LOST CAUSE: Dems, It’s Time to Dump Dixie
December 8, 2014 9:30 AM   Subscribe

"With Mary Landrieu’s ignominious exit, the Democrats will have lost their last senator in the Deep South. And that’s a good thing. They should write it off—because they don’t need it." Michael Tomasky's 12.08.2014 column provoked a storm of controversy, outraging many, particularly conservative commentators. Meanwhile, white flight from southern Democrats doomed Landrieu in the Deep South, where the parties are nearly completely divided by race. 'Democrats have been worried about the African-American vote in Louisiana for months. But what really doomed Sen. Mary Landrieu's reelection bid was the near-monolithic white vote against her.' Tomasky is calling for the death of Dean's 50 state strategy.

But Tomasky doesn't say this as a mere contrarian. It is a position he has come to quite reluctantly according to his own account. 'My friend the political scientist Tom Schaller said all this back in 2008, in his book Whistling Past Dixie. I didn’t want to agree with Schaller then, but now I throw in the towel.'

But if the Democrats will not rise again in the South, is it right politically to officially give up? According to Tomasky, it is - to save the soul of the Democratic party. "But it’s not just a question of numbers. The main point is this: Trying to win Southern seats is not worth the ideological cost for Democrats. As Memphis Rep. Steve Cohen recently told my colleague Ben Jacobs, the Democratic Party cannot (and I’d say should not) try to calibrate its positions to placate Southern mores: “It’s come to pass, and really a lot of white Southerners vote on gays and guns and God, and we’re not going to ever be too good on gays and guns and God.”

Cohen thinks maybe some economic populism could work, and that could be true in limited circumstances. But I think even that is out the window now.'
posted by VikingSword (266 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why conflate "try to convince people in the South to vote for the existing platform" and "totally change the platform to try and win over Southerners"? This article seems to be arguing against the latter, and entirely ignoring the possibility of the former.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:38 AM on December 8, 2014 [18 favorites]


The main point is this: Trying to win Southern seats is not worth the ideological cost for Democrats.

Wrong. Trying to win Southern Seats by being Republican Lite isn't worth it. If you're going to be a Democrat, stand up and be clear and quit pandering. Re-frame the issues. Of course gays could be allowed to marry, 'cause who wants the government in your private life? Rinse, repeat.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:39 AM on December 8, 2014 [173 favorites]


I could not agree more. The south is a lost cause and even S FL can't be depended on to get out and vote for the party they overwhelmingly support during presidential elections. I just wish the dems at the national level would punish the southern states and cut funding for everything except Medicare and anything else that helps the poor.
posted by photoslob at 9:43 AM on December 8, 2014


You know, one of the most valuable things I learned in high school was in AP Government, when our teacher asked "what is the purpose of a political party?" We all tossed out some ideas - the purpose is to promote their values, to make the country their idea of 'better', to represent their constituents, etc. Then she said, "No. The purpose of a political party is to get candidates elected." Then she just let that sit for a sec.

I'm sure this won't be breaking news to anyone here, but for a 16 year old kid it changed everything about how I saw politics.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:44 AM on December 8, 2014 [50 favorites]


The first article is so infuriating. I mean:

Let the GOP have it and run it and turn it into Free-Market Jesus Paradise.

What the fuck, I actually live here, thank you. I have a queer, liberal, awesome community here. We're not done fighting.
posted by a hat out of hell at 9:45 AM on December 8, 2014 [149 favorites]


Yeah. I know NC isn't the Deep South but, despite its recent shittiness, I love that state and it has so many good points and the potential to be so much better. And almost everyone I know there is liberal as fuck. They're outnumbered, but they exist in droves.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:47 AM on December 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


I can think of no better way to send the message to African Americans: "We never really gave a shit about the plight of blacks in the south; we only gave it lip service in order to win elections. And now that your demographic is no longer helping us win seats, we're not even going to bother keeping up appearances anymore. Good luck surviving in that steaming racist hellscape. Dems out!"
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:47 AM on December 8, 2014 [132 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher has it exactly right. The way Democrats frame issues betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the audience they're trying to address. For the Party of Empathy, they've done a shit poor job of it. Considering events of the last seven years, it's incomprehensible to me how Democrats squandered the opportunity to craft a message of economic populism that appealed to at least some poor and middle class southern whites.
posted by echocollate at 9:47 AM on December 8, 2014 [29 favorites]


They've forgotten how to do anything but play defense, whether they're in power or out of it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:48 AM on December 8, 2014 [40 favorites]


I just wish the dems at the national level would punish the southern states and cut funding for everything...

No? A party that "punishes" regions for not voting for them doesn't sit well with me for some reason.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 9:50 AM on December 8, 2014 [30 favorites]


LOST CAUSE: The Entire U.S.
posted by holybagel at 9:50 AM on December 8, 2014 [16 favorites]


Ted Nugent is just fine and so are you
Begich was Republican Lite.  He was a man without friends, by his own choice. His entire campaign reeked of failure and defeat and second place. His entire plan depended on convincing Republicans that a liberal Democrat would be a better conservative Republican than, you know, an actual conservative Republican.  And why in the hell would anybody vote for the Ersatz when they can have the real thing, I mean, come on, if Alaska has to have a Republican well we might as well have an actual Republican – at least we know where we stand. Right behind the oil companies. And mining. And tourism.

The Irony is staggering. Last night Alaskans voted to raise the minimum wage, impose a restrictive law on mining, and legalize pot – and then they voted for the conservative big business Republican. And you’ve got ask yourself, in a state that just legalized weed, that dealt a blow to business and stood up for the little guy and the environment, how in the hell could the Democrat lose?

And that, right there, is a metaphor for the rest of last night’s Democratic disaster.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:50 AM on December 8, 2014 [40 favorites]


The problem is the Senate has 2 members per state no matter its size so rural conservative states get the advantage even though they represent a smaller minority. Here's your new Senate majority leader (jpg). What happens when people don't go out and vote. Scary? Seen nothing yet.
posted by stbalbach at 9:51 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Senate has structural issues but the GOP has an even bigger majority in the population-proportional House than they will in the Senate. The problem for the Democrats right now is that the Democrats suck real bad.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:54 AM on December 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


As a southern democrat i tend to agree with this position. Making the sacrifices necessary to appeal to southern white males is ultimately damaging to the goal of achieving a more inclusive society. Quit pandering and just say okay you can be the opposition party but until you are willing to acknowledge the fundamental rights of non white males to exist we aren't going to be able to cooperate.
posted by vuron at 9:56 AM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


It amazes me that people still don't understand the 50 State strategy. But it shouldn't. Because the folks who don't are the ones at the top who want to find the right top down solution. The answer is neither to tie the national party platform to appeasing the south, nor to abandon the south entirely. The answer is to make a national party platform that inspires the base and then provide at least some resources, and have candidates, everywhere. Sure, in some districts they'll get whipped 70%-30%. But who cares? Winning new seats, a handful at a time, because you were prepared when the other guy self-destructed is enough of a reason to be in the running. And, over time, with a strong message, you may just move some new people to your column.

A reasonable conclusion from the past twenty-five years is that the Democratic party is uncomfortable with effective power and so actively seeks to fall short of obtaining it.
posted by meinvt at 9:57 AM on December 8, 2014 [45 favorites]


Ah, the old "Fuck the South" salt lick, passed on one from progressive to another.

Empathy is #1, unless they disagree with my view on gun control. Then, let's let them die.
posted by four panels at 9:58 AM on December 8, 2014 [15 favorites]


For the Party of Empathy, they've done a shit poor job of it. Considering events of the last seven years, it's incomprehensible to me how Democrats squandered the opportunity to craft a message of economic populism

1. What does "empathy" even mean in a political context?
2. The Dems are beholded to many of the same corporate, big-money interests as the Republicans. When have they ever actually pushed economic populism? It's a fantasy people on the left tell themselves to avoid having to vote 3rd party.
posted by cell divide at 9:59 AM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yes, because political appeasement by giving the Republicans seats with a wink, a handshake, and a "gentleman's agreement" to mobilize only in battleground states worked so well for Democrats under Reagan and two generations of Bush.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:04 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Not an American. Somewhat frightened of America, actually. But it seems to me, anxiously observing from afar, that, from a pure numbers point of view, there's no reason not to alienate straight white Christian men. They make up, what, 25% of the voting population?

It seems like the Republicans must understand this, as it looks (from this distance/vantage point) that their strategies are all focused on creating oppressive bureaucratic structures that blunt the pure demographic fact that they are badly outnumbered - jerrymandering, voter ID laws, that sort of thing. They aren't fighting to win hearts and minds; they're building walls to prevent the true majority from actually ruling.

So the fact remains that it seems kind of insane and self-defeating for Democrats to try and appeal to straight white Christian men when ~70% of voters aren't them, and many in that 70% desperately want an alternative to the Republicans that they can believe in and vote for whole-heartedly. The answer seems obvious: don't be Republicans-Lite. Be Anti-Republicans.
posted by erlking at 10:05 AM on December 8, 2014 [19 favorites]


No? A party that "punishes" regions for not voting for them doesn't sit well with me for some reason.

It's a shitty thing to write and honestly I'm letting my frustration with the fact I live in the south and want out so bad it hurts. I'm driving to Atlanta today and Ive passed not one but TWO giant confederate flag fuck you monuments along I75. Fuck the south.
posted by photoslob at 10:06 AM on December 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Spending resources on the South is pointless. I say this as a Southerner. North Carolina (my state) is about where any value per dollar spent ends; if I were a strategist I'd just write off Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana without a second thought. The Bible Belt can't even get its theology right, let alone vote for anything that might help a black person. Seriously, sit down and discuss with a Free-Will Baptist whether a Catholic is a Christian. If you honestly believe that the oldest part of your own religion is a vile whore bestriding the world in service of Satan... any kind of logic is going to bounce right off your thick skull.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:09 AM on December 8, 2014 [12 favorites]


1. What does "empathy" even mean in a political context?

It means actually trying to get inside the heads of the yokels you're sneering at and understanding their anxieties at a higher level than ahhh blacks and Mexicans and gays ahhhh. And it's not like there aren't Southern progressives who can't do this, who aren't neighbors and friends and family with these folks, who can't help craft a message that actually has a snowball's chance in hell of appealing to some of them, even if they're not going to line up behind the party ticket 100%.
posted by echocollate at 10:09 AM on December 8, 2014 [14 favorites]


I don't understand why pundits are declaring the Democrats lost this election.

Near as I can tell, there weren't that many running.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:09 AM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Not an American. Somewhat frightened of America, actually.

Actually an American, and, same
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:09 AM on December 8, 2014 [14 favorites]


I agree that Democrats as they are now just cannot inspire apathetic voters, despite the fact that when the Democrats are more likely to work for that voter's interest. But I don't feel optimistic that these observations will do anything other than inspire more big money to get thrown at the DNC.

I would like Democrats to *claim* abortion--push back at the pro-life cant. I would like a strong environmental party (why I can't cry too hard for Landrieu). And I'd like campaign finance to be strongly supported. Democratic candidates in the south--I'm in Georgia, so I'm thinking of Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter--are too quiet when they actually are liberal, too apologetic, or not even on board with these positions.

And writing off the South is despicable. We need help, not scorn.
posted by feste at 10:11 AM on December 8, 2014 [20 favorites]


This article is an idiotic suggestion.
Why have elections at all? Why not just predetermine which states are red and which states are blue, and just let the Party select the leader.

God help America - the days when Tip ONeil and Ronald Reagan could sit down and actually come to agreements are long gone. Now, everyone, including most people here, are more like: I can't stand to be in the same room as my political opponents, there I will not negotiate with them, and in fact, we should not even campaign in their state anymore.
posted by Flood at 10:11 AM on December 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


The 50 State Strategy is a long-term strategy to build up competitiveness and grassroots support over the course of multiple elections and God forbid things don't happen RIGHT NOW. Especially not in a midterm election which is historically bad for Democrats anyway of late due to age of the mid-term likely voters and turnout.

This is just fatalistic thinking and grasping for immediate solutions rather than thinking about the future of the party. Abandoning the South just allows one party to calcify their hold even more so, as well as strengthening the us-vs-them mentality that is already being fueled by the media and interest groups. Absolutely nothing good can come from it other than making people feel like they are punishing others somehow. Which is petty and unproductive.

Have some pride in yourselves for God's sake, rather than sulking away and feeding into the "weakling Democrat" storyline.
posted by tittergrrl at 10:14 AM on December 8, 2014 [40 favorites]


And yes, not going for a 50 state strategy is silly. Force the Republicans to play defence. And force the Overton Window back. And push back at the talking points.
posted by Francis at 10:15 AM on December 8, 2014 [15 favorites]


As a citizen of New Orleans I was astounded that anyone would vote for that wide-eyed weirdo muppet-looking bastard Cassidy and his concentration on "securing the border" with a country that doesn't even touch Louisiana, not to mention his views on ... well, I dunno. Pick the standard GOP party line. Those views. Pro-life, pro-guns, etc.

and then I have to remind myself for the hundredth time that New Orleans is one bright blue dot in a glaringly red state, and that I have the privilege of living in one of the most open and tolerant big cities in the deep South. I'm with a hat out of hell here. Just because we lost our Democratic senator doesn't mean we're a lost cause altogether.

Please don't write us off and leave us to the whims of those who are already working to destroy all the reasons I want to live here.
posted by komara at 10:16 AM on December 8, 2014 [12 favorites]


And as bad as it can be to be a Democrat, think about what the Rs have to look forward to in 2016. Their primaries are gonna make 2012 look like a Mensa convention! That might cheer you up!
posted by feste at 10:16 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Look at it this way too. For every state you DON'T fight in, that gives the GOP (or whoever) the wherewithal to put even more money into the states you DO want to fight in. You think the GOP (or whoever) is gonna just sit back and hold on to their money because you aren't fighting them in a particular state? Pulease.
posted by tittergrrl at 10:18 AM on December 8, 2014 [35 favorites]


The point isn't about what Democrats or Republicans need, it's about what the American people need. If the Democratic Party can't make a compelling case for social, political and economic fairness, and a higher standard of living, then they have failed to communicate effectively. Failing and then giving up on a whole region of the country doesn't exactly sound like a winning national strategy, so I'm skeptical about the usefulness and rationality of the central idea here.
posted by clockzero at 10:19 AM on December 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


The problem is the Senate has 2 members per state no matter its size so rural conservative states get the advantage even though they represent a smaller minority.

That's not a bug, that's a feature.
- William Paterson
posted by AndrewInDC at 10:20 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Michelle Nunn's awkward attempts to distance herself from Obama probably worked against her. Nobody is going to vote for someone they don't respect, who doesn't embrace what they believe and stand unapologetically behind it. The true believers on the Right aren't going to vote for you anyway. You'll get your base, but those independents and fence sitters? Those middle class folks who aren't heavily partisan and whose politics are informed by a mix of ideological sympathy and realism? They aren't going to trust you if you (pardon the expression) don't stick to your guns, so why should they vote for you?
posted by echocollate at 10:21 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Despite Obama's election not much has changed at the state level in the last decade or so. This speech from The West Wing from thirteen years ago pretty accurately describes the midterms that just happened. Text if you if you prefer:
... I'm tired of working for candidates who make me think that I should be embarrassed to believe what I believe, Sam! I'm tired of getting them elected! We all need some therapy, because somebody came along and said, "'Liberal' means soft on crime, soft on drugs, soft on Communism, soft on defense, and we're gonna tax you back to the Stone Age because people shouldn't have to go to work if they don't want to!" And instead of saying, "Well, excuse me, you right-wing, reactionary, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-education, anti-choice, pro-gun, Leave It To Beaver trip back to the Fifties...!", we cowered in the corner, and said, "Please. Don't. Hurt. Me." No more.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:21 AM on December 8, 2014 [28 favorites]


For every state you DON'T fight in, that gives the GOP (or whoever) the wherewithal to put even more money into the states you DO want to fight in.

Sure, but you can also put more money into those states, and you can craft messages that actually appeal to progressive voters in those states instead of trying to water everything down to attract the Methodists. (You're never going to get the Baptists.) You pay a tax in voter enthusiasm for every weaselly half-here half-there position you take in order to try to appeal to the non-existent "center," and enthusiasm, as pundits are so fond of telling us, is what loses elections for Democrats.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:21 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


> "Tomasky is calling for the death of Dean's 50 state strategy."

He's calling for the death of something that has been dead for five years? That worked very well when it was in place?

What else is to blame for the 2014 losses? Clinton? Kennedy? The New Deal?
posted by kyrademon at 10:21 AM on December 8, 2014 [20 favorites]


Which is to say, the American people need the Democratic party's emphasis on greater social benefits and protections, political/social/legal egalitarianism, and anti-plutocratic policies now more than ever. If you can't sell a thirsty person a drink because they don't like the cup that it comes in, don't just dump it on the ground and decide that helping them out isn't worth your time.
posted by clockzero at 10:22 AM on December 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


The Dems would do at least somewhat better if they actually ran honest to FSM progressive candidates against people like Paul Ryan, who has faced exactly 1 credible challenger since election, and that one was directly undermined by the DNC, Eric Cantor, who never faced a credible Dem challenger, and a host of others out there where the DNC endorsed a Landrieu-like Republican over a progressive. As long as corporate Dems like Steve Israel and Nancy Pelosi have control over the campaign arm, with tacit understandings never to endorse actual progressive positions or candidates and a hands off policy of not supporting challengers to Republican power players, they're going to keep losing the battle to out Republican the Republicans.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:24 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


The main point is this: Trying to win Southern seats is not worth the ideological cost for Democrats.

This is a weird piece. If your main point is 'winning Southern seats isn't worth changing the Party's platform,' I don't see how you get from that to 'don't spend money on Southern seats' -- spending money on races for Southern seats requires (a) having candidates and (b) spending money. It does not require shifting to the right while fielding those candidates.

If anything, I think the Democrats should be fielding more candidates -- they probably won't be elected, but 'probably' is still an improvement of the certainty that is 'not running anyone.' And running candidates forces the GOP to spend money to oppose those candidates, keeping other seats relatively safer.

There were a lot of uncontested seats in my state's legislature this year, largely (but not entirely) due to Republican-led redistricting; cynically, if they're actively trying to make it hard for local Democrats to field candidates, the last thing the Democrats should be doing is helping them.
posted by cjelli at 10:24 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough give up
posted by mrbigmuscles at 10:25 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Steve Cohen is my Congressman, and a really smart guy who has been successful in Tennessee politics for 30 years. I totally, 100% agree with him that Democrats need to go all in on economic populism in the South. It's the only thing that will work, and it work better with younger people than older people, so it will help the future of the party.

On the other hand, the Tennessee midterm state elections were dismal for the Democrats. They literally didn't even challenge the governor's race. Cohen told his supporters to vote for an independent for governor in an effort to defeat the anti abortion constitutional amendment we had on the ballot. I voted Green for governor. If you can't even get your shit together enough to contest a governor's race, you're not really a political party, are you?
posted by vibrotronica at 10:27 AM on December 8, 2014 [14 favorites]


I just wish the dems at the national level would punish the southern states and cut funding for everything except Medicare and anything else that helps the poor.

Southern GOP governors and legislatures are already gleefully cutting off funding for everything remotely social-welfare in nature, and that starts with anything that aids the poor. The Dems have nothing to do with it.
posted by blucevalo at 10:28 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


...think about what the Rs have to look forward to in 2016. Their primaries are gonna make 2012 look like a Mensa convention!

The R's changes some rules so their primary season will now be 3 1/2 months instead of the usual six months or so, so that freak show will be on the national stage for a less time. Which makes me sad, the more voters are exposed to the sheer crazy I think the better for Dems.
posted by marxchivist at 10:29 AM on December 8, 2014


As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough give up

To borrow a phrase: The Democrats are the worst political party, except for all the others.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:30 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


If you can't sell a thirsty person a drink because they don't like the cup that it comes in, don't just dump it on the ground and decide that helping them out isn't worth your time.

Hear, hear, clockzero! Well said! People died for the right to vote!

We need candidates who have and can inspire passion, but they are hard to find down here. And most people don't vote. An unusual candidate can inspire belief and interest, and it's what we felt (a lot of us, anyway) for Obama. The promise of 2008 is at the heart of much of the disinterest of 2014.
posted by feste at 10:31 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


entropicamericana: Well that's not actually true.

Now if you want to talk about 'viable' parties on the national level, maybe a bit more true (of course ignoring MN, VT, and other places).

3rd parties have a chance on a state level, and they should be exploiting these opportunities.
posted by el io at 10:32 AM on December 8, 2014


You know that horrible mid term we just had? You know the single bright spot in that election? The state where Democrats, ok actually the DFL, ran hard as Democrats. Yeah, there was one or two close races and the state house flipped (and is expected to flip in two years again) but we won all state wide offices and all the DFL incumbents to national office won. Minnesota could teach all you all a thing or two I suspect.
.
.
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Mind you we typically have the highest or close to the highest voter turn out in the nation, but consider right next door we have Walker and then Michigan which seems to be doing it's best to slide into a theocracy. Folks in WI and MI are not that different than Minnesotans, really. I've lived in WI and head to the UP many times a year, but those states have been shooting themselves in the head for almost a decade now, does Tomasky suggest we give up on them too?

I agree that not every race is worth fighting for, and really not even Dean believed the 50 state ideology and actively ignored Democrat candidates in unwinnable races, but to give up on whole sections of the country is just such a blinkered head up the ass move I suspect it'll immediately become policy.
posted by edgeways at 10:33 AM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


A better strategy would be working to ensure voter rights and against gerrymandering and generally work towards restoring democracy in those states - that could reap huge rewards.
posted by Artw at 10:37 AM on December 8, 2014 [17 favorites]


if they actually ran honest to FSM progressive candidates against people like Paul Ryan, who has faced exactly 1 credible challenger since election, and that one was directly undermined by the DNC

Rob Zerban was endorsed by the Progressive Democrats of America and supported the budget of the Progressive Caucus. I'm not sure how much more "honest[ly] progressive" you need to get. The problem in Ryan's district (in which I live) is that while it includes some blue-ish areas, like his own hometown, it also crosses a wide swathe of red rural sprawl and in the last redistricting cycle [which was done in seekrit by the Republican legislature, who tried to actually claim that the law firm hired and paid by the state was entitled to privacy against FOIA requests by the state's own Democratic legislators] was carefully augmented by parts of deeply red Waukesha County. I would like to imagine changing minds and boosting turnout but the way this place has been engineered it's not very likely.

Redistricting is part of the problem. The GOP holds 57% of the House with just 52% of the votes.
posted by dhartung at 10:40 AM on December 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Compromise proposal: give up the South, and use the money that would have been spent campaigning there on airlifts for people who can't afford to move out of there on their own. Then build a gigantic wall around the South, funded by a reality TV series documenting the region's rapid descent into a Boschian free-market bootstrap hellscape.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 10:44 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Writing the entire South off is VERY good policy! As long as, y'know, you don't care about the Senate. Or the House. Or state legislatures. Or governorships. Or school boards. Or city councils. Or areas of the country where future Democratic leaders and even Presidents can come from. Or anything other than a Presidency and northern Senate seats that aren't what one would call a gimme for the Democrats in any given election, and with all of the above marshalled against them makes Northern progressives lame ducks on the day they're elected because they can get fuck all done.

I'm as guilty of "lol Southern hillbillies" as anyone at times but I also recognize that every state in the union -- yes, even Vermont -- has its share of both ACLU-card-carrying liberals and Jesus-guns-and-deregulation reactionaries. I'm also aware that a LOT of conservatives are so not because they're 100% on board with the complete platform, but because they live in a fucking echo chamber where their local newspapers and TV and radio and other news sources are DRENCHED with the conservative spin du jour. You can win over what you can and educate the rest and hope that some of them listen to your calling bullshit out as bullshit and think "Hey, that IS bullshit!"... or you can write them off en masse and end up with 25 Oklahomas spilling over into the states you CAN win.

Hey, wasn't it not long ago that someone was trumpeting about the permanent Democratic majority and how American demographics doomed the mouth-breathers and all the old conservatives were about to dry up and blow away? It's amazing how fast that vanished.
posted by delfin at 10:54 AM on December 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


El Sabor: You joke, but I think a reality show in which two communities were created - one 'free market' and one 'communist' of like 50 people each... Would be fun... Competition vs cooperation. No one voted out (well, not as a part of the dynamic, perhaps communities could banish troublemakers), but a competition between the two communities (which one is happier, which one thrives more, etc). Could be good reality TV (within the context of reality TV).
posted by el io at 10:55 AM on December 8, 2014


Rob Zerban was endorsed by the Progressive Democrats of America and supported the budget of the Progressive Caucus.

Which is not the official DNC, who did fuckall to help Zerban while throwing away resources on teabaggers in all but name like John Barrow in GA (who predictably lost anyway). Does the isolated actual progressive sometimes slip through? Maybe, but its in spite of, not at the behest of the primary Democratic party structure, which is set up by and for Blue Dog candidates endorsed by Pelosi, Israel and Steny Hoyer. Those candidates have been getting massacred while progressives are left to twist in the wind or try to set up parallel funding apparatuses to get around the DNC.

Maybe its time to actually run as liberals, or at the very least offer some support and stop undermining those who do.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:56 AM on December 8, 2014


I know those of you talking about airlifts and so on are joking, but most of us don't want to leave. This is our home and there are things we love about it. I love Decatur and New Orleans and Austin and LIKE HELL I'm going to let them fall to deregulated racist asshats.

Also, I don't want to live anywhere where ice falls out of the sky on a regular basis, ew.
posted by a hat out of hell at 10:57 AM on December 8, 2014 [21 favorites]


I don't agree with Tomasky's insanely un-thought-out simplification. I do, however, find it fascinating that the Republican Party has openly expressed for-what, twenty-odd years now?- their position that high-population urban regions, East Coast states, and pretty much anywhere that doesn't have a Republican-voting populace only when calculated by voters per acreage as opposed to, you know, actual numbers of voters as "not the REAL America" but when a liberal proposes "you know what, fuck the old Confederacy right back" people lose their goddamn minds.

Anyone remember the "Bush Country" images memes in 2000? Or how the GOP is openly suggesting, like a even a week ago, that they should just vote to have Electoral Votes divvied up by congressional district instead of majority vote? Or for Christ's sakes, Congressional gerrymandering in general? The mantra for Republicans since I have been of legal age to vote has been that by living in a city my vote should count less.

Tomasky's article is, honestly, just a friendlier version of Dan Savage's "Urban Archipelago" editorial written ten years ago. In live in Atlanta now, where one of the bumper-sticker-jokes is "welcome to Atlanta; we apologize for it being surrounded by Georgia" and that's absolutely how I feel.

If the Republican Party truly wants its anti-Federal-government localized utopia, I am 100% fine with letting them have it. But I want my Atlanta taxes to start paying for more of Atlanta's art, and schools, and walkability projects, and bike lanes, and pet parks, and walk-in health clinics, instead of all my federal dollars going to pave a road in South Bumblefuck 75 miles away filled with angry racist relatives of half my Facebook friends commenting how "theater's fer queers" and that Mike Brown deserved it. And if that's not realistic, then for god's sakes, I want blue states to at least start threatening the red states to make an issue of it.

I don't know what to say about whether or not the red South can be turned blue. But I do know a good way to change the political tone is to start finally pointing out how it's the biggest welfare queen in the United States of America.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:58 AM on December 8, 2014 [22 favorites]


I'm in Chicagoland now, but I'm still a Southerner at heart and this reeks, man. I'm with Brandon Blatcher and vibrotonica that it's a matter of reframing issues, most likely with economic populism.

I've actually had a pet theory for a while that the Dems should be trawling the progressive churches for just the right white dude, a plainspoken populist guy with a pronounced drawl who can present economic parity, improved access to health care, etc. as what Jesus would want. You get a guy who doesn't trigger any right wing freakouts demographically and every word out of his mouth is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus such that to argue with him when he says he wants to seriously address poverty, prison reform, health care, what have you because of [any of myriad Bible verses in which Jesus talks endlessly of these things] the only way to argue with him is to argue with the word of Christ.

Don't get me wrong: I'm an atheist who desperately wants to see more diversity in the House and Senate. But this just seems like such an ideal ideological trap, I cannot understand why it hasn't been tried more seriously. I mean, how can you constantly get your asses kicked by a party obsessed with Jesus when every word out of his mouth articulated points more akin to your platform?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:59 AM on December 8, 2014 [20 favorites]


Democrats should write off the South? Hell, from where I'm writing they already have. My most recent ballot didn't have a token democrat even bothering to run for most of the offices.
posted by fogovonslack at 11:01 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


So the fact remains that it seems kind of insane and self-defeating for Democrats to try and appeal to straight white Christian men when ~70% of voters aren't them, and many in that 70% desperately want an alternative to the Republicans that they can believe in and vote for whole-heartedly.

Political parties don't just pander to votes, they pander to money. And the money is in the hands of people who are straight, white, ostensibly Christian males.

The party that doesn't bother trying to appeal to that demographic is the Greens, and they have no money and damned few votes and people basically forget they exist.
posted by Foosnark at 11:01 AM on December 8, 2014


I was a bit flippant earlier so I thought I'd post a little bit more to explain my views on why giving up on the south as it currently stands is probably a valid strategy.

I'm generally a pretty big tent type of guy but increasingly I'm coming to the conclusion generally based upon an honest appraisal of my own privileged role in society as a straight white male that continuing to bend over backwards to straight white males like myself is perpetuating a power structure which advantages one sector of the society over another. Why should democratic elected officials pander to white males by agreeing to weaken affirmative action? Why should southern democrats tend to agree with the assertions made by the right that a women's right to choose is not their own? Why should southern democrats play into anxiety driven racist attacks on undocumented workers? Why should democrats believe that gays and straight individuals shouldn't be equal under the law?

If Republicans can have ideological purity tests why is it that Democrats can't assert some fundamental democratic values that all democrats are expected to adhere to? It doesn't have to be extensive it just needs to reflect some degree of shared values in the fundamental dignity of human life, of social justice, etc. Why should we water down our message in order to achieve electoral success when doing so blurs the line between Republicans and Democrats?

I'm a southern Democrat from Texas, I understand losing elections as Texas democrats tend to lose anything other than local elections in big cities and sometimes even there but increasingly I ask myself is it worthwhile winning elections if you compromise your core values and increasingly I'm convinced that not only is it critical for Democrats to represent steadfast support of fundamental core values even in the face of electoral failures but that doing so despite the short term success that can happen from compromising your values reaffirms our essential faith in those values becoming the norm in our society.

From a tactical perspective yes force Republicans to play defense so they can't play offense as much but forget running a southern white male governor as a running mate to a liberal white male from the NE or West because it's just not worth the political compromises necessary. Present yourself in stark terms and say take us or leave us and yeah you might lose the South for another generation but the arc of justice will eventually bend towards you and you will get them back. Compromising in the short term just diminishes your message and values.
posted by vuron at 11:02 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I've actually had a pet theory for a while that the Dems should be trawling the progressive churches for just the right white dude, a plainspoken populist guy with a pronounced drawl who can present economic parity, improved access to health care, etc. as what Jesus would want. You get a guy who doesn't trigger any right wing freakouts demographically and every word out of his mouth is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus such that to argue with him when he says he wants to seriously address poverty, prison reform, health care, what have you because of [any of myriad Bible verses in which Jesus talks endlessly of these things] the only way to argue with him is to argue with the word of Christ.

The problem is that's a vision of Jesus that is incompatible with Republican Jesus™. Have you seen what conservatives have said about the new liberal Pope?
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:06 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


The fact that a strategy of "Just give up!" with the south is getting any respectability at all is so sickening... but I shouldn't be surprised. When your choices here are someone who is going full force against your ideals, or someone who is also going full force against your ideals but aligned with a few who aren't, it seems like nobody gives a shit about you already.

I don't understand why the southern democratic position for some time now seems to be "let's find a way to get people who would vote for a republican candidate to vote for someone who is ideologically similar - but democratic!" That makes ABSOLUTELY no sense --There is a core that has aligned with the GOP, and they are going to vote for the big R no matter what. Don't even try to get those voters, they are NOT going to convert. All you are succeeding at is alienating a base of voters who are looking for more democratic ideals, and making them CONSIDERABLY less likely to vote. In addition, the pandering makes us feel like you think we're a bunch of idiots - It's so unbelievably transparent, and it has made a lot of people just give up already - They feel like they are going to be fucked regardless.

I don't know, maybe if we are "abandoned" by the same people who felt compelled to push these bullshit caricature candidates into the light - these same people who are alienating the very people who SHOULD be voting democratic - we might actually have a chance of running some at least moderately progressive candidates who actually know their voters, and who aren't treating us like a bunch of easy to manipulate yokels. As it is, I'd say it can't be any worse than the present strategies of distancing themselves from things like healthcare (which has SO GREATLY HELPED the south) and trying to pull away voters who are just a tiny tiny bit more to the left of whoever is in place, while still burying the needle to the right.

Maybe we SHOULD just let some of these people give up and disappear.... They've already ideologically abandoned us, and we never existed as far as they were concerned. If your take on us is "forget about the whole fetid place," then do us a favor and do JUST that - fuck RIGHT off, and let someone who doesn't dismiss the entire region outright get involved.
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:07 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


In addition, the pandering makes us feel like you think we're a bunch of idiots - It's so unbelievably transparent, and it has made a lot of people just give up already

Indeed. Our most recent losing democratic candidate for governor of Alabama was a democrat before he was a republican before he was a democrat.
posted by fogovonslack at 11:11 AM on December 8, 2014


I'm certainly familiar with the twisted version of Jesus who occupies the theological center of modern conservatism.

But having actually read the damn Bible, it boggles the mind how progressives can cede Christ to the right when so many of their core principles are in direct opposition to his.

I mean, that'd be like the Promise Keepers using Susan B Anthony as their central figurehead.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:12 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


LBJ noted years ago that when he signed civil rights,eg isolation W have just lost the South.
posted by Postroad at 11:13 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Michael Moore was ahead of his time (as usual) with his Ficus 2000 campaigns. Look at Louie Gohmert. The Republicans are running their own ficus plants AND THEY'RE WINNING!
posted by delfin at 11:13 AM on December 8, 2014


The Dems would do at least somewhat better if they actually ran honest to FSM[?] progressive candidates against people like Paul Ryan

That might just remind the voters that you want to persuade why they don't vote for Democrats. Especially if by FSM you meant "Flying Spaghetti Monster," which is the top result I'm getting for that acronym.

I've actually had a pet theory for a while that the Dems should be trawling the progressive churches for just the right white dude, a plainspoken populist guy with a pronounced drawl who can present economic parity, improved access to health care, etc. as what Jesus would want.

This.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:16 AM on December 8, 2014


Giving up on southern whites is fine. But most southern states are at least 30% african american and a large and growing percent of hispanics. I think it's plausible that the democrats can win state-wide races with just a small percentage of the white vote in the south, especially as the demographics change.
posted by empath at 11:17 AM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's not like the Republicans don't do this either. I live in Connecticut where the Republicans pretty much gave up a long time ago. So they run pro wrestlers and former news anchors and pretty much anyone who will fund their own campaign like WWE's Linda McMahon. Heck, they even supported an independent candidate for Senate (Lieberman) over their own Republican candidate that they knew had no chance of carrying the vote. And to top it off, who do they put their support behind in an election against the most unpopular Democratic governor in my lifetime? The same guy who managed to lose to him the last time around. Surprise, they lost again.

To borrow a quote, "You don't just fight the fights you can win, you fight the fights that are worth fighting." Democrats need to continue to fight in the South even if it feels like shouting in the wind.
posted by dances with hamsters at 11:18 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The whole Republican Jesus meme is a modern construct based on Cold War politics, the American fetishization for minarchy, and plutocratic influence. It does not have to be the default for applying Biblical principles to politics. Christianity, like any world religion, has enough material to support any set of policies. Even if you were to dip into the scarrrrry Old Testament.

Ezekiel 16:49
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.


Perhaps progressives should learn how to fight fire with brimstone.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:20 AM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Personally, I don't understand how a solution to the vision problem of the Democratic party involves drawing a line around prophets like Barber for the sake of jerrymandering the EC at the national level.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:22 AM on December 8, 2014


Despite the majority there are blue areas in the South so this brilliant [sarcasm] strategy throws away over 40 seats in the House of Representatives. That's the kind of great strategizing that got Hillary the nomination in 2008. No, really, it's the exact same problem; in that primary Obama went after districts because the Democratic primary isn't winner take all at the state level, and Hillary's write-off of the states she couldn't carry gave Obama the nomination.

Landrieu has never had an easy time getting elected here and getting elected meant she had to be on the right end of the party, but she was a reliable vote for Obama's nominations and other boilerplate stuff the R's are blocking on fucked up principle. She might still have lost but she might not have been shellacked so terribly if she had paid more attention to her own base and if said base didn't feel like the national party had already written her off.
posted by localroger at 11:24 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


echocollate: "... it's incomprehensible to me how Democrats squandered the opportunity to craft a message of economic populism that appealed to at least some poor and middle class southern whites."

Might have something to do with the fact that Dems are still part of the corporate plutocracy. How can you have a really populist message when your big backers are the fucking bankers who get us into this shit in the first place. And then if you DO go against it, well ... good luck with that funding.

Sorry, I don't have any answers, and I don't think we should give up fighting, but with so much on the table right now, I just feel pretty damn helpless and hopeless. :\
posted by symbioid at 11:24 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't understand why the southern democratic position for some time now seems to be "let's find a way to get people who would vote for a republican candidate to vote for someone who is ideologically similar - but democratic!" That makes ABSOLUTELY no sense --There is a core that has aligned with the GOP, and they are going to vote for the big R no matter what. Don't even try to get those voters, they are NOT going to convert. All you are succeeding at is alienating a base of voters who are looking for more democratic ideals, and making them CONSIDERABLY less likely to vote. In addition, the pandering makes us feel like you think we're a bunch of idiots - It's so unbelievably transparent, and it has made a lot of people just give up already - They feel like they are going to be fucked regardless.

Let me extract the acorn from this soil, the acorn that is going to be grown into an oak:

There is a core that has aligned with the GOP, and they are going to vote for the big R no matter what. Don't even try to get those voters, they are NOT going to convert. All you are succeeding at is alienating a base of voters who are looking for more democratic ideals, and making them CONSIDERABLY less likely to vote.

Michael Tomasky, is that you...? Clever, very clever disguise. It's exactly the same idea, writ large:

'There is a core REGION (Dixie) that has aligned with the GOP, and they are going to vote for the big R no matter what. Don't even try to get those voters, they are NOT going to convert. All you are succeeding at is alienating a base of voters who are looking for more democratic ideals, and making them CONSIDERABLY less likely to vote.' Which is why Don't Even Try To Get Dixie, but to save the Democratic Party soul, you need to discard them altogether, for that region is lost anyway.

Anyhow, it's worth pointing out how the idea of separation is inherent even in the ideas of those who seem passionately opposed to such ideas.
posted by VikingSword at 11:25 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Creating a compelling southern Democratic coalition based upon African Americans, Latinos, and perhaps southern liberal whites is certainly valid. I'm saying that continuing to run Blue Dog democrats as Senators and Representatives probably is not a compelling strategy especially if the sacrifices necessary to appease them and their voters weaken your overall platform.

But running a white dude that just happens to have good hair and a winning car salesman smile and who can throw away 10 million + in a vanity campaign probably isn't the best strategy. Let's put up strong liberal voices who aren't shy about standing up for what's right even if it means they are one-term politicians. But let's be honest that means white liberals have to cede control over the democratic party and be willing to get out there and support African American and Latino candidates instead of continually putting up milquetoast white business candidates.
posted by vuron at 11:26 AM on December 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


A lot of conflation of "southerners" and "white men" in that article (and some in this thread). Other people live there too.

Atom Eyes said it best above: I can think of no better way to send the message to African Americans: "We never really gave a shit about the plight of blacks in the south; we only gave it lip service in order to win elections. And now that your demographic is no longer helping us win seats, we're not even going to bother keeping up appearances anymore. Good luck surviving in that steaming racist hellscape. Dems out!"
posted by duffell at 11:29 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


And yes, not going for a 50 state strategy is silly.

That would be true in a world without finite resources.
posted by jpe at 11:30 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


It does seem like a continuation of the cowardly and shameful behavior that white progressives have shown towards southern blacks ever since Reconstruction, if not before.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:31 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


We shouldn't totally abandon the South, if only because we can force the GOP to waste some money playing defense. However, we should abandon the pretense that we can adapt liberal Democratic ideology to dominant Southern norms. Any attempt at placating dominant Southern norms usually ends up in watering down Democratic ideology, which in turn blurs the difference between the two parties, at a time when we should be heightening the differences between the two parties. If the South changes its mind and wants to jump on the Democratic bandwagon later, that's fine, but the South is going to have to adapt to non-Southern values if it wants to do so.
posted by jonp72 at 11:32 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Maybe the Dems don't run on economic populism because they are not in favor of economic populism?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:33 AM on December 8, 2014 [16 favorites]


Empathy is #1, unless they disagree with my view on gun control. Then, let's let them die.

Given that Dems can't be bothered to advocate for gun control these days, that's a fair statement.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:33 AM on December 8, 2014


A lot of conflation of "southerners" and "white men" in that article (and some in this thread). Other people live there too.

Seriously. If you are coming in here equating "white men" with "the south", you haven't looked at the demographics of the south ever, and certainly not at the most recent census.

If you want to get more Democratic votes in the south, you could help support us as we fight racist voter registration and voter ID laws. That's what's suppressing the Democratic vote in the south.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:33 AM on December 8, 2014 [14 favorites]


I live in New Orleans, which is south of The South though it isn't The South and almost all of the political commercials linked Landreau with Obama.
posted by vapidave at 11:34 AM on December 8, 2014


when a liberal proposes "you know what, fuck the old Confederacy right back" people lose their goddamn minds.

I think it's because liberals bill themselves as the party of inclusiveness, so it seems like hypocrisy to say "That group of state won't elect us, so forget about them." It's a matter of things not matching what they say on the tin rather than anything else.
posted by corb at 11:35 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's taken around 350 years to sort out the mess in Ireland from the English civil war, to the extent that it has been sorted out - which is mostly, I think. These things take time. One of the byproducts of this, also notable elsewhere in the curious pseudo-federation of the UK, is the existence of local political parties that have an independent existence from the national parties but take part in national politics. These can be curious beasts, such as the current Scottish National Party, which is far more internationalist, social-democratic and progressive than any of the current slate of national parties. This is being very successful for a number of reasons, but one key factor is that it is not beholden to the marginal seats in the South which determine Westminster majorities, and which are very conservative in nature. British politics has two Overton windows... and the overlap may actually determine national politics in the next election.

Why does this never happen in the US, which is so much more diverse than the UK?
posted by Devonian at 11:35 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Might have something to do with the fact that Dems are still part of the corporate plutocracy. How can you have a really populist message when your big backers are the fucking bankers who get us into this shit in the first place. And then if you DO go against it, well ... good luck with that funding.

It certainly ties in with the points others have made here about the corporatist takeover of the Democratic Party, but here's the real matter, guys: we used to have organized labor in America. Americans used to widely support it. And they voted Democrat. As it stands now, the largest labor organizations remaining fit into two main areas: the automobile industry, which we've allowed the zeitgeist to insist is populated by terrible lazy people who don't deserve what they're paid, and teachers, which we've allowed the zeitgeist to insist is populated by terrible lazy people who don't deserve what they're paid.

I think that's what really bothers me about conversations like these... how no one in the enlightened progressive Clinton/Obama think tanks point out the obvious: that at some point, Democrats on a national level are going to have to acknowledge how they lost the South and other rural centers of America, possibly forever, when they just tucked tail and gave up on the labor movement in America.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:35 AM on December 8, 2014 [14 favorites]


Gee, if there were only extant political ideologies that can support economic progressivism while also having mildly traditionalist social policies.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:36 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Exactly, if southern whites want to continue to live in a mistaken belief that they can refight the civil war fine but until they concede that no that shit is crazy I'm sorry we shouldn't keep mollycoddling them. Let them find a home with the racist nutcases that dominate the Republican party currently. They can come back when they quit wanting to fight wars that they already lost.

I'm more than happy working with African American and Latino leadership in the meantime because they can actually represent liberal values without being afraid of upsetting their base.
posted by vuron at 11:37 AM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


jpe: That would be true in a world without finite resources.

A dollar is a dollar is a dollar. You work on building nation-wide activism and fundraising networks or you accept permanent status as a minority opposition party except when the incumbents commit a major fuckup. Because if you don't, the Republicans do.

jonp72: However, we should abandon the pretense that we can adapt liberal Democratic ideology to dominant Southern norms.

Interesting that "dominant Southern norms" seems to invariably the norms of a shrinking white plurality. Probably not my neighborhood where I have three civil rights museums within five blocks.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:37 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Democrats need to move left and become what the Republicans used to be, a progressive party that puts workers first and reins in corporations. They can't do that as long as they pander to white people living in the states we should have let go in 1861.
posted by starbreaker at 11:38 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've actually had a pet theory for a while that the Dems should be trawling the progressive churches for just the right white dude, a plainspoken populist guy with a pronounced drawl who can present economic parity, improved access to health care, etc. as what Jesus would want.

They already did that. His name was Bill Clinton and conservatives hated him like poison.
posted by mightygodking at 11:41 AM on December 8, 2014 [18 favorites]


I'm also aware that a LOT of conservatives are so not because they're 100% on board with the complete platform, but because they live in a fucking echo chamber where their local newspapers and TV and radio and other news sources are DRENCHED with the conservative spin du jour.

There are a lot of people who vote R in general elections but reluctantly, based on a couple of key issues. In some cases, those issues really aren't areas that Democrats can or should compromise on—abortion rights, gay marriage, other core civil rights issues—and you really have no choice but to let them go their separate ways and let them be on the wrong side of history, hopefully. You can't really argue with that sort of authoritarianism, it's not grounded in reason; all you can do is try to disagree politely and look like the more-reasonable person to any unconvinced observers.

But there are a bunch of "purple" or "light red" states where, at least in my personal experience, the hate-fueled social agenda isn't that strong, or isn't as strong as coastal liberals seem to assume it is. (I am reminded of this classic Colbert bit about Vicco, Kentucky.) There's sort of a cultural identification in many places with Team Republican; they might dislike the Democratic Party in the same way that a Bostonian dislikes the Yankees, that's just not their team, but ideologically I think a lot of people are really more libertarian-ish than authoritarian, particularly in the Rust Belt states, Appalachia, and the mountain West. That Democrats don't do much better there than they do is a failure of messaging and message-tailoring. (And a failure to realize that gun control is an absolute non-starter, and that a lot of otherwise-moderate people are willing to literally burn the motherfucking country to the ground over it, so you can either argue until Hell freezes over about that, or you can let them have guns and tell them about why Universal Healthcare or something other than kleptocracy is a good thing, your call.) But there's no reason why the Democratic plank couldn't be made pretty palatable to someone intrinsically suspicious of government and angry at the perceived mismanagement of their tax dollars.

The Republicans made a colossal strategic error when they went from merely using the fundies as ballast to letting them drive the ship; eventually they are going to fix that, because the US political system seeks a stable two-party balance. But it could take them a while, and it creates an opportunity in the meantime to peel off a lot of voters who are not wholly on board with the direction things have been going.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:43 AM on December 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


>think about what the Rs have to look forward to in 2016. Their primaries are gonna make 2012 look like a Mensa convention! That might cheer you up!


Yeah, it's gonna be hilarious! (Until they win.)
posted by Sing Or Swim at 11:45 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know, honestly, I used to be like, "What the fuck is wrong with people who vote for these Republican shitbags?" But then I looked at my own choices. Sure, the candidate usually sucks, but you have to vote for them, right? Because otherwise the Big Bad Republican will win and the earth will be consumed in fire. I imagine it's similar on the other side. Let's not risk the shitty status quo by insisting on a candidate who actually represents our values.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 11:46 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's also very interesting that a very common description of Clinton is as the first African American president.

But honestly in the current environment Clinton would probably not be electable as that generation of white semi-liberal Democratic southern politician is basically extinct. 20+ years of continuous identity politics that have basically defined southern whiteness as being essentially Conservative have made that the case.

When southern white identity can accept an reality in which whites are no longer the privileged class I think there will be some reconciliation again but right now it's just incompatible.

As a result I'm willing to write off the south until we get past this colossal victim-hood myth and say fuck those guys in the past they deserved to get their asses kicked and we also owe a massive debt to an entire class of individuals that just happened by circumstance to survive the foul treatment that we gave them for hundreds of years in large enough numbers that they are still relevant on the national level.

So yeah I'm okay being voiceless for another 20+ years because a huge percentage of my fellow southerners were voiceless for centuries.
posted by vuron at 11:52 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Maybe the Dems don't run on economic populism because they are not in favor of economic populism?

Here's an interesting story about outgoing Dem Senator Tom Harkin and his interesting proposal to take $300+ million from the Pell grant program and give it to the loan servicers to basically increase their profits. I'm not sure what to infer from the fact that I can't find any other news item about this.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:53 AM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


" In some cases, those issues really aren't areas that Democrats can or should compromise on—abortion rights, gay marriage, other core civil rights issues—and you really have no choice but to let them go their separate ways and let them be on the wrong side of history, hopefully."

Wait, have the democrats ever led the way on gay marriage? Didn't Clinton sign DOMA? Didn't Clinton enact DADT? Yes, gay rights have been advanced by some democrats in some ways at some times, but I would argue the are followers, not leaders on the subject.

We can thank the courts for advancements on gay marriage. Certainly some democratic politicians have signed on after it became politically expedient for them to do so, but to claim national leadership is to engage in revisionism.

As far as abortion rights - well, the democrats have certainly raised a lot of money on this issue, but as a nation we've been sliding backwards for a long time (mostly at the state level, certainly).

Again, what progress there has been in abortion rights has mainly been due to the courts, not the politicians.

I'm not saying there isn't a difference in the parties - there is. But democrats make more money on these issues than they make progress on these issues.
posted by el io at 11:56 AM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


Interesting that "dominant Southern norms" seems to invariably the norms of a shrinking white plurality. Probably not my neighborhood where I have three civil rights museums within five blocks.

Yes, when I say "dominant Southern norms," I mean the norms associated with socially conservative white males in the region. I realize that everytime Metafilter has a discussion that tries to make any useful generalization about the South, there's always somebody raising their hand to say, "Don't forget black people! Don't forget loyal Southern liberals like me!" That's all well and good, but the point is that black people and white liberals do not control what the dominant cultural norms are in the South, and those dominant Southern norms are not (and maybe never have been) a fertile ground for liberalism. Yes, yes, I understand you are a Souther liberal and you're special snowflake, but you haven't exactly singlehandedly shaped the cultural norms of your region in your own image, you know?
posted by jonp72 at 11:57 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


... when a liberal proposes "you know what, fuck the old Confederacy right back" people lose their goddamn minds.

Because the "old Confederacy" died with the American Civil War, and exists only as an ideological urban legend. It's nothing more than a vanity utopian vision, spoiled by its mean-spirited cynicism to a pale shadow of the 19th century utopians who actually tried to create Zion in the New World.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:59 AM on December 8, 2014


Yeah, it's gonna be hilarious! (Until they win.)

Yeah. This. In spades.

I'm growing a bit weary of the constant mantra from the left that "demographics are on our side! The republicans have no future!". For a party that has no future, they sure as hell seem to be sweeping the nation with their ideology. About the only thing that the left can hang it's hat on vis-a-vis "hope for the future" is what's happening with gay marriage. But, that's largely the work of a handful of Federal judges going against the work of elected legislatures and, in many cases, the direct votes of the electorate. I'm glad it's happening, but please pardon me if, when I look at what's happening in actual elections, I tremble in fear of what the next 20+ years very well might bring in the US.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:59 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


jonp72: When you say 'dominant Southern norms', are you talking about things like homophobia? Whats the largest city in the US with a gay mayor?
posted by el io at 11:59 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


And a failure to realize that gun control is an absolute non-starter, and that a lot of otherwise-moderate people are willing to literally burn the motherfucking country to the ground over it, so you can either argue until Hell freezes over about that, or you can let them have guns and tell them about why Universal Healthcare or something other than kleptocracy is a good thing, your call

Yeah, it doesn't actually have to be paired. Some of the most liberal gun states in the nation (Vermont, New Hampshire) are heavily Democrat-leaning blue states. They're quiet about it, but New Hampshire and super-lefty Vermont that is so left it's considered a punchline are Class 3 states where you can actually have fully automatic machine guns.

I'm not really sure what makes it work there but makes it so anathema other places, but it might be worth looking into.
posted by corb at 12:01 PM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


I actually think populism would go over well even when the conservatives and libertarians--- I feel like when populism was described in a political class I took it was presented totally differently than all the ramblings I'm looking through on the wiki page--

It was taught essentially as a system of more conservative social policies but higher willingness to spend on social programs. Meaning there is a promotion of spending on resources for people but also more involved policies to encourage positive use of such programs that falls in line with ethics (of course who decides what is ethical)

In terms of governance though this would likely involve encouraging behaviors that do not demonstrate a heavy burden on everyone else-- meaning focusing on promotion of health, pro-social behavior, choices that reflect the economic and social impact not just to the individual of our choices but that the rest of the people around you and in your community may also be impacted.

Like--- I'm not even sure that's how it was described in my class now that I think back or if I just think that sounds cool and decided that's what they meant when they were talking about more spending but more conservative ethics.

It makes sense to me that if we will spend more, people would care more that the spending goes toward good things and that the people receiving aid are doing good things with it. People forget that often they want to contribute to society BECAUSE they know how good it felt their needs were met. People who are forgotten and live in suffering often grow up not wanting to contribute because no one ever did anything for them so who cares-- they just have a mouth to feed. In fact sometimes when the previously poor get rich they continue this ethic, "whatever I made it through anyone who cant should rot".

And thus THEY fear giving resources to the needy- they know themselves too well, that they don't really give a crap about anyone else and would just "abuse" the aid. The thing is if we didn't see consuming the necessities of living and health and socialization as "abuses" we wouldn't have to see people using resources for enjoyment and housing and food as abusers. It's healthy to take resources you're given and use them to meet your needs before you can even worry about becoming a better citizen or becoming whatever some a-hole in the sky thinks you're supposed to be because they fed you or gave you a place to stay. They're just people. And the better their needs are met, the better they can contribute and the more reason they have to value the society they are part of and keeping it going.
posted by xarnop at 12:01 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I agree with Brandon Blatcher that Republican Lite cannot win votes anywhere because it provide direction or progress.

I agree with jeff-o-matic, George_Spiggott, etc. too that the Democrats fundamental problem is that they are Republican Lite.

Democrats never "led" on Healthcare reform. They waited until not reforming healthcare was proven unworkable. And then passed a massive payout to insurers.

Obama laughed at massive petitions to legalize marijuana. States went ahead with legalization anyways.

etc. etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:02 PM on December 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Because the "old Confederacy" died with the American Civil War, and exists only as an ideological urban legend.

Not sure what to make of all those Confederate flags, then.

Whats the largest city in the US with a gay mayor?

City? That's not Real America.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:06 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Perhaps, jonp72, the lesson for you is that it's better not to make generalizations about the south.
posted by feste at 12:07 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


The answer is to make a national party platform that inspires the base and then provide at least some resources, and have candidates, everywhere. Sure, in some districts they'll get whipped 70%-30%. But who cares? Winning new seats, a handful at a time, because you were prepared when the other guy self-destructed is enough of a reason to be in the running.

And winning local races, school board seats and, most importantly, state houses in years that end in "0" help plant seeds for the future. The Republicans know it, as they've been following such a strategy for years now.
posted by Gelatin at 12:07 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Demographics are with the Democrats assuming that Democrats can actually capitalize on their current advantage with Latino voters moving forward.

It's just the future state of the Democratic party might not resemble the one we grew up with. It's going to be dominated by youth, it's going to be dominated by minorities, it's going to be dominated by women, it might even be dominated by very religious individuals.

As a not exactly young, white, male I'm completely comfortable that the Democratic party won't have a ton of mes in the mix and that the vast majority of Republicans will look very similar to me but I okay bucking the tendency towards tribalism if more people get a voice in how this country proceeds even if my voice is no longer the dominant one.

Yeah stuff could suck in the meantime especially if we run out of time to do something about global warming because Republicans are going LALALALALA can't hear you about any science but I'm confident that I can survive the short term because hey all those white guys voting Republican are probably going to protect me until the Democrats can get their shit together.
posted by vuron at 12:10 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


jonp72: Yes, when I say "dominant Southern norms," I mean the norms associated with socially conservative white males in the region.

So in other words, you think that millions of lives, voices, and votes simply don't matter, including probably the strongest prophets we have going on progressive politics.

Yes, yes, I understand you are a Souther liberal and you're special snowflake, but you haven't exactly singlehandedly shaped the cultural norms of your region in your own image, you know?

Oh, no. I'm a born and bred northerner who knows better not to throw stones given the institutional racism of my home region with its sundown towns, redlined neighborhoods, and one of the last lynchings in the country.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:10 PM on December 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Tomasky's article is, honestly, just a friendlier version of Dan Savage's "Urban Archipelago" editorial written ten years ago. In live in Atlanta now, where one of the bumper-sticker-jokes is "welcome to Atlanta; we apologize for it being surrounded by Georgia" and that's absolutely how I feel.

I live in Atlanta and work in Alpharetta. A lot of my colleagues commute up from ITP; a lot live up here in the northern suburbs. It's pretty amusing to see the political divide, although to be honest we don't talk about it much. (But on election day I voted in the morning, and when my boss left in the evening he jokingly said to me that he was off to cancel out my vote.)
posted by madcaptenor at 12:10 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, back at the ranch - or ocean - you're gonna need a bigger gun, err, bigger boat, or whatever, you apparently can't stop with the Deep South, you gotta start abandoning individual counties - purple is out, being bred out like a recessive gene, red and blue forever. New motto "LOST CAUSE: Dems it's time to abandon red counties. On the way to abandoning red individual voters!"

URI researchers find Americans sorting themselves into politically similar counties.

"KINGSTON, R.I. – November 17, 2014 – A pair of researchers from the University of Rhode Island has analyzed more than 40 years of election data and relocation patterns around the United States and found that Americans are increasingly sorting themselves into politically homogeneous communities. But it hasn’t happened in the way they expected."

"“The political parties are competitive on a national level, but on a county basis there are fewer and fewer counties up for grabs,” said Pearson-Merkowitz. “And each election we’re seeing more polarization.”

According to Lang and Pearson-Merkowitz, the increase in competitiveness that occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s was due to the dramatic change that occurred in what the parties stood for. The Democratic Party solidified its position as the party of Civil Rights, labor unions, and abortion rights, while the Republican Party became increasingly conservative on a host of issues.

“That party change made it look like we were living in more diverse counties, but no one actually moved,” Pearson-Merkowitz said. “Instead, as the political parties figured out what their positions were, people decided what parties to associate with. The places are politically the same as they used to be.”

For example, Democratic counties in the South in the 1960s were Democratic because that was the party that was more conservative. Those same people are now Republican because it is now the conservative party.

An examination of IRS data showing voter movement from one county to another suggested that migration did not play a role in the shifting levels of party support.

Both professors agree that this increasing polarization is worrisome."
posted by VikingSword at 12:11 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


"For a party that has no future, they sure as hell seem to be sweeping the nation with their ideology."

--@Thorzdad
I can explain this in four words, @Thorzdad: Old white people vote. Yes, they're a numerical minority, but their voter turnout is highest among all groups in the USA. If the rest of us ganged up on them, we could kill the GOP, and put the old white folks out on an ice floe.

But we won't, because voting is a pain in the ass if you actually work for a living -- which is just how the GOP likes it.
posted by starbreaker at 12:13 PM on December 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


Not sure what to make of all those Confederate flags, then.

One part delusion, one part ignorance, two parts revisionism.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:13 PM on December 8, 2014


Can't we think about this pragmatically? The whole point isn't just to win elections, but to get liberal Democratic policies passed. The minimal winning coalition for passing anything at the federal level is 216 in the House, 60 in the Senate (unless we abolish or reform the filibuster), 1 President, and 5 votes on the Supreme Court (either 5 justices to vote our way or 5 justices to deny cert to a challenge to a Democratic law). The South or any other region is only important if it can help us get to this goal. Previously, if the Democratic Party focused to much on the South, we might have 60 Senators on paper, but the amount of ideological compromises we had to do to get there would make the 60 Senator majority all but useless for passing an uncompromised progressive policy. When you get down to it, if we allocate campaign resources inefficiently just because we want to be "nice" to all regions, we are going lose. I'm not saying abandon the South, but we have to be a bit more hard-headedly realistic about realizing that the Great Pumpkin of white southern populism isn't going to resurrect itself any time soon.
posted by jonp72 at 12:13 PM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


That would be true in a world without finite resources

And it would be true in a world where political leaders wanted to help ALL Americans, not just those in the North-East and West Coast.
posted by Flood at 12:13 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


At least in conversations I've had with people who are into libertarian and conservative ethics we can often find a middle ground where they want the resources to get to people who "really" need them and who will "use them well"-- they just have unrealistic expectations about how much resources are needed to get what kind of results-- research can often help with this into the effects of poverty and trauma and disabilities and adversity on health and functioning and what type and level of services tend to help people recover (hint- it includes permanent housing stability being in the picture without unrealistic expectations of recovery that do not match reality of statistics)--in addition to facing reality that 12 step programs help 3 to 7 percent of people who use them-- they are not effective for the overwhelming majority.

Like if you can say YES we should be economically responsible- like Utah implementing housing first programs to save money... etc.

I have found a lot of conservatives I know start agreeing with me when I start out really enthusiastically agreeing with them about budgeting and planning for the future and not overspending, and like YEAH overspending is terrible! The liberals are awful! So... let's talk responsible "conservative" spending.

Then I basically talk about all the stuff on the liberal agenda regarding safety nets and social supports and fit into conservative ethic format.

You'd be surprised it can sometimes work! Note- this has been more successful with people I actually know than online-- in real life when you're really enthusiastic about understanding someone and telling them their ideas definitely make sense, but maybe this other idea could be good too, or complimentary, people often will listen a little bit at least.

Or if you start out saying "Oooh party politics, that stuff is awful, let's just talk how to responsibly govern" I've had a little more luck. Given that the republicans are winning and I and many others in desperate need of support are stuck here- I am totally willing to pretend to be obsessed with Jesus or into conservative politics but "just think liberals have just a few good ideas" to get them to do a few good things for the needy here or there. If I had the capacity to turn them that would be great but infiltrating and influencing are as best as I can go for now.
posted by xarnop at 12:16 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Haha, how cute to think that just giving the Tea Party the South will appease them! They want it all. Give up on us, and your happy little blue state is next. They'll have a lot more money to spend on taking it over, too.
posted by emjaybee at 12:18 PM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


> There is a core REGION

That is NOT what I said. I never once referred to core REGION - There's a substantial difference in what I'm saying vs. how you manipulated that. My entire point was that within these regions there are people outside of that core of traditionally republican voters who do NOT align with the ideology - Why would you attempt to convert those who do at the expense of alienating ALL of those who do not?

If I'm missing some larger point, feel free to correct me.
posted by MysticMCJ at 12:21 PM on December 8, 2014


jonp72: When you say 'dominant Southern norms', are you talking about things like homophobia? Whats the largest city in the US with a gay mayor?

Perhaps, jonp72, the lesson for you is that it's better not to make generalizations about the south.

So in other words, you think that millions of lives, voices, and votes simply don't matter, including probably the strongest prophets we have going on progressive politics.

Y'all are proving my point! Yes, there are Southern gay mayors. Are they representative of a dominant cultural norm? No! Gay mayors are not even a dominant cultural norm in the North, the Midwest, or the West Coast either! Are there prophetic, progressive voices in the South? Yes. Are they actually listened to by state legislators who have the power to pass laws? In most case,s probably not. It's not enough to have your identity politics needs merely "acknowledged." You need to grab real political power for people who share your identity too.

In addition, the attempt to shout down any attempt to make reasonable political generalizations about different geographic regions is completely counterproductive at best and groupthink at its worst. When you have finite resources, you sometimes need to rely on generalizations in order to make basic strategic decisions in order to achieve your political goals. If you want to get a Congress that is more ideologically congenial to you, you have to make hard decisions about whether to invest campaign funds in the South vs. other regions, not simply "be nice" to all regions equally. Otherwise, you'd be wasting money with nothing politically to show for it, either.
posted by jonp72 at 12:26 PM on December 8, 2014


Yes, yes, I understand you are a Souther liberal and you're special snowflake, but you haven't exactly singlehandedly shaped the cultural norms of your region in your own image, you know?

Hi, Virginian here. I and my Democratic governor, both of my Democratic senators (including the one who just won re-election in a brutal Republican wave election), and all of the state's Democratic presidential electors from the last two presidential cycles would like to remind you that the South is not a political or cultural monolith, and that while we might not be putting Alabama or Mississippi or any rural congressional seats back in play anytime soon, there is in fact a proven game plan for Democrats to win in Southern states that have urbanized enough.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 12:26 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've actually had a pet theory for a while that the Dems should be trawling the progressive churches for just the right white dude, a plainspoken populist guy with a pronounced drawl who can present economic parity, improved access to health care, etc. as what Jesus would want. You get a guy who doesn't trigger any right wing freakouts demographically and every word out of his mouth is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus such that to argue with him when he says he wants to seriously address poverty, prison reform, health care, what have you because of [any of myriad Bible verses in which Jesus talks endlessly of these things] the only way to argue with him is to argue with the word of Christ.

Okay, fine, I'll do it.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:27 PM on December 8, 2014 [33 favorites]


For a frightening summary of the values of the Tea Party South--or more accurately, Neo-Confederates, you should read the text of the proposed 46th amendment to the Mississippi Constitution. I suppose it's the rightist pushback against the courts that have been overturning gay marriage bans. I think that their side feels as desperate as we do.

"One provision would define Mississippi as a "Christian" and "Southern" state whose principles are based on the Christian Bible and where prayer is respected. It would also require "Dixie" to be played whenever the national anthem is played."
posted by feste at 12:28 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


So here's a question. If the democrats abandon the south entirely, as far as funding candidates down there goes...

How do they expect to fund raise in the south? Do they expect democrat leaning rich (and other potential donors) in the south to hand money to the democratic party to fund candidates in the northern states? Do they really think that'll be effective?

I think if they abandon the south they'll find themselves losing more in the south (hell, they won't even be trying, right?) as well as losing funding from about half the country.

Great strategy. (I'm being sarcastic).
posted by el io at 12:28 PM on December 8, 2014


When you have finite resources, you sometimes need to rely on generalizations in order to make basic strategic decisions in order to achieve your political goals.

Actually, the better way to do it is go house-by-house and really understand exactly what your political chances are street-by-street, the way our legislators do redistricting.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:29 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


So, less generalization would still get you a more effective strategy is the point there.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:30 PM on December 8, 2014


Demographics are with the Democrats assuming that Democrats can actually capitalize on their current advantage with Latino voters moving forward.

Unfortunately it would be all too typical for the Dems to squander that advantage through complacency. There are a lot of conservative cards the Republicans can play to an ascendant Latino demographic. The Dems are going to have to work for it and that's exactly what they don't have the discipline to do.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:31 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Creating a compelling southern Democratic coalition based upon African Americans, Latinos, and perhaps southern liberal whites is certainly valid.

Yeah, I was going to point this out too. The hard problem for Democrats is mobilizing black and latino voters, especially, in off-years. If everyone voted (har) and the Democrats could retain 85% of black votes and 75% of latino, you could win statewide elections in Texas with only 23% of the anglo vote. In Mississippi, 27% of the anglo vote.

If I were God-King of the Democratic Party, I'd (a) get Democratic presidents to absolutely hammer on states with the VRA, challenging anything that had any demonstrable discriminatory effect, (b) spend shitloads on black and latino mobilization, and (c) spend relatively large amounts of money on state level races, both to set up favorable redistricting and to build a bench with experience winning with low support from anglo men.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:31 PM on December 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


My only conclusion is - having watched Democrats overwhelmingly ignore the right to privacy re: abortion and birth control; the right to self-determination re: marriage rights, drug legalization, voter reform, and immigration reform; and the right to pursue happiness re: raising minimum wages and a stronger social safety net to protect people who are one paycheck away from bankruptcy - is that most Democrats don't actually value those things.

Having watched a Democratically dominated Senate continue to ignore all of the things they could do - like confirm nominations so that the government was functional - in favor of a Republican Lite push through of the Keystone Pipeline, I can only conclude that they actually agree with the Republicans in some weird way. I would imagine this, more than anything else, is why the Democrats can't gain much traction with progressive and democratic Southerners who don't want to be ditched at the first sign of resistance.

Raising the minimum wage, strengthening unions, medical privacy, strengthening the social safety net - all of these seem like no brainers for me, which is why I'm baffled Democrats aren't focusing on those. The Affordable Care Act is pretty damn popular - why are people still pretending like it's not?
posted by Deoridhe at 12:32 PM on December 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


I can explain this in four words, @Thorzdad: Old white people vote. Yes, they're a numerical minority, but their voter turnout is highest among all groups in the USA.

Yes, yes. I hear this all the time. And, while statistically true, it seems to view "old white people" as this static group, frozen in time. And the cure is simply to wait for them to all die off.

But you know who becomes old white people? Young white people. And, in my neck of the woods, the young white people are voting strongly Republican or far-right libertarian. They're the young people who keep the evangelical churches growing and growing.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:34 PM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry, I'm just so confused. I was told when I was a flaming blue liberal Democrat living in the South that my vote didn't matter since everyone else was voting Republican.

Then I moved North, to a nice Rust Belt urban center that's largely Democrat. Again, I'm told that my vote doesn't matter because everyone in my neighborhood would vote like me anyway.

Either way, assholes in charge are chipping away at my civil rights and gutting the social support network in new and exciting ways. And I'll not even mention what they're doing to education, cause honestly, no one will be able to read it in a few decades anyway.

It's weird. The people on the internet I talk to seem to think that helping people out and being smart are good ideas. The people I'm friends with in person seem to want decent educations, health care, and a way to prevent corporations from taking every single thing they can. Hell, even my family in the South can agree that folks need to be helped out when necessary and otherwise largely left alone.

And yet, every damned election lately seems to support the people who shout "Down with big government!!! Except when it's about drugs or babies or tax rebates for corporations!!!!"

I honestly don't understand half of this nonsense, but I do know this, if the Dems pull out even further from the South, they better get used to filibustering.
posted by teleri025 at 12:39 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


jonp72: In addition, the attempt to shout down any attempt to make reasonable political generalizations about different geographic regions is completely counterproductive at best and groupthink at its worst.

Um, okay. When you gleefully dismiss the lived experience of several people as being irrelevant in one breath and talk about how it's not fair when people don't see eye-to-eye with you in the next, you're probably not going to win many arguments.
posted by duffell at 12:41 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


What exactly are you arguing for, jonp72? Your right to hate the South? Hate away! Or your right to be exempt from a call-out?
posted by feste at 12:44 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


He's agreeing with the premise of the original post.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:45 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


His name was Bill Clinton and conservatives hated him like poison.
Clinton, as you know, did win two presidential terms, with a half dozen southern states on his side both times.

FWIW, I haven't seen anyone saying there was a secret codeword that would make conservatives vote Democrat. That's just not a thing anyone really thinks can happen. The idea is to siphon off some of the southerners who would call themselves moderate in that they would not rule out voting Democrat, even if they seldom actually do. And that may be what Clinton did, but using an entirely different methodology.

The difference from Clinton would be that my hypothetical ultimate populist southern white dude wouldn't be a third way moderate trying to slice off bits of the conservative vote by out Republicaning the Republicans. And he wouldn't be wouldn't be incidentally Christian. He'd be a straight-up old school progressive, couching every bit of his feed the poor, treat the sick, resist the rich, rehabilitate criminals ideology in the words of Jesus H. Christ, because--quite helpfully--this personage southerners love so much spent his entire reported 33 years on this planet talking extensively about these topics.

I'm not proposing another nonthreatening white moderate who mentions the Lord on occasion. I'm proposing a straight-up lefty crusader, who says repeatedly he's doing this because Jesus said it's what people ought to do. This shouldn't be that hard, since Jesus did actually say that kind of thing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:53 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


You don't invest in voters to spend campaign funds. You invest in voters to raise campaign funds. What do you think the Moral Majority and the Tea Parties were really about? They were ways to raise funds and volunteers on a national scale.

Which is one of the (multiple) reasons we had 20 years of Reagan and Bush.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:54 PM on December 8, 2014


>Dems should be trawling the progressive churches for just the right white dude, a plainspoken populist guy with a pronounced drawl who can present economic parity, improved access to health care, etc.

Edwin Edwards lost by even more than Mary Landrieu did.
posted by Corinth at 12:54 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


So. the tl;dr take away is:

Republicans: bad politics.
Democrats: bad politicians.

We're screwed.
posted by Chitownfats at 12:56 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hi, Virginian here. I and my Democratic governor, both of my Democratic senators (including the one who just won re-election in a brutal Republican wave election), and all of the state's Democratic presidential electors from the last two presidential cycles would like to remind you that the South is not a political or cultural monolith, and that while we might not be putting Alabama or Mississippi or any rural congressional seats back in play anytime soon, there is in fact a proven game plan for Democrats to win in Southern states that have urbanized enough.

Excuse me, but I used to live in Virginia myself. I was a loyal volunteer and phone-banker for Jim Webb's successful campaign to get into the Senate in 2006. If anybody could have won political success with a populist cultural appeal to the South, it wouldn't have been Webb, but that wasn't why he won. He won, much like other Democratic candidates do, because he appealed to a multiethnic, multiracial coalition of voters. He had huge support from the Vietnamese community in Northern Virginia, because of his Vietnam service and his marriage to a Vietnamese woman. He had huge support from the Indian community, who informally kicked up their community's mobilization into high gear, when George Allen insulted his tracker, S. R. Sidarth, as "macaca." (Ironically, Sidarth had been born in Virginia, but Allen had not.) Webb also had very strong support in the black community (I know from my phone-banking experience). Blacks veterans near Richmond, Virginia Beach, and Norfolk were very respectful of Webb's military record and lack of racism. A common attitude in the Virginia black community then seemed to be that Jim Webb may be a redneck, but he was "their redneck." But when it came to mobilizing that ever-popular Appalachian/Scotch-Irish/populist constituency of poor Southern whites (a constituency that Webb hailed from & wrote about in his book Born Fighting), Webb's campaign was a complete flop. He even lost the vote in his hometown of Gate City, Virginia to that racist California carpetbagger, George Allen.

So, please believe me when I say that I do not make the generalizations I make lightly. I know that the South is not a cultural monolith, but it's also a helluva lot less culturally and ideologically diverse than the rest of the country. The relationship between the South and the Democratic Party has been akin to Lucy and Charlie Brown. Lucy can only pull away the football so many times, before Charlie Brown wises up and decides he's not going to kick the football any more.
posted by jonp72 at 1:03 PM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


know that the South is not a cultural monolith, but it's also a helluva lot less culturally and ideologically diverse than the rest of the country.

You live in a state that's 85% white. I live in a state that's 60% white.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:10 PM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


As someone who lives in NoVa, I find it hard to categorize Virginia as the 'the south'. There are absolutely extremely poor, rural areas and farming communities all over virginia, and that does indeed comprise a large amount of Virginia's square mileage, but land doesn't vote, people do. And the people mostly live in Arlington, Fairfax, Richmond, and the Tidewater area, all of which have more in common with liberal enclaves like Baltimore and Philadelphia than they do with the deep south.
posted by empath at 1:10 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


When you have finite resources, you sometimes need to rely on generalizations in order to make basic strategic decisions in order to achieve your political goals.

Actually, the better way to do it is go house-by-house and really understand exactly what your political chances are street-by-street, the way our legislators do redistricting.


When you're working on a "micro" level on a local campaign, I agree that you want to find hidden pockets of votes that have been ignored by your opponents. In this sense, less generalization and more granularity is advisable. On the other hand, if you're talking "macro" level strategy, such as at the level of a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (where say a Western populist like Rick Weiland in South Dakota got "sold out" in favor of Southern races where you probably wouldn't win anyway), then generalizations are necessary. I realize hindsight is 20/20 vision, but maybe if we had some more realistic assessments of the South, we might be able to reallocate some money to the Mountain West, where the Democrats might actually have more of a chance (especially where Democratic cultural liberalism overlaps with Western libertarianism, cf. Colorado/Alaska marijuana legalization).
posted by jonp72 at 1:12 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


So sitting on this for a bit - It's clear that your response struck a nerve with me, VikingSword. I've been thinking about it why, and there's a good reason for this, and it is relevant to the overall conversation.

The bread and butter of many political campaigns around here (as it is in many other places) has been taking words that individuals or groups have used, and manipulating them to mean something other than the original ideas. It's not just here, you see it all the time on attack ads and the like throughout the nation - but it's particularly nasty here, as it seems to be the default mode of political operation.

I don't know if this was your intention, but what you did to what I was saying was AWFULLY reminiscent of that - You took it out of context, and actually inverted what I was saying onto its head. In fairness, I'm clearly talking about this with great passion, and when we do so, it's easy to get caught up in assuming that you are being heard. But when we aren't actually being heard - which is often - we generally aren't given a chance to clarify, and the warped version of what we were saying ends up being the version that actually gets heard, and our voice ends up being silenced.

This actually parallels much of what happens here politically. There are many chunks of the populace that feel unheard, who want to have a voice - but when someone offers to listen to their voice, the actual content goes largely unheard, and often instead gets used to further a political agenda that had nothing to do with the original intention. I do not think many of us would mind if those who have been doing just this DID give up on the region - as while they may be claiming to listen, they aren't actually hearing us, and are already actively ignoring us.

Anyways, I do not believe this was your intention, but you completely re-created this nearly step for step:

Step 1. Make it seem as if I am really working for some force I'm not - ideally by invoking the idea of a wolf in sheeps clothing, or working as a double agent. For example:
> Michael Tomasky, is that you...? Clever, very clever disguise. It's exactly the same idea, writ large:
Step 2. Selectively quote in a way that reinforces this.
Step 3. Finish my quote with words I wasn't saying that run counter to the idea itself.
Step 4. Use this as a reason to summarily dismiss what I was actually saying.

Again, I do not think this was your intention -- but it so closely matched much of what actually happens in these scenarios. The difference is that Step 4 is often used to discredit the person entirely.

I think this is one reason of many why so many of us feel as if we have already been abandoned. We never get a chance to really make ourselves TRULY heard... I'm fortunate that I'm able to clarify in this particular venue and still get visibility. Unfortunately, in real life politics around here, that almost never happens.
posted by MysticMCJ at 1:14 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


know that the South is not a cultural monolith, but it's also a helluva lot less culturally and ideologically diverse than the rest of the country.

You live in a state that's 85% white. I live in a state that's 60% white.


And how ideologically diverse are those white people? There's a Southern culture of grievance that is so dominant that even liberals who should know better keep exhibiting it. I don't grab by ball and go home, because you aren't sufficiently deferential to Minnesota hot dish or Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.
posted by jonp72 at 1:14 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


What exactly are you arguing for, jonp72? Your right to hate the South? Hate away! Or your right to be exempt from a call-out?

Making generalizations is not the same as hatred. This "all generalizations are bad" mentality is absurd.
posted by jonp72 at 1:16 PM on December 8, 2014


Dems would save a lot of money too by writing off the whole place, except during Presidential elections.
posted by Renoroc at 1:19 PM on December 8, 2014


You live in a state that's 85% white. I live in a state that's 60% white.

And how ideologically diverse are those white people?

A nice summary of this discussion in a single question. Only white voters matter.

I don't grab by ball and go home, because you aren't sufficiently deferential to Minnesota hot dish or Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.

Says the person who just advocated taking the political ball and going home.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:20 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


This from DirtyOldTown -- "I mean, how can you constantly get your asses kicked by a party obsessed with Jesus when every word out of his mouth articulated points more akin to your platform?" --made me go back to "It's the Apocalypse, Stupid." I'm not sure you're talking about the same role for Jesus: "The one thing that affects how they live their daily lives is that they believe we are moving towards the End Times, the rise of the Antichrist, towards a great tribulation and a horrific human holocaust. In their minds, the imminent Second Coming would not be as important as getting people saved. ... This is significant because to believe the world is rapidly moving to its end effects [sic] how you vote, how you’re going to structure your education, how you understand the economy, how you’re going to treat global events, how you’re going to look at organizations like the United Nations."
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:20 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yes, unfortunately much of American Protestantism has been infused with dispensationalism and other eschatological beliefs. However, the tendency for everyone else to go, "Well there's no use convincing those people, they're just crazy" is also contributing to the self-fulfilling prophecy of apocalypticists bringing out the apocalypse.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:24 PM on December 8, 2014


Which again, just in case it gets lost again in this ridiculous false dichotomy that engagement with southern voters = pandering to conservative whites.

What I'm calling for is for nationwide grass-roots organizing, campaigning, and fundraising on progressive issues similar to the way that the Moral Majority and its successor, the Tea Party have done to shape the electoral landscape.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:26 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


photoslob: I just wish the dems at the national level would punish the southern states and cut funding for everything except Medicare and anything else that helps the poor.
Can I move to this version of the US where Dems control the national purse strings?
posted by IAmBroom at 1:31 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Making generalizations is not the same as hatred. This "all generalizations are bad" mentality is absurd.

All generalizations are not "bad" or "good." That mode of thinking is a very general mode of thinking, ironically. But all generalizing comes with trade-offs--hidden information that may or may not be relevant depending on what your aims in generalizing in the first place are--so I don't think there's anything wrong with pointing out that when you generalize, you omit part of the truth. That's always true when you abstract (I know, this is a generalization, but it also reinforces your point that generalizations are sometimes useful, which I don't deny).
posted by saulgoodman at 1:39 PM on December 8, 2014


But seriously, don't dump the south, dump the hopeless voters that won't vote for you no matter what. A more detailed analysis of those voters--a more specific approach--would yield a much more practical and effective strategy than just lazily saying "Forget the South."
posted by saulgoodman at 1:44 PM on December 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


MysticMCJ - from where I sit, it looks like you are going into defensive mode against what you perceive as an attack. I didn't write anything to attack you. I took what you said, and looked deeper, because it struck me as the microcosm of what the problem is: it seems like the other guy is doing it - whatever the it may be - while not seeing that we are participating in that very "it". I mean, doesn't it strike you as ironic to write:

There is a core that has aligned with the GOP, and they are going to vote for the big R no matter what.

Those are voters. How are they any different from a region full of such voters? Look at it even on an individual level of one person, of one voter, like perhaps a relative who votes Republican. You'd most likely say - as many here have testified to - there are some things that both of you agree on... it's not like you and him/her disagree 100% on everything. And yet, you'd say "that's a Republican voter" - and now the choice is to try to convert him or not. It's the same - exactly same for a group of voters you characterized as "There is a core that has aligned with the GOP, and they are going to vote for the big R no matter what". How great a leap is there from an individual to a group? Not much. And even less of a leap from characterizing a group of voters as such and a REGION filled with mostly such voters, as Michael Tomasky did. We can say "bbbbut there are liberal voters in those regions too!"... yes, and we can say "bbbut there are some things we Demos can agree on with those Republican voters on too!" and "bbbut there are some things I can agree on with my Republican relative too!". Don't you see it's the same dynamic of - separate, give up on?

Note I'm not accusing you of anything. I'm pointing out, that we often are doing exactly the same thing we critique others of doing, because there is an inherent political logic to it. Note, how your justification for it, is really word for word that of Michael Tomsky's too:

You: "Don't even try to get those voters, they are NOT going to convert."

Michael Tomsky: "Abandon Dixie" - don't even try, you are not going to succeed.

You: "All you are succeeding at is alienating a base of voters who are looking for more democratic ideals, and making them CONSIDERABLY less likely to vote."

Michael Tomsky: " The main point is this: Trying to win Southern seats is not worth the ideological cost for Democrats."

You see, your position is his position in microcosm. Or as I wrote, from your acorn:

"There is a core that has aligned with the GOP, and they are going to vote for the big R no matter what. Don't even try to get those voters, they are NOT going to convert. All you are succeeding at is alienating a base of voters who are looking for more democratic ideals, and making them CONSIDERABLY less likely to vote."

will grow the mighty oak of Michael Tomsky's thesis. Abandon "some" voters as beyond help and as not worth fighting for, that fight having zero chance of success but extracting a cost" is the microcosm of "abandon the Deep South as having no chance of success and extracting a cost".

Note again - I'm not castigating you. I'm merely saying - please recognize that this is a political dynamic that's independent of party or individual - Demos do it, Repubs do it, Conservatives do it, Liberals do it, and MysticMCJ does it too.

My larger point however, is not just to you, but to everybody in this thread who finds it so very easy to dismiss Michael Tomasky's thesis - you are doing so only because you have not dug deep enough. Because under the surface, it's exactly the same laws of political calculus - resource allocation and strategy, that are just as true for him as they are for you and everybody else. If you truly believe there are voters - groups or core of voters who are beyond reaching, not worth expending resources on, and even damaging to expend resources on, then you have nothing but nothing on Michael Tomasky. You want to critique Tomasky - dig deeper. A lot deeper.
posted by VikingSword at 1:50 PM on December 8, 2014


Demographic change will help a bit, but the South is going to be a tough row to hoe for another 10-15 years at least for Democrats. I do think that crisis also presents an opportunity in terms of greater party discipline and the lack of preening Blue Dogs regularly torching the party's mainstream positions to increase their own odds of re-election (au revoir, Ms. Landrieu!) but even factoring in that benefit, it's hard to see this as a Good Thing, and I feel like devoting some resources to keeping the grassroots alive and at least forcing GOP candidates to compete would be wise.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:50 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


For my part, I'm just saying "The South" is too broad. There are valuable votes that can be won even in parts of the South to anyone willing to meticulously carve them out the way Republicans do. But that kind of precision politicking requires a lot of rigor and organization.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:00 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


VikingSword: Because under the surface, it's exactly the same laws of political calculus - resource allocation and strategy, that are just as true for him as they are for you and everybody else.

Which begs the question of exactly where those resources are coming from, and how they are obtained. The lesson of the Moral Majority, The 50-State Strategy, and The Tea Party is that engaged voters are a resource rather than an expense, even if they're in the wrong district or wrong zip code. A dollar from Atlanta is equal to a dollar from NYC.

Michael Tomsky: " The main point is this: Trying to win Southern seats is not worth the ideological cost for Democrats."

And that's a framing that's both short-sighted and dependent on a false dichotomy.

Here's another way of looking at it: failing to develop national activism and fundrising networks is not worth the electoral costs for Democrats. Republican have repeatedly won elections by mobilizing on a national level along ideological lines. Either we fight on a national level by engaging with our ideological allies, or we accept that we're a minority party barring economic meltdowns.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:14 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


2012 electoral college map.

Obama won VA & FL so it wasn't a total south wipeout. But man, he was running against friggin' Mitt Romney. He should have been able to get about 500 electoral votes.
posted by bukvich at 2:28 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


You want to critique Tomasky - dig deeper. A lot deeper.

Democrats will never win VA. Or NC. Or CO. Only they did. The electoral map changes all the time and it wasn't so long ago that all these states were considered more or less unassailable. Adjust for local races as necessary.
posted by ersatz at 2:32 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, I have a different critique. It's not about winning today, because that's impossible. It's about winning tomorrow. And to win tomorrow, you have to be able to lose well today.

You don't run out of the region. But you don't stay there to win - today. You stay there to win tomorrow. Today, you plan on losing well. This is how you do it: separate yourself from the Republican platform as starkly as you can; stand for what you stand, but try your very best to explain the why not just the what. You will lose today. You put up another candidate next time - and the measure of success, is not that he wins, but that s/he loses by less than the last time. You continually provide an alternative - stark if need be - and you continue educating, like drops of water breaking through a rock.

When the Republican way fails - see Kansas - they must have an alternative explanation as to why it failed, so that one day they can try your solution. It does no good to be Repub Lite, because you are providing the same solution, only "less". When people see you as merely weaker, that's not an alternative solution - it's the same solution with less conviction. So lose well. Come back and lose again, but not as badly. And one day, you are the winner, on YOUR platform.

You must be willing to pour resources into hopeless places, willing to lose election cycles, but lose well - Landrieu lost, but lost badly, wrongly, stupidly. We don't need such losers. We need losers who come back as winners.

That's what we need to do with Dixie. Keep at it. Keep losing well, so you can one day win, and then keep on winning. Don't lose badly. The Democrats have been losing badly - running away from ACA, from Obama, from being Democrats - losing, losing, losing. If they lost by embracing who they are, ACA, and the whole 9 yards, I'd be optimistic. As is, I watch it with despair.
posted by VikingSword at 2:35 PM on December 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


Old white people vote. Yes, they're a numerical minority, but their voter turnout is highest among all groups in the USA. If the rest of us ganged up on them, we could kill the GOP, and put the old white folks out on an ice floe.
Along with all the old white folks who actually have been voting Democratic and are (if they are the only people who vote) also responsible for the Democratic politicians who get elected? Thanks. Way to overgeneralize.
posted by Peach at 2:43 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Affordable Care Act is pretty damn popular - why are people still pretending like it's not?

It's actually less popular now than when it was passed. A large part of the blame for that is that Republicans have sent the message that it is bad loud and clear and the Democrats have not really responded with near the volume in favor of it.

One often unrecognized factor that may be contributing to these overall findings is the extraordinary level of paid negative advertising opposing the ACA that has taken place since the law was enacted. A recent study reported that $445 million had been spent for advertising related to the ACA through the beginning of 2014.6 Of that amount, 94% was expended on negative ad messages about this national law.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:10 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


They're outnumbered, but they exist in droves.

Well, showbiz_liz, I calculated the total number of votes cast for each party's candidate in the 2014 midterm House of Representatives contest in NC, and the totals look something like this:

Democrats: 1,244,810
Republicans: 1,563,188

And that's with the lopsided turnout favoring Republicans. In 2012 when the turnout was higher, Wikipedia gives these results:

Democratic 2,218,357 50.60%
Republican 2,137,167 48.75%

So the Dems not only have the Reps outnumbered, but are an actual majority. Were it not for gerrymandering, NC would be a blue state.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:15 PM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


So the Dems not only have the Reps outnumbered, but are an actual majority. Were it not for gerrymandering, NC would be a blue state.

PA as well, but the actual split is 13R-5D. :/
posted by tonycpsu at 3:23 PM on December 8, 2014


This article from Slate identifies the problem nicely - Why Democrats Can’t Win Over White Working-Class Voters
After all, working-class whites didn’t leave the Democratic Party over insufficiently populist policy and rhetoric. The liberal economic reforms of 1960s—and Medicare in particular—paid benefits to white working-class families throughout the 1970s and ’80s, even as the group moved to a decisive break with the Democrats. No, the proximate cause of the break was the Democratic Party’s close identification with black Americans, who—after the riots of the late ’60s and ’70s—became identified with urban disorder and welfare.

Specifically, whites were bewildered and infuriated with liberals who defended rioting communities—correctly noting the decades of deprivation and abuse that led to those violent outbursts—and pushed anti-poverty programs to address the underlying conditions. Black incomes rose while at the same time, many white incomes were beginning to stagnate or even fall. Why was the government spending our tax dollars on them, working-class whites asked, when they destroy their neighborhoods and refuse to work, and we’re losing our jobs and our homes? In Nixonland, historian Rick Perlstein captures the basic attitude by relaying this comment from a white construction worker, directed at George McGovern, “They’re payin’ people who are on welfare today doin’ nothin’! They’re laughin’ at our society! And we’re all hardworkin’ people and we’re gettin’ laughed at for workin’ every day!”

posted by caddis at 3:23 PM on December 8, 2014


Democrats can't win without the South. I don't mean Tomasky's equation of South with Dixiecrat or Blue Dog. I mean that Democrats can't match Republican astroturfing in terms of dollars, volunteers, or word-of-mouth without the help of southern progressives and civil rights movements.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:25 PM on December 8, 2014


One often unrecognized factor that may be contributing to these overall findings is the extraordinary level of paid negative advertising opposing the ACA that has taken place since the law was enacted.

Well, there's that and, if you live in a bright red state that has refused the Medicaid expansion and refused to create their own marketplace (*COUGH*indiana*COUGH*) the insurance companies have done an exemplary job in fucking things up as best they can.

I'm in the middle of looking for insurance right now, and it's a fucking mess. I can find affordable policies that seem to include reasonable coverage, but when I dig deeper, I discover that neither my PCP nor the county hospital are in network. I've discovered that the insurers have apparently sliced-up the state amongst each other, gifting individual counties to one insurer or the other. So, I live in an Insurer-B county, and I really don't have a choice but to get one of their policies if I buy from the marketplace and want my current doctors and hospital to be in network.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:28 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Outside of Alabama, which didn't run a Dem against Sessions, the highest percentage voter getters were Enzi and Collins. Guess it's time to write off the West and the Northeast.

In all the rest of the states, the Dems were pulling 30/40 percent of the vote. Writing that off is damn foolish, both short and long term.

What this did show us is that running to the center and running away from the President doesn't work. And yeah, Landrieu probably lost in part because Louisiana is racist and doesn't like to be told they're racist, but that's not a death sentence, and chances are that the next Dem candidate for president will be white, which will also help.

(For whomever was wondering about Michigan and Wisconsin upthread, I can speak more to Michigan: Detroit's lost too many jobs to be the bulwark it used to be. Pretty much everywhere else that's not a college campus loathes Detroit and has for 40 years, and people in the 'burbs around it still get elected on the explicit promise of fucking over Detroit. That, combined with a Republican house that shoved through totally fucked 2000 redistricting is pretty much why the GOP will reign there until someone can rebuild Detroit's infrastructure and get good middle-class jobs in the city again. And on some level, I'm part of the problem: Michigan going further and further right means fewer and fewer jobs for people with my skills, and less and less of a cultural pull. So I moved someplace bluer than Redd Foxx, and am having an OK recovery.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:38 PM on December 8, 2014


Mary Landrieu was a conservative Democratic Senator for only 18 years. Obviously her election defeat is convincing evidence that while right-wing politics may help a southern Democrat hold office for a couple decades here and a couple decades there, the only true winning strategy is one that has never actually been pulled off.

In related news, here's some life advice: to thine own self be true. You'll be virtuous, happy, popular, famous, incredibly sexually attractive, wealthy beyond your wildest dreams, and then you'll get into heaven after you die. I have no idea why almost no one tries this.
posted by leopard at 3:55 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


The difference from Clinton would be that my hypothetical ultimate populist southern white dude wouldn't be a third way moderate trying to slice off bits of the conservative vote by out Republicaning the Republicans. And he wouldn't be wouldn't be incidentally Christian. He'd be a straight-up old school progressive, couching every bit of his feed the poor, treat the sick, resist the rich, rehabilitate criminals ideology in the words of Jesus H. Christ, because--quite helpfully--this personage southerners love so much spent his entire reported 33 years on this planet talking extensively about these topics.

I love Jimmy Carter too, but his historical moment is gone. Back in the 1970s white southern evangelical Christianity (a set of institutions initially established to defend slavery) was in a different place than they are now - they were having a hard time openly organizing around racial segregation, and they hadn't yet figured out that they could organize around opposition to abortion and hatred of LGBTQ people. And so members of white southern evangelical churches felt free to support candidates espousing a much broader range of ideologies.

It's sort of disrespectful to pretend that Jesus talk is particular important to the evangelical white Christian tradition right now - it ignores the reality of the institutions. In reality, your hypothetical candidate - your less-sleazy John Edwards or whatever - would be denounced as "the devil quoting scripture" so long as he didn't support the real agenda of white southern evangelical Christianity as it currently stands, an agenda consisting for the most part of 1) opposition to birth control, 2) opposition to abortion rights, 3) opposition to civil rights for LGBTQ people, and 4) support for the Republican Party.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:06 PM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


You Can't Tip a Buick has it exactly right: it's not just about being Christian, it's about believing precisely the right things about Christianity. Notably, they get rid of all of the good stuff, and anything that feels "hard."
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:34 PM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's not online yet for me to link it, but on Sunday The Atlanta Journal-Constitution printed a column by Jill Howard Church on page B5 in the Metro section entitled "Remarks stir up storm in Fayette."

Fayette County is a majority white (~71%) county in south Metro Atlanta. They recently switched to district voting from all at-large voting for county commission and school board seats, after a federal judge ruled that at-large voting violated the voting rights act. The county is still fighting the order in federal court.

Nov. 4th saw the election of the first black woman in county history to the board, Democrat Pota Coston. At the November 13th Board of Commissioners meeting, with Coston present, member David Barlow rose to give this speech during the portion of the agenda dedicated to reports from members of the board.
“We conservative Christians have been unmercifully attacked by the liberal ‘demoncrats’ and liberal press throughout Obama's presidency. Nov. 4 changed all that. I will work tirelessly to see that in 2016, the GOP regains the presidency, thereby nullifying the evil that has been proliferating throughout our great nation. I declare this in the almighty name of Jesus.”
He went on to say, “Even though I disagree with how [Coston] won, I look forward to working with her.” He was referring to the federally mandated district voting scheme.

None of the other commissioners said anything at the time, but the Chairman Steve Brown has since written in a Fayette paper that, “Barlow's comments should be in no way construed as the official or unofficial opinion of the Board of Commissioners.” The county Republican Party and Tea Party committees have repudiated Barlow's comments, and Barlow has since apologized.

Point being, there are plenty of us down here in Dixie who are terrified by what's happening. There are winnable local, state, and national races here. Abandoning us to these yahoos isn't going to do anything but encourage them in their eliminationist thinking and rhetoric.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:40 PM on December 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


> You see, your position is his position in microcosm.

Except it actually isn't. I'll try to phrase it better:

Tomsky is saying "Trying to win Southern seats is not worth the ideological cost for Democrats." What I am saying is "Compromising Democratic ideology does not win Southern seats."

The Democratic party needs to quit thinking along the lines of "How do we win over more Republican voters," which seems to be their strategy, and quit being blind to the support they could have from the many registered voters that they seem to alienate more and more.

As it is, the party seems to have a mentality of "Do not even try, you are not going to succeed" when it comes to running anyone who anyone actually in the party would give a damn about. Now, I'm very much a progressive, and I don't ever expect to see anyone who lines up with my ideals exactly - I'm not deluding myself there. But I'm sick of seeing attempts to run Democratic candidates under a platform that happens to align almost perfectly with the Republican platform they are running against, just as I'm sick of seeing huge chunks of the community neglected in order to chip away at more and more of those who have traditionally voted Republican.

> If you truly believe there are voters - groups or core of voters who are beyond reaching, not worth expending resources on, and even damaging to expend resources on, then you have nothing but nothing on Michael Tomasky.

The thing is, this is ALREADY what the democratic party is doing (and HAS been doing) in the South - It's as if they feel that the more moderate or progressive folk aren't worth expending the resources on. I absolutely think it's not worth expending further resources trying to court an even more conservative base - there are so many gains to be had by engaging those that you have already left far behind, as opposed to this march to chip away.

Where I live, registered Democrat voters outnumber registered Republican voters by a ratio of 3:1 - yet the republican party DOMINATED the elections by a huge margin. We had pathetic voter turnout. I wonder who stayed home.... and I wonder why. You can see similar results throughout the state. It's not every county, but it's actually a majority. Maybe we just feel like the Democratic party already HAS given up on us.
posted by MysticMCJ at 4:45 PM on December 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


I'm all for getting rid of the blue dogs and DINO's. Sure, we may wind up tipping the scale a bit, but at the end of the day, having a clear understanding of who is in your Party matters. If Dems have to water down their message, then they don't stand for anything, and that's the whole point, isn't it? Weakened by a constant barrage of fascists on the teevee, radio and newspapers...in their churches, in their local bars...at some point, putting someone in there who is just a Republican in a blue suit doesn't help.

If the Dems get solid progressive/liberal candidates to run (and I don't mean run away from the issues...or the black man...or the guy who got the bj from that Jewish girl), then they'll at least have a platform and the black-and-white presentation that most voters are looking for.

I know a conservative who will never vote for anyone who is pro choice. Doesn't matter what Party. You can't win those peoples' votes. The answer isn't to run an anti-choice Democrat in the region. Let them live with the people they elect, and shine a big fucking light on what that means to them when the laws change and the economy tanks.
posted by Chuffy at 4:46 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


> I know a conservative who will never vote for anyone who is pro choice. Doesn't matter what Party. You can't win those peoples' votes. The answer isn't to run an anti-choice Democrat in the region.

This is a good example of what I was trying to say as well.
posted by MysticMCJ at 4:49 PM on December 8, 2014


Obama abandoned the 50 state strategy shortly after his election when he appointed Rahm Emanuel his Cheif of Staff. Rahm hated the 50 state strategy along with most of the beltway crowd he held court with. When Dean adopted the 50 state strategy the democrats saw two elections where they took and then expanded their majorities in congress. Since they abandoned it we have now seen 3 elections where those gains have been erased. The idea that the democratic message cannot resonate with southerners is a terrible concept. How much longer will democrats stick with an idea that has been shown to fail.
posted by humanfont at 4:56 PM on December 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


The idea that the democratic message cannot resonate with southerners is a terrible concept. How much longer will democrats stick with an idea that has been shown to fail.

There is very little point doing anything congressional in the south until the 2019 elections and the 2020 census.
posted by Talez at 5:03 PM on December 8, 2014


The idea that the democratic message cannot resonate with southerners is a terrible concept.

This is especially true in municipal and congressional elections, where there are some very blue and progressive districts. New Orleans ain't much like the rest of Louisiana, and they send their own people to Congress without asking the rest of the state.

At the state level with governors and senators it's definitely different, and if you expect to get anyone to the left of Landrieu in one of those offices yeah I want some of that stuff you're smoking too. Thing is, in those races we're still better off with a lukewarm Democrat who will at least work with us than with an absolute obstructionist who won't. There is no third choice there, and you can thank our ancestors for the 2 senators per state thing.

On the other hand you're committing suicide on a national scale to piss off the base that votes for democratic House Representatives in Southern districts. Unless your message is "go ahead and secede again, this time we'll let you" then you need those guys if you don't want the assholes you hate so much running everything.
posted by localroger at 5:16 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think the Democrats have a truly compelling message. Its because they don't really represent the people, they just want to win the election while making as few promises as possible. How about breaking up monopolies like comcast and the big media conglomerates? How about freeing up spectrum to provide free mesh networking nationwide, all you need is the equipment? How about prosecuting bankers and putting them in jail? How about changing our system of prosecution in this country so that the police don't get off scott free time after time? How about eviscerating the NSA? How about coming out against carbon pollution and being up front about it instead of wishy washing around? How about for taxing the upper .05% at a radically higher rate, and delivering a national guaranteed income? How about nationwide drug legalization and decriminalization? How about real patent reform? Addressing the massive and criminal student loan debacle?
posted by Ansible at 5:34 PM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


"In reality, your hypothetical candidate - your less-sleazy John Edwards or whatever - would be denounced as "the devil quoting scripture" so long as he didn't support the real agenda of white southern evangelical Christianity as it currently stands, an agenda consisting for the most part of 1) opposition to birth control, 2) opposition to abortion rights, 3) opposition to civil rights for LGBTQ people, and 4) support for the Republican Party."

You don't have to win all of them, you just have to win some and — more importantly — take away a major reason that people have to not vote for you. It's not enough to win on its own, but just because a vocal fringe is batshit doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of middle-of-the-road "moderates" who will be easier to woo with a less-sleazy John Edwards mien. (Edwards is one of my big disappointments — I liked a lot of his policies. But he seems to have taken Primary Colors as a campaign document.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:35 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Democratic Party appeals to a whole bunch of southerners. The Democratic Party appeals to a whole bunch of deeply religious southerners. This is why I think that the Democratic Party should focus on running candidates who speak solidly Democratic values, coming out of the churches full of deeply religious Democrats that you can find all over the south.

tl;dr: Black people exist.

Although deeply religious black democrats might not be able to win senate races in the south any time soon, the Democratic Party, both in the south and elsewhere, would benefit greatly from placing the deeply religious Democratic southerners who actually exist front and center. The Democratic Party can embrace its status as the party for people of color, women who don't hate women, LGBTQ people who don't hate LGBTQ people, liberals, moderate leftists, farther-left leftists who don't mind embracing entryism as a tactic, and most Christians. This leaves the Republican party with white evangelical southern Christians and their "moderate" fellow-travelers. This is a group that holds sway in the south right now, but which isn't really a nationwide power. And maybe we can eventually win the South by converting their children and shaming some of the fellow-travelers into splitting off and joining us.

</uncharacteristic_optimism>
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:29 PM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


The Democratic Party also appeals to a whole bunch of white deeply religious Southerners. Just not enough, currently, to win elected office.
posted by klangklangston at 6:37 PM on December 8, 2014


There is very little point doing anything congressional in the south until the 2019 elections and the 2020 census.

I'm not really keen to wait that long to see the government doing actual work again.
posted by Archelaus at 7:05 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Abandoning the South now is not a sane strategy because the Dems need to fight for State Legislatures in Greater Jeebusland now, so they can re-gerrymander house districts after the next census.
posted by monotreme at 7:12 PM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Atrios:
The 50 state strategy was more about taking control away from the DC party organizations, to take the money out of Washington, to take the power (and filthy lucre) away from the corrupt and stupid DC consultant class.

It wasn't about fighting everywhere, it was about not running all of those fights from DC.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:01 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


in Greater Jeebusland

Maybe not mocking 75% of the populations religious beliefs would be helpful in garnering votes.
posted by el io at 8:10 PM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


There is very little point doing anything congressional in the south until the 2019 elections and the 2020 census.

If you don't fight for the statehouses until the end of the decade, who do you think is going to be redrawing the districts after the census? Fight now, build now, prepare the ground for later. Just not with Republican-lites.
posted by immlass at 8:11 PM on December 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


Maybe not mocking 75% of the populations religious beliefs would be helpful in garnering votes.

Yes, historians will look back at an offhand comment on MetaFilter that spawned the fall of the American empire.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:12 PM on December 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


I think the idea of running and supporting Democratic candidates in all states and in all elections is an excellent idea. And one that needs to be done, here in San Antonio this last election there were many local offices where either a Republican was running unopposed, or the only opposition was Libertarian and/or Green. Offices where the local Democratic party had simply given up. That's the strategy of a losing party.

If that, aggressively running and supporting candidates in all states and races, is what is meant by a "fifty state strategy" then I'm 100% behind a fifty state strategy.

But if a "fifty state strategy" means more of the same, failed, Democratic attempts to be ever more conservative in hopes of getting a few white racist conservatives to vote for them then I'm 100% opposed. We don't need a watered down Democratic party, we don't need Republican lite, it won't win, it hasn't won, it fails every time it is pushed, and the fact that the cocktail party circuit has kept the Republican lite strategy going despite a consistent record of utter failure is all the evidence we need that the cocktail partiers should simply be ignored when they screech and howl that a real progressive platform will be bad.

The way to win votes in the South is to stop running from being Democrats. It's a long term strategy, it won't win right away in all, but it'll work in the long run. And it'll be a damn site more appealing to the base than the current Republican lite strategy.

I've got to disagree completely with localroger. We don't need traitors, or Republicans in disguise, or DINO's or whatever you want to call the Liandru type of Democrats. They're poison. They, not even by their own effort but simply by their existence and by the cowards in the party leadership clinging to the hope that they can keep being reelected, cause the Democrats to become ever more Republican lite, and that is the path of the loser.

If the Democratic party being run by the Democratic wing of the Democratic party causes the DINO's to lose elections well, that's not the best thing, but it isn't the worst thing either.

Frankly, I'm in favor of primary challenging every single one of the DINO's and kicking them out on their asses. A genuine Republican in the office is a known enemy, we can deal with that easily. A fake Democrat in office is a poison pill, a cancer eating away at the party from within, and that's vastly worse than losing an election.

I accept that the Democratic party isn't ever going to be as liberal or progressive as I want it to be. That's fine. I'll always be on the left fringe.

But the Democratic party, if it is going to win and survive, must stand for something. It can't simply be the party of people who like Republican ideas but want a kinder, gentler, implementation of the Republican agenda. It can't simply be the party that isn't quite as bad as Republicans. That way lies failure, we've seen that over and over and over again.

You want to win elections, you've got to stand for something. It's that simple. Right now, everyone knows what the Republicans stand for. Everyone can tell you: small government, low taxes, traditional values [1]. But no one can tell you what the Democrats stand for, because they don't stand for anything. And no one but wonks like me who vote tactically based purely on the calculus of harm reduction is going to vote for a Democratic party that stands for nothing.

Having a tent so big that it can include both Elizabeth Warren and the DINO's means the tent is so big it doesn't actually exist.

[1] By which, of course, they mean oppression of women, minorities, and the poor.
posted by sotonohito at 8:21 PM on December 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yes, historians will look back at an offhand comment on MetaFilter that spawned the fall of the American empire.

Mocking religious folks is part and parcel of the political discourse. Its not this one comment, it
something that happens all over, on comment sections all over the internet.

This discussion is about strategies that could help the democrats succeed (or fail), right? I mean if the democrats are going to make 'to hell with the south' part of their platform, and then add 'to hell with religious people' it's a wonder there are any elected democrat officials anywhere.
posted by el io at 8:31 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not in favor of anything resembling "to hell with the south" as I stated above, so if you're looking for an argument, you'll have to find someone else to take that side. Certainly, the amount of heterodoxy / Republican-lite-ism that sotonohito talks about has been a problem for the Democrats for a long time, so there are benefits to not having to coddle them while they appeal to their conservative constituents, but yes, writing off an entire geographic region of the country will not be productive.

elected democrat officials

Come on, cut that shit out.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:37 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


A recent study reported that $445 million had been spent for advertising related to the ACA through the beginning of 2014.6 Of that amount, 94% was expended on negative ad messages about this national law.

That is horrifying and is something the Democrats should be pounding into the media every day. "These people are spending hundreds of millions of dollars so you can't take your child to the doctor."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:16 PM on December 8, 2014 [13 favorites]


I've always liked the 50 state strategy for Dems. I've seen it as a, "The best defense is a good offense," type strategy. The more places you put strong challengers in red areas, the less resources Republicans have to put in blue areas. Ultimately the goal is the same, soldify Dem strength in strongholds. The 50 state strategy has the benefit of being aspirational for expanding that territory or at least sniping targets of opportunity.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:22 PM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


(I mean, the DLC strategy will still try to snipe, they just do it without the same long term local commitment of a 50 state strategy that sets up a deep base of activists for when the chance comes. I remain convinced to this day that Dean was a Johnny Appleseed for the coming Obama juggernaut.)
posted by Drinky Die at 9:26 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Up until I read the bit upthread about the 50SS taking control out of DC consultants' hands, I was utterly perplexed as to how anyone could think it's a stupid idea. Even if you lose, you (as a party) are showing the people in that area that someone is listening, which drives engagement for the next round.

But, money. Sigh.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:28 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The 50 state strategy has the benefit of being aspirational for expanding that territory or at least sniping targets of opportunity.

There's also the benefit of not leaving every potential voter that's not in a swing state in whatever the current election is feeling completely ignored. It's not like we don't talk to each other across state lines, and not all of us live in the states we were born in. Giving up on us when we live in Mississippi is giving up on us when we've moved to Colorado and suddenly people are spending money on talking to us.

We develop as voters over our lifetimes -- we're not election year tabulae rasae. Leaving whole states out of the conversation is not a useful way to develop an electorate.
posted by asperity at 9:41 PM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


"less-sleazy John Edwards or whatever"

Fuck, I'd vote for that asshole over any Republican out there in 2016.
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:58 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Apocryphon: "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy."

Can we start calling Republicans "Sodomites" now?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:03 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Democrats just want to be good at something. They've been perfecting the art of throwing in the towel for at least thirty years now.
posted by TrialByMedia at 5:46 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dumping the electoral college is all important now. If non-Republicans in the South assume that both their Senate and Presidential vote is a useless exercise statewide, they'll vote even less than they already do.
posted by Brian B. at 6:23 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think the article's argument is dumb, and agree that Dems should be running candidates everywhere, the more progressive the better. But it's going to be difficult to convince quality progressive candidates to run in districts where they don't stand much chance of success. Not many people would be up for seriously disrupting their lives for a year or more to pull 35% in an election.
posted by burden at 6:27 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Because the "old Confederacy" died with the American Civil War, and exists only as an ideological urban legend. It's nothing more than a vanity utopian vision, spoiled by its mean-spirited cynicism to a pale shadow of the 19th century utopians who actually tried to create Zion in the New World.

Right, the idea of Confederate revival in the South doesn't exist. We've thankfully progressed to them merely being a bunch of states that declare that the elected president they don't like is a threat to their way of life and emphatically insist they can pass state-based legislation that supersedes Federal law, most of which revolves around a moral insistence of the inferiority of various racial and social classes, and continuously make allusions to the "constitutionality of secession" just, you know, as a theoretical exercise.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:32 AM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think the article's argument is dumb, and agree that Dems should be running candidates everywhere, the more progressive the better.

Democrats should help launch a centrist party, and preserve the Democratic brand nationwide by avoiding milk toast candidates in the South. It could destroy most Republicans in the South and offer some competition to Democrats too, but it would have the middle class as its focus and would never threaten Democrats nationwide until it replaces the Republican party. This option is not available to ideological or religious conservatives.
posted by Brian B. at 6:55 AM on December 9, 2014


“The Left Can Win,” Pablo Iglesias, Jacobin, 09 December 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 7:58 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe someone in the preceding 200+ comments has mentioned John Cassidy's response in the New Yorker. Maybe the Democrats should have had some respect for Howard Dean's 50-state strategy, and some proactive strategizing around GOP gerrymandering. Maybe we should not revisit the results of the Civil War.
posted by mmiddle at 8:40 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Maybe not mocking 75% of the populations religious beliefs would be helpful in garnering votes.

Pro tip: It's not their religious views that are the problem, but rather their racist, homophobic, and dominionist views. If you want to dignify them as religious views, you're falling into their trap.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:43 AM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Another response to the Tomasky piece: In the Wake of Landrieu
posted by jonp72 at 10:59 AM on December 9, 2014


Maybe not mocking 75% of the populations religious beliefs would be helpful in garnering votes.

75% of the population is not conservative evangelical. The largest Christian sect in the country is the Catholic church, which, while conservative on many social issues, is not as poisonous as the right-wing fundamentalist churches. Then there are mainline and "liberal" churches, which are counted as Christian but are quite different in outlook from the very conservative churches.

Thankfully, the Southern Baptist Convention is a minority.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:30 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Perhaps a way to frame the problem is that liberals don't have the same influence and control over Democratic politicians that opposing deep conservatives have over the Republican party. The tea party cohort took the Republican platform from reckless to insane. What shift have the liberal minded caused the Democrats to make?

They seem to be more in the position of digging their nails in and screaming as the ship pitches to the right, but can't manage to get the captain to ever turn the thing the other way. Is it purely because they are afraid to lose the Southern vote? That seems too much like a convenient cop out for not acknowledging the impotence and fecklessness of the Democratic message.
posted by incolorinred at 12:14 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


One often unrecognized factor that may be contributing to these overall findings is the extraordinary level of paid negative advertising opposing the ACA that has taken place since the law was enacted.

Well, there's that and, if you live in a bright red state that has refused the Medicaid expansion and refused to create their own marketplace (*COUGH*indiana*COUGH*) the insurance companies have done an exemplary job in fucking things up as best they can.

I'm in the middle of looking for insurance right now, and it's a fucking mess. I can find affordable policies that seem to include reasonable coverage, but when I dig deeper, I discover that neither my PCP nor the county hospital are in network. I've discovered that the insurers have apparently sliced-up the state amongst each other, gifting individual counties to one insurer or the other. So, I live in an Insurer-B county, and I really don't have a choice but to get one of their policies if I buy from the marketplace and want my current doctors and hospital to be in network.


It also doesn't help that healthcare.gov launched as a total incompetent clusterfuck. It remains one to this day for me, I'm trying to use it to explore my options but the account I created at least three times before has somehow been purged again with the password recovery email never appearing so I have to make a new one. But I can't go forward with a new account either.

Look, the law got healthcare to people who desperately needed it, but it is also an emblem of big government incompetence for not entirely undeserved reasons. Anyway, I'm off to sit on the phone with the government for a while.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:34 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and part of the thing with the ACA is that it has not been an unalloyed boon for everyone. People who had pretty generous healthcare plans are seeing them cut back or get more expensive. Yes, these were never the people the ACA was targeting, but it seemed to be billed as something for everyone, which is not what it actually accomplished.
posted by corb at 1:50 PM on December 9, 2014


I waited on hold for 15 minutes and now I'm on hold again because the operator (who is very polite and sounds completely competent so far) says that her computer is running slow today. To be fair, the estimated time on hold was 20 minutes so she gets a 5 minute grace period.

*pours tequila*

She is back before the 5 minutes. She says her system kicked her out. I must call back. She has no access to the information I need.

I am not making this up. She says give them a couple hours.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:58 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Right, the idea of Confederate revival in the South doesn't exist.

Some people believe in a Confederate revival, some people believe in extraterrestrial buggery, some people believe in a "war on Christmas." All three have just about equal credibility as far as I'm concerned.

But then again, I concur with the diplomat responsible for maintaining English neutrality that the Old Confederacy was the delusion of mad dogs picking a fight with an army twice their size.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:07 PM on December 9, 2014


Pro tip: It's not their religious views that are the problem, but rather their racist, homophobic, and dominionist views. If you want to dignify them as religious views, you're falling into their trap.

And I'm fully for calling out racist, homophobic, and dominionist views! But that can actually be done within the context of a respectful discussion, without being dismissive of religion altogether. Furthermore if you just call them out on all these views using the bible as ammunition, you'll come off as someone that respects religion.

But instead of calling out the bullshit minority religious perspective, folks use phrases like "in Greater Jeebusland" which is dismissive to all Christians.

75% of the population is not conservative evangelical. The largest Christian sect in the country is the Catholic church, which, while conservative on many social issues, is not as poisonous as the right-wing fundamentalist churches. Then there are mainline and "liberal" churches, which are counted as Christian but are quite different in outlook from the very conservative churches.

Right, I'm with you entirely. The 'moral majority' is a scam, they are not a majority (nor are they moral). Lumping all christians in with the conservative evangelical and calling them names certainly isn't helpful for the Christians that are not dominionist, racist, or homophobic.

And to be clear, I'm not espousing these views as a Christian myself - I'm not Christian, but I have Christian friends, and I try to not mock their beliefs.
posted by el io at 2:12 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


A Houston political blogger who's kind of a number-cruncher wrote this post about the decline of the Anglo Democrat in Texas and some of the practical issues involved in changing the numbers. NB: not a self-link but the author is a personal friend.
posted by immlass at 5:46 PM on December 9, 2014


"Look, the law got healthcare to people who desperately needed it, but it is also an emblem of big government incompetence for not entirely undeserved reasons. Anyway, I'm off to sit on the phone with the government for a while."

While I feel your pain on this, it helps to remember that insurance companies are just as fucking venal, bureaucratic and terrible, if no more so. A lot of the backlash I have heard from folks around me has seemed like they thought that a new government website would get rid of all of the bullshit required to get insurance, rather than being slightly better but still not great. Blaming "big government incompetence" sounds snappy until you remember that the alternative is big corporate incompetence.
posted by klangklangston at 6:29 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Last thirty years or so the Perfect has spent an awful lot of time cock-punching the Good.
posted by localroger at 8:06 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


While I feel your pain on this, it helps to remember that insurance companies are just as fucking venal, bureaucratic and terrible, if no more so.

Just so. I remember having to scream at an insurance company about keeping my premature daughter in the NICU as she lay sucking oxygen while her O2 saturation was tanking and she kept popping pneumothoraxes. They kept saying I didn't have any insurance, even though I had been working at the University for three years and had reupped on time at renewal both times. This dumb fuck didn't seem to get the notion that my daughter's life was on the line and thought he was just playing a bureaucratic game. He had never come across a father fighting for his child's life. Waiting on the phone a few hours would have been way preferable.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:15 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


el io, I know exactly what you're point is, but I think you've missed the point that we're making. It may help to read this:
jeebus
A name used on progressive blogs to deride intolerant religious rightwingers ("fundies") who use the Christian faith as a flag and front for every one of their nastiest motivations, statements and actions, hiding hate behind professed faith. Basically "jeebus" is a code word for lefties permitting them to mock self-annointed religious frothing biters / ultraconservatives of the social or financial right who advocate selfishness and cruelty (via nutty religious errors) without actually deriding Jesus or Christianity itself which they don't have a problem with. Put alternatively, a person who follows the New Testament loves Jesus; a person who can't wait to take away sick benefits from a dying lesbian because God Hates Fags loves Jeebus. Get the diff?
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:18 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I waited a few hours and called back. I talked for about 45 minutes and we were unable to complete a successful password reset. I asked to talk to a manager and she said yes and then hung up on me.

It remains a complete mystery to me why some people don't love this law.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:09 PM on December 9, 2014


It's not a mystery at all: The ACA act is what changed prior to you having this call, so obviously no insurance bureaucracy was tedious, opaque or stupid without the ACA, therefore the ACA must be to blame.
posted by klangklangston at 10:22 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


When I called Blue Cross to get a password reset so I could take a look at my current coverage it took me 5 minutes.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:31 PM on December 9, 2014


The other—and, in my opinion, anyway, more long-lasting—problem with the ACA is that it wasn't sold to the public as a redistributive program even though anyone with half a brain eventually realizes that it shifts costs from older and unhealthy people to younger and healthier ones. In other words, there is no world in which it is not going to increase costs on somebody, but it was billed as some sort of magic chicken-in-every-pot solution to healthcare. And that led directly to the lulzy situation we have now, where Jonathan Gruber is being forced to flagellate himself in front of Congress for saying—admittedly intemperately—what everyone with even a passing interest in healthcare reform already knew.

If your signature legislative achievement requires everyone involved to never, ever come right out and say in plain language how it really works, that's sort of a problem. You are practically begging for it to backfire, and when it does, it gives your opponents a silver plate opportunity to present themselves as the plain-dealing, no-nonsense, honest crooks that they are.

This is basically only a risk when you are trying to push complex, top-down, technocratic solutions. You can mitigate this risk by playing the long game, and not trying to do as much at the Federal level. The authoritarian/reactionary Right (who are not 'conservatives' by any reasonable definition) know this very well, and have been extremely successful in playing the long game at the state level. For reasons that I have never been entirely certain of, the Left has always seemingly been allergic to this long game.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:31 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


How would you have sold it as a redistributive program and still gotten the votes that were needed to pass it? I don't think we need to relitigate the public option / single payer debate, but with the law as it was, do you really think more of a focus on the fact that it was going to raise some peoples' costs would have increased its chances of passing?
posted by tonycpsu at 8:40 AM on December 10, 2014


How would you have sold it as a redistributive program and still gotten the votes that were needed to pass it?

That's a pragmatic problem that would have taken some doing to solve. I'm not saying one way or the other whether it would have succeeded or failed. But when your base plan is "let's lie and hide the truth from people so they'll vote for our bill" you have kind of already crossed into bad territory and ceded the moral high ground in many ways.
posted by corb at 9:14 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


In other words, there is no world in which it is not going to increase costs on somebody, but it was billed as some sort of magic chicken-in-every-pot solution to healthcare.

Well, only people who don't have an inkling how insurance works would ever give credence to a claim that it wouldn't redistribute costs. And their ignorance signifies that they most need to be forced to carry insurance, because they are ill-prepared to manage their own finances.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:57 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


When I called Blue Cross to get a password reset so I could take a look at my current coverage it took me 5 minutes.

I'll see your anecdote, and raise it with one in which last year, when MNsure was supposedly so horrid, it took me 2 minutes to get a list of quotes for policies. Do I win something?
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:59 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


you have kind of already crossed into bad territory and ceded the moral high ground in many ways.

My moral high ground is that the benefits of saving lives outweigh the fact that the legislation was sold, as all pieces of legislation are, in a way that highlighted the positives.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:08 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'll see your anecdote, and raise it with one in which last year, when MNsure was supposedly so horrid, it took me 2 minutes to get a list of quotes for policies. Do I win something?

You win not having to use the federal site. :) Though it works for many people the ongoing problems with it remain an issue for many as well. I'm computer literate but I'm going to end up having to do this over the phone, which is not my preference.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:15 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


How would you have sold it as a redistributive program and still gotten the votes that were needed to pass it?

Well, I wouldn't have. Not at the Federal level, anyway. (I guess I'd have made some sort of token good-faith effort, let the Republicans filibuster it, and then been able to say with a straight face "those guys over there are why you don't have health insurance, those people right there". Then shut up and appoint judges.) The Federal level isn't the place for big ideas, anyway; if you want to win at those, you have to play the long game at the state level.

And that strategy would have involved pushing universal insurance coverage at the state level (Romneycare, more or less), and then via Federally authorized interstate compacts (which have to be authorized at the Federal level, but are opt-in). Red states need not apply, if they don't want to. You let the programs speak for themselves.

It's not at all clear that by operating on the Federal level you get many economies of scale that are that much more than what you'd get in large states (e.g. New York or California), particularly if those states can work together. In a few years there would probably be such a steady flow of news stories about the horrors of expensive, preventable death in nonparticipating states, that there'd be a clamor even from the reddest states to join up. Yeah, you might end up with a few holdout states, or places that decided to build their own system (probably Texas, which is notorious for having weird insurance regulation), or places that fall victim to regulatory capture and enforce a lower medical loss ratio than the 85% ACA ratio, but on the other hand you might have states that decide to go full single-payer or force higher loss ratios too. (I mean, nobody really knows what the maximum MLR you can enforce before the companies go under is. They squealed a lot about 85%, but quite a few businesses operate on 5% margins; it's hard to say for sure until somebody turns the screws. You could create a state-run non-profit and peg the MLR to their admin overhead; that'd be kinda fun.) At any rate, you'd have a bunch of hedged bets instead of a single gamble on one national reform.

State-by-state strategies are how pro-business groups advance their agendas all the time. It is quite successful. Sweeping change at the Federal level which doesn't originate from the Supreme Court, is the exception rather than the rule. (Unsurprising, because the Federal government is designed practically from the ground up to thwart anything that smells of drastic change.)

Anyway, sometimes I think that the reason the Right seems to play the game better than the Left is because they have fewer True Believers to deal with, and thus they can more easily maintain the requisite level of cynical detachment that is required to come up with a calculated strategy. Who knows. But it looks from the outside like Progressives spend a whole lot of time swinging for the fences in the middle of a football game.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:36 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


djw at Lawyers, Guns, and Money: Selective racial innocence
The Democrats, we're repeatedly assured, could do just fine in the South if they had a strong candidate who articulated a strong progressive message. This is almost completely untethered from any concrete empirical claims; the first thing I'd want to see is evidence that non-voters are a) ready to be persuaded to vote by a different kind of candidate or message and b) the kind of candidate and message they're waiting for is distinctly liberal in the context of contemporary American politics.

What's striking to me is the extent to which people who aren't particularly naive about America's racial history and its implications for contemporary politics in other contexts manage to forget this context so easily when it's convenient to do so. Southern whites have never, in significant numbers, engaged in any political project of note that required cooperation with blacks. When emancipation made it appear as though such compromise and cooperation might be necessary, they waged a campaign of terrorism to prevent it. When Roosevelt came to them with a radical in the context of American politics set of poverty alleviation measures, they made the exclusion of blacks a condition of their support. When voting rights became entrenched, 100 years late, and Southern blacks joined the coalition of the Democratic party, they abandoned the Democratic party over the course of a generation.

[...]

America’s racial history has been, and will continue to be, a major impediment to a variety of worthwhile and necessary political projects. I, too, wish there was some shortcut, some fix, some “hack”, to get around this monumental hurdle to a better, more just, more functional society. But indulging in the fantasy such a shortcut exists is a mistake, because it produces bad political analysis but also because it constitutes a failure to look at America’s racial history squarely and directly, and seeing it for what it is. The temptation to avert our gaze is understandably strong but must be resisted.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:40 PM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


That nasty redistribution of your income to us older folks will look a lot less nasty if you have the bad luck to be in an accident and spend some time in the hospital which is covered by your nasty forced ACA plan instead of finding yourself on the hook for the whole thing because you thought you were immortal.

Same reason the law requires you to have auto insurance. There is a level of stupid which you should be prevented from exercising.
posted by localroger at 2:11 PM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


You are required to buy auto insurance not for your own benefit, but for the benefit of other people that you might harm.
posted by leopard at 4:55 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Actually, it's both! The same way that the law can require you to buy a motorcycle helmet to certain specs and wear it when you ride. The "other people" interest is that the costs of emergency and catastrophic care are borne by taxpayers anyway.
posted by klangklangston at 4:58 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


An interesting comparison, given that motorcycle helmet laws have actually been controversial enough to actually be rolled back in many states. The high water mark for helmet laws was probably in the 1970s. (Further interesting note: Michigan says you can ride without a helmet, but only if you have health insurance!) And of course, there is no Federal helmet law. There have been, at various times, different incentive schemes to try to get states to pass their own helmet laws, much like seatbelt laws, but states were free to ignore them if they really wanted to. Some did, some didn't.

Anyway, the comparison to automobile liability insurance is still pretty reasonable though, but it bears considering how we got to near-universal auto insurance. There's no Federal requirement for that, either; the requirement to have liability insurance as a condition of operating a car is something that spread slowly as it became clear that it was a good idea. Massachusetts, unsurprisingly, was first (1925), New York was second (1956), most other states followed by the 70s, and New Hampshire and Virginia still don't require it. (Although NH requires you to show proof of financial responsibility. Virginia just fines you $500/year and makes it your call.) The path to basically-universal automobile liability insurance wasn't fast, but it was thorough, and today it's basically uncontroversial, largely because it was adopted by various states once it became clear that not having this really sucks.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:33 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Scott Lemieux: What Democrats whine about when they whine about ObamaCare
Democrats have reacted to crushing losses in November's midterm elections in the usual manner: with a circular firing squad. And one of the targets has been the signature policy of the Obama administration, the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York took the lead earlier this month, arguing that it was a mistake for Democrats to pass comprehensive health care reform. Retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa) has come to the same conclusion for different reasons.

While it's not surprising that this argument has intensified after the midterm bloodbath, it isn't a new one. Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank was saying the same things in 2012, and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel urged Obama to abandon health care reform in 2010, after the election of Scott Brown to the Senate cost Democrats their brief filibuster-proof majority.

But whether made now or at the time, whether from the left, right, or center, whether driven by policy or pragmatism, all of these arguments have one thing in common: they're dead wrong. Horribly wrong. Wrong about the ACA, wrong about what was possible in 2010, and wrong about American political history in general.

[...]

The perfect response to these kind of arguments was made by Pelosi: "We come here to do a job, not keep a job. There are more than 14 million reasons why that's wrong." This is exactly right. The window for progressive reform in the United States is always narrow and treacherous — you get the best you can get when you have the chance. The unpopularity of the greatest progressive achievement passed by Congress in nearly five decades is unfortunate, but misguided Monday-morning quarterbacking isn't the right response.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:41 AM on December 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Apparently it's supposed to be shocking that the biggest IT rollout in history had major problems.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:25 PM on December 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I've never seen anything major on the net roll out without problems. Look at the launch of pretty much every popular online game, recall that WoW was completely unplayable for days after the launch of their latest expansion.
posted by sotonohito at 2:12 PM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Vote for us, because we're no more incompetent than everybody else!"

-The Democratic Party
posted by Drinky Die at 8:40 AM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, more like, "Slightly less incompetent, plus you also get affordable health care." It's OK to be annoyed at the incompetence, but fixating on bugs in a huge rollout like this just makes it look like you're either unfamiliar with the technology or with the previous insurance infrastructure. I guess if all you need is to have your feelings validated, we can do that for you: It does suck to have to deal with massive technocratic bureaucracy that doesn't invest in customer service. It shouldn't take two hours to get your password reset. But blaming the Democrats for that just seems like a weird axe to grind.
posted by klangklangston at 10:50 PM on December 14, 2014


I'm not a right wing journo running an axe grinding stunt here man, I'm complaining about the site because it was completely unable to deliver to me the benefits of the bill to the point where I had to give up on it and go to the phone. This is in year two so the failure of Mists of Pandaria on launch day isn't really relevant to my issues.

If you think this isn't damaging to the reputation of the bill for users less computer literate than I am, you are living in a fantasy world. With Pandas. That actually works.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:09 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Damn now I want to play WoW again. I need to call my sponsor.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:13 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you think this isn't damaging to the reputation of the bill for users less computer literate than I am, you are living in a fantasy world. With Pandas. That actually works.

At this point, the reputation of the bill doesn't matter, because by 2016, nobody who has to deal with a competitive election will be running against taking away the benefits that tens of millions of people are getting. Yes, Republicans in deep red states may still try to win GOP primaries by talking about root-and-branch repeal of Obamacare, but they'll be doing so when Obama is on his way out, and they'll be doing so with far too many people benefiting from it for that message to work as a nationwide message.

My not very computer-savvy mother signed up for her ACA coverage without incident, and while your experience is certainly not unique, the kinks will be worked out, and when you factor in all of the other people getting benefits through exchanges, Medicaid expansion, and the many provisions that impact all plans (prohibition on lifetime caps, medical loss ratio constraints, etc.) the legislation has provided enormous value to too many people. The fact that Democrats are incompetent at messaging and therefore haven't sold these benefits in a way that produces a favorable impression of the ACA isn't going to be of any consequence in a couple of years when it's simply woven into the fabric of our society.

I'd love to vote for a party that does good things and also does them in a way that advertises the benefits of government actually doing things for people, but since that party only exists in the mind of Aaron Sorkin, I'll take the team that at least tries to have government do things.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:46 AM on December 15, 2014


I've never seen anything major on the net roll out without problems.

I work for a big tech company and the only reason that you don't hear about every product roll-out being a huge disaster is that big tech companies don't announce them until they know they're mostly working, and even then, they often quietly roll them out to small groups first. If anyone here proposed announcing a product of that scale here and betting the company on it, they'd be laughed out of the room.
posted by empath at 9:21 AM on December 15, 2014


You win not having to use the federal site. :) Though it works for many people the ongoing problems with it remain an issue for many as well. I'm computer literate but I'm going to end up having to do this over the phone, which is not my preference.

Using the federal site literally made my girlfriend cry. And she already had insurance and wanted to check out other options.

Health Sherpa was a fucking life saver.
posted by empath at 9:24 AM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I work for a big tech company and the only reason that you don't hear about every product roll-out being a huge disaster is that big tech companies don't announce them until they know they're mostly working, and even then, they often quietly roll them out to small groups first.

This. I would never think of rolling out a system without small group piloting and testing. I don't know what the constraints, if any, were on the administration for this roll-out, but going live for 40 million people with only in-house testing is begging for trouble.

That said, I can't think of too many companies that roll out a brand new system of this complexity for this many users. If legislators were systems managers, they would have written a staged process into the bill.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:02 AM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Mental Wimp: If legislators were systems managers,
... we'd get something done for a change.

Poorly, maybe, and overbudget and late, but done, goddammit.

We even would have had milestones in place before we attacked Iraqganistanamideastia.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:45 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


empath: "Health Sherpa was a fucking life saver."

Thank you for this. Fingers crossed.
posted by Corinth at 11:21 AM on December 15, 2014


Using the federal site literally made my girlfriend cry.

I was damn near it myself when they told me the call center computers crashed and I should wait hours to call back. (Again folks, year two, not the day of the rollout!)
posted by Drinky Die at 11:53 AM on December 15, 2014


At this point, the reputation of the bill doesn't matter, because by 2016, nobody who has to deal with a competitive election will be running against taking away the benefits that tens of millions of people are getting.

They will run against it in rhetoric as long as it remains unpopular, and it is less popular today than it was in 2010. They will not say they are stealing your healthcare away just like they don't say they are stealing your retirement away when they argue about cutting social security, but they make the argument anyway.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:56 AM on December 15, 2014


Of course it's less popular now than it was three years before the federal exchange website clusterfuck, but it's reasonable to expect that the website and supporting infrastructure will improve in the next two years, and we know that programs become more popular as more people draw benefits from them. As long as the situation with the federally-run exchange is not significantly worse by then, and keeping in mind that (a) the vast majority of the country gets its healthcare outside of the individual market, and (b) most of the states that didn't set up their own state exchanges are red states where Democrats generally can't win anyway, I don't think the appeals to repealing the ACA will work for them.

In my book, of course, knowable tangible benefits now are more than worth the price of unknowable electoral peril later, so I'm not really all that worried about how things will shake out. As Pelosi said recently, they get elected to do their job, not keep their job.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:48 PM on December 15, 2014


it's reasonable to expect that the website and supporting infrastructure will improve in the next two years, and we know that programs become more popular as more people draw benefits from them

My experience with the VA would like to see your opinion and raise. There are a lot of things government is very good at: it has not, however, generally been website-related. Most government websites not only suck, they also generally only interface well with Internet Explorer, have no mobile options, and fail to anticipate how people actually use websites. In addition, a negative opinion in motion tends to remain in motion: the halo effect means it takes multiple good subsequent impressions to make up for one strong negative impression. (Again: see the VA, which most veterans tend to have a negative opinion of, regardless of how it is actually currently treating them)
posted by corb at 2:56 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


My experience with the VA would like to see your opinion and raise.

I work with government agencies, and I see their technology infrastructure from the front and back. Public-facing civilian agency sites are generally very good -- at least as good as the average mid-sized company website. Military agency sites range from pretty good to okay, but once you get to things on non-public-facing networks, the systems are about as good as is needed to complete the mission and not one bit better.

I know of no major public-facing .gov website that doesn't work properly with modern browsers. I'll take your word that some portions of the VA site only work with IE, but I see enough civilian sites that I can definitively state that the "most only work well with IE" thing hasn't been true for at least a decade. (healthcare.gov has a mobile-optimized site, FWIW.)

There's probably some truth to your point about negative impressions lasting, but it's kind of strange to see you citing the VA as something dogged by undeserved negative opinion. As you certainly know, there have been many high-profile fuckups of the "President Obama has to apologize" variety, which, along with the growing backlog of VHA claims, means that the VA actually deserves a very poor reputation. Of course we've had the discussion in the past about how the care actually delivered at VA facilities is rated higher in terms of patient satisfaction than care outside the system, but that was some time ago, and even if it's still true, the fact that so many vets are waiting makes any unfavorable rating of the agency's performance overall very much deserved.

So yeah, I don't see the VA as a good example at all. Before so many Iraq/Afghanistan vets started coming back, the system was rated very highly by patients. Now that it's overburdened and underfunded, it would be no surprise to anyone that it's viewed poorly. Hardly an example of an agency being unfairly punished for a bad first impression.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:18 PM on December 15, 2014


" (Again: see the VA, which most veterans tend to have a negative opinion of, regardless of how it is actually currently treating them)"

I kinda feel like we need a bot to just fact check your claims. Most veterans have a positive or neutral view of the VA.

In terms of getting care from the VA, there's a sharp partisan divide among veterans: Military veterans who identify politically as Democrats are significantly more likely to say it is easy to get medical care from the VA (40%) than Republican veterans (23%), with independents falling in between (33%)."

So, no, most veterans do not have a negative view of the VA overall, and with the current difficulties, there's a big partisanship bias. Your claim that most view it negatively is likely from confirmation bias and a relatively small sample of Republican-leaning veterans.
posted by klangklangston at 9:06 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


And assigning blame for the current VA problems is tricky: Obama made the decision to stop fighting PTSD claims, which massively increased the number of vets who are eligible for VA care. Congress did not match that with an increase in funding.
posted by klangklangston at 9:13 AM on December 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I kinda feel like we need a bot to just fact check your claims. Most veterans have a positive or neutral view of the VA.

In fact, they are more satisfied with their healthcare than the general population. That the conservatives have sustained this meme that government run healthcare is anathema and the current system is better boggles my mind.

And assigning blame for the current VA problems is tricky: Obama made the decision to stop fighting PTSD claims, which massively increased the number of vets who are eligible for VA care. Congress did not match that with an increase in funding.

Then we have this: Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) blocked the Senate from passing a veterans’ suicide prevention bill...“I’m going to be objecting to this bill because it actually throws money away,” Coburn said.

Trillions for wars, but nothing to fix the Americans we break with our wars? What is wrong with the Republican party?
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:22 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Drinky Die: Using the federal site literally made my girlfriend cry.

I was damn near it myself when they told me the call center computers crashed and I should wait hours to call back. (Again folks, year two, not the day of the rollout!)
I've had worse experiences than yours with company-paid-for insurance. It took me weeks, and eventually browbeating an innocent phonebank worker, to get to the name of a therapist who actually took the insurance. Literally the first 12 I called out of their book of "in-network providers" did not - including one who had not taken any form of insurance in the last decade.

Honestly, the government website would almost have to come into my house and take a dump on my carpet before it would be worse than the previous system.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:28 AM on December 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


So, no, most veterans do not have a negative view of the VA overall, and with the current difficulties, there's a big partisanship bias. Your claim that most view it negatively is likely from confirmation bias and a relatively small sample of Republican-leaning veterans.

It's possible. Most of the veterans I know - post 9/11 vets of nonpartisan and partisan stripe, and highly politicized Vietnam-Gulf vets from both the right and the left (VVAW, VVAW-AI, etc) really seem to hate the VA. It's possible that less politicized older veterans hate it less. I agree that most probably think it's better than the civilian healthcare they can afford - otherwise, they'd be accessing their civilian healthcare instead - but I do think that there's a gap between what veterans, especially of my era, tend to expect - which is healthcare at least on par with that they received in the military, with short waiting times and swift and comprehensive treatment - and what they receive, which is moderately comprehensive care with extremely long wait times.

So the comments about comparisons with private sector may, in fact, be true - but veterans, at least those I know who are recently or relatively recently out of the military, aren't comparing VA healthcare with the private sector, they're comparing it with military sector, which is generally excellent with a few notorious exceptions.
posted by corb at 9:54 AM on December 16, 2014


...they're comparing it with military sector,...

Government-run healthcare? Say it ain't so.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:26 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


klangklangston: I kinda feel like we need a bot to just fact check your claims. Most veterans have a positive or neutral view of the VA.

That's from a few years ago, before a lot of the high profile fuck-ups where VA offices were found cooking the books, and before the backlog of claims skyrocketed. I wasn't able to find any more recent surveys in my googling last night, so I'm comfortable assuming arguendo that the current vet population has at best a neutral view of the VA. I'm sure it does break down by partisan identification, of course, but I'd question the sanity of any vets who did think the VA was doing a great job given how many serious problems have been uncovered in the last year or so.

And assigning blame for the current VA problems is tricky: Obama made the decision to stop fighting PTSD claims, which massively increased the number of vets who are eligible for VA care. Congress did not match that with an increase in funding.

I'm usually a strong opponent of the Green Lantern theory of the presidency, but I would want to see data on how much of the backlog is a result of PTSD claims before deflecting too much of the blame away from the President. After all, he's the one who made the decision to continue these wars (with Congress abdicating its duty to sign off on them as usual), so he has the ultimate responsibility to make sure that the Congressional ducks are in a row for making sure the vets come home to a functional healthcare system. Just as it's irresponsible to cut taxes without first knowing how you'll make up the shortfall, it's irresponsible to send service members to war without a foolproof plan for taking care of them.

The good news is that the backlog has fallen sharply in the past year, so at least there are signs of hope.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:34 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm usually a strong opponent of the Green Lantern theory of the presidency...

That aliens choose them for their willpower?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:00 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


That they claim to be defending peace and virtue but actually serve the whims of tiny bald men with overblown egos and terrible fashion sense?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:08 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I'm usually a strong opponent of the Green Lantern theory of the presidency, but I would want to see data on how much of the backlog is a result of PTSD claims before deflecting too much of the blame away from the President."

Under Obama, the official definition of "backlog" decreased from 180 days to 125, removing the "specific stressor" test for PTSD more than doubled the number of backlog claims (along with a modest increase from accepting Agent Orange claims), and the 2008 Great Recession also contributed to an increase in backlog claims. The other thing that the Obama administration has done that has increased backlog in the short run, but will decrease it in the long run, is to transition from a paper-based system to electronic records.
posted by klangklangston at 11:13 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Those are all valid points, but I still think the executive has the ultimate responsibility to factor wounded veterans into his war-making calculus, so I have a hard time not giving him at least half of the blame. Accepting PTSD claims was a must, and the move to electronic records is way overdue, but he chose to escalate the wars.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:40 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


removing the "specific stressor" test for PTSD more than doubled the number of backlog claims

It is important to note that this does not apply for MST claims, even if they took place in a combat area. So while men don't have to prove they were in combat if they were deployed to a combat zone, women do still have to prove they were raped in order to claim compensation for Military Sexual Trauma.

What Obama did was good, but it wasn't good enough, especially for female servicemembers and veterans.
posted by corb at 11:53 AM on December 16, 2014


"It is important to note that this does not apply for MST claims, even if they took place in a combat area. So while men don't have to prove they were in combat if they were deployed to a combat zone, women do still have to prove they were raped in order to claim compensation for Military Sexual Trauma. "

No, general PTSD claims have to have a psychologist judge their PTSD related to "fear of hostile military or terrorist activity". Which isn't inherently related to MST (though it could be).

While the Bush administration changed the requirements for PTSD claims under MST, now accepting "markers" as evidence, they had a roughly 28 percent acceptance rate on those claims, as opposed to roughly 60 percent for general PTSD. After the Obama administration clarified the rules in 2011 and expanded trainings in 2012, that acceptance rate nearly doubled, to roughly 55 percent. It's still 5 percent less than overall PTSD claims, but the GAO headline "Improvements Made, but VA Can Do More to Track and Improve the Consistency of Disability Claim Decisions" seems pretty accurate (most offices were near the 50 percent average mark, but some offices varied widely, from a low of 14 percent accepted to a high of 88 percent).

So while I agree that Obama and the VA should be doing more to combat MST, saying that female MST victims have to prove they were raped is an ambiguous assertion, and how that proof functions has significantly liberalized over the last decade and a half. For about half of the claimants of MST PTSD, Obama has been a significant improvement. For the others, it's remained the status quo.
posted by klangklangston at 3:57 PM on December 16, 2014


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