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.

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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?

Where There Aren’t Good Guys

I made the newspaper this weekend- the Saturday front page. Before any of you congratulate me, don’t. A candidate I was doing social media for politically got hit with a rocket, and her campaign is a mess. Basically, she probably supported Donald Trump. That’s not a good idea when you want the Democratic Nomination for District Attorney.

Without boring you with the details too much, the candidate is currently the Chief Public Defender of Northampton County, appointed by the Democratic County Executive. She’s been a significant donor to Democrats such as our Congresswoman, State Senator, current District Attorney, County Executive, and Mayor of the County’s largest city. I had served with on the transition team that built the current county government. She switched parties in November to make this run, which really wasn’t the best thing politically, but I took her at her word that she wasn’t a Trump supporter in 2016. There were rumors during the race of her support and having aTrump sign in her yard, but those were denied too. Then the picture above surfaced, suggesting strong reason to doubt those denials. I resigned last week, quietly. I felt it was the appropriate thing to do.

That’s all context, not really the point of why I’m writing this. In so far as I can tell it, that race is over- Trump is a non-negotiable in a Democratic Primary. I don’t have much more to say about the race. Since I’m involved though, I have a few thoughts:

  1. When neighbors are in conflict over a political race, our politics are dangerously toxic. This whole story happened because the candidate’s neighbor took pictures of the sign on her door. She did that because they had altercations during and about the 2016 Election. I’ll be charitable here- it’s weird to take pictures of your neighbor’s political signs to use against them later. Like, that’s the kind of thing that makes me want lots of space and no neighbors. Yes, this person supported Hillary (like I did, as an employee of her), but I still find this concerning. You know what concerns me more though? Neighbors being in conflict over an election. This isn’t healthy. Most of you will never spend two minutes in conversation with a Presidential candidate. You shouldn’t be so emotionally invested in them that you’re ready to drop the gloves with your neighbors over them, or in this case, fight over yard signs. Trust me, I have spent time with candidates.
  2. Candidates, please don’t omit things when talking to your team, just because you don’t want them to get out. Yes, you did something bad before. Maybe you slept around, or you were a big partied when you were young, or you fell behind financially (I know nothing about these sins). If you have no past, particularly no negative past, voters should seriously doubt you and examine you. Obviously if you’re a convict, it might disqualify you (I’m not sure anymore). Here’s the reality though- whatever it is, it’s coming out in your campaign. Assume it. Own it. Put your spin, your story on it first. We all make mistakes. You voted for Trump? That was your choice. Tell us that, and why you changed, before someone else tells us about it. They don’t have the context you have. They won’t be nearly as kind to you as you will be.
  3. If you want to have a political “change of heart,” actually have it and present it to the public. The problem with switching political sides is that it’s usually one of two reasons- either your party has changed to the point you can no longer support it, or you’re an opportunist. Sometimes, it can even be both. The problem is, to claim it’s something actually changing and not naked opportunism, you need to get out ahead and explain it. You need to explain the catalysts for your move. You also need to stay consistent then. You also need to not get caught in any lies. Basically, be honest and transparent.
  4. It’s amazing what decides elections. A three year old yard sign trumps (pun intended) the policy positions, debates, qualifications, and speeches. Our politics are so tribal, so toxic, that anything that casts doubt on you personally matters more than what you’re running for. I’m not saying personal failings shouldn’t be a consideration, but I’m also saying we all have a lot of them. Whether they’re personal, financial, or past associations, we all have things we shouldn’t be proud of, or we haven’t lived. In this case, it’s a yard sign. Should it have mattered? Actually, probably, yes. But we should be generally more measured in reacting to these things.
  5. Operatives should never consider it a good day when they’re in the press doing anything but representing their candidate. I saw my name in the paper and cringed, and that was in spite of the fact the writer was really nice to me. She quoted me properly and presented me evenly. The point is that I’m not the candidate. Not the star. Not the story. And I don’t really want to be. I want to go to work, do my job, and be done. There’s no score worth settling, publicly, nor should anyone want to read me trashing a former client. And I didn’t. But I still didn’t want to be a story.

God speed, America. God speed.

The Likely Outcome of Impeachment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There Will Be No Peace

I wish I could say that I was shocked that NYU students Leen Dweik and Rose Asaf cornered and berated Chelsea Clinton at a vigil for the Muslim victims of the terrorist shooting in New Zealand that killed 50 people, but I’m not. I wish I could say these two young people had a point, but they don’t. I wish I could say that I’m glad to see young people engaging the political process, but I’m not. About the only thing I take from this unhinged and unfair behavior is that I told you so.

Chelsea Clinton is not a public official. She has never run for public office. Despite popular opinion, she is not actually her mother or her father. By the way, her former President father isn’t running for office ever again. Her former Secretary of State and Senator mother is also not a candidate for office either. Strange as this is for many supporters of Bernie Sanders, Chelsea Clinton is just a pregnant woman in New York with her own career and a famous last name. You’re not really “speaking truth to power” when you corner her at a public event to attack her views, you’re just using her fame to get yourself attention.

Here’s the real kicker though- Dweik and Asaf are wrong about Chelsea Clinton, and Clinton is right on her criticisms of Ilhan Omar that angered them so much. Now I’ve given my opinion of the good and the bad on Omar already, but here’s the simple fact- Omar has repeatedly used anti-semitic and over the top language in her criticisms. One doesn’t need to say Israel hypnotizes it’s supporters, or that it’s “All About the Benjamins” to allude to Israel buying support, when making the very plausible case that the Netanyahu Israeli Government is ineffective, opposes peace, and is bad for both U.S. and Israeli interests. It is a point that can be made without slurring a whole religion or nation. It is a point that can be made without old-line anti-semitism accusing “the Jews” of using money to control the world. Omar is a smart enough woman to know what her words mean, to choose the words she wants to use, and to understand context. She chose not to. She deserved every condemnation she got for that. Perhaps these young ladies are drawn to defend her though because she aligns with their views- one of them has actually called for Israel to be demolished. I am not a supporter of Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu, but these are radical views that should not be given credence.

Let’s be clear here, the American far-left is radical. It is not just fighting a war against Trump extremism, but against anyone who doesn’t accept their “revolution.” I’ve personally been put on their hit-lists, but worse yet, I’ve seen them bully people in public, like in this case. It doesn’t matter if you are Chelsea Clinton or some private citizen living in Southwest DC, these folks are ready to attack you, and even cause your career harm. Behavior like these NYU students displayed is not an exception, or something to be treated as an isolated incident. This is the norm. This is how they wish to conduct politics. This is what they want the American left to be.

I see no pathway to peace between the Democratic Party and the Bernie-inspired far-left. I’m sick and tired of hearing Democrats say we all need to “unite,” and “be positive” with these folks. It’s not going to happen. They’re never coming to the table to unite. Stop pretending that it can happen when only one side is interested in it. These people wish to destroy the Democratic Party, not work with it.

The Clinton-Sanders primary has been over for more than 2.5 years. Like Japanese troops who didn’t know World War II was over and continued to fight, these students are in the ranks that haven’t stopped fighting yesterday’s war. You can’t make peace with these people.

He Woulda’ Lost

One of the favorite refrains of the Berner crowd is that “Bernie would have won.” Their logic is pretty straight forward- Hillary *barely* lost the 2016 Election, and Bernie had less baggage. The belief of Berniestan is that he would have won Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. After all, he’d do better with groups she underperformed with, he’d motivate more people, and he’s the most popular politician in the country. Right?

Hillary Clinton actually beat Bernie. Despite the fact she lost the general election, she beat Bernie Sanders handily in the 2016 primary, by every metric available. With or without super delegates, regardless of caucus or primaries, and without any DNC interference, Hillary beat him. She beat him in pledged delegates. She beat him by about 15% in the popular vote. She had all but won the nomination by March. In fact, if caucuses were eliminated in places like Nebraska and Washington, in favor of higher turnout primaries, she would have beat him even worse. When on the ballot, Bernie’s alleged popularity never showed up. He got crushed.

Hillary was once the most popular politician in America too. In fact, she was so right up until she ran for President in 2016. When you’re not a candidate, that’s normal. When you’re not the front-runner, that’s normal. When no one thinks you can win, you’re popular. Bernie did not face much in actual vetting and criticism in 2016, because no one believed he would win, ever. No one believed he would be nominated or elected. This time he will enter as one of the few front-runners in a big field. Had he been nominated in 2016, he would have faced unprecedented scrutiny, for him. A nominated Bernie would probably not be the most popular politician in the country, and would probably end up viewed quite partisanly.

Bernie is weak with white people too. Like every other Democrat in America, he’s under water. He’s above water with women, but under with men. He’s above water with African-Americans. In other words, once Bernie became known, he became similar to just about any national Democratic candidate in terms of who supports him. In other words, it’s far from clear he’d win people Hillary did not.

Bernie’s support from African-American’s is wide, but shallow. Like every other national Democratic figure, Bernie Sanders and his policies are popular with the most loyal Democratic voting bloc. The thing is, the votes never followed Bernie in 2016. He was crushed in South Carolina, and every other majority-minority primary, particularly African-American ones. His endorsed candidates in 2018 generally lost non-white voters. At no point has Bernie shown an ability to turn favorable ratings from African-American voters into votes. His inability to energize African-American voters, coupled with his rather normal white approvals, would have made winning in 2016, or for that matter 2020, very difficult.

Bernie is basically a left-wing Democrat, politically, but he simply rejects the party base. Bernie has spoken pretty openly against identity politics. In other words, he’s not trying to deepen his wide but shallow support among African-Americans, women, or Latinos. It would have been hard to turn out more of these voters by eschewing their particular interests. Given that Bernie is rather average as far as candidates go otherwise, how would he change the results of 2016?

Bernie Sanders would have lost- and would lose in 2020 if he changes nothing. While he has had high approval numbers in the past (his latest I’ve seen are 44-42), those numbers will melt towards an average Democrat’s over the course of the race. He will have to win in a rather standard, boiler plate fashion in 2020- something he was utterly incapable of in 2016. What’s worse for him is that he won’t have Hillary as a foil this time. This time it will be him under the microscope. That would have been the kiss of death in 2016. It should remain a concern in 2020.

Re-Alignment

I registered to vote in 2001, as a Democrat. Michael Bloomberg was a Republican, no one was discussing whether or not demographic politics were destiny or not, and Donald Trump beating a Clinton or a Bush for President seemed like a total joke.

The two parties are changing quickly, right before our eyes. The Republican Party of 2001 was very different than 2019. Gone are the aristocratic Bush types at the top. Gone is the globalist view of military engagement and global trade from the Bush days, and in it’s place is Trump isolationist policy. The Republican Party is now a cultural identity party for “traditional” America, stressing nationalism, law and order, and aggressive anti-elitism. They’re both longing for a cultural America that is traditional, but also calling into question the last 80 years of globalism in American foreign policy. This is a far cry from the Republican Party of Bush- a neoconservative foreign policy, pro-big business (which they still mostly are in policy, but not as much rhetoric.), and theocratic morality politics.

The Democratic Party is basically on another planet too. Bill Clinton’s moderation politics are taking a beating from the activists. “Safe, legal, and rare” to describe abortion policy would almost be disqualifying in a primary. The party has moved a solid step left on everything from taxes to guns, from abortion to criminal justice reform, on health care to LGBT rights. Would a Democrat reiterate Bill Clinton’s pronunciation that “the era of big government is over” in a 2022 State of the Union? Would they even consider a balanced budget, such as Clinton oversaw, as a positive? While the reality is that the Democrats have not really moved crazy left as a practical matter, the rhetoric has shifted dramatically. The Democratic Party is abandoning much of the strategic practicality of Clinton and Obama for more ideological, direct appeal to what it sees as it’s base.

Perhaps that is the biggest shift in American politics over the past 18 years- who each party views as it’s base. When I started in politics in 2002, the Rust Belt man in a Ford pick-up truck was a Democrat, or at least a swing voter. The wealthier suburbs of Philadelphia were moderate Republicans. Now that’s switched. For all the talk of rural Republicans and urban, more diverse Democrats, perhaps those changes are minor compared to the exchange of blue collar whites to Republicans, and educated, white collar whites to Democrats. The Democratic Party is now more Starbucks, the Republicans more Dunkin (for the record, I love both.). The Democratic Party is adapting to a coalition of white collar suburban white people joining African-Americans and most every other group that is considered a minority. The Republicans, under the colorful rhetoric of Trump, are welcoming blue collar, lower middle class, Rust Belt whites to their billionaires and traditionalists.

The biggest driver of the political shifts is the way the two parties now view America’s place in the world. Donald Trump’s new base has driven the Republicans away from international trade deals, rhetorically against cheap foreign labor, to want out of NATO, to want to withdraw from treaties such as KORUS, and to want out of conflicts in places like Syria and Afghanistan. The basic tenet of the Trump doctrine is “why are we paying for it” with regards to the world, and for a desire to spend that money at home. Just as dramatic is the shift on the Democratic side. The Democratic Party is suddenly the party of free trade, foreign intervention in places like Syria, and arguing for at least a more liberal border. Republicans are increasingly uninterested in international collaboration with allies like Canada, South Korea, and our traditional EU allies. Democrats aren’t feeling so great about collaborating with nations they see as against their values, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, or Italy. This shift has had impacts both in foreign and domestic policy.

All of this has left some people out of place in their own political parties. Michael Bloomberg, mentioned above, has gone from a Republican, to an independent, to a Democrat. The Blue Dog Democrats are virtually gone away, while there aren’t pro-choice Republicans in Congress anymore. Those pieces of their coalitions have left them, eliminating the base of support for most of those members. They’ve gradually lost primaries to more ideological candidates, and lost general elections because their own voters abandoned them.

The major question for the future is if the left-right divide will break down- will the Bernie voters and Trump voters eventually link up? Both are populists that want to shock the system. One took over their party, the other has not been able to so far. Could they eventually all be in the Republican camp if Democrats continue to reject populism?

We are living through a realignment in our politics that is changing both coalitions. The political parties are not what they were when I registered. If you had told me in 2001 that a Republican President would be for isolationist trade and foreign policies, and that I’d oppose that President like I do, I would not believe you. So imagine America by 2040.

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.

5

Well I’m a street walkin’ cheetah, with a heart full of napalm. And I’m a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb. I am the world’s forgotten boy, the one who searches and destroys.

Honey gotta help me please, somebody better save my soul. Baby detonate for me…

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The most cathartic things in political campaigns often have the least actual value. Putting out a yard sign in front of your house shows that guy with the MAGA hat next door that you don’t like Trump, but does it influence votes? Only at the very far margins. Standing outside at the polls feels like you’re battling for votes, but do you change many minds? Maybe one or two in a day. The truth of the matter is that the people at the polls are almost entirely decided voters, and they are 100% likely voters. People with yard signs are 100% decided voters.

This stuff feels great- but it doesn’t win elections. Turning out more voters does. Go knock on their doors.

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I think we’re going to win this time. No, really. I think the wave might just materialize, and not because we ran a perfect midterm as a party, or because message was great, or even because the voters love and agree with us- none of that is true. We’re going to win because our voters are simply more motivated. The anguish of 2016’s defeat galvanized millions into the streets the day after Trump’s (tiny) inauguration, and the energy did not lighten up. Are my sure this incarnation of the Democratic Party can sustain their victories, or even defeat Trump in 2020? Most definitely not. I do think it means we will win in five days.

How did I, a Democratic cynic arrive at this? Part of it is simply history- midterms are bad for the President’s party, period. Other than Clinton’s 1998 (the impeachment election) and Bush’s 2002 (9/11), there really isn’t a record of a President’s party doing well in a midterm.

Part of how I got to this point was also just looking at the sheer volume of races in play. Republicans are defending Senate races in Texas, Congressional races in West Virginia, Governor races in Georgia, and state legislative seats virtually everywhere. Far from continuing their march across the Rust Belt from Trump’s 2016 win, Republicans instead are playing defense, everywhere.

The final piece that lead me to this? It appears to me that the first week or two of early voting across the country was kind of a push, as the most partisan of partisans got out to voice their frustrations with the other side, on both sides. Once those voters got out, it appears to me that Democratic voters stayed motivated, and more kept coming. Republican enthusiasm seems to be slowing, as a national trend.

It ain’t over yet, and Election Day can change everything- but I believe Democrats are heading towards victory.

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Joel Embiid put a 41 spot on the Clippers tonight. While the Sixers are off to a rather mediocre start as a team, Embiid still seems to be growing as a player. By the way, the Sixers young center just played his 100th pro game.

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Tonight’s candidate of the night is Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in Florida’s 26th Congressional district. This seat is currently represented by Carlos Curbelo, and includes the Florida Keys and parts of Miami-Dade County. This is one of the closest races in the country.

Curbelo has fashioned himself as a moderate, but it’s important to remember he’s been there for Paul Ryan and Donald Trump when they’ve needed him. Curbelo would be a reliable vote against a Democratic Speaker on health care, wages, taxes, and a host of other key, bread and butter issues. Debbie on the other hand is running to strengthen public education, protect our environment, and make our immigration system fair. She will be a key vote to check the President. Donate to her here. Volunteer here.

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Today’s GOTV playlist:

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers- Search and Destroy
  2. Oasis- Champagne Supernova
  3. Ja Rule- New York
  4. Elvis Presley- Blue Christmas
  5. Jay Z- Run This Town

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Today’s story of GOTV Past- the South Carolina Primary of 2008. I arrived just after the New Hampshire Primary win for Hillary with very high hopes, but saw them slowly fade away until Barack Obama crushed her in that primary.

It was a fun time though. We turned a hotel in Myrtle Beach into our office and supporter housing. Keyshawn Johnson came to our debate watch party at the Hard Rock. On Election Day, everything felt perfect- and it was, there in Horry County. That ended up being the only county in the state she won.

Five more days.