• Is 2020 Already Decided?

    April 24, 2019 // 27 Comments »


     

    Does anyone in the Democratic Party understand the 2020 election is going to hinge on purple voters in a handful of key states? After years of culture warfare the red and blue bases are set. Electoral College, not midterm, math applies. It is easy to predict a close vote deciding the election.

     
    If the Dems have any inkling of all this, then it is unclear why their primary candidates are talking about things like reparations, Mayor Pete’s hubby, why we must have a woman president, that AOC/Omar (D-Late Night) are the future (and maybe they are; all flash and no substance, D-Late Night), how Stacey Adams got cheated and so deserves to be at least a Senator, identity politics, trans- anything or #MuellerPutinTaxGate. While many purple voters do care about LGBT rights and having a woman in the White House, it is less clear they will vote that way when other issues are of concern.
     

    Democrats run a real risk of under-emphasizing the gulf between social media and the real world. If you fell from outer space and only had Twitter to help you understand this election, you would be convinced the electorate is demanding a female, black, left-handed nominee to drive through a legislative agenda centered on banning hate speech. A significant portion of the MSM lives in that world, so disgusted by Trump that some three years into his administration they still cannot accept the idea that people actually voted for him (Esquire’s political columnist adds an asterisk to the word president* to signify the election was bogus.) Post “Trump is literally Hitler ya’all” and thousands will “like” and agree into a self-reinforcing coma. They’re missing that Democrats who do not share political content on Twitter are more likely to identify as moderate or conservative. In fact, early polls suggest gender and race are not decisive factors for Democratic voters. Too few people talking to each other create narrow, and wrong, impressions that may prove fatal for 2020.

    The central Democratic plank — Trump Bad Man — is not what Dems expected it to be at this point in the 2020 campaign. Russiagate collapsed. There will be no obstruction trials, no impeachment hearings on afternoon TV. Trump is still the only president since the end of the Soviet Union who hasn’t yet dragged the country into any new war, and he has toned down some of the pre-existing ones. The economy did not collapse. A trade war did not devastate any place. Trump got 57 miles of the wall paid for, and had the Supreme Court validate his “Muslim Ban.” Trump continues to enjoy strong ratings on the economy and for combatting terrorism, two issues of heightened importance in family-oriented suburbs. The Resistance piffed away, achieving little while its Hollywood heroes molested each other. The Women’s March ate itself over infighting. And all the Dems have to go into Michigan with is “we still haven’t seen his taxes.”

    Dems did take control of the House and have done what… with that power? Pelosi, who has tamped down the impeachment rabble and dropped shade on her angry freshmen, seems to have a better sense of this than most. All purple voters who chose Dem in the midterms been is more empty talk of socialism, demands for less white supremacy, and a need for more investigations. Plus a quickly-failed Green New Deal alongside lots of anti-Israel chatter that can alienate a potential Jewish voting block in battleground Florida. The Dems could have made a decent DACA-for-the-Wall deal, and gone into 2020 with a popular victory for some of the most vulnerable immigrants. Instead they got just the wall, and watched Trump declare a national emergency over their dead body to get it. At the same time, what Obama recently labeled a “circular firing squad” haunts the party, with the guns aimed right now at Joe “I’m Your Handy Man” Biden. Who is pure enough? Let’s ask Al Franken!

    House Democrats pushing for the release of the Mueller report say they are oddly not hearing much interest on the subject from their constituents back home. “The vast majority of what I hear is about kitchen-table issues,” a Michigan representative said. Because while the Dems may not have much to offer up, the voters indeed have their own lists.

     

    People are anxious over immigration, and many uncomfortable with Trump’s actions. But unless the Dems come up with specific answers to that anxiety they will punt away the issue. There is no doubt communities across the midwest and elsewhere have been dramatically affected by immigration. Some for the better, some less so. Cultural values have been challenged without anyone seeming to care. It is not a new story in America, but it does matter, because purple voters understand the impact on their communities and they see it daily. They are well-aware the New York Times pundit’s  great-grandfather came over from Poland with five dollars in his pocket, hell, their grandfather came over from Poland with two dollars in his pocket. Even if the media won’t ask the hard follow up questions, they’ll still exist in voters’ minds.

    Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is traveling here and there announcing she is today “ashamed” of immigration positions she supported just a few years ago, solid Trumpian things from blocking certain benefits for undocumented immigrants to establishing English as an official language. She proclaims her 180 degree change of view hoping to win the primary so she can downplay in the general election how she proclaimed her 180 degree change of view. It is unlikely purple voters will see this as the serious leadership on immigration issues they crave.

    Multiple candidates say they will abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE. Every country on earth controls its own borders in some fashion. So abolish ICE. And then?

    Purple voters don’t live in the multicultural holiday camp of Brooklyn, and know it is not 1900 anymore with an economy demanding millions of new farmers and manual laborers. They understand not everyone agrees, but also know you can’t tell groups of people what they believe is just wrong, racist, and un-American, at least not and expect their votes. Dems tried and failed to enact gun control legislation by saying people who owned a hunting rifle in Iowa were complicit in killing children in Florida. Nobody wants to see kids in cages. But “We’re not Trump” by itself only goes so far.

     

    Claiming the economy is in shambles is also a bad strategy when it plainly is not. It makes Dems look out of touch. The economy is doing very well for the band of purple voters who have 401ks; the DOW was at 18,000 when Trump took office and it’s above 26,000 now. Yes, yes, Obama helped but that’s not how credit gets apportioned on the ballot. You don’t have to agree with them or even understand it fully, but many are convinced they accept food stamps because they have to while other people accept them because they are lazy. It’s not about jobs, it’s about good jobs somehow still isn’t the message. Got infrastructure plans? Less well-off purple voters understand economic inequality at a gut level; most Dems sell it as a minority problem pandering for black support and forget many of those purple voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania are poor and very white.

    Many voters know there is no such thing as a mass of POC as white Dems imagine it. This is a false construct Dems are wasting energy on. There is, in just one example, a real cleavage between established later-generation Hispanics and new arrivals (55% of Hispanics believe immigrants’ illegal crossing of the border with Mexico is an important problem. Some 97% of foreign-born Hispanics in America identify as Hispanic, while only 50% of fourth-generation or higher Hispanics do.) Few Asians outside of social media traps imagine they have much in common with urban blacks. Every Asian immigrant, for example, expects his kids to live in the suburbs someday. He’s too busy with three jobs to spend time complaining about how unfair things are.

     

    People need help with healthcare. But at some point Medicare for All has to move beyond a tweeted slogan and explain how the government will simply do away with the multi-billion dollar private insurance business, force doctors to change how and how much they are paid, explain how to legislate drug prices, and institute price controls for all medical services to keep the system from going broke (you need all those parts, that’s how it works in other countries.) And of course, explain how to pass the legislation and then fund all this. “We’ll tax rich people” makes as much sense as “We’ll ask Beyonce to set up a really big GoFundMe.” “Check my web page for the details” is not going to be 2020’s killer debate line.

    In 2016, both Sanders and Trump stood out from other candidates for their willingness to frame the campaign as an existential struggle, using terms like “revolution” and “movement” to drive home their anti-establishment credentials. With Democrats now seeking to redefine themselves after more than two decades of dominance by the Clintons, such terms have become the norm. Purple voters may easily see such words as code for too-left, too-progressive ideological politics they are wary of backing.

     

    While the effect on purple voters is unclear at present, “Whither Bernie” looms large. The 2016 Bernie never imagined he’d do much more than use the primary to air his signature issues of healthcare and economic reform. That’s why in the beginning he didn’t run against Hillary so much as alongside her, always gentle on her tender spots like those damn emails. But his message about Wall Street excesses and income inequality resonated. Bernie 2020 starts with a large block of serious supporters and some good ideas. But it is very hard to see how a guy five years older than Trump who talks about socialism is going to fare. Last time around the Dems buried Sanders in a rigged primary and lost many of his supporters. It is unclear how the eventual Democratic nominee (you don’t really think the DNC will run an independent old man with no corporate love, do you?) will handle him this time around to try and retain those voters. It is also unclear how many voters will be hesitant to back Bernie, wondering in the end which other candidate they’ll be traded to this time.

     

    It’s a primary, so candidates think they are talking mostly among friends to the Base. But in a 24/7 always-on world statements now are amplified and will be remembered. This is an old story for Republicans, who in the past used to say crazy racist things to small rural groups to win primary votes, and then try to clean up their act back in town.  The old “must do X to get nominated and then renounce X to get elected” paradigm doesn’t work anymore.

    A good example is Mayor Pete, who has made a little set piece out of calling out Mike Pence. Pete recently said “If you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is with my creator.” Who is Pete talking to here? Homophobes are not going to change their minds, and evangelicals are not going to be brought over by being told their reading of God’s word is wrong. Nope, Pete is pandering to a small segment of the Democratic base focused on LGBT issues. Once upon a time that was a workable strategy, different approaches for different audiences. But not today. How is his approach going to play to purple voters worried about a broad range of pocketbook issues? If Mayor Pete, who so desperately wants to be this year’s Plain Spoken Warrior Poet from the Heartland, ends up in front of possible Trump voters in Ohio explaining he won’t be The Gay President, he’ll lose. Ask around; how’d that I’m going to be The Woman President thing work out in 2016?

    So here it is: Democrats, if you want a better chance at winning in 2020 instead of just congratulating yourselves you were right while recounting the popular vote, tone down the Trump hate. Stop emphasizing identity politics. Have specific plans to offer on immigration, infrastructure, and healthcare. Talk about economic inequality more broadly, and STFU about socialism. Be very careful what you feed the base in the primaries lest you have to walk it back in the general election. Pay more attention to real life purple voters and less to social media. Get your angry freshman women off and your candidates on the front pages. Resolve your Bernie problem well. Stop alienating the very voters who can push you to victory.

     

    At this early stage, Joe Biden (age 76 to Trump’s 72, lost twice) and Bernie (lost once, age 77) seem like the best the Democrats have and that’s pretty sad. It’s still very early days, but we’re watching Dems set the stage to blow it.

     
     

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    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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    Posted in Democracy, Trump

    The Democratic Party Has One More Shot at Relevancy

    January 8, 2019 // 34 Comments »


     
    Elizabeth Warren, in the final hours of 2018, announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president. She stands at the precipice with a Democratic Party that must hold the primaries in 2020 it should have held in 2016 to remain relevant.
     
    Among the 30-some people the New York Times says may seek the Democratic nomination, almost all the serious candidates should have run in 2016, including Warren, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker. Instead the fix was in; who doesn’t believe Obama pulled Biden aside to say “Kid, this ain’t your year.” Warren, et al, either had their own come-to-Obama moments or were smart enough to back down with dreams of Clintonesque Cabinet positions dancing in their heads. They reassured themselves they would still have time to run after Hillary wrapped up her eight years in office and before it was Chelsea’s turn.

    Old Man Bernie likely never imagined he’d do much more than use his primary platform to air out his signature issues of healthcare and economic reform. That’s why in the beginning he didn’t run against Hillary as much as he ran alongside of her, always gentle on her tender spots like those damn emails. But there was a hunger among some Democrats to confront Wall Street excesses and income inequality. Bernie caught a tailwind and when he did, we all know via the leaked DNC emails and some tell-alls how the Party took him out of the race with super delegates, rigged debates, ad buys, and did other dirty tricks we’d see more of later. Did you know he honeymooned in Russia?

    The primary season was to be little more than a warm-up for Hillary, with her Scooby van listening tour and her book tour and her staged “debates” with Official Party Cuck Martin O’Malley playing the role of the Washington Generals to Hillary’s Globetrotters. How’d that work out anyway?
     
    While no candidate this year has the power Hillary held in 2016, the temptation by the Party to rig the primaries again is great; why spend all that money on a long series of ho-hum votes, and why hand Trump footage like Harris calling Warren ineffective in some debate when the winner can be pre-determined? If Dems grant the media, currently operating with the hive mind of a 24-year-old Brooklynite who owes her parents money, too much influence, it’ll be some accomplishment-free shiny object like Beto for Trump to treat as a political chew toy. Give the voters another rigged primary – make it another her’s turn again – and you likely give America another four years of Trump.

    The Democratic Party in 2016 engineered defeat by not letting the process do what it is designed to do: weed out the weak and their weaknesses. Instead, every weakness was meant to be swept under the rug: Hillary Clinton was the archetypal 21st century candidate, a perfectly-formed tool of the oligarchy, all appetite. Never mind the emails, the Clinton Foundation, Hillary’s warmongering record, and most of all her lack of answers to the questions the electorate wanted answered. The voters knew Obamacare often failed them by providing health insurance they could afford but not actual healthcare they could afford, and that they were being left behind in an economy fueled by inequality. People with kids dying in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere were unsure why. Meh, her turn, deal with it.

    These shortcomings would have been exposed during a real primary. Instead they were left to fester in voters’ minds, and Trump happened. Yet the after action reports on 2016 mention none of this. Instead, supposedly Trump won because of Russia and racist redneck misogynists. Anyone working to elect a Democratic president in 2020 who isn’t willing to consider that by rigging the 2016 primary they ran a weak candidate is being foolish. The only answer is a free-for-all primary, where the ideas that roil the Democratic party, the push and pull of what has come to be called “progressivism,” are allowed to slug it out.

    Because if the primaries don’t wash out the weaknesses, Trump most certainly will use his honed predator’s instincts to do it in the general campaign. Did you know Beto’s wife is part of a billion-dollar real estate family in Texas, making him more Jared than caped crusader? The primary needs to poke at Warren’s bizarro-world claims the system is rigged while it was the same rigged system that allowed her to rise into a position of prominence, what one commentator described as “a curious vision coming from a person whose life story, like that of tens millions of Americans who have risen far above their small beginnings, refutes her own thesis. It was curious, also, coming from someone who presumably believes that various forms of rigging are required to un-rig past rigging.’”

    And how much emphasis will voters place on blud purity? After years of bleating about diversity, what to do with Old White Straight Men like Biden or Michael Bloomberg in all this? Will Sanders’ supporters come home to the Party, or will they remember Bernie humiliated into a little nobody helping nominate someone at the Democratic Convention he clearly loathed? The primaries must above all else settle the question of whether or not Bernie is the divisive element a Democratic party already showing its cracks does not need in 2020.

    What will a sharp look at Cory Booker’s time as photo-op mayor of Newark and his warm relationship with Wall Street money reveal? What about Kamala Harris’ complex history of supporting some progressive causes while rejecting others as California attorney general? Why didn’t she prosecute Steven Mnuchin‘s bank? Meanwhile, how much time and money will be wasted on political fluffers like Beto, a guy who lost in his home state, one of the most important in terms of electoral votes?
     
    This is not to over-focus on any one candidate at this point; quite the opposite. It is to point out the kinds of issues that demand an aggressive, unfiltered, unrigged primary process to address, because nobody in the Democratic Party leadership knows the answers. The goal is two-fold: how will the candidates handle their past decisions and future plans in front of the public, and how will voters react to those attempts.

    No one can win against Trump in 2020 simply by being Not Trump. Never mind the Blue Wave in the House, it is the map which allowed the Republicans to grow their Senate majority in 2018 that controls the Electoral College. Trump is the natural end point of 17 post-9/11 years of keeping us afraid. He is the mediagenic demagogue a country gets when it abandons its people to economic apartheid. He feeds off being Not Not Trump. Every time someone says “well, that’s the end of Trump” after some outrageous statement, Trump needs only to top himself in the next tweet and the process restarts.
     
    Let the primaries get rough; the winner will need the experience to rise above Trump while simultaneously standing up to him. To beat Trump is to offer a counter-vision under fire. The primary process has to sort out which of the Democrats looking at the White House might be able to do that. Because if the Democratic Party again does not allow the primaries to do their job, Candidate Trump most certainly will. Again.

     
     

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    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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    Posted in Democracy, Trump