0.

It took me nearly a week to finally be emotionally and intellectually able to write this piece, but write it I will. Joe Biden is our President-Elect. Donald Trump has been defeated. Kamala Harris has made history. People danced in the street, they cried tears of joy, they prayed, they rejoiced. For me, Saturday was one of the most moving days I have ever had. The sting of Hillary Clinton’s loss obviously hit me personally, I worked for both of Hillary’s Presidential campaigns, but it hit me even more personally than that. Rarely in the Trump era did I feel targeted by his vitriol, because I’m a white, straight, Catholic, suburban raised man, and he wasn’t trying to scapegoat me. I watched his policies and his rhetoric aimed directly at the heart of family, friends, and acquaintances alike, and felt helpless. It made me angry. The feelings I had this past weekend were so much different, so much better. I watched millions of people genuinely rejoice, dance in the string, and dance. For the first time in my political career, none of the bureaucratic BS of the campaign mattered at all to me. I was just proud of what I had been a part of. Nothing mattered to me but how this made people feel. It’s a new day.

Now, some notes…

The man of the hour.

An ode to Joe Biden.

We don’t give Joe Biden enough credit for what a master politician he is. Just the black and white ink of his resume should have been proof enough- Senate Judiciary Chair, Senate Foreign Relations Chair, seven times elected Senator, two-term Vice-President of the United States, and yes, now the President-Elect. We tend to view Joe Biden through his losses, and lose site of what he’s achieved, be it personal or political. This man is one of the great American statesmen and politicians of post-World War II America. Don’t mistake him for a saint, but don’t dismiss him as Barack Obama’s “crazy uncle #2” either.

Joe Biden was in my top tier in this race from day one (along with Harris, Booker, and Klobuchar), so obviously I’m thrilled with this outcome. Obviously being a part of his team, this is personally fulfilling as well. A lot of people ask me why I felt he was right though, and I’ll give you this anecdote- on Super Tuesday in headquarters, I declared very early in the day that Biden would win Massachusetts, and I was basically laughed at (one super senior staff member simply replied “that won’t happen.”). A buddy on the campaign asked me if I was serious, to which I replied kinda yes, and he asked me why. I asked him what other candidate could possibly win Rep. Pressley (The Squad) and Rep. Lynch’s (Irish Catholic moderate) Boston districts. My point played out pretty well. Biden could build the broadest coalition in the race, because he could speak to and empathize with the most people. He’s got Bill Clinton abilities, combined with the experience of the Obama White House, and the wisdom of years. All of that played huge against Trump.

So much to see here…

The Broken Democratic Brand…

After 2016, one of the criticisms of the Democratic Party was that “the brand” was broken. The party had lost power in all three branches of the federal government at that time, and our 2016 nominee had ended the race deeply unpopular. The argument was basically that Barack Obama had won twice largely on personal popularity. The party itself didn’t poll very well, and seemed to hemorrhage voters they used to get.

Joe Biden won Tuesday’s election, the Democratic Party did not. Let’s be honest beyond Biden about what kind of candidates were winning. Mark Kelly and John Hickenlooper were remarkably strong Senate candidates. Roy Cooper and Josh Stein in North Carolina are very powerful Governor and Attorney General candidates. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro was the only Democratic row office candidate to win. House superstars like Lauren Underwood and Conor Lamb survived. Many of their freshman colleagues met a much harsher fate. Even at the Presidential level, Joe Biden joined Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama as the only Democrats of the post-LBJ/late 1960’s cultural revolution to win a national election. All were very gifted politicians and came to power on the back of a national crisis. We never win on generic ideology.

How bad are things though? In Pennsylvania, Democrats lost the popular vote for the US House by nearly 130k votes, at last glance. Democrats lost the entire New Hampshire state government, including both houses. Pennsylvania’s House and Senate Democrats sit at the exact same numbers they were at after the 2010 midterms. North Carolina’s legislature, just two years after Democrats broke the supermajorities, lost Democratic seats. Pennsylvania Republicans won their first row office victories in over a decade. New York State legislative Democrats lost seats. Minnesota and New Mexico Democrats lost Congressional races in good Presidential years.

I would not say 2020 was a terrible year for Democrats, but it was a correction of 2018’s majority. Like in 2016, late breaking voters seemed to decide giving us strong majorities was not in their interests. The reality is that Republicans have proven very capable of convincing voters to deny Democrats power, even in elections where they are rejecting the GOP. In 2018, Democrats were winning down ballot races in GOP strongholds. In 2020, Democrats lost some of those same seats back, limiting their ability to govern moving forward.

How it happened…

The Blame Game

Let’s dive into this week’s best political battle- the Conor Lamb’s of the world vs. the AOC’s of the world. I’ll start by stating the somewhat obvious- my politics aren’t a match with “the Squad,” and more so are with Lamb. With that said, I think that both sides have brought forward some interesting thoughts, both about Biden’s wins and the down ballot losses Democrats have suffered this cycle. For me, there’s lots of blame and credit to go around.

First off, I’ll state three obvious truths about Biden’s victory. First, there is no doubt that people of color, and more specifically their organizers, played a gigantic role in flipping Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, and holding Nevada. Second, there is no doubt that Biden’s being more acceptable to suburban moderates in those same states got him those last few percentages of the vote that he critically needed. Third, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, but the unity encouraged by Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, and “The Squad” played a critical part in avoiding the lack of enthusiasm we fought in 2016. If you remove any piece of this puzzle, Joe Biden probably becomes the third Democratic nominee this century to win the popular vote but lose the crucial states needed to win. With all this in mind, I have to say that I’m not denying anybody the credit they are being given for this victory. When someone says Stacey Abrams deserves credit for flipping Georgia, all I’m doing is nodding in agreement, because you ain’t wrong.

… but let’s talk about the losing we did too. This is a tough love portion that goes in two parts, with the first being the impact of further-left messaging on the difficult races, particularly swing states and districts. The use of the term “socialism,” which is somewhat misleading anyway by “new left” Democrats, is a non-starter with many immigrant populations (especially Latinos) and suburban voters (swing districts). It played a huge role in losing Florida and Texas, and more specifically swing Congressional districts. Pointing out that candidates who supported Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal all won, while not pointing out that they represent safe blue districts, is dishonest at best. Talking about defunding the police, abolishing private health care, ending commercial flights, and phasing meat out of our diets, while quite popular in our liberal enclaves, is a straight ticket to defeat in the kinds of districts that you have to win to get a majority. For their popularity in blue districts, “the Squad” is a perfect boogeyman for Republicans to put front and center in their efforts to call moderate Democrats extremists. You can’t build a majority under the American government system for further-left politics. Fortunately, I don’t think the “socialist” messaging stuck to Biden in most places, particularly after he won a primary against that. It absolutely worked is scaring late-breaking voters in Florida, Maine, North Carolina, Texas, and Congressional districts in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ohio, and even New York. It’s not about forcing everyone to be moderate, it’s about forcing them to be disciplined. If your policy isn’t to actually *defund* the police, don’t use words with that meaning to gin up voters who are already with us. If you’re not actually going to *seize the means of production,* don’t call yourself a socialist. Since anything you say will be used against you anyway, only give them words you mean to give them. I will give a rare rebuke to our leadership though on the Hill for this- if you don’t want AOC to be the face of the party in Iowa and Florida, start pushing some other voices out front and on TV more. If you don’t, don’t get mad later.

Let’s not limit the blame to just the progressives though. Not all of AOC’s critique of the party is wrong. The Democratic Party is not interested in party building at a precinct level, across the nation. Most state legislative caucuses are fully owned by their expensive television consultants, and their money flows there. AOC’s point about investing heavier into the online presence, which those of us in the industry call digital organizing, was proven right this cycle by those of us on the Biden campaign, who both organized Super Tuesday almost fully online, then spent literally months organizing digitally during the pandemic. Elections are literally won where the people are, not Washington, and that is online in communities, and at the most localized level, which is the precinct. Want some truth? Hillary lost Pennsylvania by 5 votes per precinct in 2016. Our organizing model does not view campaigns through that sort of lense (more later on this.).

So much fun…

The Waste of the Grassroots Donor

I don’t have to remind you that well-funded Democrats lost Senate races in Kentucky and South Carolina. I don’t have to remind you of the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on these races, which you may have contributed to. I doubt I need to dive too far into the relative disappointment for Democrats, particularly on the House and Senate level, with how we performed relative to how well funded we were.

This is not something that would have even been a thought before Howard Dean’s 2004 Presidential campaign, and it wasn’t even conceivable until after 2008. The old big donors would ask the party leadership essentially where to donate. With the shift away from PACs and institutional donors, there’s no way to focus donations into the most flippable seats. Let’s be honest about some of the well funded Senate seats we lost- Kentucky, Montana, South Carolina, Kansas, and even Texas- were not supposed to be competitive for President. The money still flowed there. Small dollar donors as our primary life blood in donations means a lot of money will go to waste. They will donate with their hearts, not their heads, and that’s their right to. That doesn’t help though.

Back in the primaries, I ripped the DNC for using the number of donors as a criteria to make the stage. I said it forced candidates to chase the whims of Democratic activists, not the average, median voter back home. I maintain that criticism after this general election.

Turns out this stuff works.

The Failed Democratic Organizing Model.

I’m just going to cut straight to the chase here- The Democratic Organizing Model being used nationally basically exists to make it’s managers look good. That’s it. It’s there to produce large scale numbers that look good to your potential next employer. It’s not there to do much else.

I told you earlier that Hillary lost PA by 5 votes per precinct, which she did. Did we react to that by partnering with down ballot candidates to increase our vote share, precinct by precinct? No. We instead focused on macro change, with the focus on statewide autodialers and big shifting numbers. This is not a Pennsylvania specific problem, and even in a victory it showed up in our losses down ballot. Democrats will lose roughly a dozen Congressional races nationwide, and lost close state legislative races in swing states like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. This is specifically why we can’t govern and have nice things.

The average organizer was managing 25 to 40 precincts total. The organizing model in an area that size should emphasize quality, not quantity and efficiency. We should be building a precinct captain structure, and running each district as it’s own mini race. Recruitment call goals should take a back seat to one on one’s and meeting with clubs, party committees, and active citizens. We should be less reliant on predictive analytics to tell us who to talk to, because we should have volunteers engaging their neighbors. We should organize, not phone bank. Our turfs are small enough to do so.

Don’t limit this to just organizing. Our constituency outreach is one-size fits all, and often times turns off more people than it should. Our political outreach often times has no idea who the local electeds are. Our press teams spend way too much time on statewide and national press. In short, I think Democratic campaigns are too big and bloated in their structure, and broken in their execution. We got through that this time, because people worked hard and our candidate was made for this race. That won’t happen automatically again.

El oh el…

What I Got Wrong

In the beginning of this race, I said we needed to nominate Biden or someone like him, who could beat Trump in the close states- because I said then that Trump would get every vote of his 46% from 2016, if not more. I was right then, more so than I was right at the end. To this point, Trump has received nine million more votes than he did last time, and sits around 47.5%, a 1.5% upward shift. While his campaign and White House seemed inept, and he was polling around 41-42%, the fact is that this race played out very similarly- most of the undecided voters were actually for Trump. Trumpism was about more than a campaign or policies, but was inherently cultural. He proved much of the Democratic professional class wrong- you don’t need to quantify everything and be precise in every calculation to succeed politically. You can do it through blunt force and speaking directly to an audience motivated by things without a policy objective. Political incorrectness is what motivates their base, and we learned in this election that trying to match that turns off some of the folks we need to build a majority.

As I suspected, the demographic divides in our politics began to crumble. Biden made gains among white voters, seniors, suburbanites, and independents. Trump made gains among black men and certain Latino groups. Demographics were not destiny. I over-estimated the impact that would have in a few swing-states though- namely Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina. The truth is that the era of monolithic demographic movements is coming to an end. With that end, our politics will almost certainly re-align some more. This is probably good for Democrats, if they embrace it, as the GOP did not pay a price for their embrace of Donald Trump really.

There is another silver lining- I do not see another Donald Trump. He is their turnout machine, and he will not be on the ballot in 2022. while others will try to embrace Trumpism, I sincerely doubt their ability to do it. While he is morally troubling and intellectually lazy, Donald Trump is the greatest marketing mind on the planet and he managed to sell himself- an inexperienced, personally flawed, policy lightweight- as the symbol of political masculinity, the anecdote to political correctness, and the pushback to Obamaism is America. He knew there was no market for Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand crap, Cheney’s neocon wars, or even the moral smugness of much of the old school “Christian Conservatism” crowd. You may think a Tom Cotton, a Mike Pence, or Don Jr. can easily pick up his cause now, but you’ll likely find that is wrong. Much like Bill Clinton’s successors (Gore and Hillary) could not ride his popularity to the White House, and Barack Obama’s personal popularity didn’t push Hillary over in 2016, you’re likely to find its hard to find another Trump.

That’s all for now. I’ll gather this whole series up in one, later on.

Yay for Impeachment! Or Not…

For the fourth time in American history, the President of the United States will face a formal impeachment proceeding. With this being our 45th President, that is just shy of 10% of our Presidencies. With this being the third time in the last fifty years we’re going through this, it’s safe to bet we’ll see a fifth in our lifetime. This is rare, but it’s increasingly less rare. In this case, one could argue it felt nothing less than inevitable.

To be fair to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, I think she tried hard not to do this. I think she knows what a disaster it will probably be. I am less than certain frankly that Trump didn’t try to get to this point, for varying reasons. It felt inevitable though because in the “blue” House Districts that Democrats held before 2018, impeachment is popular. For similar reasons in “red” Senate seats, it’s doomed to fail. Pelosi tried to hold back the tide in her “blue” seats to protect the 40 freshmen House members elected in swing districts last year. Politics would not allow that.

So what is the process? What’s the likely outcome? What is the actual political fallout. Let’s observe.

Trust the Process?

The House leadership intends to begin this process in six separate committees. In other words, the House Judiciary, Intelligence, Financial Services, Ways and Means, Government Oversight, and Foreign Affairs Committees will begin this process with formal hearings investigating parts of Trump’s Presidency. Presumably at the conclusion of their investigations, they will either recommend articles of impeachment, or not. Speaker Pelosi chose to do this, rather than hold an initial House vote to open the inquiry, and send it straight to the Judiciary Committee (the process under Nixon and Clinton).

From there, this will follow normal process. The Judiciary Committee would then debate and vote on the articles before them. The assumption is they will pass. Then those articles of impeachment would go to the full House, who would vote on whether to impeach (or as a legal process matter, essentially indict) the President. If a majority, or 218 members vote to impeach, President Trump would join Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson as the only Presidents ever impeached. Neither of them was convicted, and neither was penalized at all in office. The other President to face impeachment of course was Richard Nixon, who resigned when it was clear he would be impeached. It’s almost certain Donald Trump will not resign.

The next step is presumably a Senate trial. Assuming one is held (it’s not entirely clear that they have to), the trial’s rules will be set by the Senate itself. The Senate President is of course Vice-President Pence. The man in charge of the Senate is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will literally decide the rules of the trial. Chief Justice John Roberts would then serve as the judge enforcing the rules. There must be 67 Senators voting to convict the President and remove him from office, or he is considered acquitted in this process. There are current 47 Democrats in the Senate, so any vote to convict must include 20 Republicans.

Impeaching and removing a President is really hard. That’s why it’s never happened. It’s meant to be a consensus process, where all parties buy in. That’s really hard to do in divided government.

What’s the Likely Outcome?

By virtually any read, President Trump will eventually win this process. Whether that happens in the House committees, the full House, or the Senate, the outcome is virtually assured. Unlike Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, the President’s own party really isn’t interested in hurting him. Unlike Nixon’s process, there doesn’t appear to be any senior Republicans feeling politically threatened by the process. This begins under similar conditions to Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

So when will this fail? The furthest possibility is a Senate trial. For Trump to be convicted, it would seem that all 47 Democrats and 20 Republicans, or some similar math is needed. This means Doug Jones, Jon Tester, and Joe Manchin, all dark “red” state Democrats, would have to vote to convict, let alone Democrats in swing states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Hampshire, Virginia, Minnesota, Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado (to name some), have to vote to convict. Then you need Republicans. The only one sounding reasonable today was Mitt Romney, who represents Utah, so don’t get hopeful. The obvious pressure points are Collins and Gardner, both of whom may benefit from voting to convict, but aren’t showing any budge. Senators Tillis, Ernst, and McSally may move if Trump falls further in the polls, but so far they’re not. Longer shots include Toomey, Portman, Murkowski, Rubio, Daines, Burr, and Johnson. I went as far as possible here politically, and your count is 13. There’s virtually no way Democrats even do this well, but they’d need 7 more votes. Because Republicans know that, they’ll hang together.

It may feel like Trump being impeached in the House is a done deal at this point, as 218 members now support an inquiry- but an inquiry isn’t impeachment yet. There are 235 Democrats, 198 Republicans, 1 Independent, and a vacancy in the House right now. This essentially gives Democrats 236 votes to start with, since the Independent left the GOP over impeachment. This means Democrats can lose 18 votes and still impeach Trump on just Democratic votes. That means impeachment is pretty likely. There are 40 freshmen representing formerly Republican seats though. This means that if Democrats can’t move the needle on impeachment polling, it may not be able to pass the House. It’s likely to pass, but it’s no lock.

I’d bet on articles of impeachment passing the House Judiciary though. The only potential pitfall is that six investigating committees is too many, but that’s not likely to matter. Don’t bet on this to die fast, but bet on it to die, basically.

What’s the Politics?

I’ll just go on record and say that this is maybe the only time I’ve disagreed with Nancy Pelosi’s judgment in this Congress. Impeachment starts out polling terrible, that’s not likely to change, and the polling is probably even worse in the swing districts. Pelosi had no choice though. A majority of the House wanted this inquiry, largely thanks to jitters among moderates who fear primaries (thanks, Justice Dems). Once those politics changed, Pelosi pretty much had to do this. And to be even more fair, the President of the United States openly admits he blackmailed an allied leader to help him hurt a domestic political rival.

Let’s just start from the unassailable facts to begin here though. Impeachment isn’t popular. It’s polling below 40%. That has been consistent. There are short term spikes, but it’s never overly popular. Much like in the Clinton impeachment, it has nothing to do with the facts- half the country thought Clinton was guilty, but only 30% supported impeachment at the time of the actual votes. Even as impeachment is not popular now, neither is Donald Trump- his average approval is actually up to 44.9%, a historically mediocre to poor number in a President’s first term. Those numbers are being propped up by some outlier numbers from Rasmussen and Emerson. So it is fair to say that both impeachment and Trump aren’t popular right now.

If we accept those facts as the case, then it’s hard to see how impeachment changes it’s own politics. They know Trump. They do not really like Trump. They still do not want impeachment. There’s less polling on the matter, but polls on various accusations against Trump show the public usually believes he’s guilty. In other words they already think he’s bad, they just don’t care enough to impeach him. It’s unlikely that hearings or testimony are going to move these folks in the middle with contradictory views. Sure, the hearings will be on TV, but are these folks going to watch it? Of course not, not unless something ridiculous and extraordinary happens in them. In that sense, it means the best shot for Democrats to change the math on impeachment is probably this Fall, when opinions might still be moved by something wildly over the top. Opinions won’t move during a Senate trial. Either way, it’s more likely that nothing said ever matters in this process, because a segment of the population is just not interested in impeachment.

In the best case scenario for Democrats, they put forward some new revelations in the hearing process that make things politically inconvenient for Senators like Collins, Gardner, Tillis, and Ernst. Perhaps they can help themselves put distance between Trump and Senate Republicans in swing states, improving their chances of taking the Senate next year. What seems more likely though is Trump’s eventual acquittal, whether it be in the House or Senate, and an eventual tough vote for 40 vulnerable House Democrats, and maybe even three Senate Democrats.

I don’t think Democrats had to do this. I don’t think this reaches much beyond the core of the Democratic electorate. This is not what 2018 Democratic campaigns were based on. Ultimately, I think it’s more likely than not to be bad politics. But for better or worse, this is where we are.

Give Me Nancy Over AOC Every Time

Nancy Pelosi is taking more than her share of grief from the far left right now for stating the obvious- real politics isn’t twitter. She was mad that AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley voted alone against the House Democrats border supplemental spending bill, then voted against the Senate bill too, and criticized House leadership for caving. Pelosi fired back with “All these people have their public whatever, and their Twitter world.” Pelosi then continued with “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got.” The internal fault lines of the House Democrats are on display.

This is not a new fight. In one of the very first votes of 2019, AOC joined Ro Khanna and Tulsi Gabbard in voting against the rules package. AOC once voted with the GOP against re-opening the government during the shutdown, because the bill funded ICE. AOC joined up with Tlaib, Pressley, and Omar to vote against the 2020 Appropriations bill for Labor and Health and Human Services, putting them in strange company with more conservative Democrats Colin Peterson (MN), Ben McAdams, and Denny Heck. Obviously their stated reasons were different, but for the four freshman “progressives” they claim it was opposition to the Hyde Amendment remaining in the legislation. Never mind the hypocrisy. Never mind ending the Mexico City Policy (Global Gag Rule).

This is not the extent of the AOC lead internal battles. Her spokesman stated this week that “the greatest threat to mankind is the cowardice of the Democratic Party.” No, really. But that’s not all. AOC wants to see Caucus Chairman, Black Caucus member, and fellow New Yorker Hakeem Jeffries face a primary. Yes, really. On impeachment, AOC claims it has more support within the freshman class than publicly stated, and that progressives are frustrated with Speaker Pelosi. Yes, really.

I think it’s about time we call it as it is, and stop trying to make it anything but- AOC is pretty much a younger, non “white dude” version of Bernie Sanders. She is not “loyal” to the party, but rather views herself as a leftward critic of leadership. She’s sponsored just two pieces of legislation so far, neither of which has passed Congress, one of which was a resolution and wouldn’t have the force of law, and on the Green New Deal, she bungled the roll out. So basically, passing legislation is not her thing. Also, voting for legislation, if it’s less than perfect to her, is not ideal. Critiquing the Speaker though? That’s her jam.

AOC is using her seat in Congress for advocacy work, rather than legislating on the behalf of her constituents. If that’s what the people of Queens and the Bronx want, they are certainly free to re-elect her. Don’t hold this up as a blue print for America though. AOC, like Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley are all freshmen, but all represent seats that Democrats held before the 2018 Election, unlike the 40 seats Democrats picked up that were held by Republicans after 2016’s Election. Those 40 freshmen were running on far less divisive messages, like protecting Obamacare (not voting against the Health and Human Services appropriations bill, like her) and defending traditional Medicare. They may have talked about raising the minimum wage or expanding green energy development, but they weren’t going as far as AOC. They couldn’t. The Democratic Party can’t, unless it plans on going back to pre-2018’s 180 seats where they win 60% or more in the districts, but fail to win majorities. Those 40 new Democratic members can’t afford to legislate like AOC. They didn’t run on her agenda, because they would just lose.

Nancy Pelosi is not an advocate, she’s a legislator. She’s the woman who came to Congress and advocated for those suffering from HIV and AIDS. What does that mean? From her House website:

Armed with the lessons of San Francisco’s model of community-based care, Congresswoman Pelosi worked to accelerate development of an HIV vaccine, expand access to Medicaid for people living with HIV, and increase funding for the Ryan White CARE Act, the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative and other research, care, treatment, prevention and search for a cure initiatives vital to people living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS.

In 1989, Pelosi, along with Rep. Jim McDermott and then-Rep. Charles Schumer introduced the AIDS Opportunity Housing Act, which led to the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA)initiative – an essential lifeline for people living with HIV and AIDS.

Legislating is about action. It’s about passing bills. For Pelosi, that’s passing the last minimum wage hike in our nation. It’s passing H.R. 1. It’s passing the Affordable Care Act. It’s passing Dodd-Frank. It’s usually about swallowing some things you don’t want in a bill. Sometimes it’s about being responsible, and even if you don’t like a piece of legislation, passing it any way because otherwise children sleep on concrete floors, with no blankets, soap, clean clothes, or toothbrushes. I know it can feel smart to simply say no if you don’t like something, but who do you leave behind? Someone leading a major party in Congress, you have more obligations than to your own ego and ideology. So while you may want to impeach a bad President, you may realize it’s not wise- both because he’ll never get convicted, and it will kill your party in the next election. Legislators have to get things done. Leaders have to have better judgment than to just do what the Twitter mobs want. Nancy Pelosi legislates and shows that judgment. Is it always perfect and satisfying? No. Adult life isn’t either though.

So back to the top, “the left” attacking Speaker Pelosi and supporting AOC- give me Nancy 100 times out of 100. I’d much rather have a responsible adult leading the Democratic Party, the first woman to ever lead any branch of the United States Government. I have faith that Speaker Pelosi has the best interests of the people of our country in mind. I have faith that she will get the best deal possible under any circumstances, and that she understands how to get things done in Washington. I don’t believe any of this about AOC. I believe she knows how to get television cameras to follow her, how to create memes, and how to get re-tweets. None of that is legislating, or leading. I’ll take a hard pass.

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.

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.

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.

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 4- Who Decides

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Yesterday the Democrats officially took the House. Before yesterday, there were 195 Democrats in the House, now there are 40 more. Where did these 40 new seats come from?

They were not seats won in the Democratic base- urban America- for the most part. They also were mostly not in rural America, where Republicans clean up on whiter votes. Most of these new members (not all) are coming from suburban and even a few exurban districts. They’re not coming from previously safe “blue” districts, but districts that have shown a tendency towards moderacy and swing-voting.

American elections are generally decided in semi-affluent, higher educated areas. Suburban counties around Philadelphia, Cleveland, Miami, Raleigh, Washington, Des Moines, and Detroit tend to decide Presidential elections. Many of the districts that flipped in Congress and state legislatures in 2018 were in those same areas. These voters decide most of our elections.

This is not to say that a Presidential candidate should not seek to stoke their base voters to increase turnout, and/or seek to cut margins in the opposition’s strong turf. It’s to say that Presidents who win that way are not building a governing coalition. Winning with your base isn’t strengthening your party’s fortunes in the swing districts that decide partisan control in the legislatures. Without strong legislative majorities, you cannot pass laws and make changes.

Who are these voters? They’re college educated. They don’t live higher taxes, but do like good public services. They’re not very fond of the blatant racism, sexism, and bigotry of Trump. They tend to believe in science. They tend to not support “big government” or socialism. While not as diverse as the big cities, they’re not as lily white as “the sticks.”

These are the places that handed Donald Trump a beating in 2018, but Hillary didn’t spend enough time on in 2016. They’re the small cities of Pennsylvania, like Allentown, Reading, Bethlehem, or Scranton. They’re the suburban areas in Milwaukee County. They’re the suburban areas around Charlotte in Mecklenburg County, and the suburban counties around Raleigh, and even in Wake County. They’re obviously the areas outside of Detroit, within that metro market.

I’m not suggesting it’s an “or” choice. Should a Democratic nominee in 2020 campaign in Charlotte or Matthews? Philadelphia or Allentown? Milwaukee or Janesville? My answer is both. My answer is talk about the things that are applicable, and go to both. Campaign to your base, but also talk to and about things that matter to the voters who are up for grabs.

There are those that disagree, either because of perceived practical problems with it, or an ideological bias towards a particular base of voters. My suggestion is that they are incorrect in their view of the electorate, and in the pathway forward. Many of the areas that flipped or went more Democratic from 2016 to 2018 got an increase of campaign action and attention this time. Issues of importance to them- like health care- were now front and center. It’s not that they like or dislike either party’s base, but mostly that they have different issues.

Finally, there is a belief by some that demographics will simply change American politics in due time. It’s true- by 2045, the nation will be majority-minority, though it will remain plurality white for some time after that. Even as that happens, at least 37 states will remain majority white, and even more will be plurality white. Half the country will live in eight states. The voting population is likely to be even whiter than this. By the time the voters of America are a more diverse majority, many of us are likely to be very old, or even dead. Diversity will move the nation, but not as fast and dramatically as some believe.

Elections are not decided where either major party would generally like. They’re not decided among the activists. They’re decided among voters who are less ideological. Winning them over takes a more complex, higher political messaging. This makes a lot of political people uncomfortable.

One Month of Christmas, Day 6

Good evening, today is Friday, November 30th. There are 25 days until Christmas. Here’s today’s thoughts…

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Rudolph is Fine, Get a Life

So apparently, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer isn’t good to show to kids. Why? Apparently showing the other reindeer bullying Rudolph is bad for kids. I kid you not.

This is part of why America hates liberals. Bullying is something that goes on in life. Will against it if you like, it will still be there generations after I’m dead. In this particular case, the victim at least ends up being beloved and popular, a powerful lesson to kids that bullying is stupid. That kid you’re bullying will grow up to make you feel foolish for being a jerk.

Honestly, people need to get a life.

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Holy Commercialism, Aerosmith

I just watched Aerosmith’s “Dream On” in a Tiffany and Co. commercial. Aside from my burning disdain for jewelry companies, good for them. Except that I recently saw another of their songs, “Livin’ on the Edge,” in a smart phone commercial. Oh, and Aerosmith will be “in residency” in Las Vegas next year.

As they approach their 50th anniversary together, Aerosmith is clearly cashing in. And you know what, good. Bands shouldn’t feel bad about making money off their music. It just feels like Aerosmith is going to hit gold here in the next few months.

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Yes to Woodstock 2019

Yeah, sure, Woodstock 1999 was kind of a shitshow. Sure, they burned some stuff. Sure, there were kind of, sort of rioting. But we have had a 20 year timeout. And dammit, 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock.

I not only want a 2019 Woodstock, but I want the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Green Day back there. I want to see the bad behavior surrounding both’s Woodstock performances repeated. I’m totally in for it.

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#NC09 is a Real Mess

The only race we were involved in on Election Day in Mecklenburg County, NC that didn’t end in victory was the 9th Congressional District race. We won Mecklenburg County for Democrat Dan McCready by a comfortable margin, but the final count has put him down by 905 votes. He conceded the day after, and the race seemed over.

I have to say it *seemed* over. We now know that foul play seems to have been going on, in a county well East of where I was. In Bladen County, an individual named Leslie McRae Dowless, the Soil & Water Commissioner, worked for Mark Harris’ Congressional campaign. In that county, Harris got 61% of the mail-in ballots, but only 19% of the voters who mailed in ballots were Republicans. The North Carolina State Board of Elections now has affidavits, signed by voters that Dowless’ had people going door to door to pick up ballots and “mail them in” for them. In some cases his people filled in ballots for people, in other instances they discarded ballots for Dan McCready. Dowless standed to make a $40,000 bonus if Harris won. It appears he may have broken some rules to get it.

If that’s so, these election results cannot be certified.

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We’ll be back at it tomorrow…

One Month of Christmas, Day 4

Hey there, it’s Wednesday, November 28th, 2018, 27 days until Christmas. It’s cloudy and windy out, but not terrible- just how I like it. Here’s today’s random thoughts…

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Giving Companies Money Does Not, and Has Not Ever Worked

So GM is taking their tax cuts and subsidies and closing a few plants, laying off around 15,000. Who would have ever guessed this? This has never happened before, right? Right?

How many people a company employs basically depends on how many people they need. Corporations don’t hire more people unless they need it. Sure, some sectors of the economy may use some portion of new money to expand their business or do more research, but that is not the norm. Typically, if you hand out tax breaks and subsidies to corporations, the money goes back to shareholders and in bonuses for execs. Tax breaks don’t typically stop corporations from closing factories or outsourcing jobs. Why would they? Their job is to make a profit, not employ the public. They hire to need.

What on earth should we do? How about an actual re-write of the corporate tax code? Make a business’ tax rate relative to their behavior and societal impact. Companies that pay well, offer benefits and pensions, keep the environment clean, allow unions, and do the things we want as a society can pay below the standard rate, because they’re already adding benefit to our society. Companies that pay below a living wage, pollute, outsource, and hurt our public should pay more. It seems simple to me, they’re handing us their bills to pay.

Just a thought…

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I Love the Stones, But…

I’ve seen The Rolling Stones four times. I’ve seen them from floor seats, from the last row of old Giants Stadium, in the rain, and inside. They’re one of the greatest live shows you’ll ever see in your life- if you can afford it.

The cheapest nose-bleed seat I saw during today’s “pre-sale” was $163- in any city. I suppose if you’re rich enough, you’d just drop $1,900 to be in the pit, but for the working class fans of the Stones, that’s not happening. $163 to sit all the way upstairs is steep- especially to buy multiple seats.

It’s not exactly a great look for the bad boys of rock n’ roll.

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Nancy Don’t Lose

You’ve probably read a lot about how Nancy Pelosi might not be the next Speaker. You may even have read about how she can’t get 218 votes. Don’t over read that.

Nancy Pelosi won today’s Democratic Caucus vote 203-32. She will be the Democratic nominee to be Speaker of the House. Sure, she needs 15 more votes. She’ll get them. You can bank on that.

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Cutting it short tonight. More tomorrow.