Sunday, July 28, 2019

#209 / Are The Democrats Stupid?

The picture above, from the first Democratic Party 2020 Primary Debate, was used to illustrate a recent article. The headline on the article asked this question: "Are Democrats too stupid to beat Donald Trump?

You can probably figure out the thesis of the article, without having to read it, but I will provide you with an excerpt, below, to make clear why the author thinks, as Thomas Friedman so poignantly put it: "Trump's Going to Get Re-elected, Isn't He?

Here is what Martin Longman says, in his article in the Washington Monthly

Trump is not looking at potentially winning 49 states. He’s looking at trying to win twice while losing the popular vote.

But he does have a strategy and the strategy is correctly calibrated for the task at hand. He must racialize the electorate to maximize his vote in heavily-white communities and tap a wedge in between the urban and suburban Democrats so that the latter will defect in sufficient numbers for him to recover his losses. His problem is that efforts to maximize his white vote actually have the effect of pushing urban and suburban Democrats into a closer alliance. For this reason, he will fail unless the Democrats help ramp up his base numbers and depress their own.

This is where policies like free health care for undocumented people or abolishing all private health insurance are going to do damage. These things are not popular in general and are especially unpopular with the Democrats’ suburban base. A lot of the Democrats’ rhetoric on border issues is toxic not just in the sticks but also in the communities ringing our cities.

So, yes, the Democrats really could blow this election by running a non-strategic campaign based on abstract values against a campaign that is laser-focused on just the voters it needs to win.

An article in The Nation, "Pelosi Proves Triangulation Is Really Self-Strangulation," advances an argument not unlike Longman's argument, though reflecting a different priority. Both articles suggest that "the Democrats" must be united in how the party presents itself. All the bad feelings among Democrats in the Congress (and among their various supporters, in mutually warring camps throughout the country) have been generated by angst about whether the  party can in fact unify its approach, and can forge a common understanding about what the Democratic Party should stand for, and about what position(s) will help the Democrats win the presidency.

Both Longman and The Nation are suggesting that "the Democrats" will be divided, going into the 2020 presidential election, and that the result will be the reelection of Donald Trump, even though it is pretty clear that a majority of the voters in the country would rather have someone else. The way the campaign is shaping up, it's a "person," Donald Trump, against a party, "the Democrats." 

I would like to point out that this is actually quite weird, when you consider that the United States of America does not have a parlimentary system, in which voters vote for the party, and the party leadership decides who the candidates will be in the various constituencies. That is not the way it is supposed to be on this side of the Atlantic.

Supposedly, voters in the various Congressional Districts (as to the House of Representatives) and in the various states (as to the Senate) vote for individual candidates, not the party with which a particular candidate may decide to identify. Our nation is very diverse. The voters in the Ocasio-Cortez District, in the Bronx, are quite different from the voters in San Mateo County, to take an example close to my home in Santa Cruz. The voters in San Mateo County have elected Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier to Congress. Query whether they would elect AOC. However, all these women are "Democrats." So is Nancy Pelosi, by the way, and she and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are having a hard time getting along, as the article in The Nation explictly notes. 

I would like to suggest that "the Democrats" have a whole lot of different ideas about the way things ought to be, and that this is just fine. Let's celebrate the different views, but get them attributed correctly. Members of Congress should represent and speak for their constituents and themselves, not some sort of unified party position. The legislative branch of government needs to be policy-focused, not party-focused. 

Make the president win re-election, if he can, running against an individual candidate, not "the Democrats." 

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