Democrats are Easy to Hate

There’s a race for Mayor of Philadelphia on May 21st. Mayor Kennedy is probably going to get re-elected, but not because he polls well- his opponents are the pro-charter school State Senator he crushed four years ago and the City Controller who lost his primary for re-election just two years ago. Kenney’s own loss of popularity is somewhat tied to his passage of “the soda tax,” a well intentioned idea to fund Philadelphia Public Schools, which of course didn’t all end up going to the schools. Kenney’s standing in his former strongholds of South and Northeast Philadelphia don’t like it. He’ll probably win a very, very low turnout race by 20% though. There’s nothing to love.

The best way to sum up the public standing of Democratic Politics, both in Philadelphia and beyond, was the recent video of State Rep. Brian Sims having an altercation with a pro-life woman outside of a Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia. Intellectually speaking, I agree with Sims point. In fact, I usually agree with Sims, in terms of a political point. I probably agree with that woman on very little. Somehow, I watch the video though and feel like Sims was basically a dick, a liberal who wanted an altercation with a conservative, because she committed the crime of believing different stuff. It’s a bad look. This is particularly a quagmire because of the reality of the situation- lawmakers that woman votes for are passing bills like the Alabama and Georgia anti-abortion bills that will criminalize women for receiving constitutionally protected health care, and probably put the health of hundreds of thousands of women at risk. I get that. Yet, Sims makes the woman advocating for that the “victim” here, in the optics.

The Democratic Party, at it’s best, is the defender of the marginalized minority. We stand up for the rights and well-being of the disadvantaged, minorities, and those who are different than the majority of us. That would be those kids in the Philadelphia schools that Jim Kenney passed the soda tax for. That would be the women who need to have a choice, for their life and well being. It would be every African-American wrongfully shot by police officers. It would be the Asylum seekers we open our doors to, whether they be Bosnian or Guatemalan. It would be for all of us, when we fight to protect our environment. The Democratic Party that emerged from the 1960’s has been a party that fights for the marginalized, and that has been a valuable public service.

The problem has been pretty straight forward though- the other side has defined the American left as being against many of the institutions and norms that have been identified as “good” in American culture. Worse yet, they’ve done so by using the words and actions of those on the American left. Kenney’s soda tax shows he’ll “hammer the working class” to pay for the big ideas of “Center City liberals.” The Sims video reinforces that we hate religious people. Ilhan Omar’s use of traditionally anti-Semitic language to describe the Israeli lobby in the U.S. reinforces that “liberals hate Israel.” AOC’s release of a “white paper” on the Green New Deal that blames “cow farts” for climate change and calls for “economic support for people who ‘choose not to work'” was a treasure trove of reinforcement for stereotypes about Democrats. They’ve even managed to turn Black Lives Matter into Democrats hating police, only a quarter century after Joe Biden and Bill Clinton passed the COPS Act.

You can’t be against the local church, the hardworking police officers, a good steak on the grill, a bottle of “pop,” the state of Israel, the existence of national borders, and the basic existence of traditional, cultural norms, and win elections in most of America. Most Democrats aren’t, of course, but that is not the message being broadcast by Fox News, or virtually anyone shilling against justice and reform. That message worked for Nixon in ’68, Reagan in ’80, Gingrich in ’94, and Trump in ’16. It pulled people who voted for Barack Obama over to Trump, and it did so across most demographics. While it is important that we defend those who need it, it’s also important to remember that even most of our voters live fairly normal lives.

In poll after poll, Americans say they agree with Democratic positions on policy issues. That was even true in the exit polls in 2004 and 2016, the last two Republican Presidential victories. Democrats usually only lose the questions about leadership, relatability (who would you have a beer with), and honesty and conviction in our causes. Despite that, Republicans have controlled the White House for 32 of the last 50 years, the House for 20 of the last 26 years, and the Senate for almost 15 of the last 26 years. It turns out being “right” isn’t that important to winning elections and making change. Americans, despite their desire to see some changes and reforms, don’t hate their “way of life,” or view their culture as fundamentally flawed. We can argue the merits of how right or wrong they are, but that won’t change it.

My basic plea to Democrats is simple- stop sticking up for bad actions by those we deem as having good intentions or causes. It’s literally fueling the fire for the other side. As long as the voters outside of the big cities view us as dishonest brokers, who hate everything about their way of life, we’re going to continue to be electoral losers. As we saw with a disciplined message in 2018, lead by pros like Speaker Pelosi, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Advertisements

Demographics Won’t Save Us

Three facts:

  1. America is roughly a quarter century from the projected point where white people are no longer the majority.
  2. In 2040, roughly twenty years from now, half the country will live in eight states (CA, TX, FL, NY, IL, PA, NC, GA).
  3. When the country becomes majority-majority, at least 37 states will be majority white. That’s total population. Even more states will likely be majority white voters.

With those three facts, I think it is safe to say that demographics are not destiny. In 2020, demographics are a very real threat to actually doom the Democrats. Considering how far we are from reaching the point where current demographic politics tilt the other way, it’s fair to say that many of us will never see that day.

It’s also important to remember all the danger that can get done along the way. We’ve already seen the Voting Rights Act gutted of much of it’s enforcement powers, and now we’re seeing a real attempt to drive down Latino participation in the census by adding a “citizenship question.” If the Trump Administration is successful at curtailing legal immigration through draconian methods, including ending the lawful act of seeking asylum as we know it, the demographic future Democrats spoke of in the Obama years may be dramatically different. Couple all of this with Trump having won white millennials, and you can see the storm clouds.

All of this leads me to my main point here- Democrats shouldn’t rely on demographics saving them in 2020 or beyond. They need only look at their 2018 message and coalition to see their path forward to winning elections. It’s not division, but actually a broad agenda of progress. It’s not choosing who gets progress, but offering progress to the whole nation. This is hard for many activists, who deeply want to see accountability for the current disaster that is the GOP, and it’s voters. That’s a road to nowhere though. That’s not understanding why we lost in 2016. That’s believing that being right is more important than being practical. We should reject it.

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.

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?

About the Presidential Race, 4/10

I think we’ve almost got the whole 2020 field- really! At this point, we’re waiting on Terry McAuliffe, Steve Bullock, and Michael Bennet to make their decisions, but really we’re all mostly waiting on Joe Biden to shake things up- one way or the other. Stacey Abrams and Seth Moulton still sit on the periphery as possible candidates for now.

While I’ve been watching very closely, I haven’t picked my final horse yet. There are 19 current candidates, and frankly it’s hard to see this race not hitting 20. I do have some generalized feelings though, so I figured I’d share them.

I Really Like a Lot of Candidates

I pretty much knew that I loved several candidates from the jump. I already had made up my mind that I felt positively about Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden before this campaign (add Sherrod Brown here too, though he ultimately didn’t run.). I had more than a strong hint that I liked Julian Castro too, which hasn’t changed. Jay Inslee’s commitment to fighting climate change has made a fan of me. Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke have built strong followings in a hurry, and I am impressed by their charisma. John Hickenlooper’s record as Governor of Colorado has surprised me in a positive way, relative to how he’s been sold so far. That’s ten candidates I can already give a positive grade.

There are others whom I am not necessarily negative on, I just don’t have enough information yet to make a decision. Tim Ryan is always someone I liked, but I soured on a bit for his opposition to Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. His recent entry is too new for me to judge yet. John Delaney is a fairly wealthy former Congressman who is self-funding, and running towards the middle. I don’t see his pathway if Joe Biden enters, but it’s hard to judge until then. Wayne Messam is a very interesting Mayor of Miramar, Florida, but he hasn’t generated a ton of coverage yet. Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson come from outside of the government world, but like Messam aren’t getting much coverage. Eric Swalwell is an impressive Congressman, but he just entered this week, and so I have no feelings yet. I haven’t passed much judgment on these five so far.

This leaves Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Mike Gravel in the category where I’m less than supportive. My feelings towards them are not all the same, so let me address them individually.

  • Mike Gravel- The former Alaska Senator is commendable in some ways, particularly for reading the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional record in his Senate tenure. With that said, a lot of time has passed since those days, as has a mostly unnoticed 2008 campaign for President. Gravel pretty much freely admits he’s not running to win this nomination, so it’s hard for me to be excited.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand- If I voted entirely on issues, I could probably like what Gillibrand is saying now. The problem there is her career has put her on both sides of everything from guns to immigration. Evolution is fine, but it gets to be a bit of a stretch. While I believe Al Franken should have been afforded a Senate Ethics Committee investigation, I don’t blame Gillibrand at all for voicing her opinion on that. I do hold Gillibrand’s about face on Bill Clinton against her though. After a two decade relationship, working in the Clinton Administration, working in major allied law firms, having Bill and Hillary campaign and advocate for her House and Senate candidacies, for her to “evolve” and say President Clinton should have resigned over the Lewinsky affair was a bridge too far. You don’t turn on your mentors the moment they aren’t popular and useful anymore. Even so, her campaign positions are admirable, and while I’m not a fan, I feel better about her than I did before she entered.
  • Tulsi Gabbard- Gabbard is another candidate I was out on from day one. I’m unhappy with her 2016 decision to quit the DNC to endorse Bernie and call the process “rigged.” I could get over that though. What I can’t get over? Gabbard’s advocacy for Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad. It is one thing to oppose military intervention in the Syrian Civil War, it’s another thing to say he hasn’t committed war crimes against his people. In Gabbard’s defense, her campaign has laid out a desire to curb war spending in America, which has given her ideological consistency and clarity that I can respect. I’m just not forgiving advocacy for a bad guy.
  • Bernie Sanders- Absolutely not. Does Bernie have a few aspirational ideas that aren’t bad? Sure. I can’t say I generally agree with him though on the policies for right now, nor does his record suggest to me that he has any plan to enact his plans, much less pass them through Congress. I cannot forgive his 2016 behavior either. The guy’s not a Democrat, and he’s shown us that. There’s no way I’d support him to be the nominee in 2020.

So that’s my feelings on the candidates. So how about…

The State of the Race-

Polls really don’t mean much until Joe Biden either enters or exits the race, because he’s the undisputed polling leader. In the race’s current construction, with him as a probable candidate, the race is far different than if he doesn’t. If 30% or so of the electorate suddenly were free agents, that would shake things up, and probably dramatically change the current polling order.

What does matter is money though. There is no argument that Bernie raised the most in the first quarter. Kamala Harris also had an impressive quarter. Beto O’Rourke did pretty well as well, and Pete Buttigieg did fairly well. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker all did well enough to compete, but have to keep up their pace.

What’s more important than cash raised though is burn rate. Bernie spent $4 million of his $18 million despite not being in the race very long. Warren spent 80% of her money raised, but still came out with a deceptively impressive cash on hand number by transferring Senate campaign funds. Can they sustain their spending rate? Meanwhile, while Klobuchar came in behind them, she only spent about 20% of her cash, and transferred more over from her Senate campaign. Watch the cash on hand, and the burn rates, when evaluating early fundraising.

In a race where most of the candidates are similar on issues, I’m watching who has the strong operations. Lean campaigns that raise respectable money, while remaining competitive in the polls, impress me. This is part of what has made “Mayor Pete” seem serious to operatives so far- he’s sustaining a competitive campaign without spending much.

Nobody is Perfect

Just about every candidate has some flaws in their candidacy. Some seem overblown, others concerning, but really none are disqualifying to me, unless I said so above. I’m not looking for perfect, or to be inspired, or to make history. I just want to elect a competent President.

This means I’m looking for an electable nominee. Some candidates, like Biden and Klobuchar, have solid arguments about their electability- but it’s anecdotal so far. Candidates need to prove that.

This Ain’t 2008

Because everyone in the field is trying to raise their money from the “grassroots,” rather than traditional bundling, the debate is more leftward than the country at-large, and it is favoring candidates with less experience and record. That may very well be a good thing in the end. It might also spell defeat for the Democrats. The 2008 process pushed us towards an electable nominee, this one may very well push us towards one that appeases our base, and no one else.

Conclusions

I’m going to stick with an upbeat outlook here. I absolutely love 3-4 candidates, like around 10, and could accept 15-16. That’s a good field. In the end, I want a nominee who can win though, and that is what will matter to me. I can give a bit on ideology and/or excitement, as long as they can beat Donald Trump. That’s what matters.

The Out of Touch Activists

The New York Times pretty much summed up my feelings about politics in an article out today- the activists are out of touch. They are not representative of the general public, voters in either party, or any form of a majority. It should be no wonder that the public is so turned off by politics, when politics are being driven by people outside of the mainstream.

The case they lay out is pretty clear- a large majority of Democrats are not like the activists online. Most Democrats watch less cable news, don’t share political articles on social media, are less college educated, less white, and far more moderate than the activists driving the party debate. It’s why more Democrats want the party to be more moderate, rather than moving left. It’s why most Democrats, especially African-American Democrats, didn’t want the Governor of Virginia to resign over his racist med school yearbook photo, even as almost every national Democrat called on him to do so. It’s why most Democrats think “PC Culture” has gone too far, even as the activists don’t agree. There is a clear disconnect.

People in politics think everything we do is pretty important- voters don’t. They don’t pick their party or it’s candidates on a checklist of issues, but often on cultural values and a sense of who will basically fight for them. In short, it’s not all that ideological for most voters, but rather perceived self-interest. It’s why issues like health care really drive voters passions, but many social issues don’t. It’s why attacking new programs for the subsequent tax increases usually works.

So why is our political system driven by a minority of voters? The answer lies in one of the illustrations in the article, asking if you have donated to a campaign in the last year- and 45% of activists said yes, far ahead of the rest of voters. It’s money. Campaigns are very expensive, and giving is restricted by campaign finance laws. The only way to get the money to get your message out is to appeal to the hyper motivated activists, and the interest groups they are members of, if you want the outside money to come in that is necessary in major campaigns.

I wrote last week on how the Democrats are losing the online game, saying they treat it like an ATM. The truth is, all of politics is being treated like an ATM. The GOP treats public policy as an ATM to reward their big donors, Democrats treat their activists like the ATM. Neither is all that representative of America as a whole, and America doesn’t love either- hence the big swings in control of Congress in each midterm. As long as campaign finances control our politics though, get used to it.

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.

Not the Right Spokesperson for the Democrats

In the Trump era, Democrats were left largely without a voice for the first two years. Without the White House, the Senate, or the House, there was a vacuum. President Obama was gone. Hillary Clinton was gone. Tom Perez was busy off trying to appease Bernie world without angering everyone else. It was a free-for-all.

Fortunately in the aftermath of the 2018 midterm, the Democrats are a relevant party again. Nancy Pelosi is arguably the second most powerful person in America. The House Democratic leadership team gets the title “Majority” in front of their names now. Their chairman can subpoena information and run investigations and oversight. There are relevant Democratic voices in the process of making law.

Unfortunately, those aren’t the only voices that seem to have emerged from the leadership. There are other voices rising, voices with a “burn it down” tone to them. They aren’t interested in any compromises, or therefore actually making law. They don’t accept any criticism, they fire back at friendly criticism with the fury of hell. They’re convinced they and they alone “get it,” and that the last generation of Democrats just didn’t “do it right” to get what we want. There idea of “coalition building” is to bait and switch allies into supporting their ideas, then moving the goal posts. When they say unacceptable things, they fire back at fellow Democrats with cries of xenophobia.

I’m obviously talking about more than one member, but none of them have quite shined like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC. On a Capitol Hill full of men older than my parents, and with far less charisma, her media savvy does shine out. She’s good on TV, active on social media, and unapologetic in making demands in a way that excites parts of our base. She is the proverbial “golden goose” of the left. She comes out of the Bernie left ideologically, but plays identity politics with the best of them. Taking away my personal feelings about her politics, she is an impressive talent.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represents the Bronx and Queens. It’s a cool district. It’s also not at all representative of most of the other 434 districts in Congress. At most, there are 100 seats as urban as her’s, probably less as diverse, and almost none as liberal. She did beat a formerly powerful Democratic Leader in last Summer’s primary, but she did so in a race where under 30,000 people voted, or less than 75% of what would typically show up in a hotly contested primary like this. She is not representative of a candidate who would win in most other blue districts, and yet she is demanding the rest of the party’s members follow her, whether it’s on the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, or abolishing ICE. Worse yet, when they do follow her, she then changes what they agree to without their consent.

We are a long way from AOC’s brand being electable in the large majority of house districts. She would not win in swing-districts in North Carolina, Iowa, or Pennsylvania. Her ideas roll up huge support numbers in her district, but are far more controversial in places that Democrats don’t have a stranglehold on. Should she be primaried? I’d actually say no, it’s not my district, not my choice. Should she be the face of the party, the person people in PA-8, IA-1, or NC-9 see as representing our party in the media? Hell. No.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez polls under water about 10% nationally. As you can see above, she polls under water in the blue state of New York. Her favorability in New York City is less than overwhelming, and her position against Amazon putting a second headquarters in Queens polls underwater. With this much opposition to her even in “friendly” areas, it’s hard to sell her as a national savior for the party anywhere else.

Still, I’d consider her just fine for her district alone, if she wasn’t such a bully. They elected her there, they can have her. She’s not content with that though. She has promised to primary Democrats that are out of step with her ideals for the party. She has talked up a potential primary to House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries. There are rumblings of a primary against House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey. Both Jeffries and Lowey are members of the New York delegation with her. While she is likely to fail to unseat either, the possibility of nominating someone unelectable (especially in Lowey’s seat) is very real. Even if she does fail, it’s a complete waste of resources.

AOC is not the face of the party that Democrats need if they want to represent the majority of the United States in Congress very long, let alone the White House. To this point, leadership has left her to fire up the faithful and do what she does. There’s a danger this will become less harmless soon. AOC is not the leading figure Democrats need, particularly if she’s going to push more and more members to be acolytes of her politics. The Democrats need to elevate representatives who could represent more districts, rather than throwing red meat to the ideologues.

What is it About White Guy Candidates and Messianic Fantasies

I like Beto O’Rourke. Sure, I have questions and doubts about him, but that shouldn’t be construed as opposition. If he’s nominated by the Democrats, I’ll vote for him. I’ll even give him a look while I’m considering my primary candidate right now. He’s an impressively talented campaigner, he’s got some charisma, and he’s motivating some people.

There’s something rather Bernie-esque though about his support. No, I’m not just talking about the $6.1 million he raised in his first day in the race either. I’ve heard people compare him to RFK, and even say he’s a better speaker than Obama. Commentators have said he creates “the greatest contrast” with Trump. I’ve had friends tell me he’s “the only way” to move the country forward. Hell, even Beto has pronounced that he was “born to run.” There’s some heavy destiny talk happening here. The only other candidate I hear talked about like that by his people? Bernie Sanders.

Let me pour a little cold water on all of this- as great as Beto is, he did lose the 2018 U.S. Senate race in Texas to a deeply unpopular Ted Cruz (over 10% under-water approval), in the greatest Democratic year since Watergate. Sure, Abraham Lincoln lost the 1858 Senate race in Illinois, so I’ll give Beto a singular pass there, even though I’m not totally buying the Lincoln comparison with anyone. Part of Beto’s appeal is his normalcy, which I like, but it means he comes with a checkered past- like any real person. I do like what I hear from him too, but he needs a lot more substance yet to keep up with this field. He’s a talented candidate, but he ran a very unorthodox campaign in 2018, and came up short. Perhaps he would have won if he done some of the more traditional “blocking and tackling” of a campaign. Again, he’s very talented, but not perfect.

Now look, I’m a white, straight, Catholic male, and I’m willing to vote for a white guy for any office (if I agree with them), but I do think it’s fair to ask the question- why is it only white dudes getting the “Messiah” treatment from their supporters right now? I’m not saying it’s always limited to white guys (This happened at times with President Obama in 2008, although to be fair, he lived up to more of the hype than I then expected), but it seems to be that way a lot. Berners think he’s politics version of Luke Skywalker despite his many flaws that prohibit him from winning over many of us. I’m hearing some of the same sounds from Betotes now.

This is far less a criticism of Beto himself, who I’m generally more favorable than not about, and more of a commentary on white liberals and progressives and their hero worship. In 17 years in politics, I have never met or seen a perfect politician. Bill Clinton had his infidelity, Barack Obama his naivety on Republican opposition, and Hillary had her campaign’s strategic mistakes. I supported all three of them, and would again, but I don’t argue their infallibility. For some though, they think their “great white hope” is the savior we need. It’s just weird to me. You’re electing a person, not a God. These guys ain’t Gods.

A Bold, New World View, Part 11- Regionalism Still Matters

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.

Read Part 10 here.

Who is the Democratic base? This has been the central debate between Hillary and Bernie supporters since 2016. Hillary supporters largely argued that women and African-Americans, and most specifically African-American women, as well as Latinos, made up the “base” of the Democratic Party. Bernie supporters argued that the base were the most feverish ideological leftists in the party. I think Hillary supporters were wrong only in being overly general. I think Bernie supporters are just wrong. The Hillary “base” is slightly too small, unequally distributed, and ignores regionalism. The Bernie coalition is just not a majority, and probably never will be.

I don’t believe either political party has what amounts to a national base. Different political issues animate different regions of the country, and the demographics change dramatically. Even within regions there can be dramatic shifts from places like North Philadelphia to suburban Willow Grove, just minutes into the suburbs. Democrats can’t “nationalize” the question of their base. To be fair, Republicans can’t either, even though their demographic of voter is mostly the same everywhere.

Hillary’s defined base worked well enough to win the nomination, largely because it worked in the South. Hillary had a lot of success in 2008 in the west by winning the Latino base there. Hillary walloped President Obama in the Rust Belt states because she won the “labor/working class” demographic, the same people she lost badly to both Bernie and Trump in 2016. Every region of the country has it’s own “base Democratic” voting block. There are overlapping issues of economic fairness and access to opportunity, but the animating issues change. Labor issues are huge in Wisconsin, but voting rights are huge in Georgia. I can’t imagine a Democratic nominee opposed to either one, but the fight at this point seems to be over which set of issues get to be center stage.

What about the Republican Party though? Right-wing populism dominates in Appalachia and the South, energy issues in Texas and much of the Plains and Southwest, while tax cuts in the North. Rather than fighting over whether the tax cuts for their Northeast donors should take precedence over union busting in Wisconsin, or a border wall for Arizona and Kentucky, they just say all of the above. If their Wyoming Congresswoman wants to talk guns and energy exploration while their Massachusetts Governor talks tax cuts, they’re fine. A national nominee from the GOP will be expected to cut taxes, appoint conservatives to the judiciary, spend on the military, protect gun rights, and be tough on immigration- even though these positions make no sense together at times.

Regionalism also does a lot to explain elected official behavior too. Bernie Sanders famously was less tough on gun manufacturers than Hillary fans wanted. Cory Booker is more pharma friendly than many Midwestern members of Congress, but many of them are friendly towards agribusiness in a way he doesn’t have to be. Members of Congress represent the people who elect them, in fact all elected officials do. For that reason, almost no one has a 100% partisanship score in Congress. It would be nice to be ideologically pure, but most American voters aren’t ideological.

It is a fun, but almost always overlooked fact that the United States has no national election. Even Presidential elections are really 50 individual state elections (plus DC), where you have to win the electoral college, not the popular vote. Inevitably, the concerns of your district or state will occasionally trump the ideological concerns of your party. If you want to stay in office very long, you’d be best to hear that warning.