Friday, July 13, 2018

Can The Democrats Make It Work This Time? Not Likely But Here's How They COULD


Meet Dan Sena, DCCC Executive Director (the one on the right)

Here's how the DCCC staff Hive Mind works: we have to win this cycle so we'll be worth more as consultants next year. Here's how the DCCC leadership Hive Mind works: we have to win this cycle so we can... get the leadership back and do something or other... you know, whatever Pelosi and Hoyer think we need to do. This cycle they're being handed a win on a silver platter because, well, you know: Trump. And even they have figured out that no matter how repulsive a punch bowl full of turds they offer the American people, they'll win. Nothing could be as bad as Trump and his rubber stamp, enabler Congress, not even Jeff Van Drew (although maybe Kyrsten Sinema is a bridge too far, even this fraught cycle). The DCCC is expert at one thing (other than losing): lesser of two evils politics-- so 2018 is made for them.

The summer issue of the Washington Monthly features an essay by Paul Glastris, Winning Is Not Enough that I want to add some notes to. "Democrats," he wrote in his policy-oriented piece, "are focused on taking back power-- but our democracy depends on them keeping it. To do that, they have to start thinking differently." By "Democrats," he means the party leaders, not the grassroots. The party leaders seen an opportunity, much like Rahm Emanuel saw in 2006 to sneak a shitload of crap candidates into Congress as Democrats. This was the rise of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- ex-Republicans, New Dems, Blue Dogs, corrupt careerists. But in 2006, Democrats and Independents flocked to the polls to defeat Republicans and they didn't look closely at what they were voting for. The DCCC and DSCC are counting-- probably correctly-- on the same thing happening in November. Then in 2020, we'll have a repeat of 2008, when Obama came to power, 2020 will be even bigger for the Dem because people will be coming out to the polls to drive a silver spike through Señor Trumpanzee's heart and more Democrats will win. Then comes 2022. "Why the hell is this horrible Republican-lite jerk my Congressman!" So, like 2010... the results are easy to see.

Now to Glastris, editor in chief of the Washington Weekly. He sees November the same way I do: even the DCCC won't be able to screw up a Democratic win. And the Democrats have a tiny shot to win the Senate back. And he sees 2020 the way I do too. "The Senate map will be much more even," he wrote. "Trump’s approval numbers are at or near historic lows and are likely to slide further if Democrats do regain a House majority this fall and use it to launch aggressive investigations into Trump’s manifold improprieties. Among the dozens of potential presidential primary candidates, the party ought to be able to find one who can beat him. If they do, then Democrats could find themselves in control of both the White House and Congress in January 2021." And he worries about what I was just talking about: 2022, which no one in party leadership cares about-- literally (they've told me).

As Democrats think and argue about how to win back power, and what policies to implement when they do, one crucial fact is missing from the conversation: it will take something very special-- some very new thinking-- to avoid the fate that always befalls Democrats, namely, losing control of government after two years.

There was a time when divided government didn’t have to mean bad government. That time has passed. If the Obama years showed anything, it is that, when in opposition, the modern Republican Party has no goal beyond blocking the Democratic agenda, whatever that may be, and will transgress hitherto undisputed democratic norms to do so. Operationally, the GOP’s governing objectives have devolved to two base goals: transferring wealth upward, and staying in power. Because the former goal is unpopular, achieving the latter increasingly requires the party to rely on anti-democratic means: voter ID laws and voter roll purges designed to suppress minority and youth turnout; hyper-partisan gerrymandering; filling the federal judiciary with ideological conservatives committed to weakening the power of unions and enhancing that of corporations; and so on. (That’s all on top of constitutional features, like the Electoral College and the Senate, that give the GOP representation that is out of proportion to its votes.)

The election of Donald Trump has pushed the Republican Party even further in this direction, to the point where it is now openly enabling corruption and autocracy. Republican leaders have tried to stymie the Russia investigation. They have supported Trump’s effort to get the Justice Department to prosecute his political enemies. They have refused to investigate his brazen violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution (from, among other things, foreign governments spending lavishly at Trump hotels). They have barely raised a word of protest, much less taken meaningful action, when Trump undermines relationships with America’s democratic allies, does favors for authoritarian adversaries, and says nice things about white nationalists here and abroad. Republican lawmakers uncomfortable with their party’s drift are being forced either to fall in line or leave office, because base GOP voters, fed by right-wing media, demand nothing less. Under such circumstances, no good-- and a lot of harm-- can come from Democrats losing Congress in 2022 and sharing power with the Republicans.

The fact that America now has only one party committed to small-d democracy changes everything. It’s no longer acceptable for Democrats to look at politics as a way to win the next election so as to jam through a bunch of their preferred policies before the Republicans inevitably take back power. They must instead see the purpose of politics as building sustained power for Democrats, period-- but, unlike the other side, they must do this in part by strengthening the democratic process, not by undermining it. If passing this or that liberal policy helps in that effort, fine, pass it. If not, don’t. The overriding aim has to be getting and holding power-- not for its own sake, but to keep the flame of democratic self-government alive unless and until the Republican Party abandons its authoritarian ways or is replaced by a new, small-d democratic party. Indeed, such a transition, which many committed conservatives and lifelong Republicans are now desperate to see happen, is only likely to come about if the Republican Party is locked out of power for several cycles in a row.

Since 2016, various factions on the left have debated whether Democrats’ strategy should revolve around boosting turnout among its base while drawing in more highly educated suburban white voters, or, on the other hand, trying to regain the support of rural and working-class whites.

They’re asking the wrong question. The truth is, a Democrat could probably eke out a win in 2020 by following either approach. But merely winning isn’t enough. To save our democracy, Democrats need to win big. They not only have to beat Donald Trump in 2020, but also have to achieve majorities in the House and Senate that are big and stable enough to survive the 2022 midterms. Doing that will require winning back states and districts that they lost in 2014 and 2016, taking others that have long been in GOP hands, and governing in a way that keeps those states and districts from turning red again. That will mean both turning out their base and making inroads among the white working class.

Though shrinking as a demographic, whites without a college degree still make up 45 percent of the electorate, and they dominate in many swing states and in exurban and rural areas where Democrats need to make inroads. As the Center for American Progress has shown, if Hillary Clinton had enjoyed the same high turnout among African Americans in 2016 as Obama did in 2012, she still would have lost, but had she matched Obama’s share of the white working-class vote, she’d have taken Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Florida, and Ohio and won easily.

The dilemma for Democrats is that many of the issues that resonate with their base—gun control, racial justice, support for immigrants—hurt them in exurban and rural areas. That leads many moderates to advise downplaying “identity politics.” The problem with that advice is that, besides being wrong on principle, following it would risk alienating the base voters whose votes are crucial to winning.

How, then, do Democrats square that circle?

The answer is twofold. To maximize the voting power of its core supporters, the party must get over its squeamishness and aggressively push policies designed to raise turnout among young people and minorities. At the same time, to expand its geographic reach, it needs to introduce new ideas into its agenda that appeal both to the base and to rural and working-class whites, or at least to the persuadable among them, such as the millions who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016.

Fortunately, if Democrats do take back at least one house of Congress in November (and I’m well aware that this is far from guaranteed), they will have a powerful platform from which to formulate new ideas. The question is whether they will use that power shrewdly. The future of American democracy may ride on the answer.

A congressional majority gives a party the power to reframe its policies, reset voters’ expectations, and define the terms of the next presidential election. In the 1990s, then Speaker Newt Gingrich pioneered a new style of far-right partisanship, attacked official expertise, and promoted the privatization of Social Security—paths George W. Bush followed as president. During Obama’s second term, congressional Republicans normalized partisan investigations of non-scandals (Benghazi and IRS), fetishized the repeal of Obamacare, and, at the instigation of House conservatives, blew up bipartisan immigration reform, leaving that issue to fester-- all actions that paved the way (intentionally or not) for Donald Trump.

Should Democrats win in November, they too can use Congress to shape the political landscape to their advantage-- not nihilistically, like the Republicans, but not naively, either. They need to understand that moving policy must take a back seat to building their long-term power. They shouldn’t be afraid to force Republicans to take vote after tough vote on such popular-with-the-public issues as infrastructure and gun safety. The legislation should be as strong as the Democratic caucus will allow and aimed not at winning the president’s signature but at drawing his veto. In that way, voters in 2020 can decide who’s on whose side.

Even more importantly, Democrats should use their control of Congress to hammer out a positive policy vision that appeals both to the base and to persuadable Trump voters. This they can do even if they only win back the House (winning the Senate, though highly unlikely, would give them the additional power to block Trump’s judicial nominations and end the legislative filibuster).

...Republicans are attempting to maintain their long-term power by subverting democracy. The corollary is that Democrats can win long-term power by strengthening it. When it comes to elections, the modern GOP generally tries to make it harder to vote, because obstacles to voting tend to hit key Democratic constituencies-- young people, low-income people, minorities-- the hardest.

The first big idea that Democrats should pursue once they control Congress, therefore, is to champion an electoral reform agenda centered around increasing the number of citizens who cast ballots. They should conduct wide-ranging hearings on every aspect of the electoral system, including its vulnerability to hacking. They should then seek out the best ways to make the system more secure and voter friendly and incorporate those solutions into a major piece of proposed legislation, a New Voting Rights Act.

One key component of that legislation should be universal vote by mail, otherwise known as vote at home (VAH). Under VAH, all registered voters are mailed their ballots several weeks prior to an election, which they either mail back or drop off at a secure site. The system is almost impossible to hack, leaves a paper trail, and neutralizes suppression techniques like voter ID. Best of all, it increases turnout, especially among young people and low-turnout voters generally-- exactly who Democrats need to mobilize. When Colorado first shifted to VAH in 2014, for instance, overall turnout grew by 3.3 percentage points; the eighteen-to-twenty-four cohort saw a double-digit increase. In 2016, Utah allowed counties to conduct their elections totally by mail. The counties that did so saw turnout rise 5 to 7 percentage points-- and nearly 10 points higher among voters twenty-five to thirty-four-- compared to the counties that didn’t.

...All it takes is a majority vote in Congress and a presidential signature to add a state, and the country has done so thirty-seven times since its founding. The danger for Democrats if they grant statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico in 2021 is a backlash in red states that could cost some Democratic lawmakers their seats in 2022. The upside is four additional Senate seats and six additional House seats that would almost certainly be added to the Democratic column in 2022 and for many years to come, plus seven additional Electoral College votes.

When it comes to crafting policy, Democrats face a dilemma. They’re the party that believes in the power of government to solve problems. But while polls consistently show that most Americans want Washington to do more on a number of fronts, from health care to infrastructure to education to the environment, polls just as consistently show that voters, and especially the white working class, don’t trust Washington to do these things right-- because it’s too bureaucratic, too wasteful, and too corrupt.

Conservatives like to focus on the latter findings to make themselves feel better, liberals on the former. But if they want to win, Democrats need to get out of their comfort zone, stop telling themselves that the voters are being inconsistent, and start hearing what they’re actually saying: if you want their support for more government action, first show them your plan for government reform.

How do Democrats thread the needle of urging government reform without falling into the trap of trying to outdo conservatives on bashing big government? One promising way out of that pickle is to focus on where some of the most egregious waste and fraud is really happening: private contracting. Today, the biggest profligacy in government contracting is in “service contracting”: that is, outsourcing to private consulting firms quotidian work (say, procuring new software and training staff to use it) that could be, and often was, done in-house. “Walk into any federal agency office and you’ll see service contractors and civil servants sitting side by side, doing the same work, indistinguishable other than the employer listed on their badges,” Gilad Edelman reported in these pages last year. The only difference is that service contractors cost the government, on average, nearly twice as much as civil servants, with typically no improvement in outcomes.
UPDATE: Critique

One member of Congress who reads DWT wasn't happy with Glastris' framing. "I think that the article is half-right at best. These are actually the GOP’s issues not ours:
  gun control, racial justice, support for immigrants
They’re on the opposite side, of course, but these are the things that they want to talk about. We should be talking about these things instead:
Increase Social Security and Medicare, eliminate taxes on the poor and middle class, free public college, universal healthcare and pensions, higher minimum wages, healthier food, water and air.

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At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Dorothy Reik said...

When I asked Pelosi when we were going to have candidates who could win mid-term elections she laughed at me.

At 9:08 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Yep & here's why.

At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who wrote this? How can you cut and paste what I've been saying all these years and still expect voters to elect more and much worse democraps?

Your parallels of '18 to '06 and '20 to '08 and, inevitably, '22 to '10... aren't these exactly what I've been writing for the past year?

" will take something very special-- some very new thinking-- to avoid the fate that always befalls Democrats, namely, losing control of government after two years."

It is so much simpler than that. Well, yes, new thinking... like maybe they could look up the transcripts of all of congress' debates on stuff from '33 through '68? Pay particular attention to what THOSE DEMOCRATS were saying and doing.

The democraps would simply need to show results. Think of something that is AFU and FIX THE FUCKING THING. Then lather, rinse and repeat. And go nuclear in the senate, if you don't have 75, so you can pass shit through mcturtle's intransigence.

The mandate of the electorate isn't any mystery. CU, voting, enforcing Sherman, reinstating Glass Steagall... and ENFORCE FUCKING LAWS! There's more, of course, but putting trump in prison for money laundering, cheney in prison for torture, blankfein and mnuchin in prison for fraud... and splitting up each and every colossus on wall street... would do as a start.
MFA is a no-brainer and should pass by Valentine's day of 2020.

But here's the rub. The democraps are AGAINST all of these things because their donors are anathema to each and every one. So they won't do any of them. Instead they'll conjure up some mythical issue, like obamanation did with health "care", to impress the voters... except they won't be impressed and they'll flee in '22 just like they did in '10.

So... 'splain to me just how electing more democraps, WORSE than the pile of shit that rahm puked up in '08, will make any fucking difference. You keep saying hold your nose and do it... but just HOW will that matter?

It didn't matter in '06-'10. DID IT?!?

At 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"To save our democracy, Democrats need to win big. They not only have to beat Donald Trump in 2020, but also have to achieve majorities in the House and Senate that are big and stable enough to survive the 2022 midterms."

Were you born after 2011? We did this before. We put a solid house majority in place in 2006 in response to cheney's wars and torture and bush's tax cuts... The democraps did nothing to earn it.
But there was that little economic crash in 2008 which turned a McCain 6 point lead into a 5 point deficit... and got even more and worse rahm emmanual democraps added to the house and created a 60-40 senate AND put obamanation into the Grant Park revival and white house.

So... we already did this. How'd it work out??

Oh, I forgot. You were born after 2011... well, the short version is this:
democraps refused to earn it; gave their donors everything; cut taxes; handed the lives of 33 million more to health corporations under penalty of the IRS; snuffed out thousands of innocents by drone; offered more austerity than even john boner could abide... basically said to their voters "GFY assholes". So in 2010 15 million of them stayed home...

end result... trump, the Nazi party and ever worsening democraps.

So... let's try that again?!?!? Fuck no! Only an imbecile would do THAT again.


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