Some Democrats Have No Idea Why They Lost In 2016

To hear my boss in North Carolina tell it, he actually thought we were going to win the Tar Heel state for Hillary Clinton deep into the night of November 8th, 2016. The numbers from Mecklenburg, Wake, Durham, and Orange Counties, the backbone of Democratic power in the state, were hitting voter turnout and performance targets. Turnout was high statewide, presumably a good thing for Democrats. But it wasn’t enough. Democrats lost the battleground state by slightly less than 175,000 votes in the end.

In my native Pennsylvania, the story was similar. Hillary Clinton’s margin out of Philadelphia was greater than either of Bill Clinton’s, Al Gore’s, John Kerry’s or anyone else who won the state not named Barack Obama. She carried all four of Philadelphia’s “collar counties,” the former backbone of Republicans in the state, and in some cases carried them substantially. She carried Allegheny County (Pittsburgh area) by a margin exceeding President Obama’s. She carried places like Dauphin County (the state capitol) and Centre County (Penn State), something unthinkable when Gore and Kerry were carrying the state. Turnout was very high across the state. Like North Carolina, Hillary spared no efforts to win the state, visiting constantly.

The list of examples showing the same thing is fairly substantial. Hillary campaigned hard in Florida, and exceeded the early vote numbers that she was expected to need in almost every metropolitan area. She lost the state very close. Turnout was high, her margins in the cities were impressive, and yet every swing state seemed to break the same way. Yet the myth persists- Hillary’s campaign didn’t do enough to motivate the base Democrats and they didn’t do enough to spike turnout among “marginal” voters. Some Democrats insist that we must do this better to win in 2020. The facts would argue that we did this pretty well in 2016, AND that there may be only limited ability to do this better in 2020. Just about every candidate running would be lucky to match her performance among the base in 2020. I know, it’s a sobering thought, but the facts say this conventional talking point is wrong.

There’s also an equally false myth out there about Donald Trump- that he motivated tens of millions of new white “hillbilly” voters to turn out. Let me let you in on a little secret, he didn’t. Trump got a little less than two million more votes than Mitt Romney, which with the increased voter turnout, made for a 1% drop in the Republican share of the vote. Trump got the same percentage of the vote as McCain did in a blowout loss in 2008, which means he basically got the population growth difference. This may shock you, but basically if Clinton has received 49% instead of 48%, she probably would have won six more states, and an electoral blowout (provided they weren’t all in the big coastal blue states). Donald Trump actually had no special turnout machine, his margin was not a bunch of new white Republicans. His victory was actually fueled by key crossover Democrats in the swing states, and people disgusted with both that picked third party candidates.

The bitter truth is that Democrats lost the 2016 not because they didn’t do enough to motivate the base voters in Philadelphia, Cleveland or Charlotte, but because of voters they lost in Eastern North Carolina, Northeast Pennsylvania, Eastern Iowa, and suburban Milwaukee. Our ability to win them back isn’t the only factor that matters in 2020, but it is a very big one.

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About Electability

We are now far enough into the 2020 Election that I can feel comfortable saying this- stop dismissing electability. To be clear here, this is not to say you should accept overly basic, thoughtless analysis that says only a white man can beat Trump, but if you’re going to make an argument that runs contrary to current head-to-head polls, it should not begin with “don’t discuss electability.” The fact is electability is literally the most important thing in the 2020 primaries, and it has to be a concern. If you’re a Democrat, and you happen to believe that representing Democratic voters is actually an important thing, then you have to win elections. Parties that lose elections don’t get the power to do anything. Period.

Polling right now suggests that Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke are the most electable candidates. That’s powerful evidence. While I despise him, Bernie Sanders does overcome cratering personal numbers yet, when matched up with Trump (For now. Wait until the negatives start.). This isn’t the final and definitive say on electability though. You can argue, for instance, that while Amy Klobuchar is a relative unknown yet today, her winning track record in Minnesota shows an electable candidate. You could argue that Kamala Harris has a track record of winning major statewide elections, and will mobilize Democratic base voters better than anyone else. You can argue that Pete Buttigieg’s campaign has been the best run to this point, and his ascent shows a special talent that is unique. Argue whatever you want. Don’t try to skip out on an electability argument though.

Beating Donald Trump is actually, most likely going to be really hard. Elections this century suggests that a Republican nominee starts with a floor of 46%, regardless of who they are, or what they run their campaign on. Democrats start at 48%, but are totally capable of losing the electoral college to a Republican holding their base, at this level. President Obama won his elections with 53% and 51%, and still was winning most of the swing states fairly close. It’s worth noting also that while he did turn out the base, he also spent hundreds of millions of dollars appealing to blue collar white voters by beating the bejesus out of McCain and Romney on the economy in swing states. Democratic Presidents have to be able to do two things at once to win an election. If they can’t both energize Democrats and win over the bulk of the 6% of the country not in either column to begin with, they will lose the electoral college. Full stop. Losing candidates can’t protect your health care, keep children out of cages, or do anything at all about climate change.

Maybe that electability thing actually does matter, doesn’t it?

The Likely Outcome of Impeachment

It was over a decade, but John McCain’s percentage of the vote should be familiar to you- he got 46% of the vote. McCain is generally viewed as an honorable, if flawed man, but had to run against the tides of history- an unpopular war, an economic meltdown, an imbecile running mate, a historic opponent, and most of all, an unpopular President from his own party. Four years later, Mitt Romney had to run against a popular President, with a growing economy, and he managed to bump his performance up to a whopping 47%. In 2016, the Republicans nominated a reality TV star that got caught on video saying “grab ’em by the pussy,” who had bankrupt casinos and stiffed contractors, and was hardly someone that should have appealed to Evangelical voters- he got elected President with 46% of the vote. I’m not a gambling man, but if I was, I would not take the under on Donald Trump getting 46%. It appears to not matter who the GOP nominates- they are getting 46%. Bank it.

It’s this reliability and stability in the GOP’s electorate that allows them to stick by their leaders, regardless of what happens. The Republican Party almost ceases to exist in some of the biggest states in the country, namely California and New York, but their stranglehold on “red” states, and even their enclaves in “swing” states remain solidly in their hands. Even as Democrats spent millions of dollars telling the country how bad Trump was in 2016, it did nothing. Republican voters stuck by him. No matter how terrible he is, he’s better than the alternative, to them.

So you’re going to have to excuse me saying this- no Republicans are coming to the Democratic position on impeachment. Zero. That’s even more clear in the Senate, where Democrats would need at least twenty Republican Senators to cross over and vote to convict. There are not twenty Republican Senators who would be considered “endangered” right now, in fact there are at least 34 that could credibly say the politics in their states favor backing Trump. In other words, you enter the impeachment process with no pathway to convicting the President.

What about the argument that the hearings could change that dynamic? I direct you above, to the part where I told you this President said of women that you can “grab ’em by the pussy,” and the video was released nationally, and he was elected a month later. Exactly what do you think could be said about Donald Trump to diminish him among the 46% that would vote for a turnip to be President, if it were the Republican nominee? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. There is no low, no embarrassment that would change their minds. Nothing. And knowing that, there’s no Republican members of Congress to move. Even for the few you’d flip trashing him, you’d lose others.

What of the argument that the hearings could galvanize Democratic voters? It’s hard to prove either way. What I do know is that we spent 2016 exposing his fraudulent behavior, his vulgarity, his lack of knowledge, and every bad trait that Trump has, and we got 48% of the vote- a lot, more than he had, but not enough. There are limits to how motivating the negatives on Trump are, even to Democratic voters. At least that’s what history tells us.

What harm could impeachment do? When Watergate began in 1972, it wasn’t a broadly popular investigation, nor was Nixon unpopular, but it grew into a movement that eventually pushed him out of office. Not every investigation takes that route, of course. Iran-Contra ended as a dud, having no sizable impact on any election, and largely not sending the principles to jail. The Whitewater investigation into Bill Clinton did end in impeachment, which in turn actually caused the Republicans to lose seats in the 1998 midterm, serving as the modern political argument against impeachment. While Democratic activists passionately want to impeach Trump, the rest of the electorate sits solidly (34-48%) against it– even as they give Trump the lowest approval in that poll of his Presidency. The political will for impeachment isn’t there, and the past shows it to be risky to push through that.

There is a solid argument that says the Democrats must do the right thing, for history, for the rule of law, and for our constitution. Of course, the tricky thing is what “the right thing” is? If there is truly no pathway to conviction of Trump in the Senate, if impeachment may politically help him, is it “the right thing” to impeach the President? Is the possibility of a second Trump term, possibly with a Republican House, and the probability of more Supreme Court appointments worth it? Even if we assume his guilt, which I do, what’s the value in impeaching him with no chance to convict. Yes, it might make me feel good, but what’s that do for the people Donald Trump is actively hurting every day he is in office? Is it worth risking RBG’s seat on the Supreme Court? Risking four more years of inaction on climate change? Risking more children in cages? What risk is too much to pursue something that is almost certain to fail?

Politics can be emotionally unsatisfying much of the time. I have concluded that the odds of removing Donald Trump from office, at this time, are approximately zero. I have also concluded that there is no way to fail at removing the President without paying a political price. It would feel better to impeach Donald Trump, and the Mueller report does show that he deserves it, but I think it’s a losing idea. I’m not against holding hearings, subpoenas for documents, and keeping the door open for impeachment in the future. I think going into that today though is a fool’s errand.

Here’s the good news though- there is another way to remove Donald Trump from office- beating him in 2020. If Hillary Clinton has just received 49% instead of 48% in 2016, she would have probably (assuming they weren’t just more base, blue state votes) won at least four more states, and been elected President easily. She did that against incomparable negativity aimed her way, from the primary season through Election Day. She did so despite the fact that attacking Trump largely did not work. If the Democrats spend half as much time building up their potentially electable candidates as they do looking for a way to make impeachment happen, they absolutely can beat a President who’s approval is at -18%. We can win in 2020. We should win in 2020. We have to win in 2020. It’s really the only way forward.

How the Democrats are Losing the Online Game

Tell the truth, how many fundraising e-mails did you delete this weekend? For me, it got so bad that I unsubscribed from close to a dozen e-mail lists. Back in the dark ages when I was in college (2002-2006), I got myself on every e-mail list I could. It felt like I actually got information about the 2004 Presidential candidates back then. That’s not what e-mails are used for on political campaigns in 2019.

Democrats now view digital campaign organizing, e-mails, and even their website as an ATM. In the wake of McCain-Feingold and the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision, Democrats face a real challenge in keeping up financially with the right-wing financial machine. They’ve exasperated that by ingesting the poison pill rhetoric that all lobbyists and political action committees (PACs) are terrible, and we can’t take their money. The Bernie purity rhetoric, and even President Obama’s a generation ago, puts Democrats behind the eight ball. So what’s been the answer? Go grassroots. Ask for $27 over and over again. We still can’t keep up, but it’s worth a shot. Pledge to take no PAC money or federal lobbyist money at all- even from unions, Planned Parenthood, or Environmental groups- to try and motivate activists who have little understanding of campaign budgets to fund your campaign.

The net result is a million micro-messages from every group and candidate on the left to try and motivate you to give some cash. It turns into annoying white noise. It works fine for interest groups in DC, who do the best in this messy void, but leaves everyone else all over the map. It leads to the “Democrats have no message” meme.

What about the Republican Party? They don’t have quite the same issues. In 2016 everyone knew that the Trump message was “Make America Great Again,” and “Crooked Hillary.” Hillary Clinton was a criminal that would take the America you and your descendants built away from you, and give it to “other” people, but Donald Trump would stop that and restore it to you. Yes, they did field, television, and mail to get that message to you, but on a far scaled down level from what Mitt Romney and John McCain has done. They understood that the race would be decided at the margins, so they went cheaper and more straight to the point- they talked to you online. Sure, maybe some GRU guy in Moscow was giving them an assist, but don’t underestimate what the GOP did. They were getting 20 impressions on your brain through Facebook, for the price of one TV ad, at a far more efficient clip too. They hit their audience directly with one simple, straight forward message- Make America Great Again. The whole right-wing took part.

So what’s going to happen in 2020? Look no further than this week’s Wisconsin election for the State Supreme Court. Democrats narrowly lost, despite hitting their turnout targets across the board. Republican turnout simply spiked. What was their message? Socialism. It didn’t matter if it was the Koch funded groups, the NRA, or religious conservatives, they simply told you the Democratic “socialists” are coming to take what you want away from you. They’ll take your guns, your church, and your tax dollars, and give America to those “others.” They will spend hundreds of millions of dollars into digital ads on the internet that tell their voters to fear Democrats, because socialism.

As the really smart friend of mine that does digital campaign work explained this to me yesterday, I realized just how messed up the Democratic Party is on digital. We’re trying to use the internet to finance our campaigns, while they’re using it to poison the Democratic brand. It’s a mismatch. If no one in the Democratic Party figures this out soon, it could be too late- and Donald Trump could be basking in “four more years” chants.

Making Sense of Barr, Rosenstein, and Mueller

Donald Trump and his campaign will not be charged with conspiracy to collude with Russia to interfere in our 2016 Election. While the Mueller report makes no final recommendation on charging Trump with obstructing justice, Attorney General Barr will not charge him. Mueller and the Department of Justice have found that Russia did interfere in our election.

Those are the official legal findings as the Mueller investigation ends.

In pure legal terms, Mueller does not believe there was a legal conspiracy between Trump or his campaign, defined as a two-sided agreement, to interfere in our last election. He is not saying Russia didn’t interfere at all. He is rather saying the Trump campaign and candidate weren’t a part of that interference. This may seem odd, since Don Jr. met with Russians about Hillary dirt, and Paul Manafort shared polling data with Russians. Mueller seems to be saying neither had any actual part in the Russian interference though. Perhaps because they were inept, or perhaps because Russia never wanted their help, but they seem to be but a footnote in what he alleges happened.

There is the question of obstruction, which remains more murky and incomplete than it may seem right now. Mueller did not charge Donald Trump or exonerate him on this question, in part because Trump used legitimate Presidential powers to seemingly stonewall the investigation, as well as vague and not-so-vague attacks to intimidate witnesses. With the question left to Barr, who is both a believer in executive power and an appointee of the President. He was never going to charge him, if left with an open question. That’s not the end of the story though.

I tend to believe in and accept Bob Mueller’s findings. With that said, there are still some important questions. Why did Trump associates keep lying about Russia? Did Russian interference determine the outcome in 2016? Did finding out about Russian interference later change Trump’s behavior or policies towards Russia? These aren’t all Mueller’s questions to answer, but they still remain today.

A lot of people on the left seem despondent, and even willing to engage in crazy conspiracy theories over this. It’s important to understand that those conspiracy theories aren’t grounded in any reality. After indicting 37 people, Bob Mueller is certainly not going to cover for anyone. Rod Rosenstein put him in place and supervised him, and doesn’t seem to be a figure who would cover for the Administration. While there are questions about Attorney General Barr, it’s worth noting the obvious here- Congress can subpoena all of these men. Mueller can talk about his report. Barr won’t be afforded cover to lie to Congress. Neither would Rosenstein. The room for anybody to be lying right now is non-existent. The potential exposure is too great.

Which all leads back to where this began- Mueller was never going to indict Trump, nor would Trump’s Department of Justice allow it. The only body with legal oversight of the President’s activities is the Congress. The House Judiciary Committee should call all of these men in to testify about their findings. Mueller can tell us what he found in the first person. I suspect the real question here will be on the judgment of Mueller to not recommend either way on obstruction of justice, and of Barr to say he will not charge the President for it. If the House reaches a different conclusion, after hearing the evidence, then they should act. Even if crimes were found, that committee would have been charged with deciding this then.

The Global Moron Movement

Like most people in December of 2016, I wasn’t happy Donald Trump was going to be President, and hoped somehow it wouldn’t happen. Of course, a month later he was President, and over time I’ve come to realize that was pretty much the only outcome that could happen. Sure, he’s awful in every way, but he was declared the winner under the system of elections that we have in our country. As painful as it was, and for as much damage as Trump will probably do, the best hope for maintaining any legitimacy in our democracy is a resounding 2020 defeat that sends Donald Trump home to Trump Tower, or Mar-a-Lago, or wherever the hell he wants to call home. Rooting for some other outcome is essentially hoping to delegitimize our process in the eyes of some group of voters, which never goes away easily. What’s to stop Trump voters from seeking the same outcome for a future Democratic President over whatever crazy grievances they have?

Let’s be clear here, I am not categorically against impeachment, provided Robert Mueller or another prosecutor accuses Trump of a crime, nor do I disagree with the sentiment of wanting Trump gone. I simply believe we shouldn’t give the appearance of simply wanting to overturn election results that we don’t like. Removing an elected leader because you don’t like them should be the job of elections, in so much as possible. Now to be clear, there is some moral hazard in this position on Trump- our Republican friends spent eight years trying to de-legitimize President Obama as a Kenyan-born “Muslim,” and the last two years ignoring Donald Trump’s failings, which is also behavior that threatens to de-legitimize our democracy. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, and all other attempts to game our electoral system also de-legitimize our democracy. So we’re not dealing with rational, adult actors across the table of American politics from us. If we match their behavior though, the sad truth is that they’ll only go lower, and we’ll continue to chase. At some point, the hellscape we’ll create won’t even be worth saving.

I get that some people don’t care, and I get it- who wants to be the one bringing a knife to a gun fight? This is not purely an American problem, it’s becoming a problem across Western democracies. In the United Kingdom, anti-Brexit forces in Parliament seem fine with no Brexit deal to leave the EU, calling for either a new vote or to just let the carnage hurt every piece of society, if they can’t have their way. Leftists in France are calling for the resignation of popularly elected President Macron, and the implementation of their policy platform- even though the French-left’s candidate lost to Macron in 2017. Right-wing Americans want to send American forces into Venezuela to remove the winner of their last election, and left-wing Americans want us to ostracize Brazil’s new President and his right-wing extremism. Essentially, democracy is only cool if it yields the results we want, otherwise we need to remove the winner.

It is worth noting that many of these elections had irregularities and maybe even outright interference that casts doubt on the outcome. That is a serious problem. If it can be absolutely proven that an election was stolen (as seems clear in NC-09’s Congressional race), an election like that should not be recognized. Short of that, we should make it our mission to insure the fairness of future elections. Invest in ballot security. Break down barriers to citizens voting. Insure that our elections are free and fair, and that all votes count. Trying to overturn elections in the absence of absolute and indisputable proof will only insure Russia’s election of making Americans, and the west in general, doubt our electoral systems. We’d be much better off campaigning in the next election on safeguarding our electoral system for everyone. Basically, I stand with Speaker Pelosi on how we should move forward.

You win some, you lose some. If we dispute every election we don’t win, and try to overturn all of those results, we will do as much to damage the strength of our democracies as anything Vladimir Putin could ever try to do.

Unhinged Trump- Landing a Plane With No Wings

Let’s be clear, none of this is normal. The President of the United States spent his Sunday taking to Twitter to attack dead Senators, special prosecutors, and television personalities. He called for government sanctions against “Saturday Night Live” for making fun of him. Last week Donald Trump said it would be “very bad, very bad” if his supporters are unhappy. Again, this isn’t normal.

I don’t so much fear what an avowed moron can do within the limits of the Presidency, but I do fear the future he is making possible. Many of the limits on Presidential power are created by adherence to norms. They are based on respect for the process and the rule of law. This man doesn’t accept any of that. Fortunately he’s largely incompetent. That will not always be the case.

The bigger fear is the creation of a “generation Trump.” Would a successor, whether it is Don Jr., Pence, or something even worse, find both motivation in Trump, and increased competence in themselves? Could we find his erosion of norms and our government processes becomes a long term problem?

Donald Trump may lose in 2020 on the strength of pure opposition to all he stands for. The only way for his ideology to be defeated and sent to the scrap heap of history is for conservative Americans to reject his unhinged behavior. I hold out little hope that he loses the Republican nomination in 2020, but I do hope that 20 or 30% of Republicans will choose to vote for someone, anyone else in 2020. It’s the only way to destroy this dangerous ideology.

Dividing Lines

The political order is breaking down right in front of us. While DC is immersed in ideological battles, we’re seeing traditional liberalism and conservatism morph right in our eyes, you have cultural liberals arguing for free trade, cultural conservatives railing against billionaires, and moderates on both sides picking and choosing amidst the carnage.

This is not to say there aren’t still more traditional left and right, or even extreme left and right. That still exists. The main point is that there are new politics emerging, like a spring blooming from the Earth. In the aftermath of 2016, there are new coalitions forming, some good, some bad.

Americans aren’t satisfied with their political choices. This is why 42% self-identify as independent. It’s why more radical voices are rising on the left and right. It’s why people who lack credibility (Trump, Bernie, AOC) are gaining followings. People want to hear what they want to hear, not what is “possible” or “electable.” It’s why talking about the cost of something, or Congressional viability, or details of a plan haven’t derailed some of the frauds and grifters who have risen in our politics. Nobody cares about what’s wrong with their lies.

The only way out of this hellscape is vision. Someone will have to put something real, appealing, and truly good for people’s lives on the table. Tax subsidies for Amazon to bring minimum wage jobs to Queens aren’t exciting, even if they’re an upgrade for people who need more income there. Activists will sabotage that every time, because there’s no real joy in it. People want their standard of living improved. They want opportunity. The only way to stop them from dumb ideas is to offer good ones.

Ya’ Don’t Say…

Donald Trump will be very beatable in 2020, but that doesn’t mean that he will lose. Democrats have had a lot of success at his expense so far, but 2018 was an election largely about Donald Trump. Republicans won similar elections about Barack Obama in 2010 and 2014, while Democrats had similar success in 2006, and Republicans also did in 1994. Like 2018, the midterms of 1994 and 2010 were first midterms for the sitting President- just two years after, both Presidents Clinton and Obama were re-elected. Once the Presidential election begins, it’s not enough to just oppose the incumbent President, it never works that way. Democrats will have to put something forward that is broadly acceptable to the majority of voters in the swing states. There are signs that the Democratic base doesn’t really want to go along with that.

If you went by Twitter activism, everyone on the left is for impeachment. In fact, they’re for it to the point that they passionately defended Rep. Tlaib for saying “we’re going to impeach the motherf*cker.” How does America feel about impeachment? In the latest Washington Post poll, 55% do not support impeachment, 40% do. Don’t mistake that as a public dying for letting Trump off the hook, the poll showed strong majorities for the Democratic House launching investigations into Trump on Russia, his businesses, and all of the other allegations against him. The poll showed 50% with just some or no confidence in the outcome of the Mueller probe, and 48% expecting Democrats to go too far in their investigations. In other words, the country is not yet convinced of impeachment or indictment for Trump, even though they don’t like him, and want investigations.

Within the Democratic base, there is definitely a taste for progressive change within the government and the country. Within the larger Democratic Party, there appears to be more of a taste for competency. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal pilling of Democrats found majorities of the party’s older voters and college educated, younger base wanted competence over shaking up the government. They found that the party’s younger, more diverse, less college educated base voters don’t feel the border is secure in that same poll. In other words, the broader Democratic Party has a lot more differences in opinion than the activist base does. They’re also not looking to remake society all that much either.

Then there is Joe Biden, the least popular man on Twitter. If you read Twitter activists, Joe Biden should retire. His past gaffes, his age, Anita Hill, being a white dude, and the Crime Bill are just the leaders among his sins, and he is hopeless to survive them in this primary. There is a reality though- and we saw it in the December Quinnipiac Polling. Biden has a 53/33 approval to disapproval rating. His rating with Democrats on the whole was 84%. African-Americans gave him a strong 73/12 split. Young people loved him, and old people. Latinos approved of him by large margins. Biden was even popular with white guys and non-college educated whites. I’ll tell you though, he would lose most Twitter polls.

This is not to say that Democrats should rule out impeachment, ignore real concerns among their base, or nominate Biden in 2020. It’s to say that Democrats should not get caught only listening to the echo chamber of their base. The country does not like Donald Trump, as is evidenced by his 40.5% approval, and his paltry 46% of the 2016 vote. Like 2016 though, Trump could over-perform his approval and squeak out an electoral college win if the Democrats speak all towards their base, and not towards the voters that will decide the election, or even their own broader party. In 2018, the Democratic Party did a great job of messaging towards the majority of voters, on issues like increasing wages and protecting Medicare. The real question is whether the post-landslide victory of 2018 version of the Democratic Party can listen to the voices of the whole country, or those that get a lot of coverage on TV?

A Bold, New World View, Part 10- How Our Politics Have Shaped the Future

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Read Part 4 here.

Read Part 5 here.

Read Part 6 here.

Read Part 7 here.

Read Part 8 here.

Read Part 9 here.

I think back to my earliest days as a voter, and the events that were shaping my politics at the time. I was 17 when the Supreme Court awarded George W. Bush the White House. I was 18 when 9/11 happened. Locally, I was 19 when Bethlehem Steel finally went under. I was about the same age when the Iraq War Resolution passed Congress. Enron was going under for corporate fraud. Then there was the ugly, bigoted 2003 and 2004 fight over marriage equality. It didn’t get better as I aged into my early-20’s. Hurricane Katrina, Abu Ghraib, the meltdown of the Iraq War, and finally, the economic collapse of 2008 all happened before I was 26. In the course of a decade, maybe my most formative decade, the American judiciary and our electoral system, foreign policy and the Pentagon, our whole government, institutional Christianity, and corporate America all were made to look foolish, incompetent, and evil. This was difficult to process, as it ran against so much that I grew up thinking, but process it I did, with millions of others my age. It should be no wonder millennials, and the “Gen-Z’ers” who followed, are more liberal than past generations.

It’s not just headlines though that have pushed “the kids” to the left. Looking at the results of those events, there has been a real world impact on us. Home ownership, marriage, even having kids has been a slower, more difficult process. Good luck finding a job with health care and a pension. Many 30-somethings that fought in Iraq and Afghanistan lost limbs or came home with PTSD. New Orleans may have permanently lost a huge chunk of it’s population. The opportunities that were a given for our less educated parents and grandparents aren’t there for us. Instead we have the gig economy, student loan debt, and a constant struggle to survive.

It almost should be no shock that there are young people who love Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other politicians like her on the left- they are promising something diametrically different. While her ideas aren’t totally fleshed our, who the hell cares? If the status quo appears to be an abject failure, and feels like an abject failure, then it is an abject failure. Given the political options young people see as available, they’re making the choice that seems to make sense to them.

What exactly are our political options in 2019 anyway? The Republican Party’s last act in control of both houses of Congress and the White House was to shut down the government to build a border wall to keep Latinos out. In other words, the Republican Party has given up on governing, and only really wishes to enhance corporate profit and appease elder bigotry. The Democratic Party has essentially split into two- on the one side are “establishment” Democrats that want to govern responsibly, on the other side are more leftist Democrats that want to oppose the status quo and Republicans at nearly all costs. It would stand to reason that if your current situation is awful, “responsibility” isn’t your main concern, right or not.

Of course, some of the upheaval of this moment has produced great things too. Our first African-American President, our first woman nominee for President, our first Muslim women in Congress, and our first Native Americans in Congress are all examples of barriers falling. The traditional paradigm of white men in public office is folding on the behalf of non-traditional candidates. Who can blame the young folks for voting for something new? Growing up in a world of corporate greed, religious bigotry, inept government, terrorism, and fraud will make you question the leaders you’ve had.

I do not join in the optimistic view many on the left have of the world that millennials and Gen-Z will create. I’m not a big believer in the diametric change that many of my fellow millennials do. I get why it’s happening though- our fathers and grandfathers showed us an inability to lead our society in a responsible, moral way. Telling those that bare the price to be responsible is a bitter pill to swallow. Our elders decision to elect Donald Trump May have made it completely unacceptable.