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Like a fool I went and stayed too long. Now I’m wondering if you’re love’s still strong? Ooh baby, here I am, signed sealed delivered, I’m your’s…

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Where was I ten years ago right now? Ripping shots in the PA HDCC headquarters, watching Barack Obama be declared the winner of the 2008 Presidential Election as the last PA House seats trickled in to give us a 104-99 Majority. It remains an iconic moment in my political memory and life, the moment America overcame an ugly history and elected it’s first African-American President. What’s come since may sew doubts, but make no mistake, that moment will never leave any of us.

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Today’s GOTV playlist:

  1. Stevie Wonder- Signed Sealed Delivered
  2. Aerosmith- Sweet Emotion
  3. Green Day- American Idiot
  4. Red Hot Chili Peppers- Dani California
  5. Drake- Back to Back

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Will the Democrats flip the House? It’s pretty clearly the question of all questions heading into this midterm. Nancy Pelosi has staked her career, reputation, and legacy on it. Democrats have put their heart and soul into it. They need 23 seats to do it, and there’s more than that on the board.

If you use Cook Political report, Democrats are playing offense in the following seats:

  • Likely Dem-4- NJ-2, PA-5, 6, and 17.
  • Lean Dem-13- AZ-2, CA-49, CO-6, FL-27, IA-1, IL-6, KS-3, MI-11, MN-2, 3, NJ-11, PA-7, VA-10.
  • Toss-Up-28- CA-10, 25, 39, 45, 48, FL-15, 26, IA-3, IL-14, KS-2, KY-6, ME-2, MI-8, NC-9, 13, NJ-3, 7, NM-2, NY-19, 22, OH-12, PA-1, TX-7, 32, UT-4, VA-2, 7, WA-8.
  • Lean Republican-28- AK-AL, CA-50, FL-6, 16, 18, GA-6, 7, IA-4, IL-12, 13, MO-2, MT-AL, NC-2, NE-2, NY-11, 24, 27, OH-1, PA-10, 16, SC-1, TX-22, 23, VA-5, WA-3, 5, WI-1, WV-3.
  • Likely Republican-27- AR-2, AZ-6, 8, CA-1, 4, 21, 22, CO-3, FL-25, IN-2, MI-1, 3, 6, 7, NC-8, NY-1, 2, 21, 23, OH-10, 14, OK-5, TX-2, 21, 24, 31, WI-6.

For those of you counting at home, the Democrats are favored in 17 GOP seats, in a straight toss-up for 28, close in 28 more, and have some shot in 27 more, leaving 100 GOP seats out on the field right now. They need the 17 they’re favored in, plus a net of 6 from the remaining 83. By contrast, they should lose PA-14 and MN-8, face a toss-up in MN-1, and have ten seats in range that the GOP is still trying for.

Let’s play fair and say the GOP wins all three toss-up or better Democratic seats, and even two more out of the ten. Democrats would need 28 seats out of 100 in play. Let’s give them the 17 they’re favored in, a quarter of the 28 toss-ups (7), and another 3 from the other 55 in play- so a floor of 27. That would give the GOP a 218-217 House Majority- their best case scenario. That’s possible, maybe as possible as any other scenario, but unlikely. It’s at least as likely the GOP picks up two Democratic seats, loses all 17 they’re supposed to lose, loses half or more (14) of the toss-ups, a quarter of their leaning favorites (7), and 2 they shouldn’t, a net loss of 38 seats.

For now, I’m going with 35 new Democratic House members, and a 230-205 Democratic Majority.

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Tonight’s candidate of the night is a surprise to me- Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for Governor of Florida. Gillum is the Mayor of Tallahassee, was an active surrogate for Hillary, and would be Florida’s first African-American Governor. He’s faced blatant racism, unfair attacks, and an active Donald Trump- but he’s still here. You can donate to Andrew here, or volunteer for him here.

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One of the hardest aspects of this job is the stuff you miss. I missed a buddy’s wedding yesterday. I’ve missed a lot of college football games I was invited to this season. I miss family birthdays, bacon and garlic festivals in Easton, the changing of the leaves back home in Easton- and just the opportunity to lead a normal life. You do so because campaigns are your job, but also because you believe in the people you’re electing.

One of these days, I tell myself, I won’t miss all of this stuff, and my favorite season of the year. Or, maybe, one of these years I won’t believe in the cause, the candidates, as much anymore. This has been an exhausting, draining election cycle, and not nearly as fun of one as years past were for me. I’m not planning on stopping before 2020, and I’m not ever planning on going apathetic, but the best thing I can say for 2018 is that it had to be done, because otherwise we’re heading for rock bottom.

One of these days.

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McCain

In 16 years of working in politics the only time I was conflicted about winning was my 2008 work against John McCain. It is not that John McCain was moderate, he absolutely was not. It is not that McCain appealed to me personally, he certainly did not. It is that McCain, for all of his faults and imperfections, represented something good about us. He was decent. He was honest. He was real.

There is certainly lots to hate about McCain, much of which lead me to oppose him in 2008. John McCain elevated the idiocy of Sarah Palin when he nominated her for Vice-President in 2008, which lead us down our road to Donald Trump. John McCain supported the Iraq War that did so much to harm our nation. John McCain did not push as hard as possible to stop the Trump Presidency. McCain voted for some of the most awful voices on our Supreme Court. McCain voted for every major Republican tax cut bill in our time. McCain voted against recognizing MLK Day as a federal holiday, opposed Obamacare, supported the NRA, and supported de-regulation of banks, and impeaching Bill Clinton. If I judged John McCain entirely on his Congressional voting record, I might compare the man to Newt Gingrich, or worse. This is even ignoring his near ruin in the “Keating Five” scandal. There is plenty for a Democrat to object to in the life of John McCain.

There is the other side of McCain though, a more symbolic existence in American life, in which he represented something better though. The man that wanted to select his friend, Senator Joe Lieberman, to be his running mate in 2008, that publicly praised the work of Hillary Clinton in the Senate, that mentored Senator Klobuchar, that publicly praised his friend, Vice-President Biden, and that publicly embraced the description as a political “maverick” in a day of political polarization. Indeed, if I get beyond the pure political sorting of John McCain’s day, I see a man who wanted a better, more unified union. I see the man who defended the integrity of his 2008 opponent, President Obama, both in his answer to a questioner seeking to slander Senator Obama as a “Muslim” and terrorist, and in his incredibly gracious concession speech on the historic election night in 2008, where McCain fell at the feet of the altar of history, and allowed America to graciously take a step towards being a more just and decent nation. Sometimes, John McCain exceeded his own political imperfections and made us better.

John McCain defied our political definitions, and in many ways moved us forward. He is both the man who made Sarah Palin his running mate, but also who refused to take part in calling President Obama a terrorist. He’s the man who fought against human trafficking, but also defended an unjustifiable war in Iraq. He criticized Donald Trump and his worst rhetoric dividing us, but also voted for Neil Gorsuch and tax cuts for the rich. McCain cast the decisive vote saving Obamacare, but also voted to convict Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial. John McCain was complicated. So is the America he represented and defended. He was in many ways, us.

In closing, let me quote Senator McCain in the Fall of 2017, speaking at the U.S. Naval Academy:

We have to remind our sons and daughters that we became the most powerful nation on Earth by tearing down walls, not by building them.

John McCain is probably the most decent and honorable man I ever worked against. May he have fair winds, and following seas on his journey home. I think it is quite telling that he requested the two Presidents that defeated him, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, eulogize him. He more than earned that honor.

On Democratic Socialism

The Democratic Socialists of America hate when you focus on the word “socialists” in their name. They will remind you they’re not Bolsheviks, not North Korea, and Not Cuba. They would like you to focus on the word “Democratic.” They fashion themselves to be more like what they believe to be an FDR Democrat. They believe in a big, active government. They want the government to not “seize the means of production” as Karl Marx wanted, but to implement more “soft socialism” measures like Social Security and Medicare. There are harder line elements that are actual Communists, but for the most part Democratic Socialists simply want you to know they are progressive Democrats, and not capitalists.

This may seem harmless, and on policy it mostly is. Every Democrat running for Federal office in the country this year is supporting Social Security and Medicare, calling for a more expansive government role in health care, talking about a fix for student loan debt, calling for some kind of increase in the minimum wage, and decrying the GOP tax cuts for the rich. It’s unanimous, basically. On the policy side, the difference between moderate Democrats and Democratic Socialists is a degree or two of detail. No matter how much Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attacks a Tammy Duckworth, find me more than a small hand full of issues where their disagreement is more than “how much further” one will go than the other.

The problem, of course, is that AOC and the DSA want you to believe the differences between them and mainstream Democrats is extreme. They are ready to have an ideological war with Democrats to enforce their rigid ideological view of what is and isn’t acceptable. If a Democrat is for a Medicare buy-in plan (also known as the “public option”) instead of “Medicare-for-All,” they’re a neoliberal. If a Democrat is for an immediate increase in the Federal minimum wage to $10.10 or $12, with gradual increases to $15, they’re a corporatist. They ran around calling Sharice Davids, a Native-American lesbian “the establishment” in the KS-03 Primary, without ever considering how ridiculous they sounded. They also never seemed to comprehend that maybe their positions are simply a little bit too much for a white-collar suburban district in Kansas to swallow. Democrats probably can’t elect a majority to Congress that is as ideologically pure as they are. They’ve bought into the untrue myth that most independent voters are actually leftists like them- when they’re generally less engaged, bland moderates that don’t want their taxes to rise or their services to be cut. Instead of being allies to electable candidates in moderate districts, AOC and the DSA have made it their mission to support expensive, pointless, and damaging primaries across the country.

The bigger issue I have with the DSA crowd though is not rhetoric, particularly since I don’t disagree with their ideals, or entirely hate most of their positions. It’s the larger ideals behind re-branding the American left as “socialists.” I don’t support Marxism becoming our organizing ideology economically, and neither really do they. Whether or not they know this, what they are calling for is a mixed-capitalist economy, which is what Democrats have supported and Republicans have opposed since 1930. By branding themselves as “socialists,” they are casting themselves in the same net as Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Mao’s China, or the old Soviet Union, when in reality what they want is some sort of hybrid of FDR and French Socialists. They are casting themselves in with global leftist leaders at a time when most of them are inept clowns. Maduro is overseeing a failed state, Corbyn is celebrating Palestinian terrorists from the Munich Olympics, the French Socialists didn’t even make the Presidential run-off, the German left is invisible, and the Israeli left has ceased to even matter. I’m not sure any of these folks actually represent the American Left in any way, but they’re not the comparisons any functional person should want.

When we get down to it, the chief beef the DSA crowd has with the Democratic Party is the decision under Presidents Clinton and Obama to highlight “identity politics” over class identity. In choosing what to make “non-negotiable,” Democrats have chosen to put their focus on Civil Rights and “social issues,” while choosing to compromise on taxation, the minimum wage, and Wall Street regulation. The DSA folks don’t seem to agree with this approach, not because their social conservatives, but because they have different priorities. This is a healthy debate to have, provided you don’t have Twitter trolls calling their opponents “neoliberals” and Jane Sanders calling for Hillary to be jailed. Their rhetoric has become toxic.

I’m not a fan of AOC, Bernie Sanders, or the DSA, but it’s not so much of a reflection of policy difference as it is a rejection of their rhetoric, degree of extremity, and priorities. I don’t think labeling the left as “socialists,” or even really anti-capitalist is helpful. I don’t think embracing failed leftists abroad is the look the Democrats need. In short, the policy differences may be slight between mainstream Democrats and more ideological leftists, but the gap is big enough for me to want to note “I’m not them.”

The Demographics We Missed in the Obama Years

During the Obama Presidency, a lot of people liked to talk about “Demographics are Destiny” in talking about our political future. The idea was that the rising non-white population, especially of Latinos, would lead the country left for decades to come. Republicans May never win a popular vote again, they said. That prediction may just be right.

Donald Trump did end up getting elected though, as Republicans point out. A whopping 70% of voters were white, and projections show that number only marginally moving in 2020. Even more perplexing though is how Trump, a pretty open racist, neither did worse among minority voters or ignited their turnout to higher numbers. Trump won without bringing back any of Colorado, New Mexico, or Nevada. It all seemed so horribly backward.

Perhaps though, we weren’t wrong in the Obama era. Maybe the demographic shifts were telling us our destiny, but maybe we were watching the wrong ones. It’s tempting to entirely credit President Obama with African-Americans becoming a 90% Democratic voting block, but that was part of a long-term trend, one that began in 1964, and reached these levels basically in the 2000’s. Barack Obama certainly increased turnout among voters who are increasingly Democratic, but the percentages were only marginally different. There wasn’t a “change” going on, just more people entering that shared his view. We did miss a different change going on though, one that I think explains the Trump era more clearly.

In 1988, George H.W. Bush won a landslide, and got roughly 60% of the white vote, which was 90% of the total electorate. In 2008, John McCain was down to 55%. In 2012, Mitt Romney virtually matched Bush 41’s share of the white vote, grabbing 59%, but lost with only 206 electoral votes, a whopping 126 less than Barack Obama. In 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton 58% to 37% among white voters. The tick back upward for Republicans among white voters is not enormous, but 3-4% in the last two Presidential elections is significant, particularly when even seemingly any nominee has 46% to start in a one-on-one race. A tick up of 3-4% can explain every election from 2010 forward.

Even more so though, the shift of white voters, especially white men, out of the Democratic Party and into the Republican Party explains the two parties culture shifts. White suburban and exurban Democratic primaries are picking women over men, when all things are nearly equal. White guys are losing their long held Congressional seats, or nearly doing so, in America’s big cities. Republicans are embracing Trump and some of his worst policies on immigration, because their voters are increasingly down-scale and just generally white than they used to be. There’s no cost to them for campaigning to blue collar whites.

My guess is that this trend basically explains the last 25 years of increased polarization, and probably serves to predict the future of our politics. If the elections of Obama and Trump locked in a bump back to Reagan levels of white support for Republicans, and the Democrats are now left with a further left and smaller slice of white voters to coalition with minority voters, it stands to reason that both parties will embrace the identity of their coalitions, and those numbers will continue to expand. More white voters will move right, more Latinos in particular will move left. It seems demographics will be our destiny, but maybe the reason why isn’t exactly what we thought.

Sorry- But if You Want a Lasting Democratic Majority, You’re Going to Have to Engage Republican Voters

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In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected President, along with solid Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Congress had been solidly Democratic basically since FDR, and Clinton went about governing the first two years, as he had been elected to. His approval was actually very good throughout most of the two years, and he would go on to a commanding re-election, but in 1994 the Democrats lost both chambers of Congress with a dramatic thumping. In the years since 1994, Democrats have held the House of Representatives for just four out of twenty-four years (4 of 24). The Senate side has been slightly better for Democrats, with them holding control for 9.5 years out of 24.

For the better part of the last quarter century, Congress has been a Republican institution. Democrats have shown they could win a couple of wave elections during a very, very unpopular war and economic crash, but that’s about it. The result has been that for just two years each in the Presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Democrats were actually able to govern. While Democrats have won the popular vote for President in every election since the Cold War ended, except for 2004, it has been the Republicans who have presided over the actual business of governing this country. Presidencies are great, but Congress is where governing happens.

As a veteran of the Hillary campaign, one of my chief beefs with our leadership from that campaign was the geography of our campaign- that is, that our candidate continuously visited the large metro areas, and did not spend as much time out in the suburbs or in small cities as past Democratic nominees. Hillary Clinton never stepped foot in northeastern North Carolina, the traditional swing area that I worked for her, and neither did her husband (he was quite popular in the area). She never went to traditional Democratic strongholds in Pennsylvania like Allentown, Wilkes-Barre, State College, Reading, or Bethlehem. There is the whole Wisconsin story, which is pretty famous now, about her not going at all. How much do candidate visits actually matter? More so when you don’t do them, especially when the opposition’s line against you (in both the primary and the general) is that you are an elite who doesn’t care about the everyday people in these places. That sentiment did Clinton in with some of these swing state voters. While Hillary carried all of the suburban Philadelphia counties, and carried a traditionally unbeatable 400,000 vote margin out of Philadelphia itself, she lost Pennsylvania. She saw a 40,000 vote swing against her in Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre), a 15% swing against her in Lackawanna County (Scranton), a fall from a 15% win to a 900 vote win in Monroe County (the Poconos), and became the first Democrat to lose Northampton County (Easton and Bethlehem) since 1988, by 5,000 votes. All of those counties have a Democratic Congressman. All of those counties voted for Barack Obama. And John Kerry. Three of them were for Al Gore. And Bill Clinton.

There is a certain comfort for Democrats in the urban core, particularly in national races. The fact of the matter though, is that Democrats do better when they get beyond their safe havens. While Hillary lost North Carolina by under 200,000 votes, Roy Cooper was elected Governor, and Josh Stein Attorney General- both campaigned across the state. While Hillary lost Pennsylvania by just over 40,000 votes, Josh Shapiro was elected Attorney General, Eugene DePasquale as Auditor General, and Joe Torsella as Treasurer. Our obsession with our “blue” enclaves has a serious impact on our ability to win statewide elections, but it’s even more pronounced in Congressional and state legislative races, where the governing actually gets done. Democrats have close to maxed out the cities for seats in Congress. You can find one or two seats left in the New York Cities of the world, but you can’t find the 24 we need to win back the House in 2018. The road to the majority does not go through the places where our base vote lives.

Fortunately for the short-term Democrats, 2018 is shaping up as a potentially good year. The President has several senior aides under indictment or headed to jail, his approval has consistently been below 40%, and we have an enthusiastic female base that might just barely give us back the House on their own, organically, if we don’t stop them. There are 23 seats that Hillary won who have a Republican House member (and about 5-10 she lost with a Democrat), and an increasing list of retiring Republicans in somewhat vulnerable seats, which should give us an opportunity to win the House, this year. Suburbs in Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Alabama gave Democrats solid wins in 2017, fueled by disapproval of Trump. The short-term is good for us, thanks to just being on the wrong side of 2016.

If we do win the House in 2018, standard logic is that we should be able to hold it in 2020. The GOP was able to hold their new majorities in 1996 and 2012, even as they lost Presidential elections, and Democrats held their majority fine in 2008 after the 2006 wave. Of course it’s worth noting that Democrats then lost their majority in 2010, and 2022 could be a similar election if we are successful in defeating Trump in 2020.

Here is the simple fact: whether it’s beating Trump in the electoral college in 2020, or building a lasting Congressional majority, the road to doing so is not bleeding more votes out of our base. This doesn’t mean stop registering new Democrats in our strongholds, this doesn’t mean throw the base under the bus on policy issues, and it doesn’t mean to talk about some new message that we don’t have yet, that will supposedly change voters minds. First and foremost, it means be present in more places, in more communities. Second, it means running authentic candidates for the communities they are running in. Third, it means centering the conversation at a district level, not a national, one-size-fits-all approach. Finally, it means talking about more, if not all, of our platform, and not just the things our insiders want to see. You see, you have to offer people things they are interested in, if you expect to get their vote. We have stuff for suburban voters to like.

There is a resistance to some of these ideas though. There are Democratic activists (just look at my Twitter) who are both absolutely opposed to bothering with any Republican voters at all, but also to trying to embrace the Bernie-left. They have a math problem. Democrats are almost assured of 48% in national elections, going back to Bill Clinton in 1996, every Democratic nominee has received at least 48%, and we’ve won Congress just twice. Our base of votes can’t build us a durable majority right now. It’s not big enough.

Their response usually centers around people who are not voting now. End voter suppression, register more people, cater to our base, they say. Those are all good things, I don’t oppose a single one of them. There is a chance that if we do that, we win in 2020, although it is not an absolute lock- again, Hillary hit her metrics in the Philadelphias of the world, while still losing. Trying to expand the base more could win us back the White House, so it’s good, but it’s also the right thing to do. I support it. It will not build us a durable, lasting majority.

If you bring in a bunch of new voters in Democratic areas, they will probably be Democrats. If you bring in a bunch of new voters in Republican areas, they will probably be Republicans. Voter registration is great, but it’s not magic. Demographic trends tend to stay true with new voters, as they are with existing ones. Unless there is some magic way to only bring new people in from one area (it’s called targeting), there’s not a real advantage to it. If we target right, we can add tens of thousands of new voters- in already blue districts. There are about 190 solid Democratic districts in this country, and this strategy will make them even more solid. That doesn’t get us to a lasting 218 seats in the House though.

In the end, the way forward for Democrats is we have to persuade someone. The Berners say this should be the white working class voters who began leaving us after Civil Rights, but frankly, that’s not workable. You’re not going to bring in people diametrically opposed to your base and think that coalition can last. White collar suburbanites main issue with us is taxes, but they are bothered by the blatant racism coming from our President. The truly poor white voter, making under $30,000, voted for Hillary in 2016, and could be a group with targeting for growth, but it’s not entirely that simple. Not persuading any group to come over is not really an option for Democrats though, if winning a majority in the majority of the seats is the goal here.

The solution is probably in the portion of the electorate who voted for Trump but had misgivings. His low point in approval was 32%, he’s currently sitting around 37%, and he got 46% in the 2016 Election- so there is a small pocket of people who picked him because they didn’t pick her. There’s no love there for either party, probably just opposition to taxes that out-weighed concerns and dislike for Trump. For a lot of Democratic activists, targeting these people is sacrilege. In reality, they’ve yet to show a better idea.

Regardless of who, in the end the point is that Democrats must grow beyond their existing base. A nation in which we are assured 48% and they are assured 46% yields consistent Republican majorities in Congress, which has lead to a consistent chipping away at the values Democrats hold dear. Being willing to lose, just so you can hold purity in your views, is the height of privilege. People who are suffering don’t get that option. As the party who is supposed to represent them, neither do the Democrats.

What You Don’t Get About 2016 and American Politics in General

Above, you see Trump Tower. One of the great falsehoods of American Politics since 2016 is that something innovative and new happened there. The truth? nothing radical happened there. Donald Trump’s electoral coalition wasn’t really a lot different than John McCain or Mitt Romney’s. Hillary Clinton’s wasn’t wildly different than Barack Obama’s, or John Kerry’s. Really.

From 1996 until today, every Democratic nominee for President has received at least 48% of the vote. Every single one of them has carried African-Americans, Latinos, the LGBT community, and millennials (when it’s been relevant). From 2000 until today, every Republican nominee has received at least 46% of the vote. Every single one of them has carried Evangelicals, white men, gun owners, and rural America. From 2000 until today, most of the states haven’t even moved from column to column. Catholics, suburbanites, soccer/security moms, and union households have been your swing voters. Every Democratic campaign has tried to increase turnout among their groups, and Republicans have done the same with their’s. Turnout among the specified interest groups above has changed from election to election, and the swing groups have changed from election to election, which of course has changed the outcome. For the most part though, the electorate has remained stagnant.

Barack Obama’s 2012, and for that matter 2008 election was as much about his ability to beat his opponents into the ground among the swing-voters above as it was his increased turnout in the base. Donald Trump’s 2016 electorate was a mixture of winning the swing groups and base mobilization changes on both sides.

A lot of people look forward and forecast things that are wild variations from where we were in 2016, and they’re probably wrong. John McCain got 46%, Mitt Romney 47%, and Donald Trump 46%- despite Trump’s low approval numbers, he’s probably not going below 45% against any Democratic nominee, if he doesn’t go a couple points higher. There is no reason to believe that people who voted for every Republican from George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign on are now going to flee Trump. They may be embarrassed by his behavior, but they probably don’t really disagree with him.

A portion of the American left wants to argue that a different nominee in 2016 likely would have won. That may be true if that nominee is someone who had greater appeal to the base voting groups that have backed every Democrat since Bill Clinton, someone with say Barack Obama’s appeal. That may also be true if that someone was a candidate who had greater appeal among the swing-voter groups that went from Obama to Trump, someone like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama that did very well with white Catholics, soccer moms, and blue-collar union households. The thing is, neither of those candidates existed in 2016. There’s a pretty good argument that no 2020 hopeful being mentioned has a case right now that they can do that like Barack Obama did in his two races. Even so, there’s a good argument that virtually anyone nominated should get to 48% in 2020, simply because they are the Democratic nominee, and that’s the floor for Democratic nominees in the last 20 years.

So while you’re watching the craziness of American politics, the upheaval and turmoil of it all, over the next three years, don’t get too caught up in the hype. To every action, there is a reaction. To every game changing moment, there is a reality that we’re probably going to end up in a similar place to before. The 2020 Election probably starts out at 48-46%, regardless, and then becomes a fight to the finish from there.

So You Think the Democratic Party Sucks…

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One of the most terrifying things in the post-Obama world of politics is how many of my fellow millennials want a third political party. If you have watched politics in the 21st century, and your takeaway from the madness of the 2000 Election, the Iraq War, the economic meltdown, the unprecedented obstruction by Republicans in the age of Obama, and now the Trump Presidency is that both parties suck equally bad, you’re watching this all wrong. In fact, you’re not just getting it wrong, you’re getting it harmfully wrong. Yes, there were Democrats who attempted to work with George W. Bush, or believed him on Iraq. Yes, there were Democrats who bought into varying degrees the “religion” of de-regulating Wall Street. Yes, there are even some Democrats who reacted to Donald Trump with the idea that we should at least work with him on something, or give him some appointees. Even with those complaints about Democrats, the reality of all the things I just cited above is that the Republican Party was behind them, drove them, and supported those policies with almost unanimous vigor.

The biggest complaint I can lodge against the Democratic Party is that it is not craven enough, it does not lust for power like our opponents, and it wants to be both competent and liked. Democrats try so hard to be responsible and competent, to do the right thing, that we often times end up telling our activist base “no” to their more extreme wants, while our opponents just feed their angry, zombie base whatever they ask for. Democrats still think the government should function sanely, that order should be maintained. Republicans? That doesn’t matter to them.

The reward for Democrats is nothing. Many of my millennial comrades give them no credit for this cold “functionality” party they have created. When they fight back against the Republicans, we say we don’t want fighting, we want solutions. When we roll over and play dead, we get accused of doing just that. When we’re in power and say we’ll only go so far on a policy issue (like President Obama “only” seeking to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 a few years into his Presidency), we’re neoliberals, sell-outs, and “weak.” It can be enough to drive you mad. For many of my fellow millennials, what they want is a socialist revolution, and really not an inch less. When you explain to them both why they shouldn’t want that, and why it’s not possible, they tune out and start saying they’d like to see a third party.

The idea here for many of them is that if Democrats simply fought harder, they’d get their way. The idea is that if they fought with more vigor, zeal, and passion, they would convince the people who disagree with us (and elected Donald Trump and George W. Bush), to suddenly agree. They think the problem is one of effort, and one of a lack of vision. They don’t consider why Democrats from FDR to Obama didn’t necessarily go as far as they want us to. They don’t consider the fact that maybe far, far left wing governance wouldn’t work, and hasn’t worked in other places in the world. They don’t consider the differences between us and some of the countries where elements of it have worked.

The main thing they overlook though is just how great the modern Democratic Party has been for progress in this country. The Affordable Care Act is providing health insurance to some 20 million people. The Dodd-Frank Act did stabilize Wall Street after the collapse, and bothered the crooked oligarchs of America so badly that they wanted it repealed. The 2009 Stimulus Act may have been too small, but the simple fact is that since it’s passage, the American Economy has been on an upward trend. No, DACA didn’t pass through the Republican Congress in the Obama era, but President Obama’s executive order did keep millions of dreamers in this country and protected. They write off the Clinton 1990’s, the greatest single stretch of collective economic growth this country has ever seen. They write off the 1993 Clinton budget that kicked that off. They forget about President Clinton signing the Violence Against Women Act and the Assault Rifle Ban. They forget that Senator Chris Dodd had to push the Family and Medical Leave Act through Congress THREE times to make it law, and it only got to be so when President Clinton took office and signed it (after President Bush 41 vetoed it twice). They ignore Speaker Pelosi pushing through the last minimum wage increase in her opening hours as Speaker. They forget the Lilly-Ledbetter Act that Pelosi pushed through, and President Obama signed, to help fight against the wage gap. They forget about the progress of Presidents Clinton and Obama in fighting AIDS, third world poverty, and nuclear proliferation. They forget about the Kerry State Department’s work in pushing through the Paris Accords to fight climate change, and the record investments by President Obama in renewable energy and mass transit to help fight that fight. They forget that a Democratic Administration ESTABLISHED net neutrality. They forget about the investments of the last two Democratic Administrations in womens’ health care, and for that matter that the ACA created the contraception mandate. Democrats negotiated the Iranian Nuclear Deal, which is working, and also normalized relations with Cuba. They even discount the importance of the party electing the first African-American President, nominating the first woman for President, and putting the first Latina on the Supreme Court. The best part here? I’m missing a ton of achievements. Electing Democrats has lead to the enhancement of literally millions, if not billions, of lives around the Earth. It’s no wonder Vladimir Putin was so desperate to harm this party, and take the United States down a notch. Hillary Clinton had put forward the most progressive party platform, on both economic AND social issues, in the history of the nation.

I know, the establishment Democrats aren’t willing to fight for your pet program. They’re not giving you your free stuff. So all that stuff doesn’t matter- it was neoliberal sell-out stuff.