2017: Whither Democrats?


I was wondering when someone would pick up on that. (You still do need 2/3 vote in the House and Senate though, unless there is a constitutional convention). But I think the first thing the Trump Republican would do is repeal the 13th amendment, and then make all the folks in the blue states count as 3/5 of a person.


If the answer to this loss is “do the things I’ve been saying they should do all along,” it’s not really an answer. Perhaps it’s true that some of the people who didn’t like the direction Hillary took would have made all the right calls if they were in charge, but theres really no way to know that and even looking at the election and wondering how to get 1.2% more of the vote in PA is not very productive. The question is what to do next, how to win the next set of elections, and that question revolves around find a coalition that is more than 50% in all the places you can. If that means populism in the Rust belt, climate change on the coasts, and full-throated support for BLM and LBGTQ rights in the areas where that plays best, then you need to back the candidates that will promote those things. In all likelihood it means backing stuff we don’t like in states we don’t live in because the person advocating it is going to help get people we do like into power.

Ideological purity doesn’t win elections because voters don’t agree with each other. Clintons mistake wasn’t that she didn’t offer anything to Labor, it was that she didn’t convince them she understood their needs. She basically came off similarly to the Romney “borrow $20k from your parents” quote, offering solutions they either didn’t understand or didn’t want. Green jobs is a great idea, but if you associate “green” with “latte-sipping mustachioed hipster” then green jobs don’t sound like something that’s for you. So the solution isn’t to just go more hardcore with policies we love. It isn’t to just “explain better” in the sense of trying to educate the rubes so they see how great you are. The solution is to listen to everyone enough to connect your policies to their daily lives. The old school version of that was personal anecdotes. The new one is Twitter wars. You barely have to propose policy of you can say, “The people of X are struggling with Y, and I’m going to fight the [status quo/insurgent demons/corrupt masters] to make sure their voice is heard!” Find enough Xs and the appropriate Ys and you win.


As Strollen noted, you need 2/3 majorities in both houses of Congress for that and, if you look at a map of the state legislatures post election, I think it would be just about impossible to find 5 remaining blue states that could be realistically envisioned as flipping to red.




The real answer is to pander, but do it smoothly and without remorse. American politics is all about style and likability and so long as you sound authentic, nothing else matters. Things like facts, reality and truth are now irrelevant in this country. You either get lucky and get a charismatic politician who actually has values (Obama) or you don’t and you get the likes of Trump (or St. Ronny, who said stupid shit all the time and whose administration did stupid shit but it never mattered.)


This is a good editorial on the NY Times about how to defeat Trump, based on Italy’s experiences with Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity. His secret was an ability to set off a Pavlovian reaction among his leftist opponents, which engendered instantaneous sympathy in most moderate voters. Mr. Trump is no different.

We saw this dynamic during the presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton was so focused on explaining how bad Mr. Trump was that she too often didn’t promote her own ideas, to make the positive case for voting for her. The news media was so intent on ridiculing Mr. Trump’s behavior that it ended up providing him with free advertising.

Only two men in Italy have won an electoral competition against Mr. Berlusconi: Romano Prodi and the current prime minister, Matteo Renzi (albeit only in a 2014 European election). Both of them treated Mr. Berlusconi as an ordinary opponent. They focused on the issues, not on his character. In different ways, both of them are seen as outsiders, not as members of what in Italy is defined as the political caste.


Mark Lilla’s editorial in the Times this morning is worth a read. He doesn’t really take the right to task enough–but that’s not his point in this–but he does offer a way to look at the failure of the Democrats. Identity politics cuts both ways, is his basic point, and he makes it well.

For me, the missing piece in the editorial though is the way the right sucker-punched (or rope-a-doped) the Dems into shifting the fight from structural, class-based politics to identity politics, knowing the left would ignore working class and rural, and religious, whites, and thus setting up a cultural struggle where the left simply ignored a huge player for too long. What Lilla doesn’t deal with essentially is the way the right has always used culture wars of some sort to divide and conquer. That being said, the only way forward is definitely for the Democrats to figure out how to speak a language that brings the whole country together around common issues.

Culture and identity issues are vitally important, particularly on the personal level, but I do believe it’s a hell of a lot easier to get people to live and let live (i.e., not give a fuck who marries who or which toilet you use) if you feel you have a common purpose–like health care, jobs, and a real future for your kids–that you can work towards together.


Maybe the Democrats should go back to promising a guaranteed job for all Americans who want one, even if the federal government has to be the employer of last resort. Sure, it would be monstrously expensive and inefficient, but not compared with Trump’s tax plan.


Actually, this is a good starting point. The Dems would be better able to fit this in to their overarching ideology than the GOP, too.


I believe that Clinton was probably the best candidate available. I don’t think anyone else would have done better. Her mistake was that she gave Trump an opening with the email problem, which I don’t fault her on since most others were doing the same. It was constantly in the news, more than any other topic and people didn’t really understand it, except that it was “bad”. When Comey released his letter, many of the voters that were leaning Clinton decided that there must be something seriously wrong and voted for Trump or stayed home. It was enough to give the victory to Trump—remember that she lost by a very small percentage in a few states and actually won the popular vote.

We have never seen a candidate like Trump, who lies constantly. Voters who are uninformed start to believe the lies and those who agree with him are emboldened and excited to vote for him.


I think literally anyone would have done better. Her skeletons and history sank her. You could’ve picked some random new guy and won… which is more or less what happened in 2008.


You say this but he defeated, what, 15 random guys on his way to the nomination?

Clinton had baggage for sure and it hurt her for sure, but I’m not convinced any old Democrat would have won either.


It should have been a warning when there was so little competition in the primaries.


Clinton very nearly won. She barely lost the places she needed to win. A lot of them were by less than 2% and she won the popular vote. All you needed was someone with her same positions that people didn’t fricking hate.


You could even tie this into universal income.

Say universal income is guaranteed if you sign up for it, signing up for it means, if unemployed, you can be subject to being drafted in your community for a certain amount of time to do civic improvement- Americorps type stuff, Habitat for Humanity-type stuff, etc.

That way it isn’t welfare.


Problem is, this makes sense :). Americans, for some bizarre reason, have become more obsessed with the possibility that someone, somewhere, is cheating the system, than they are interested in actually doing something useful.

But again, follow the money. Who benefits from having a large army of the unemployed or underemployed? Do the true right-wing elites really even want to do anything about jobs?


I think it also doesn’t help that services industries are often looked down upon. And it seems like in America, students who don’t strive to attend college after high school are seen as somehow lacking in ambition. I wonder if America could ever realistically adopt a system of vocational education much like Germany’s?

Our friends in Germany know—as we should—that some students are bored by traditional studies; some don’t have the aptitude for college; some would rather work with their hands; and some are unhappy at home and just need to get away. They realize that everyone won’t benefit from college, but they can still be successful and contribute to society.

Americans often see such students as victims. Germans see these students as potential assets who might one day shine if they’re matched with the right vocation. And it has a system in place—a partnership of employers and unions with government—to do the matching and provide the necessary training.

My parents have both been educators at points in their life and so it was always assumed that my sister and I would attend college. I took a couple of years of German in high school and when my professor, a Mr. Charles Wooten, described this system of education in Germany, I really thought that was something I could get behind. Alas, I attended college and have a degree in something that I’m not really using. Yeah, some of that is my own fault. But I often wonder how different my life would be had I chosen or been able to choose a different educational path.


The German system has its merits, and I agree has a lot to offer. One drawback that doesn’t sit well with Americans is that, like many European systems, it tracks students from an early age, and sort of pigeon-holes you early on as university material or not. I think that would not sit will in our status-conscious society. So we’d have to change the perception before we changed the curriculum.


There’s also the possibility that the vocational-training-appropriate jobs will be the first to go in the New Economy (well, not first; coal and manufacturing are already dead, of course, but you know what I mean).

I mean, mind, not that a ton of college education-unlocked careers won’t be far behind. . .

Preparing folks for future-readiness gets a LOT of talk in the education circles I run in (because of course I work for a namby-pamby education-focused nonprofit, right?), and aside from vital soft-skills like critical thinking and information synthesis, a sad fact of the current job market is that you’ve just gotta have the piece of paper to get in the door to a lot of places that you really want to get in the door at.


Manufacturing in our country is not dead or really dying today. We make a lot products right now. I believe in 2015 it was around what, 2 trillion dollars, over 10% of our GDP. That’s not dead or dying. It’s just not the primary or only source for our economic growth and expansion. We can actually afford to loose an entire industry and still continue. Other countries are not so fortunate. Hell I was kind of surprised how much of an impact Samsung has on Korea… not even an industry but a single company.

To say it’s going to be dead is just completely inaccurate. Industries shifting to other parts of the world is not unnatural. It has happened time and time again, and not just to the USA either. I mean look at Japan, China… India. I mean look at some of the industries and products we have today that didn’t even exist a handful of decades ago. We’re still going to make things in the future, and there is a good chance we can’t even guess as to what some of things will be.