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.

6

Leaving, on a southern train, only yesterday, you lied. Promises of what I seemed to be, only watched the time, go by. All of these, things I said to you.

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There’s a point in every election cycle where everything becomes white noise. Races you know are competitive, some poll says they aren’t. Races you know aren’t competitive, some poll says it is. Polling this late in the game is notoriously tough to believe, so you have to have an eye for what is what.

First, watch less polling and boasting by organizations about “what they’ve done” so far. Watch more for anomalies in early voting and where money moves. Elections aren’t horse races, they’re bean-counting. When resources move, it’s because votes could move.

In other words, let me give you a sleeper- Linda Coleman in NC-2. She’s tonight’s candidate of the night, a late-cycle mover who took some time to catch national eyes. She was recently put on “Red-to-Blue,” and the money has followed her in. Early vote for Democrats and non-white voters are popping in her district. She is the final type of piece in the potential Democratic Wave. Donate to her here. Volunteer for her here or here.

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The other thing to watch in the final days is the tone of Republicans. Back in my home district, my state representative called the Democratic candidate a domestic terrorist. In New Jersey, rich-guy Bob Hugin is drumming up old, discredited attacks alleging Bob Menendez frequented Dominican prostitutes. Donald Trump is talking about a migrant caravan and birthright citizenship. This is all fear-mongering.

But what’s that mean? Don’t just assume this means Republicans are afraid. Let’s not forget, this is what motivates their base voters. They should be running scared, and hopefully are, but this is also what passes as Get Out The Vote for the GOP in 2018.

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I’ll expand on this after the election, but Democratic field campaigns need a serious overhaul moving forward. It’s time to get organizers off of doors more, change their metric goals from dials to volunteers recruited, realize hitting doors more is good, that “street money”/paid canvass operations are not bad, but also that you need to give volunteers more options than just canvassing. Not all volunteers are able to go knock doors.

The one other piece we need to consider is who we spend our time on. We spend a ton of time mobilizing new and inconsistent voters, but we actually lost 2016 because some historically Democratic voters turned on us. It’ll be a while before we can nationally try to just forget about them- and we probably ethically shouldn’t then.

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GOTV Playlist-

  1. Stone Temple Pilots- Interstate Love Song
  2. Pearl Jam- Black
  3. Notorious B.I.G.- Ten Crack Commandments
  4. The Rolling Stones- Angie
  5. Jay Z- Encore

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Barring a recount I have to work, the plan for my DC Friends is to be in DC by the night of 11/15 for a night out. I haven’t decided yet if it will be on the Hill or in town.

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I love my Phillies, but one of the things we are going to find out this Winter is if they love themselves. They’re a cash-rich franchise, in a big market, with very little committed payroll in the long term. If they want Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado, they can afford them. Patrick Corbin? Why not. Craig Kimbrel? Absolutely. J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel, or Charlie Morton would all be upgrades too.

It’s good business for the Phillies to go sign these guys. Bryce Harper sells tickets. You aren’t going to lose money signing a superstar. With an 80 win team this past season, there’s no reason a big signing can’t thrust the young Phillies into contention.

The question is if they want it as badly as us fans do.

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Tonight’s story of GOTV Past? The Iowa Caucus of 2008. Just after New Year’s, in the bitter cold, we went through the motions of GOTV for Senator Dodd. It was clear we weren’t going to win, but we were hoping for a surprising finish ahead of someone. It didn’t happen. We had walk packets and signs though for people to knock doors or do visibility leading up to the caucus. Some folks came down from Connecticut. The most intense part was coaching our captains on making a deal with the other campaign of their choice, in hopes of getting a delegate.

I remember emailing a friend the morning of the Caucus, predicting an Edwards, Clinton, Obama finish. If turnout had been a normal 125k, I was right. It was 250k caucusers who attended that night. I was in Grinnell, at the college that night, and witnessed an insane turnout. It was a liberal enough site that Hillary didn’t even win a delegate. That was kind of the story that night.

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McCain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Democratic Socialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Demographics We Missed in the Obama Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So You Think the Democratic Party Sucks…

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

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

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

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

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

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