When I hear "the art of the possible" I reach for my revolver
February 6, 2017 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Why Republicans Are Impressive: "Republicans don’t look at polls and think 'we need to moderate our platform because Americans don’t support starving the poor to death, and we’ll get negative media coverage'; they work hard over the course of many years to shape public opinion until it says what they say. They know that if a major US political party puts out a consistent and coherent message for long enough, the polls will change and the media coverage will change."

More from Michael Kinnucan: The Hypocrite Reader.
posted by mondo dentro (103 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
The thing is though, the polls haven't changed, and most of the Republican platform is still unpopular. It's just that the Republicans don't care because they have used pretty shady methods for gaining and keeping power even when a majority of American voters go to the polls and cast ballots for Democratic candidates.

I too admire the Republican Party, in the same way that I admire a hurricane's capacity for destruction.
posted by Automocar at 9:53 AM on February 6 [121 favorites]


They know that if a major US political party puts out a consistent and coherent message for long enough, the polls will change and the media coverage will change
Yes, but, gay marriage? Healthcare? They’re riding a wave of aging white victimhood this year, but it’s only been a few months since it looked like they were cooked. They only look impressive because they won, and they only won because of partisan redistricting in 2010.
posted by migurski at 10:12 AM on February 6 [38 favorites]


It's a lot of words to say "The White Working Class™ will gladly sell themselves down the river to punish sluts and black people"
posted by Talez at 10:15 AM on February 6 [90 favorites]


Republican ideology is tax cuts for the rich, government funds for wealthy corporations, cuts for everyone else. Their disciplined commitment is to marketing to obfuscate what their real ideology is.
posted by Bee'sWing at 10:15 AM on February 6 [20 favorites]


The quoted excerpt is half right, half wrong. Republicans don't even, really, have all that consistent of a message. They have consistent goals, but they'll say whatever is necessary to meet those goals even if their stated message is completed contrary to what they're trying to accomplish.

Republicans are impressive when it comes to electoral strategy. In 2008, after getting their pants handed to them, how much time did they spend trying to get into the minds of liberals to understand their thinking? None, they spent absolutely no time doing that. I don't even think it would occur to them to engage in such pointless foolishness. What they did do was to immediately move to manipulate existing state legislative politics to meet their ends and to present a united front of obstruction on the federal level. And it worked and it is impressive.

Why are we liberals so hesitant to do the same? Why are we spending so much time psychoanalyzing rust belt voters, as if cracking that nut will eventually result in some widespread liberal epiphany? I mean, surely in our heart of hearts we know it won't work, and yet we persist with it nonetheless, as if it's some masochistic reflex that is beyond our control. Part of me believes it is simply that we feel more comfortable in that world, the life of the mind, rather in the mundane world of everyday, low-level politics that is dirty but where the action actually happens.
posted by scantee at 10:16 AM on February 6 [154 favorites]


They only look impressive because they won, and they only won because of partisan redistricting in 2010.

Nobody expects the GOP! Our chief weapon is gerrymandering. Gerrymandering and voter suppression. Our two weapons are gerrymandering and voter suppression. And James Comey. Our three weapons are gerrymandering and voter suppression and James Comey and an almost fanatical disregard for the truth. Our four, no, amongst our weaponry are such elements as gerrymandering, voter suppression... I'll come in again.

Nobody expects the GOP! Amongst our weaponry are such elements as gerrymandering, voter suppression, James Comey, an almost fanatical disregard for the truth, and Russian hackers.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:21 AM on February 6 [244 favorites]


In general, the more biases a writer shows, the less likely they are to actually offer a coherent explanation for something. This is an essay which (briefly) relitigates the primaries, basically dismisses the 50-state strategy (I, for one, would rather a House with 100 DINOs than a House where 75 of those seats are Republican and the other 25 are "real" Democrats), and elides over any number of other explanations for why Republicans might be able to successfully push an unpopular agenda. (It also presents the 2016 Democratic platform as being "centrist", despite being the most radically liberal platform of a major political party ever.)

Since the 1980s (for example), the Religious Right has been hijacked by an anti-abortion movement, which all but guarantees a solid block of highly motivated Republican voters. Ditto for the NRA. Both of those guaranteed a block of voters who won't be persuaded to vote for a Democrat, regardless of the consequences to themselves.

Similarly, there's a ton of evidence that gerrymandering enabled the election of hard-line Republican candidates -- the whole "primarying to the right" strategy.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 10:23 AM on February 6 [16 favorites]


I disagree that their hardline message won it for them.

They are disciplined, when it comes to getting their voters out during the mid terms, something the dems suck at, and they actually came to terms with the fact that they were not going to be a majority party, so they needed to game the shit out of the system, and in 2010 they deliberately targeted specific state governments to flip them with the aim of radical redistricting resulting in 10 years of republican legislative hegemony.

The democrats need to get wise to that fact, and not rely on the steady march of changing demographics to work to their eventual advantage. Time to target 2018 and 2020 with an eye to reversing the trend.
posted by prodigalsun at 10:30 AM on February 6 [13 favorites]


It's a lot of words to say "The White Working Class™ will gladly sell themselves down the river to punish sluts and black people"

You know, given the fact that the income of the average Trump voter is ~70K and a large % are college-educated, the prevalence of this narrative stinks of FUD.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:30 AM on February 6 [41 favorites]


Why are we liberals so hesitant to do the same?

The whole "present a united front" thing is more difficult than it sounds for those who aren't keen on seeing themselves as team first kinda people. With so many different interests being represented under the Democratic banner, deciding what actions take precedent and how each will be represented is a battle in itself. Add in differing POVs on business and capital and strong belief in actual ideology and ethics beyond GOPstyle groupthink and you'll have a hard time maintaining any unified front for long, outside perhaps of opposing clear attacks on liberalism itself.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:32 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


*ctrl-f for "Fox News", "radio", "blogs"*

*closes tab*
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:34 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


You know, given the fact that the income of the average Trump voter is ~70K and a large % are college-educated, the prevalence of this narrative stinks of FUD.

Average. The poorest white counties in Kentucky for instance went Trump by over 60 points. Poor whites are in Republican areas absolutely drive this despite the narrative of the Trump voter's average income. It's partially offset because poor urban areas almost universally vote Democrat but poor rural whites voted for him droves.
posted by Talez at 10:36 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


I don't know why you guys are being snarky about this. The fact that they do politics better than we do needs to be screamed from the mountaintops until the establishment left grows a spine.
posted by R.F.Simpson at 10:37 AM on February 6 [47 favorites]


They don't do politics better than we do. They do media better than we do.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:37 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]


There's a number of nitpicks worth making of the piece -- my favorites would be about coherence and actual popularity -- but this isn't the bottom line, here.

The bottom line is that the Republican party effectively has substantial messaging arm. It's always on and it's always blaring a dozen or two simple ideas that are effective handles to drag voters by as they pass into the consciousness of part of the public.

Where's the Democrats equivalent? What are the messages it was sending a year ago? What are the messages it's sending right now? Why is it that it's even possible that all of working America wasn't saying "Thanks Obama!" with a straight face and a smile back when the payroll tax holiday gave everybody a 2% raise, while it was cranky conservative news when it expired?
posted by wildblueyonder at 10:39 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


They don't do politics better than we do. They do media better than we do.

And they (unlike the left) understand that those two things are inseparable.
posted by R.F.Simpson at 10:41 AM on February 6 [47 favorites]


The whole "present a united front" thing is more difficult than it sounds...

I'll grant that it is challenging on a national level, but it is very achievable on a state level and we're also getting our asses handed to us there.

Take gerrymandering, for example. Gerrymandering isn't something that just happened, an event completely beyond our control. It was a concerted effort undertaken by Republicans at a national level, implemented by them at a state level, in state after state. Democrats' response was to watch it happen, slack-jawed and to complain about it after the fact by characterizing Republicans as big meanies.

It really shouldn't be hard for Democrats within a state to present a united front against something like gerrymandering, and yet, they/we have completely failed on that front. These are the politics that Democrats must get better at, and quick, and if they don't it's hard to blame anyone for not taking them seriously as a party that will really aggressively advocate for its people.
posted by scantee at 10:43 AM on February 6 [16 favorites]


I too admire the Republican Party, in the same way that I admire a hurricane's capacity for destruction.

The last time I was sick enough to vomit and have diarrhea at the same time, I remember standing in awe of my body's efficiency at its mission of emptying itself.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:48 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


Well, yes, it would probably be a good think to have the kind of message discipline the GOP does, but I'm not convinced that Democratic message discipline is all that terrible. And I'm not sure that it makes a lot of sense to be overly impressed with the voter appeal of a party that has managed to win the popular vote in the presidential race one time since 1992. I think the evidence is clear that (although there are always many factors shaping a race), without Comey putting his thumb on the scale in a major way, Clinton would have won the presidency and the GOP would continue to accomplish nothing. And surely you guys have noticed the tiny inauguration crowd and the huge protests. This is not a party that has convinced America to buy what they are selling. This is a party that supresses votes, gerrymanders like mad, and has the good fortune to have inherited a Senate and Electoral College structure that gives disproportionate power to the rural areas were Republican appeal is the strongest. So, sure, get even better at message discipline--that would be swell--but inferior message discipline is, at best, #5 on the list of problems to be addressed.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:53 AM on February 6 [30 favorites]


Even if Clinton had won the presidency, it would have been by an alarmingly narrow margin. The Democratic primaries were marked by a low-level civil war which had a chilling effect on the general election, there is absolutely an issue with message discipline in that party.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:59 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Well, yes, it would probably be a good think to have the kind of message discipline the GOP does, but I'm not convinced that Democratic message discipline is all that terrible. And I'm not sure that it makes a lot of sense to be overly impressed with the voter appeal of a party that has managed to win the popular vote in the presidential race one time since 1992. I think the evidence is clear that (although there are always many factors shaping a race), without Comey putting his thumb on the scale in a major way, Clinton would have won the presidency and the GOP would continue to accomplish nothing. And surely you guys have noticed the tiny inauguration crowd and the huge protests. This is not a party that has convinced America to buy what they are selling. This is a party that supresses votes, gerrymanders like mad, and has the good fortune to have inherited a Senate and Electoral College structure that gives disproportionate power to the rural areas were Republican appeal is the strongest. So, sure, get even better at message discipline--that would be swell--but inferior message discipline is, at best, #5 on the list of problems to be addressed.

The popular vote does not matter. Comey putting his thumb on the scale is part and parcel of the Republican machine, not a separate, uncontrollable outside event. Inauguration crowd does not matter, and rural areas where Republican appeal is the strongest is not an immanent state of the world. It is changeable. None of the other grandstanding moral high ground stuff matters but power. The Republicans are good at taking it and keeping it.
posted by R.F.Simpson at 11:02 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


I don't think the chilling effect of 6 months of Bernie-or-Bust noise in any way was comparable to 30 years of GOP character assassination combined with excessive media focus on a series of non-stories, capped off by Comey's underhanded and blatantly partisan November Surprise. To say nothing of Actually For Real Voter Suppression, which I'm never going to shut up about.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:02 AM on February 6 [47 favorites]


None of the other grandstanding moral high ground stuff matters but power.

Ultimately, this is the core problem. The GOP cares about nothing but power. The Democrats care about power but also about democracy and legitimate governance. And, frankly, I don't want them to stop caring about those things, because as soon as they do we're even more fucked than we are now.

Strategically, the real error the Democrats made was focussing too narrowly on national politics at the expense of the states. For two reasons: First, as much as a popular candidate at the top of your ticket can boost downticket candidates, the reverse is also true. Local endorsements matter. Second, because if Democrats don't write the election rules, the GOP will, and the GOP cares about nothing but power.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:07 AM on February 6 [17 favorites]


Okay, fair enough. I suppose the discipline of enforcing a message is a different issue of the actual quality of that message, which is the subject for a different discussion. The previous comment just reminded me of a different one-
The DNC should be absolutely taken to task for this, not because they lost, but because it was so close at all. Most people agree with this. Win or lose, it's awful to outspend, outnumber, and outplan* so much and then underperform so badly against such a weak, amateurish opponent. No matter who ends up getting the lion's share of the blame months/years from now, there has to be some, because something has to change for them to be a winning team again.

But imagine (sigh) that Clinton had just barely won by having that extra 107,000 votes. We wouldn't even be talking about the disappointing result. We'd say whew, glad everything is fine after all, and the people whose bad decisions are now being questioned would be celebrated and rewarded. For the same horrible performance.
Even if Clinton had won, it would not have meant that the Democratic Party are anywhere as electorally effective or as politically savvy as the Republicans. In fact, even if Clinton had won she might be dealing with the Republican Congress that we see now. Imagine how much worse they'd be treating her appointees compared to Senate Democrats treating Trump's.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:09 AM on February 6 [8 favorites]


I continue to think that this election was a freak occurrence that should not be taken as indicative of the way things are now.*

I still believe any other Democratic candidate besides Hillary Clinton would have beaten Trump. And I think Hillary would have beaten any other Republican candidate besides Trump. It's a bizarre situation, and I don't see it becoming a trend.

*Which in no way makes me less horrified that 63 million people were willing to make Donald Trump the President of the United States. That is a far bigger problem in my view even than Donald Trump being the President of the United States. Because in four years - or let's face it, probably less - Donald Trump will be out of the White House, and those 63 million people will still be there. You know there have to be any number of would-be demagogues out there right now who have recognized the immense power of that special combination of bigotry and ignorance and economic despair Trump rode into office, but aren't mentally ill, have some shred of self-awareness, and are far, far more competent to operate the levers of government than Donald Trump. They are just biding their time and God help us if one of them pulls it off.
posted by Naberius at 11:12 AM on February 6 [34 favorites]


there is absolutely an issue with message discipline in that party.

When one of the candidates isn't IN the party, the problem isn't in-party message discipline.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 11:17 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Nothing works quite so well as The Politics of Hate. It can be nurtured and passed on as a legacy from generation to generation. It requires no coherence, reason or even tangible results. It can anneal the most disparate and unlikely of elements. When you lose the hate only intensifies and becomes more urgent. And when you win it is the glorious time for retribution, the taking of scalps, for blind bludgeoning and dancing on graves. Prepare to be bludgeoned...
posted by jim in austin at 11:20 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


It really shouldn't be hard for Democrats within a state to present a united front against something like gerrymandering, and yet, they/we have completely failed on that front. These are the politics that Democrats must get better at, and quick, and if they don't it's hard to blame anyone for not taking them seriously as a party that will really aggressively advocate for its people.

The problem is that presenting a united front against gerrymandering isn't all that effectual when it's a legal tactic the Democrats would use if they had a chance and only do not because they didn't control state legislatures at the tight time. They failed in that because they couldn't control their voters and message in the wake of the financial collapse, due to those same differing value sets within the party.

Republicans have the advantage of selling to a more homogeneous base and what they sell is, well, conservatism, appreciation of the past and the majority, what Democrats try to sell is more uncertain, change, and belief in groups outside the majority. To win, at some point, some members of the majority must be appeased in most states or a unified front of minority interests must be maintained, which as I mentioned is a real difficulty in itself, even more so perhaps in some states where majority bonding is stronger.

Most people, most voters, really aren't that informed about details, they respond on a more basic level of trust, fear, confusion, and general emotion. Trying to pitch complex ideas is a difficult path to take, but liberalism relies not only on more complex ideas, but also ideals of fair play and following rules, something Republicans are willing to set aside in favor of winning first, which their base appreciates.

On preview: Personally I don't readily believe just any other Dem would have beaten Trump necessarily. It certainly could have happened, but there is no proof of it and I find the claims of such unconvincing, whether by Berners or anyone else. It's the same belief Clinton supporters had, but they were wrong just as I suspect others may have been. Again though, that's just my suspicion, I too could be wrong, we'll never know.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:25 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


Where's the Democrats equivalent? What are the messages it was sending a year ago? What are the messages it's sending right now?

I don't know if the DNC even realizes what message they're sending. The fact that I keep getting emails from the DNC begging for money signed by Donna Brazile (really?) tells me they haven't learned anything.
posted by Karaage at 11:27 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


When one of the candidates isn't IN the party, the problem isn't in-party message discipline.

When there's a substantial, or at least vocal, minority that is constantly jumping to third parties and throwing off the electoral college vote every couple elections, then something is definitely wrong. If not with the message discipline, then with the message itself.

I continue to think that this election was a freak occurrence that should not be taken as indicative of the way things are now.

I think you're right, this whole election was a flock of black swans pulling a banner with the words "MURPHY'S LAW" on it into a blue moon.

That said, this happened in an environment that allowed it to happen. There are systemic issues that must be fixed.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:28 AM on February 6


I don't know why you guys are being snarky about this

Because snarky is what we do best.
posted by rokusan at 11:38 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


Personally I don't readily believe just any other Dem would have beaten Trump necessarily. It certainly could have happened, but there is no proof of it and I find the claims of such unconvincing, whether by Berners or anyone else. It's the same belief Clinton supporters had, but they were wrong just as I suspect others may have been. Again though, that's just my suspicion, I too could be wrong, we'll never know.

I don't think "just any other Dem" would have done it necessarily - but I think that speaks to a limited number of appealing Dem candidates in the pipeline, which speaks to a general ill health of the party.
posted by atoxyl at 11:42 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Gerrymandering is worth about 200% of what their rhetoric is.
posted by Miko at 11:43 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


Yes, but, gay marriage? Healthcare? They’re riding a wave of aging white victimhood this year, but it’s only been a few months since it looked like they were cooked.

There are a half dozen strategies and platforms in the consolidated republican coalition right now but in the interest of keeping this comment under essay length, I'll stick to two points: conservatism as "preserving the status quo" (while roughly acknowledging that's a moving target) and moral agenda republicans (Christian evangelicals, "traditionalists" pretending Leave it to Beaver and the like were documentaries of mid-century 20th century and aspirational).

Both of these groups are absolutely cleaning up at the state level. Thirty-three states have republican governors. In a fair portion of those states, gay marriage is already a status quo issue, even to the extent lip service can be paid to family-centric gay couples while the moral agenda branch of the party demonizes others as part of the promiscuous/nonconforming/pro-abortion portion of the population.

Healthcare is being tested and the national republican approach refined at the state level -- some states are showing that keeping large portions of the ACA is necessary, while others are suffering due to their shoddy implementations of state healthcare that either disqualify them for federal funds or hand over state-level operations to private companies that are doing horribly. Nationally, the threat of social security and medicare getting the axe make for good television as the republicans heroically decide not to privatize social security and keep medicare at a baseline, as if they're fighting a grave moral battle to keep to their fiscal conservatism (we'd be much worse off fiscally if these programs were significantly changed).

For a view on how things are going on the republican state-by-state strategies, look no further than Michigan and the battering of the school system under politicians in the DeVos family's pocket. Again, look who benefits -- not the students, but both business-oriented republicans (schools are a business now!) and the moral rage republicans (fans of both religious-oriented home schooling and parochial schools). They're just now trying to further this play at a national level, and are getting less resistance because the better-off democrats in the non-republican states are willing to make deals (Booker, etc) or already send their kids to private schools.
posted by mikeh at 11:47 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


When one of the candidates isn't IN the party, the problem isn't in-party message discipline.

"How is it a party messaging problem if a lot of that party's affiliates vote for someone who isn't even a member?"
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:57 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


I don't think "just any other Dem" would have done it necessarily - but I think that speaks to a limited number of appealing Dem candidates in the pipeline, which speaks to a general ill health of the party.

Agreed. To be clear, when I said "any other Democrat," I wasn't speaking specifically of Sanders. I wasn't pointing to the superior qualities of other Democratic candidates because, aside from Sanders, and briefly Martin O'Malley, there just weren't any. This is a huge problem for the Democrats. The left focuses way way too much on messianic Presidential candidates, as if they are just delivered by elves every four years instead of being produced by a robust farm league of local and state level Democratic operatives (that also, coincidentally, produce policy outcomes that would make Democratic voters happier). This is a big, big problem for the Democrats, and the fact that Barack Obama more or less was left in a basket on the front steps by elves one night certainly didn't help.

But what I was trying to point to was not the strengths of the rest of the Democratic slate but the very specific weaknesses that Hillary Clinton brought to the table. Whether fairly or not, she has been very successfully demonized by the right for many years, and her presence in the race brought an immense energy to the very same demographic slice that responded positively to Donald Trump. And it's not just ethnic nativists and religious conservatives either. For decades my mother has been the one reliable Democratic vote in Bedford County, Va. This time, my mother loudly and angrily announced that she would not vote for Hillary Clinton.

So simply by being in the race, Clinton increased Trump's turnout and decreased Democratic votes in the swing areas that ultimately gave Trump the election by a very narrow margin. Any generic Democrat would not have that effect. So (in my opinion again) Random Democrat beats Trump.

Similarly, if Donald Trump had fallen down an elevator shaft in 2014 or something, and the Republicans had nominated Jeb Bush, or Rubio, or pretty much anyone else, those Trump voters wouldn't have been nearly as energized as they were. It would have been a much more conventional contest where the Democratic popular vote advantage has tended to narrowly outweigh the Republican gerrymandering/electoral college advantage. So Hillary beats Random Republican.

Only by matching Trump and Clinton do we get the shitstorm we've gotten. Personally, I don't think it's fair what's happened to Hillary Clinton over the past years to put her in the undeserved place where she finds herself. But it's happened nonetheless, and my biggest complaint against her is that she spent so much time and energy preparing herself to run for President, that she lost sight of whether it was really in the best interests of the country that she do so. In retrospect, I don't think it was.
posted by Naberius at 11:59 AM on February 6 [28 favorites]


Honestly, if the Democrats have to do what the Republicans did (screaming talking points over and over and over again through a party controlled media outlet so that 4 year olds get it, disenfranchising people who don't vote for them, gerrymandering, and be beholden the whims of billionaires who fund their campaigns and write their legislation) I'm going to register as a socialist now.

I'm a democrat because it's the party of reasonable people who believe in government which has its head in the game and there is a statistical chance of winning sometimes.

Their agenda hasn't appreciably changed in decades and I know of zero Democrats who think we need to moderate the message since the election. Understand the motivations of people who were so obviously duped to act against their interest, sure because WTF AMERICA but the kind of soul searching and wallowing in their loss this person describes no one. WE WANT TO GET THE BAD GUYS WHO STOLE OUR DEMOCRACY WE DONT WANT TO EVEN PLAY BY THEIR RULES MUCH LESS WIN AT THEM.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:00 PM on February 6 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I realize betting on Americans to be reasonable is a losing strategy but it's easier to try and make a dumb person slightly more reasonable than it is to make myself dumb.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:03 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


They know that if a major US political party puts out a consistent and coherent message for long enough, the polls will change and the media coverage will change."

They've certainly been successful in working the refs with their phony "liberal media bias" message, to the point where Republicans don't fear being challenged stating obvious falsehoods. If memory serves me correctly, Woodward and Bernstein write in All the President's Men that they had to counter the "liberal media bias" narrative even when documenting the President's participating in a criminal conspiracy (they pointed to Woodward as a Republican, which should surprise no one today).
posted by Gelatin at 12:03 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


Part of me believes it is simply that we feel more comfortable in that world, the life of the mind,

Perhaps we need to show them the life of the mind, so that they may better appreciate it.

Spoiler for Barton Fink

"Look upon me: I'll show you the life of the mind!"

posted by otherchaz at 12:07 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


It's a lot of words to say "The White Working Class™ will gladly sell themselves down the river to punish sluts and black people"

Not really -- "What's the Matter with Kansas?" is only five words.
posted by Gelatin at 12:08 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


screaming talking points over and over and over again through a party controlled media outlet so that 4 year olds get it

I don't see what's so evil about that. Maybe a bit garish and distasteful, but sometimes people need to have complex ideas broken down into the simplest of words, at a loud volume, to understand them. I know I do.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:08 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


I don't know why you guys are being snarky about this. The fact that they do politics better than we do needs to be screamed from the mountaintops until the establishment left grows a spine.
Well, even more troubling is that they are not really "doing politics" in the way that all of us have traditionally understood. They are trying to turn a method of collaborative decision-making into a winner-take-all game, and while it is possible to play that game (and possibly win), what's the answer for those of us who don't actually want that to be the game at all?

I mean, sure — you can say that now that the shift has been made there's no point in lamenting the loss of what used to be, but it's definitely something that I see a lot of people grappling with.
posted by verb at 12:09 PM on February 6 [11 favorites]


It's important to remember that Hillary won the popular vote and only lost the electoral vote by 1-2% in four states.

It's also important to remember that had she won, Republicans still would rule Congress and most of the governorships.

It's really important to remember that Democrats lost because they ignored the white working class.

It's super important to remember that most of America didn't vote.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:15 PM on February 6 [24 favorites]


The left focuses way way too much on messianic Presidential candidates, as if they are just delivered by elves every four years instead of being produced by a robust farm league of local and state level Democratic operatives (that also, coincidentally, produce policy outcomes that would make Democratic voters happier).

I don't know if I necessarily agree with 100% of the rest of your comment, but HOLY SHIT THIS.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:17 PM on February 6 [14 favorites]


what's the answer for those of us who don't actually want that to be the game at all?

Learn to want it or lose. Forever.

This disdain for politics, as noted above, is why the Democrats get their asses kicked.

People in this thread whine about gerrymandering, but again as noted above, this isn't some natual state of the universe or an eldritch curse the Republicans invoked. The Republicans could control election districts and rules because they made a concerted effort to control state-level politics. Republicans make sure they go for every office from dog catch to Governor, and make sure their voters show up to vote.

Democrats, in contrast, basically ceded state politics for 20+ years.

Crying about the popular vote also shows Democratic blindness. It just doesn't matter. Whether or not we should have the Electoral College, we do. So while it exists, you better figure out how to win under its rules, because the Republicans sure have.

I'll never understand this almost revulsion to actually using the rules as they exist and getting your people in place that liberals have. It's telling how posters above have framed these bog-standard simple political tactics as immoral ruthlessness that only monstrous Republicans would stoop to when we're talking about things like working to control state legislatures so you can control electoral districts and laws.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:36 PM on February 6 [44 favorites]


I don't see what's so evil about that. Maybe a bit garish and distasteful, but sometimes people need to have complex ideas broken down into the simplest of words, at a loud volume, to understand them. I know I do.

I went to a healthcare rally this weekend. Chants like "MEDICARE FOR ALL" are simple, they illustrate a clear policy proposal, and they stick in people's minds. There's an aversion to catchphrases and slogans among a lot of the liberals, like you're dumbing down if you're not being impenetrably wonkish. But slogans work, they stick, they inspire. Think about how many dumb, yet memorable, conservative rallying cries the right has ("build that wall," "america first," etc etc etc barf barf barf), versus how many the Dems have. Having clear goals illustrated with simple unifying slogans is not selling out the message.
posted by joechip at 12:39 PM on February 6 [12 favorites]


Crying about the popular vote also shows Democratic blindness. It just doesn't matter. Whether or not we should have the Electoral College, we do. So while it exists, you better figure out how to win under its rules, because the Republicans sure have.

I'll never understand this almost revulsion to actually using the rules as they exist and getting your people in place that liberals have. It's telling how posters above have framed these bog-standard simple political tactics as immoral ruthlessness that only monstrous Republicans would stoop to when we're talking about things like working to control state legislatures so you can control electoral districts and laws.


The US government culture exists on a platform of norms. You are suggesting burning this platform down wholesale, which is a serious, fundamental change in the way that government works. That is why people are upset.
posted by TypographicalError at 12:41 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


Well, you can be upset and lose or be upset and win.
posted by edeezy at 12:42 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


You are suggesting burning this platform down wholesale,

It's closer to suggesting to also abandon the burning platform instead of repeating 'this is fine'.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:48 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


The US government culture exists on a platform of norms. You are suggesting burning this platform down wholesale, which is a serious, fundamental change in the way that government works. That is why people are upset.

It's not as if are only two options are Democratic status quo or Republican setting things on fire. Democrats really need to acknowledge that the game we were playing is over, and if we are to maintain any relevance as a national party, we need to work aggressively to stop Republicans from setting more fires.

But a lot of Democrats don't want to do even that and that's how we end up where we are now, rehashing endless excursions into the subtleties of the minds of Trump voters and whining about gerrymandering, two totally useless strategies for actually addressing the serious issues within the party.
posted by scantee at 1:02 PM on February 6 [15 favorites]


The system, in its current form, has existed for 250 years. If liberals haven't figured out how to game the system like the conservatives have, then maybe they deserve to lose?
posted by blue_beetle at 1:02 PM on February 6


I think the Republicans were impressive, but not for the reasons stated; I think they're impressive because they managed to patch together a viable governing coalition in Congress out of a bunch of totally unrelated issues, each with its own pet constituency of rabidly passionate, well-organized, single-issue voters. And, somehow, they have managed to keep those single-issue voters from tearing each other apart. That's crazy, really, that they can maintain such a thing. It's like they as a party have some version of the "strong force" that keeps atomic nuclei from flying apart due to their particles' own repulsion to each other. It's not clear how or why it works, but ... I mean, it's right there, it clearly does.

But that's only true in Congress, and in various state Legislatures. The Republicans have been very weak in the Executive branch for a while, having seemingly made a decision to let the Democrats expend resources on Presidential campaigns while they concentrate on building up majorities in Congress. AFAICT, the entire Republican presidential campaign was a big GOTV effort for downballot races, until Trump happened. And why not? I mean, if you get a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate, it hardly matters who's in the White House; you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want, and let the other guys' candidate stand there and take the flak for it. That, I think, was their dream—and then Trump fucked it all up.

Trump is the jewel wasp to their cockroach. His behavior may be their behavior at the moment, but his motivations sure as hell aren't their motivations, and it's entirely possible that in doing whatever the hell he's doing (whether it's personal enrichment or bringing about a Fourth Reich or whatever theory you prefer) he may well shut off the mysterious force field that keeps the single-issue particles of the Republican consensus bound together. And then... boom.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:08 PM on February 6 [10 favorites]


Gerrymandering has (by definition) no effect upon the Senate and in practice can impact (under current law) only 2 of 538 Electoral College votes. Even in the House, most of the Republican advantage stems from Democrats' greater tendency or preference to live among other Democrats, which would require gerrymandering to dilute (slicing urban areas into several highly-Democratic slices that would each be added to a mostly Republican exurban/rural area in just enough quantity to outvote them).

O'Malley or Biden certainly would have beaten Trump, all else equal. Sanders would not. Corporate America enthusiastically supported Clinton, including given full reign to the mainstream media to work against Trump. Against Sanders, it would have had no choice but to support Trump -- perhaps not enthusiastically, but still decisively. CNN and MSNBC ultimately answer to Time Warner's and Comcast's shareholders, after all.
posted by MattD at 1:13 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


I think they're impressive because they managed to patch together a viable governing coalition in Congress out of a bunch of totally unrelated issues, each with its own pet constituency of rabidly passionate, well-organized, single-issue voters. And, somehow, they have managed to keep those single-issue voters from tearing each other apart.

Intersectional evil!
posted by tobascodagama at 1:26 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


Corporate America enthusiastically supported Clinton, including given full reign to the mainstream media to work against Trump.

In what way is hiring a bunch of his campaign people "working against Trump", exactly?
posted by tobascodagama at 1:40 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


It's a lot of words to say "The White Working Class™ will gladly sell themselves down the river to punish sluts and black people"

It's a cop out to blame Trump's victory on racism or Russia, and it lets the Democratic establishment off the hook.

In Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, they voted for Obama twice, but Trump's position on free trade (same as Bernie Sanders) reeled them in. Trump wouldn't be President without their support.

Democrats forgot about the people Billy Joel, Springsteen, Mellancamp, and Bon Jovi sing about, and now America is paying a steep price. Ironically, all of those musicians are Democrats.
posted by Beholder at 1:47 PM on February 6 [9 favorites]


And, somehow, they have managed to keep those single-issue voters from tearing each other apart.

Yes. Also: those single issue voters somehow manage to show up without whining.

This article (and others like it) are a case study in chutzpah-- a leftist who clearly has his own (unwavering) side on the great Democratic schism of 2016 ... ranting because the Democrats fail to march in lockstep behind his (obviously correct) side of the schism.

If you want party discipline, then EXHIBIT party discipline. That means being a single-party voter. That means beating your friends into being a single-party voter. And it also means having one issue (two at most) he cares about. If he wants a carbon tax, that's great-- but that's the only thing he can care about. If he wants health care reform, that's the only issue he can care about -- and his framing needs to be around the ways we can improve health care reform, not about how the system is fatally flawed and we could totally have done better if it weren't for those pesky DINOs.

Basically, the way the Republicans got where they are is by being willing to vote for Hitler if that's the name on the ballot. If he's not willing to do that, he doesn't deserve to be listened to.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 1:50 PM on February 6 [8 favorites]


This article (and others like it) are a case study in chutzpah-- a leftist who clearly has his own (unwavering) side on the great Democratic schism of 2016 ... ranting because the Democrats fail to march in lockstep behind his (obviously correct) side of the schism.

Mmm hmmm.

Basically, the way the Republicans got where they are is by being willing to vote for Hitler if that's the name on the ballot. If he's not willing to do that, he doesn't deserve to be listened to.

Mmm hmmm.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:56 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


You are suggesting burning this platform down wholesale, which is a serious, fundamental change in the way that government works. That is why people are upset.

"That son of a bitch brought the war to us!"
posted by Apocryphon at 2:02 PM on February 6


Basically, the way the Republicans got where they are is by being willing to vote for Hitler if that's the name on the ballot. If he's not willing to do that, he doesn't deserve to be listened to.

There's definitely an argument that Democratic voters show up less reliably than Republican voters - and probably a number of different reasons for that - but I'm not really sure "fix the voters" over "fix the strategy used to turn out voters" is a viable plan?
posted by atoxyl at 2:12 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


You are suggesting burning this platform down wholesale, which is a serious, fundamental change in the way that government works. That is why people are upset.

This is a perfect illustration of my point.

All I said was: The Electoral College exists and matters. State-level elections occur and matter. Democrats should strategize accordingly. This is literally just noting that liberals need to accept how government works and try to work within that, as the Republicans have done.

Yet even this most basic of observations is characterized as "burning this platform down wholesale". It's as if actively trying to elect people who support your views into positions where they can implement them as policy is too dirty and impure to even consider. Liberals seem almost uninterested in having power to achieve their aims, because their aims are so obviously good and pure they don't need to sully themselves.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:13 PM on February 6 [23 favorites]


The dirty little secret behind Republican awesomeness and Democratic awfulness is of course that the latter party in great part isn't all that worried or displeased by Republican success, as the party has now redefined itself as the party of opposition to Republican excess and is quite happy to let them fuck over the country until even the reddest of voter is begging them to take over again.

We saw that during the Bush years with a please don't hurt us candidate like Kelly and we'll see that this time too. And now Pelosi is poo-poohing impeachment, Elizabeth Warren is wanting to give Trump nominees a fair hearing and even on the Supreme Court Democrats are willing to compromise, despite that being the ultimate argument to keep lefties in line during election years.

The Democractic Party is not an activist party, does not have the radical left equivalent of the Kochs or other big money donors willing to bankroll "grassroots" movements to drive the party leftward and is unsympathetic to and isolated from the Democratic *voter*. Always chasing that white working class vote while counting on the idea that everybody else hasn't got a choice anyway.

That the DNC is staggeringly incompetent on top of that should not come as a surprise.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:31 PM on February 6 [15 favorites]


I'm not really sure "fix the voters" over "fix the strategy used to turn out voters" is a viable plan?

My approach is, unless he's willing to march enthusiastically in lockstep with his local Democrat, he doesn't have a right to complain about the Democrats not marching in lockstep with each other. Saying "the Democrats just aren't willing to stand for what they believe in!" is way less convincing when what he really means is, "the only real Democrats are those who will stand for what I believe in!"

Maybe the Democrats have a message problem. But that doesn't mean the solution is HIS message-- and, unless he's willing to live with that, unless he's willing to vote for (what he sees as a) DINO with a smile on his face, the Democrats aren't going to be able to follow the playbook he claims to want.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 2:41 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


a please don't hurt us candidate like Kelly

Indeed, so memorable and charismatic was he that that isn't his name
posted by RogerB at 2:42 PM on February 6 [9 favorites]


Short version of my earlier comments and many by others who stated it much better than my attempt:

The DNC has no real national platform because they have no real state-level platform that builds any sort of momentum.
posted by mikeh at 2:44 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


Also this garbage about "white working class" instead of just saying "working class" is garbage. Neither party speaks to the people bumping just above the poverty line. Minority groups voted against Trump not out of any enthusiasm for the democrats, but out of a duty to vote for the party least likely to fuck them over.

It's the same bullshit like pretending Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen speak to the working class because in these terms "working class" means "older white voters." "Older white voters" means "older white voters" which is a demographic bloc that has an overlap with the actual working class, and may have a plurality in that group, but they are not "the working class."
posted by mikeh at 2:51 PM on February 6 [7 favorites]


We've been over this, I think, but — Reverend Barber's book, The Third Reconstruction, is essential reading for this discussion. It's all about building bridges to assemble a working coalition — a progressive version, you might say, of the Republican's cobbled-together melange. Also important here is the Indivisible Guide. Those two documents are the core guidelines for a working practical response to what just happened.
posted by Beginner's Mind at 3:06 PM on February 6 [11 favorites]


Funny thing is, I've been thinking for ages that when Ds get as mad as Rs apparently were in 2010/2012, they'll get their asses in gear. Apparently that is happening, and I'm encouraged by what I've seen so far. We have time on our side, and the Rs do not. This, obviously, does not hold for the SC, which is the one thing that I'm soured on. When I think about CBP and Marshalls 'dragging their feet' on obeying Federal judges, I'm outraged, of course, but when I think of the Garland nomination and all that fuckery, I just get mad. But I, too, think that 2016 was a colossal fluke, and considering the breakneck pace of the party in power trying to institute their agenda, it feels so much like the Rs feel that way, too. The whirlwind of activity just reeks of desperation - a last chance to make something, anything, stick before the inevitable change of the guard, up to and including embracing loathsome creatures like Bannon and Miller.
posted by eclectist at 3:19 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


*ctrl-f for "Fox News", "radio", "blogs"*

*closes tab*
The medium is not the message…
posted by Pinback at 3:49 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I think the Republicans were impressive, but not for the reasons stated; I think they're impressive because they managed to patch together a viable governing coalition in Congress out of a bunch of totally unrelated issues, each with its own pet constituency of rabidly passionate, well-organized, single-issue voters. And, somehow, they have managed to keep those single-issue voters from tearing each other apart.

Eh, it's not that impressive in a binary system. They rely on the opposition taking stances against those interests to drive voters turnout in favor of them. Since there are only two reasonable choices in most elections, the choice of Democrats would define the Republicans even if the choices involved were wholly value neutral assuming the desire to rule itself is a key motivating force in determining the candidates.

That these choices aren't value neutral goes even further towards suggesting where the concurrence lies. It's in groups based around familiarity, suburban and rural voters banding together around bonds of likemindedness coming from their experience and contact with others through church and local interaction opposing those who are generally have a wider range of experience and contact, often urban, and who are not as tightly bound in trying to protect their individual interests at the expense of wider social interests as they see them coming from those contacts.

Republicans see tax dollars going to "special interests" they feel little connection to and feel ignored by not being part of what they perceive as the catered to group, while Democrats don't see cities, for example, as "a" group, but as a collection of peoples with differing needs all of whom may require some support. Republican identity is tied to a smaller set of "traditional" values than Democratic identity, so it's easier to maintain support when it's god, guns, and fear of outsiders than it is to maintain support for diversity and critique of "tradition".
posted by gusottertrout at 3:57 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


It's really important to remember that Democrats lost because they ignored the white working class.

If 2016 was ignoring the white working class, what counts as paying attention to them? A blow job for each of them on stage at the DNC?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:00 PM on February 6 [16 favorites]


Republicans are successful because they lie.

Remember before the election they were saying that if HRC won they would stall any of her SCOTUS nominations until the NEXT presidential election in 2020? And now they are saying that it would be irresponsible for Dems to do the same for Trump's pick?

They lie fast and with an ease that is fascinating. They have spent a generation, at least, convincing the media and Americans that THEY are the heirs and sole guardians of our founders "original intent." Whatever that is.

Now Ryan gets to try and "save" Medicare by destroying it ( remember all the signs from Tea Partiers saying 'U.S. Government HANDS OFF MY MEDICARE?") blaming the ACA and Obama for compromising Medicare. Despite the fact that ACA extends solvency for 10 more years.

If anything this election has proven it's that Republicans are no better than Trump except at one thing: making their lies sound more convincing.

They have demonstrated an extraordinary ability to swallow any sense of ethics, morality, and dignity to destroy the New Deal. This nothing to be impressed by.
posted by Max Power at 4:03 PM on February 6 [13 favorites]


Politics is about devising ways to take power so that your tribe can implement policy. There is no other reason for its existence. Saying this doesn't make one an amoral Machiavellian. It's just a fact about how politics functions. It's not about being reasonable or bi-partisan. It's not about courting centrists (or any other specific voting block). It's not about guilt-tripping the other side or asking nicely or appealing to their higher nature. Unless, that is, those things will facilitate gaining--and then holding--power.

I'm always surprised how frequently people respond to complaints about the ineptitude/fecklessness/corruption of the Democrats by saying something like "but we don't want to be like the Republicans!" Well, of course not. But, you know, it is possible to be very different, values-wise and ideologically, and still fight tooth and nail to take political control of a school board, town, city, state or country. You do this by having sharp opinions and sharing them openly. By calling out the missteps and misdeeds of your opponents. By arguing for your views. Repeatedly. Over time. And you also do it by not letting your opponents keep fucking with you without fighting back, both politically and in the courts. I mean, it's not like right-wing gerrymandering and voter suppression happened one week last summer. It's not like it's been going on in secret. It's been done pretty openly, for decades. The entire "voter fraud" meme is a sham that has been allowed to persist--even while those advancing it implemented constitutionally dubious electoral schemes. The Democrats just couldn't be bothered to raise hell about any of it. And look at the utterly irresponsible way the Democrats handled being stiff-armed by the GOP regarding the Supreme Court nomination.

There comes a point when thinking you're too dignified to actually engage with the power struggle of politics (or too intellectual, or too culturally sophisticated, or too rational, or too... whatever) isn't principled--it's just a form of vanity. Actually, that point came and went a long time ago.
posted by mondo dentro at 4:05 PM on February 6 [29 favorites]


But I, too, think that 2016 was a colossal fluke, and considering the breakneck pace of the party in power trying to institute their agenda, it feels so much like the Rs feel that way, too. The whirlwind of activity just reeks of desperation - a last chance to make something, anything, stick before the inevitable change of the guard, up to and including embracing loathsome creatures like Bannon and Miller.

They definitely feel that way too, Ryan keeps on saying "this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" and I keep seeing it pop up as a general Republican talking point. Like, not even pretending that their agenda's not unwanted bullshit.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:30 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


My approach is, unless he's willing to march enthusiastically in lockstep with his local Democrat, he doesn't have a right to complain about the Democrats not marching in lockstep with each other.

I guess to me it's not really the "ideological discipline" that's the key so much as the "coherent vision" and the idea that Republicans set the terms of political discussion, while Democrats too often can only respond. He certainly does favor a particular idea of what the Democratic platform should be but the core argument he's making - to an audience who probably mostly already agree with that platform - is that it is possible to advance a seemingly radical platform by presenting it clearly and aggressively.
posted by atoxyl at 4:59 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I mean I get what you're saying - obviously everyone wants the ideological discipline on their side. I just mean I think he's kind of implicitly writing this for his side - the left wing of the Democrats - encouraging them to push harder.
posted by atoxyl at 5:05 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


And making an argument that it can work
posted by atoxyl at 5:14 PM on February 6


I think people are missing the point about Clinton/Sanders. It wasn't the lack of a successful candidate. It was the success of the Republicans at demonizing and denigrating, at exploiting the weaknesses of the media fondness for entertaining news versus policy news, and at using the liberal affection for rationality against it.
posted by Peach at 6:07 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


Kinnucan's great.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:50 PM on February 6


We've been over this, I think, but — Reverend Barber's book, The Third Reconstruction, is essential reading for this discussion. It's all about building bridges to assemble a working coalition — a progressive version, you might say, of the Republican's cobbled-together melange.

I'm reading it myself now after running out of Rev. Barber videos on YouTube and I kinda want to do a FanFare post about it, but I don't really know how to get good FanFare discussion cooking without knowing that a lot of Mefites have read/are currently reading it. Maybe a Resistance Book Club...
posted by jason_steakums at 6:53 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I agree he's arguing that it can work -- but I'm not getting the impression that he's actually willing to do what it takes to make it work. It's all good and well for him if *his* issues turn out to be the ones that people want to emphasize -- but what happens if or when he finds a position that no one else cares about? Or if it turns out that the Democratic idealists are emphasizing an issue that he doesn't actually prefer? Is he going to take his ball and go home? Or is he in it for the long haul?

In order for there to be unity, most people have to fall in line. Most of us can't be leaders. And that includes him. He has to toe the line -- even if he doesn't want to, even if he disagrees with some of the positions his party adopts, even if he becomes infatuated with some sort of third party candidate. Is he willing to do that? Or is he going to do what his essay shows every sign of him wanting to do -- bash Democratic candidates because they aren't going far enough and then claim everyone should have listened to him when they lose?
posted by steady-state strawberry at 7:01 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


The dirty little secret behind Republican awesomeness and Democratic awfulness is of course that the latter party in great part isn't all that worried or displeased by Republican success, as the party has now redefined itself as the party of opposition to Republican excess and is quite happy to let them fuck over the country .

Oh yay, the imaginary Democrat. Was wondering when they'd appear.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:17 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Maybe a Resistance Book Club...
Here's a start on the reading list.
posted by Miko at 7:59 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


He gets half of the asymmetry correct--Republicans are engaged in organized combat with professionals and progressives need to mobilize amateurs. We can do it on big issues and win but we can't keep it up over 4 years for items that are no longer on the front pages. It's easier to pay an army of professionals when you are serving the interests of corporate America, especially with the decline of unions.*

But he misses the other half. Please remember that progressives want government to work. Trump's big victory, he got 47% of the vote, while alienating more than 50% of the population. Republicans have done nothing but obstruct and piss off the last eight years. It's a fine strategy if you are OK with government failing. If you want it to accomplish something, you cannot consider this a viable approach.


*This analysis brought to you courtesy of Jacob Hacker Winner Take All Politics. Which is a bit old now but damn if it hasn't held up.
posted by mark k at 9:31 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


what's the answer for those of us who don't actually want that to be the game at all?

I really don't care what you want. I care what's best for a just society. I'm not sorry if you're offended by the reality of politics. If you really need an answer, it's to vote against republicans whenever you happen to bother participating.
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:37 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


i agree with those above who emphasize the democrats' sad unwillingness to play hardball and also with those who point out that they did in fact win the popular vote with a flawed candidate, and the republican base is aging fast, so the dems can't be screwing up all that badly.

all that said, what's happening with trump's takeover of the republicans is part of a global trend. right wing, xenophobic, pseudo-populist, illiberal govts have power in the US, hungary, turkey, the UK, israel, the phillipines, and soon possibly even france and germany. a big reason has to do with stagnant wages and underemployment. economics isn't everything (see, e.g., racism), but it matters a lot. and so i think the burden is on big corporations to partner with center-left parties across the west to improve the lot of middle income people, because authoritarian government is bad not just for civil liberties but for (most) business too.
posted by wibari at 12:16 AM on February 7 [9 favorites]


he dirty little secret behind Republican awesomeness and Democratic awfulness is of course that the latter party in great part isn't all that worried or displeased by Republican success, as the party has now redefined itself as the party of opposition to Republican excess and is quite happy to let them fuck over the country until even the reddest of voter is begging them to take over again.

We saw that during the Bush years with a please don't hurt us candidate like Kelly and we'll see that this time too.


This strikes me as a misreading of the DNC and the Democratic Party. Consider, instead, that the Democrats are a party that believes in the ideology of "political norms" and is convinced by the notion of "bipartisan compromise" so beloved of the previous generation os the Washington press.

More broadly, imagine a party where many still see Bill Clinton's 1992 and 1996 campaigns as the superior tactical model for electoral victory because many of the senior strategists remain terrified of a repeat of 1972. It's a party that thinks the "Reagan Democrat" is the median voter or the swing voter.

From that perspective, reaching across the aisle to get things done when the outcome seems "reasonable" becomes a move to try to "get the Senate working the way it usually does again." Supporting Gorsuch becomes "well, replacing Scalia with Scalia 2.0 is reasonable enough, and restores the norm of up-and-down votes on Supreme Court candidates."

This is the deeper problem. It's not so much that Republicans set the terms and Democrats react to them. It's that Republicans happily blow up the existing norms and the Democrats devote themselves almost wholly to trying to restore those *norms*, those *means* of doing politics, irrespective of the policy outcomes that result.
posted by kewb at 3:21 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


The Democratic party is basically an interest group clearing house, or a parliament of injustices if you will, that has to adjudicate priorities and decide who gets what and when. Is racism getting more attention than environmentalism or feminism today? Be careful not to offend the unions!

Alternatively, the Republican party represents one very large dominant group: white male Christians. And is explicitly supportive of their group, no reservations or exceptions. It's easier to have message discipline and control the narrative when you only represent one viewpoint.

To me the Republicans aren't a party, they're an interest group. It's just that their group is very very large.
posted by Glibpaxman at 3:33 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


Random thought. If the Media's focus on entertainment news vs policy is an issue for democrats, Trump will make that worse, because he's such a highly polarising figure.

Because now everything is pro Trump vs anti Trump. Democrats need to counteract that tendency when dealing with the media, "This isn't about President Trump, this is about what's best for America and Americans, as a nation of immigrants, a melting pot of cultures, a beacon of freedom, and an engine of commerce and job creation." Steal the republican talking points and the flag and the economy with some political jujitsu instead of reacting. Democratic state senators should be hitting college campuses and talking to them about what they can do to help prevent voter suppression, of both the college students and of those in their state. Because Trump is, at max eight years, and more likely four, and it's about the systems you build, not the person you are fighting.
posted by gryftir at 5:34 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


Eh, given Trump's monumental unpopularity at the moment, I don't think that anybody needs to run away from the pro/anti frame.

However, it is clear to me that Democrats should be using patriotic language as much as possible. Because they're not fake populists like the GOP, they're actual populists who have policies and values that the majority of Americans like and agree with. The monumental failure of Third Wayism obscured this a bit, but when you even had Hillary Clinton -- basically the poster child of the Third Way and pretending that "Centrism" is a real thing that exists -- running on an actually progressive (if imperfect) platform, that shows me that other Democrats could do an even better job of taking that mantle of populism and running with it.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:57 AM on February 7 [9 favorites]


Or is he going to do what his essay shows every sign of him wanting to do -- bash Democratic candidates because they aren't going far enough and then claim everyone should have listened to him when they lose?

I thought centrist, pragmatic Democratic politics were the road to victory. Are carping articles in Brooklyn-based web magazines read by a few hundred people really enough to destroy them?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:41 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


The US government culture exists on a platform of norms. You are suggesting burning this platform down wholesale

Oh, come on—that's just silly. The Republicans have spent an awful lot of time defining themselves as literally the capital-e Establishment party. With the exception of Trump and his carpetbagger Cabinet, they have zero interest in burning anything down or otherwise screwing around with the actual machinery of the state. But they're pretty good at using that machinery.

E.g. gerrymandering. The Republicans don't regard gerrymandering as "burning down" some sort of consensus or set of norms; many wouldn't even recognize that any norms against gerrymandering exist. Gerrymandering, as far as they're concerned, is as quintessentially American as it gets, the brushback pitch of politics, and if the other party doesn't want to play, well, that's on them. Same with anything else that the rules allow, including changing the rules themselves.

The difference, I think, is that traditional Republicans (again, not Trumpists)—as almost a condition of membership, really—believe, broadly, in the correctness of the system. And so if the system lets them do something (gerrymander, impose voter ID requirements, play games with judicial nominees, shut down the government occasionally), then they not only can, but probably should. Because why not? If they didn't, it would acknowledge that the system isn't correct.

It's a bit harder to grab the levers of power and start using them aggressively, really pushing the governmental machine to the red lines, if you have a long history of questioning whether those levers ought to exist; first because it looks visibly hypocritical, but second and perhaps most importantly because it involves such a degree of cognitive dissonance that quite a few people understandably prefer not to do it. (Similarly, most establishment Republicans are uncomfortable with some of the Left's traditional tools, including street protests, strikes, sit-ins, etc. The Bundy thing was a good example of watching them get caught between their ideological goals and perceptions of propriety.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:48 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Democrats forgot about the people Billy Joel, Springsteen, Mellancamp, and Bon Jovi sing about, and now America is paying a steep price.

Not really. The thing is that Democrats when in power pass laws and measures that actually help these people but are incredibly inept at selling those things to do, while the Republicans are giving them racism handjobs while picking their pockets.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:56 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


Until recently, I wanted to have a bipartisan system. It bothered the crap out of me that the republicans seemed willing to do anything to shut democratic voters out, and I didn't want to do that in reverse, I just wanted an honest system. But we're at the point where republicans have shown their endgame, and it looks an awful lot like Mad Max. So if this is what regular everyday republicans want their congress and president to look like.. fuck 'em. Get them out any way you can, fair or unfair, honest or dishonest.

If and when actual sane republicans show back up, I'll rethink this, but for now they've proven that they are in bed with Hitler 2.0 and happy about it.
posted by zug at 9:45 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


Whether or not the Dem establishment gets its act together is less important than Dem voters and activists to stay engaged. Since the election and the Womens' March, congressional phones have been overwhelmed from the left, and reps have been starting to pay attention to their base. A lock step party line vote on DeVos is a good sign. Stay engaged, keep the pressure on, show up for town hall meetings, or force them to cancel for fear of uppity crowds. That's what the Tea Party got right a decade ago. There will be hundreds of very important votes in the next couple years, as the GOP tries to ram though judges and laws while they have a window of opportunity. If the Dem reps are not obstructing obstructing obstructing, we need to let them know we are watching and will vote.
posted by jetsetsc at 10:18 AM on February 7 [6 favorites]


economics isn't everything (see, e.g., racism), but it matters a lot. and so i think the burden is on big corporations to partner with center-left parties across the west to improve the lot of middle income people

Not to rehash the economic anxiety vs. racism/sexism debate, but consider this: in the '90s, there was plenty of bigotry to go around, and probably in general our society had more prejudice. But overall, it felt like progress was on the march, that it was the End of History and multicultural liberal-democracy would be the destiny of humanity. And that was during an economic boom, and for some reason then the middle classes felt like they were getting more of a share of the tech pie, than right now. Despite the relative calm of the Obama administration, it didn't feel like the Clinton years. There isn't the same sort of optimism as there was in the '90s. I'd have to imagine that's because of Recession and the unsatisfying recovery, coupled with the interminable nature of the War on Terror.

I guess my point is that sure you shouldn't discount racism/sexism, but people are going to be less tribalistic when they don't feel desperate. Economic anxiety doesn't create bigotry, but it adds fuel to the fire by causing unsatisfied people to stick to their own kind, seeing Others as threats to their wellbeing. They'll be less likely to act on clannishness and more busy making money and being content consumers. It's sort of soulless and materialistic to think of it that way, but the ideal role of government is to ensure citizens are safe and well-fed, no? So if you address the bottom needs on Maslow's hierarchy, then people will be more willing to address higher ones.

I think we need to try to understand how and why bigotry manifests in the first place.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:24 AM on February 7 [10 favorites]


I guess my point is that sure you shouldn't discount racism/sexism, but people are going to be less tribalistic when they don't feel desperate. Economic anxiety doesn't create bigotry, but it adds fuel to the fire by causing unsatisfied people to stick to their own kind, seeing Others as threats to their wellbeing. They'll be less likely to act on clannishness and more busy making money and being content consumers. It's sort of soulless and materialistic to think of it that way, but the ideal role of government is to ensure citizens are safe and well-fed, no? So if you address the bottom needs on Maslow's hierarchy, then people will be more willing to address higher ones.

This does dovetail well with the absolute need for Democrats to rebuild and sustain abandoned state and local level operations, because that's going to be one of the few ways Dems can enact direct improvements for people in the next few years. A platform of the kind of low level community development plans that directly raise property values is going to be key on the local level, from rural broadband to potholes. Gonna have to make stuff like this required reading for local Dem candidates.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:15 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


(this series specifically is, I think, very compelling as a basis for local Dem policy without any help coming from above)
posted by jason_steakums at 12:48 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Billy Joel, Springsteen, Mellancamp, and Bon Jovi

I keep seeing this and wondering, "Who is reading the contents of Chris Christie's iPod?!?"
posted by mikeh at 1:51 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Democrats forgot about the people Billy Joel, Springsteen, Mellancamp, and Bon Jovi sing about

I am done with this narrative. For decades, Democrats have been running candidates in the districts of the people these artists sing about, and for decades those people have swallowed the Republican hook and sent GOP rep after GOP rep to DC. And they blame the Democrats for the fix they're in? Fuck that bullshit. Democrats have been the only people trying to create jobs and education programs, change the tax structure, rebuild infrastructure, support public education, provide healthcare - I could go on, except the only people who forgot about people are the people who believed a bunch of get-rich-quick, religious crap from the right.

Also, Springsteen, at least, sings about plenty of people who aren't unemployed blue-collar white guys from rust belt towns. Try listening to something he's done since Born in the USA.
posted by Miko at 2:32 PM on February 7 [14 favorites]


(Or, you know, try listening to "Born in the USA", which is something I guarantee the idiots on the right who think Springsteen is one of them have never done.)
posted by tobascodagama at 4:33 PM on February 7 [8 favorites]


Can the party of young people, the poor, and various minorities really enact message discipline? Really?
posted by fraxil at 8:31 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


« Older I thought these were jeans!   |   doonaldjtrump dot com Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments