Saturday, November 10, 2018

What now?

Think young

Sam Smith  - 
Perhaps the most underrated factor in politics these days is age.  As US News reported, “More than two-thirds of voters aged 18 to 29 voted for Democrats in the 2018 election, compared with 32 percent who supported Republican candidates. The 35 percentage point chasm is the largest gap in at least the last 25 years and is about three times higher than it was in the 2014 midterms, according to the center. The data from the exit polls is reasonably consistent with pre-election polling.”

As noted here from time to time, what we’re in the midst of is an extreme last gasp of a demographic that is on its way out. Yes, it can do damage, but history is not on its side. The real issue is what the young have learned from this election and what they will do with it next.

Enjoy identity but share it

There’s nothing wrong with identity politics but if you only have, say, 13% of the population, it’s not enough to get you where you want to be.  Among the biggest things missing from politics today are cross cultural coalitions. If blacks, latinos, women, labor and the young would come together it would dramatically change American politics. How do you do this? Meet together and come up with a list of shared priorities. No it won’t be everything or the highest on your identity’s list but it will create a huge coalition for the good.

Help the middle and lower classes live better lives

Democrats won’t admit it, but beginning with the war on unions in the Reagan administration. economic issues for the middle and lower classes began to lose strength within the party. With Clinton, the party veered towards Republican Lite. Increasingly affluent liberals weren’t all that interested and Citizens United made many think politics had to reflect corporate donors.  
Consider this list of some key Democratic accomplishments over the past 85 years:

- Regulation of banks and stock brokerage firms cheating their customers
- Protection of your bank account
- Social Security
- A minimum wage
- Regulation of the stock exchanges
- Right of labor to bargain with employers
- College educations for innumerable veterans
- Housing loans for innumerable veterans
- FHA housing loans
- Unemployment insurance
- Small Business Administration
- Medicare

Now, calculate the number of the above, or equivalent measures, that were launched by Democrats in the last 30 years.  Aside from Obamacare and the current drive to raise the minimjm wage, not much.

It wasn’t just the Tea Party and Trump that grabbed the middle and lower class away from the Democrats. It was also the Democrats’ fear and growing disinterest as its own leadership became more dependent on corporate donations. 

Be nicer to white men

It’s stylish these days for liberals to attack white men  in a generic fashion that would be called racist if it were applied to blacks or latinos.  Fairness aside, it’s also lousy politics and helps to keep many whites in the Trump camp.  Those who throw around terms like “white privilege” ignore the fact that there are more whites in poverty than there are blacks in total. Further, 39% of white men voted Democratic in the most recent election as did 37% of non-college whites. Far from the percentage of Democratic blacks or women but why piss off tens of millions of your allies with a disparaging generality. 

The extensive use of such derogatory terms suggests a liberal indifference towards lower income folk in dramatic contrast to what used to be central to liberal policy. 

As Robert Kuttner wrote in American Prospect:

The white working class may be only 30 percent of the national electorate but it’s more than half the electorate in the states where Trump won the 2016 election—Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Indiana. In western Pennsylvania, the white working class is more than 60 percent. As pollster Stanley Greenberg has written in the Prospect, the emerging Democratic majority needs to incorporate both the new rainbow and the white working class.

The hazards of an increasingly college educated liberal base

Since the 1990s the non-college educated base has gone from being strongly Democratic to leaning slightly Republican.  Part of the problem Is class indifference, but part is also not being able to describe politics in terms the non-college educated relate to. A classic example is how the term public works,  which everyone understood, has been replaced by infrastructure.  As one of my high school teachers used to say, “Speaka United States.” No small part of Obamacare’s problem was that the lawyers and MBAs involved couldn’t explain it clearly, which allowed the right to attack it in lots of ways.

Another problem is that the well educated often analyze better than they act. Thus, for example, we have a wealth of analysis of ethnic discrimination going back to the days of slavery, but a paucity of new actions to do something about it. 


Draft gun legislation with hunters and other gun owners

One of the main reasons  we don’t have better gun laws is that liberals have gone it alone on issue instead of building alliances with rational  gun owners. Gun owners are not the NRA as a CBS poll earlier this year shows.
For example:
  • 56% of gun owners do not believe gun control supporters are trying to take away traditions and a way of life.
  • 60% think gun control supporters are promoting public safety and lower gun deaths for everyone.
  • 43% of gun owners think the NRA is too extreme in its positions.
  • 55% of gun owners disapprove of the way the NRA handles the debate.
  • 54% of gun owners are concerned about the possibility of gun violence at their children’s school
  • On a scale of one to five, with the latter representing pro-control 42%  of gun owners place themselves at 4 or 5.
In short, the image projected by liberals and the media of gun owners is markedly wrong. They should recognize that the view of these owners is quite varied and start to work with hunters and other owners who favor a rational approach.

Look inland for leaders

Liberalism has a heavy coastal emphasis, but if you want to reach all Americans it helps to pay more attention to inland America. Back in 2016 I argued futilely for Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana to be put on the Democrats’ list of potential nominees, and now Montana offers another good example, the recently victorious Schweitzer successor, Steve Bulloch. As Wikipedia notes, “Bullock was one of just three Democrats to win gubernatorial elections (one of whom, Jim Justice, is now a Republican), in states that President Trump carried in 2016, and the only incumbent Democratic governor to win re-election in a state that Trump carried. He was also one of the only Democratic incumbents besides North Carolina State Auditor Beth Wood, North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue, and Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to win re-election to statewide offices in states that President Trump won in the 2016 presidential election.”

Democrats will carry California and New York, it’s the Montanas of America they have to concentrate on more.

Think local

In recent years, liberalism has become highly federalist  But Americans like their local government best, their state government second and the federal government third. The Democrats did real well this year down the ladder of American government. While Trump retains the support of some 40% of voters and the GOP held on to the Senate, the Dems picked up lots of House seats, governorships and increased their present in state legislatures.

Federal and local do no have to be at odds. Even federal legislation can provide more opportunities for state and towns to make their own decisions. Finding ways in legislation for them to participate would provide support for liberal programs.

Deal with the undemocratic aspects of America

The Senate and electoral college are classic examples of how America fails its own stated aspirations. Half the country lives in states that have a total of 18 votes in the Senate, less than those states that were formerly part of the Confederacy. The electoral college is similarly biased.
There’s no easy cure for this. Giving statehood to DC and Puerto Rico would help but the bias built into a system badly compromised in forming a union with the democratic and slave owning Americas sticks with us with dramatically undemocratic results. 

A first step is to recognize it, teach it, and work around it. It is, for example, a strong reason for Democrats to pay more attention to states – especially in the south – that have disproportionate power in their leanings to the right. This election’s efforts in Florida and Georgia suggest that progress can be made.

And having a bunch of new Democratic governors provides the chance to go after some bad gerrymandering, anti-voter rules and other systems that make our elections unfair.

Put pressure on the media to stop spreading Trump lies

The Washington centered media is under the illusion that it is required to broadcast what top officials say even when someone like the president has a record of lying a number of times each day. In fact, good journalism requires that consistantly questionable presidential statements not be reported until they are either found to be true or are told with truth alongside them. To an extent not generally realized the media is grossly biased towards power and Washington. We have to work against that.

Expand ranked choice voting

Among its other virtues such as electing an actual majority winner, ranked choice voting changes the tone of politics because the leading candidates know they may have to be the second choice of people who aren’t loyal fans in order to win. This changes how they approach the campaign.

Pick candidates who are also people

Look at this list of potential Democratic presidential candidates ranked by how well they are currently doing against Trump and ask yourself which candidates would you mostly like to also have for dinner or meet in a bar. My list almost matches this one of those with double digit projections

Michelle Obama
Bernie Sanders
Joe Biden
Oprah Winfrey

Kamalia  Harris

As you move further down the list you find people like Elizabeth Warren -bright but not much fun; Hillary Clinton – who’d probably leave you with the bar bill; Eric Holder, Michael Bloomberg, John Kerry and Cory Booker leave me yawning.

I’m old enough in journalism to have started before television got its hold on politics and made image more powerful than actual experience and reality. The five names at the top would have done well in such an environment because they are real people who would be fun to know. That still matters to folks even if we don’t talk about it ich.

Teach the young about America again

As the American Federation of Teachers put it, “Civic knowledge and public engagement are at an all-time low. A 2016 survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that only 26 percent of Americans can name all three branches of government, which was a significant decline from previous years. Not surprisingly, public trust in government is at only 18 percent2 and voter participation has reached its lowest point since 1996. Without an understanding of the structure of government, our rights and responsibilities, and the different methods of public engagement, civic literacy and voter apathy will continue to plague American democracy.

“Only 23 percent of eighth-graders performed at or above the proficient level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress civics exam, and achievement levels have virtually stagnated since 1998.”