has leveraged the prospect of becoming the country’s first female African-American governor to nationalize her campaign and its fund-raising. By contrast, Mr. Kemp, 54, is a drawling agri-businessman from Athens who has revived a populist style that has lain dormant in Georgia since the late 1960s. Both campaigns say they are committed to maximizing turnout by their most rabid supporters rather than moderating in order to broaden their appeal to centrists and independents.

Each side frames the election of the other in doomsday terms. Mr. Kemp, the Democrats fear, will take Georgia the way of North Carolina and Indiana, which were tarnished by recent legislative battles over issues like gay rights and the use of public restrooms by transgender people. Republicans warn that Ms. Abrams, who hopes to expand Medicaid health coverage for the poor and disabled, will raise taxes they have cut, reverse the state’s job growth, deplete its rainy-day surplus and threaten its superior bond ratings.

...To those in between, the chasm between Mr. Kemp, who has adopted President Trump’s language on guns and immigration, and Ms. Abrams, who supports an assault rifle ban and says her “soul rests with those seeking asylum,” feels as vast as Tallulah Gorge.

“It would be nice if we had a more moderate option,” said Kathrine DeLash, who works at a pet store in suburban Cobb County and doesn’t identify with either political party. “You don’t get that with the candidates we have right now. The people who shout the most to their own people get the most attention, and it doesn’t matter what they’re saying as long as they shout the loudest.”
The Times has it half right: Kemp is an extremist. But Abrams is not. Her policy agenda is widely popular with the American people and the only reason people call her as extreme as Kemp is because she's black. I would have expected a more discerning look from The Times in their hunt for the elusive, beloved middle. People like the policies Abram is offering even if some of them are a little tepid about electing Georgia's first woman governor and first black governor. Get over it; it's 2018, not 1875. And, luckily, the "middle" is defined by actual voters, not by the privileged members of the elite media.

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At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it useful to discuss how a PARTY may win when no matter which PARTY wins, America loses?

um.. no... so let's all discuss it, shall we. We're too stupid to do much else.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Anthony said...

Justice Democrats are pretty clear on this: Populist left is the way to win. Establishment will never acknowledge this.

At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless and until the "democratic" Party stands against corporatist rule, they might as well just join the Republican Party and stop lying to the American voters.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Marc McKenzie said...

How to win in November--why, go out and vote for Democrats. It's just that simple.

Of course, you can choose to go into the purity pit and not do anything, just pout and sit in the corner because there's no one pure enough and let the GOP win and let that party assrape the country while you mutter, "See? You should have voted for someone affliated with Bernie!!"

Fuck that. Just go and vote in the fall. Hold your fucking nose and vote for the Democrat. There is no other option, and if you think there is, you're a damned fool.

@Anonymous--Were you born this stupid, or did you have to earn a degree? Jesus Christ, the GOP is being exposed as a corrupt, racist party that is fast speeding towards the land of authoritarianism....and yet you STILL howl about those "corporatist Dems"?

At 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, vote for the Blue Dog or the New Dem. They only vote like the Republican would.
Great strategy to maintain the status quo. No one really wants change anyway, right Nancy?

At 6:12 PM, Blogger Anthony said...

That's why when given a choice between republican and republican-lite, people almost always go with the republican. Unless they're an accused pedophile who still somehow manages to almost win, but gets edged out by the narrowest of margins. "Hey, vote for me. I still suck but I don't stalk thirteen year olds at the mall." And a progressive would've destroyed in OH-12.

At 9:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marc REALLY wants to be on a winning team and cares nothing for improving society... ever... at all.

The Nazi party is pure evil, this is true. The democraps are just a tiny bit less evil. This is also true.

But every cycle, the Nazis get worse and the democraps get worse. This is also true. Review the past 40 years if you doubt it.

Now, Marc, who is the fucking imbecile and who is trying to figure out a way... ANY way to make a meaningful difference? Easy question... for a non-imbecile.

At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only Republican Trolls believe that Winning Is Everything.

How one wins, and who the winner is as a person, are far more important in the long run. Look at obamanation as a perfect example. He won, then dropped the disguise and became the "moderate 1985 Reagan Republican".

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Anthony said...

The only explanation I can think of as to how Obama fooled so many people on the campaign trail (besides not being a republican, which was toxic at the time) was that he had such a great PR team. They actually won an advertising award for that. Even back in 2008 I was able to recognize fake populism when I saw it. There was just no substance in his campaign rhetoric.

At 8:50 AM, Blogger someITguy said...

The purpose of identity politics is to derail economic progressivism.
Along with LGBT rights and gun control, it is intended as a way to not talk about economics, ever, but still be considered a progressive. To use up all the political oxygen if possible.

Remember that when Sander's proposed medicare for all, Hillary wanted to know how that would cure racism.

I see Trump's election as the culmination of a chicken game, between the Democrats and their constituants, intended to get the Democrats to pay attention to economics again.

Identity politics is the Democrats doubling down rather than coming around.

At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:16, not true. Colossally stupid leftys, terrified of the Nazis, also believe winning is everything. Why else would anyone ask/demand that we hold our noses and vote for fetid shit just so Nazis lose???

Anthony, I am proud to have never once voted for obamanation. In 2008 I voted for Cynthia McKinney.

At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such "democrats" can't be lefties as you accuse, 11:42. Clearly they are enthralled by Mammon, for their voting records testify to their true loyalty. He who controls the gold wins, right?


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