Friday, November 07, 2014

"We have a huge problem: People do not think the recovery has affected them" (Democratic pollster Celinda Lake)


"We have a huge problem: People do not think the recovery has affected them, and this is particularly true of blue collar white voters. What is the Democratic economic platform for guaranteeing a chance at prosperity for everyone? Voters can’t articulate it. In the absence of that, you vote for change.

"Our number one imperative for 2016 is to articulate a clear economic vision to get this country going again."

-- Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, to's
Greg Sargent, in
"What really went wrong for Democrats"

"Obama had a historic opportunity to be the next Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Instead, he chose to save the rich, and let them eat everyone else. This was a choice, he could have done other things."
-- Ian Welsh, in a post today,
"Could Obama have fixed the economy?"

by Ken

Yesterday, in "A Post About Why Democrats Got Trounced -- Without Once Mentioning Steve Israel," Howie quoted an important chunk from Greg Sargent's post from yesterday morning, "What really went wrong for Democrats," focusing on a problem he's heard much talk about from Democratic pollsters: "the failure of the Democrats’ economic message to win over persuadable voters."

Democratic candidates in many places just got killed among voting groups like blue-collar wh ites and older voters, and indications are that once again it was, as Bill Clinton once put it, the economy, stupid. I think this is important enough to bear repeating, so here's Greg again (with links onsite):
“We have a problem,” Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who polled on the Kentucky Senate race, told me. “If we’re really going to expand our chances in the Senate and House, we have to appeal to a wider group than we are now.”

The exit polls show that candidates like Mark Pryor, Kay Hagan, Bruce Braley and Mark Udall lost by anywhere from large to truly massive margins among non-college whites and older voters. That’s also true of the overall national electorate.


Greg advises "treat[ing] these exit polls with a grain of salt," says "the pollsters I spoke to agree that this gets at a fundamental problem Democrats face."
These pollsters argued that this was above all the result of a failure to connect with these voters’ economic concerns. At the root of these concerns, Mellman says, are stagnating wages and the failure of the recovery’s gains to achieve wider, more equitable distribution. Democrats campaigned on a range of economic issues — the minimum wage, pay equity, student loan affordability, expanded pre-kindergarten education — but these didn’t cut through people’s economic anxieties, because they didn’t believe government can successfully address them.

“People are deeply suspicious that government can deliver on these problems,” Mellman says, in a reference to the voter groups that continue to elude Democrats. “And they are not wrong. We’ve been promising that government can be a tool to improve people’s economic situation for decades, and by and large, it hasn’t happened.”
We'll come back to the question of why this should have benefited Republicans so handsomely, since DWT readers undoubtedly know that the one group of people all but guaranteed to be less able to address any of these issues is the Republicans. For now I think it's important to take note of the existence and scope of this economic discontent, especially in an election that we were told wasn't going to be about the economy.


As it happens, this has been in my head since this brief Tuesday-night post of Ian Welsh's, "Two Charts Show Why the Obama Economy Sucks":
The Employment-Population Ratio (measures the portion of the working age population which is employed, from the BLS):

Median Household Income:

All of the blather about how the unemployment rate has decreased, the stock market is up, and so on, conceals the fact that there are less jobs for ordinary people, and they pay less. Yes, the rich are doing great, but that’s all.

Why are Democrats losing the Senate? I won’t say it’s just this, it’s not. But if the economy was actually good for most people, they probably would be holding it.


Finding himself swamped with claims that the president couldn't have fixed the economy, and that "wage stagnation has been going on for decades," Ian yesterday revisited a question he has dealt with before, "Could Obama have fixed the economy?" He says that this argument, "to give it more courtesy than it deserves," is "bullshit." He refers us back to an August 2010 post, "What Can Obama Really Do?," but then covers the ground again -- "because," he says, "you will never get good leadership if you keep excusing your leaders for betraying you."

He breaks it down, in recognition of the Republican-controlled House the president had to deal with beginning in 2011, into two parts: first "something that needed Congressional approval," which is to say the botched job of the stimulus, and then "all the things Obama could have done which DID NOT require Congressional approval." The point he keeps coming back to is that "Obama is a right-wing president," a Reaganite, that "he did not fix the economy because he did not want to. Or rather, keeping rich people rich was more important to him."

After going through his case, Ian writes:
History does not grade on a curve “well, we aren’t all chewing on our boots”. Obama had a historic opportunity to be the next Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Instead, he chose to save the rich, and let them eat everyone else. This was a choice, he could have done other things.

Nor is this a noble failure: he did not try. He did not use the real tools he had at his disposal.

I note, finally, again, because I know most readers will have heard over and over again that Obama saved you from armaggedon, that the US economy cannot be fixed until the wealth, and therefore power, of the very rich is broken. It can not be done. However bad you think it would have been if that had been allowed to happen, this economy will continue to get worse because it was not done.

The Federal Reserve has printed trillions of dollars, and given them to the rich. Imagine another world, where it had printed that money and used it to restructure the economy for prosperity and growth again.

That, my American friends, is the future Obama stole from you. Indeed, as the rest of the developed world would have followed his lead, stole from all of us.


The short answer, I guess, especially given the fact that they did, is that they were there. They presented themselves as the alternative to the status quo, without being much more specific than that. As I pointed out Wednesday night, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank noted in his column "For Republicans, the hard part is about to begin" that the very absence of any stated or even implied agenda in the 2014 Republican campaign now creates all sorts of problems for the newly all-Republican-controlled Congress, where differences between (or even among) factions may be as bitter as differences between R's and Dems.

I said we would be returning to Greg Sargent's "What really went wrong for Democrats," and here we are.

It certainly mattered, Greg says, that so many battles were fought in states where the president was already seriously unpopular, "which helped ensure that the Democratic Party owned people’s economic anxieties." This, he says, "fed into the broader Republican strategy of seizing on every crisis that came along to sow doubts about Obama's -- and government's -- competence."

Such themes were sounded by a number of the Democratic pollsters Greg talked to.

• Geoff Garin (who polled the Iowa Senate race): "Republicans were exceptionally successful in nationalizing the election in most places, and on focusing voters' anger and anxiety on Obama. Voters were particularly inclined to punish whoever is running things. Democrats owned the status quo in voters' minds."

• Andrew Maxfield (who polled the Arkansas and Alaska Senate races): "This election -- like 2006 -- was in large part about accountability. It became a referendum on perceived government incompetence. ISIS, Ebola, and the border fit squarely in there but it wasn’t exclusively about competence. It was also about who government is working for economically. Linking specific Democrats to Obama became a catch-all for that broader case."

• Then there's the pollster we heard from at the top of this post. "Voters want to hear a more comprehensive message about how Democrats would move the economy forward," Greg writes. "Pollster Celinda Lake, who polled on multiple races, says the broader failure to articulate this -- from the President on down -- led these voters to opt instead for vague promises of a change in direction."


By which I mean, first, the deformation of all of our political discourse by the carte blanche the Right has won to lie all the time. Couple this with its increased sophistication at cobbling lies and obfuscations, and the electorate's growing divorce from so many aspects of reality, and reality is easily steam-rollered by delusion.

Lying below this -- and around and above it -- is the long-running, bountifully financed right-wing campaign against reality. The point isn't what percentage of individual races all that right-wing moolah has tipped, but the steady and unrelenting toll it has taken on voters' grasp of, or even interest in, reality.

Except of the starkest pocket-book kind. Ironically, Democrats in 2014 have gone a long way toward turning that reality over, free of charge, to the forces of darkness.

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At 12:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see we are still on the "but what's your agenda" meme?

If we are reduced to invoking the "forces of darkness" then it should be reasonably clear that the the more forceful and darker are these "forces of darkness," the less likely it is that they would adhere to the rules preferred by the forces of light.

I'll spare you what was an introductory rant to get right to the point.

The "Agenda"???

(First, "the agenda" has been on clear, public display for some 35 years.)

It is most succinctly and forcefully articulated by Michele Parenti:

"There are a lot of people who still don’t get it. They don’t get it that these guys are playing for keeps, that they are going after you, that they are not going to leave any little bit left for you. There’s only one thing that the ruling circles throughout history have ever wanted, and that’s everything. There’s only one thing they want: all the wealth, the
treasures, and the profitable returns, all the choice lands and forest and game and herds and harvests and mineral deposits and precious metals of the earth, all the productive facilities and gainful inventiveness and technologies, all the control positions of the state and other major institutions, all public supports and subsidies, privileges and immunities, all the protections of the law and none of its constraints, all the services and comforts and luxuries and advantages of civil society with none of the taxes and none of the costs. Every ruling class in history has wanted only this: all the rewards and none of the burdens. Their operational code is, We have a lot. We can get more. We want it all. And if you don’t know that, you’re in a sad place. If you know that and you don’t know anything else, you know more than if you know everything else and you don’t know that."

From Parenti's "Fascism a False Revolution"
I'd be happy to provide this quote on a laminated, pocket/purse-sized card, for easy reference by our ostrich-like media pals, if only someone can distribute them to the tragically, aggressively ignorant souls.

I'll even throw in some for every existing Democratic member of congress.

PS: I'll also send Bernie Sanders $100 every time the Dems mount a filibuster in the senate.

At 2:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS: More from that Parenti piece:

"Conservatives complain whenever we fight back; they say we’re engaging in “class war.” Well, I believe it is class war, but I also have another name for it. When people unite against the abuses of wealth and privilege, when they activate themselves and militantly attack the hypocrisies and lies of the powers that be, when they fight back and become the active agents of their own destiny, when they withdraw their empowering responses and refuse to toe that line, I call that “democracy.” Their first loyalty is to the dollar; our first loyalty is to democracy and to the well- being of our society and our Mother Earth."

John Puma

At 6:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...the deformation of all of our political discourse by the carte blanche the Right has won to lie all the time."

That wasn't a right won by the Right. that is all part of the corporatist plan.

Under corporatism, the people are only told what is expected of them. Anything else leads to a disruption of control and a reduction in productivity. The people are but trained monkeys to deliver the goods, and the media's job is to deliver the message of the day. The Right is used to deliver this message from the corporatist overlords, "covered" by the media for consumption by the people.

As long as people continue to ignore the fact that the media is intended merely to distribute propaganda and not real information, this system will continue to ensure that democracy remains dead in its grave.

At 4:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lables on the charts are back-assward.


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