The title above doesn’t refer to my advice, because I’m not a political pundit. Rather, it refers to the two articles below that I read in succession, finding their messages nearly identical. One is from a liberal and the other from a right-centrist, but they’re both concerned with an issue that we often discuss here: political division that hurts the Dems.
Yet their topics aren’t so concerned so much with “How can we bash the Republicans so they lose?” as a question I consider more important and tractable, “How can Democrats act so we don’t lose?” For as the Youngkin victory in Virginia and the narrow Biden victory across America demonstrates, not to mention Biden’s plummeting approval rating, the Democrats are doing something wrong. It’s in our power to help fix that; it’s not in our power to affect Republican behavior, which is beyond the pale.
The first piece is from the Substack site “The Liberal Patriot,” and is by Ruy Teixeira, a political scientist, commentator, and Democrat. Click the screenshot to read, and I do recommend you read this one (it’s not too long if you’re lazy):
The second one is Andrew Sullivan’s latest piece (free, but subscribe if you read him often), and I refer to his main piece from Friday. Click to read:
Teixeira makes five points about what we Democrats should be doing. In fact, all of his points, as well as Sullivan’s, boil down to this advice: stop catering to the extreme Left and start dealing with issues that really matter to the “average” American. That has also been the message of James Carville, though nobody seems to be listening. You can’t have your “Progressivism” and your electoral victories, too.
There’s no doubt that the Democratic follies have played into GOP hands; you can’t blame everything on Sinema and Manchin. Anyway, I’ll put Texeira’s points in my own words in bold below. All quotes from the two writers are indented; mine are flush left.
1.) Concentrating on higher voter turnout is not a knockout win for Democrats.
The 2020 election presented a pretty darn stark choice to voters. And it was indeed a high turnout election. The problem: everyone’s turnout went up, including among groups the left would have preferred stayed home. The net result of higher turnout did not significantly boost Democratic fortunes; if anything Republicans may have a benefitted a bit more from the higher levels of turnout.
2.) Emphasizing the issues of “systemic racism” and trying to mobilize people of color as the key to victory isn’t a great strategy.
In the 2020 election, running against Donald Trump (Donald Trump!) and in the wake of a social upheaval after George Floyd’s murder that associated the Democratic party closely with a left stance on the centrality of “systemic racism” to pretty much every policy issue…the Democrats actually lost ground among nonwhite voters. They lost 7 margin points from their 2016 margin among black voters and a stunning 16 points from their 2016 margin among Hispanics (Catalist two party vote) The black share of voters in 2020 was actually slightly smaller than the black share in 2016 because, while black turnout did go up, it did not go up as much as other groups. Overall, nonwhite voters contributed less to Biden’s margin over Trump in 2020 than they did to Clinton’s margin over Trump in 2016.
So much for the assumption that the key to mobilizing nonwhites is highlighting their status as “people of color” suffering from systemic racism as the left stresses. That was tried in the 2020 election and it did not work. Nor has anything happened since 2020 that makes that approach look any better. The 2021 elections saw significant attrition of Democratic support among Hispanics and Asians and 2021 polling data indicated weakening support among nonwhites—particularly Hispanics, where the drift away from the Democrats is unmistakable.
The left’s recommended approach here is clearly not paying dividends. It should be discarded.
3.) Pushing “cultural leftism” won’t help the Democrats. I try to make this point repeatedly: the ultra-Left’s views are not congenial to the voters we need to win the election. It’s better to win than to tout pie-in-the-sky issues and programs that the average Joe and Jill (not the elite ones) don’t care about. For example:
The left in the Democratic party insists that cultural leftism is central to consolidating the “rising American electorate” that will power the Democratic party to dominance in an increasingly multicultural, multiracial America. It is a feature they say, not a bug, of current Democratic practice.
But in the process, the left has managed to associate the Democratic party with a series of views on crime, immigration, policing, schooling, free speech and of course race and gender that are quite far from those of the median voter. That’s a success for the left but the hard reality is that it’s an electoral liability for the Democratic party. From time to time Democratic politicians like Biden try to dissociate themselves from super-unpopular ideas like defunding the police but the voices of cultural leftism within the party are still more deferred to than opposed. These voices are further amplified by Democratic-leaning media and nonprofits, as well as within the Democratic party infrastructure itself, all of which are thoroughly dominated by cultural leftism. In an era when a party’s national brand increasingly defines state and even local electoral contests, Democratic candidates have a very hard time shaking these cultural left associations.
That’s a huge problem because the median voter simply does not share the outlook embodied by cultural leftism.
As crime rises, the “defund the police” campaign—stupid to begin with, at least couched that way—has become an albatross around our necks. So has the Democrats’ apparent desire for open borders—or at least their failure to address immigration. Yes, I push favor speech, but come election time, you can leave those issues for later. The average voter cares about a. the economy, b. the economy, c. how the economy is affecting their lives, and d. the economy, e. schooling for their kids, f. the economy, g. the pandemic.
Although Biden was elected on a platform to “bring America together”, that’s not what he’s done. Part of his failure rests on the recalcitrant Republicans (Synema and Manchin are irrelevant here, as even getting them on Biden’s side won’t “bring America together”), but a lot of it has involved Biden’s own surrender to the Woke Left. Every time he caves to the “progressives,” he moves centrists to the Right. And don’t think they don’t notice Biden’s failure to distance himself from the Squad and their acolytes.
4.) We won’t win by arguing that Republican victories mean the end of our democracy. Because of January 6, many people, even on this site, have taken the view that the very existence and persistence of our democracy absolutely depends on Democrats winning, for, people say, all Republicans are toned-down versions of the Q-Anon shaman. As Teixera argues:
Another key link in the left theory of the case is the assumption that voters will, if the messaging is loud enough, necessarily agree with the Democrats on the nature and extent of the current threat to democracy posed by the Republican party and therefore the need to vote Democratic. The January 6th events, especially, are continually cited as an ironclad justification for rejecting the Republicans. This approach is being repeatedly put to the test and repeatedly failing.
It didn’t work in Virginia in 2021. And it’s not generally working with voters as a whole. As the strenuously nonpartisan election analyst Kyle Kondik notes on Sabato’s Crystal Ball:
A year after Jan. 6 and nearly a year into Joe Biden’s presidency, the Republican political position appears strong — just as one might expect heading into a midterm with an unpopular president in the White House, and arguably unhampered by Jan. 6.
This brings us to my own point: the Dems are making a huge fuss about voter registration, saying that if you favor the new state laws (granted, they’re largely racist initiatives designed by Republicans to keep minorities from voting), you’re no different from George Wallace or Lester Maddox. Well, I don’t feel that way. I don’t like the laws and I understand why they’re being passed, but, as Andrew Sullivan says, it’s not election fraud that’s a concern for most Americans (that’s why Biden shouldn’t have broached it during last week’s presser), but election subversion. In other words, voter-registration laws, to the average American, are nowhere near as important as what happened in the Capitol on January 6. And those laws will not facilitate such insurrections. Trump’s re-election will.
More to the point, laws — like that recently passed in Georgia — are far from the nightmares that Dems have described, and contain some expansion of access to voting. Georgians, and Americans in general, overwhelmingly support voter ID laws, for example. Such laws poll strongly even among allegedly disenfranchised African-Americans — whose turnout in 2012, following a wave of ID laws, actually exceeded whites’ in the re-election of a black president. In fact, the normalization of ID in everyday life has only increased during the past year of vax-card requirements — a policy pushed by Democrats.
And Biden did something truly dumb this week: he cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election in November now that his proposal for a federal overhaul has failed: “I’m not going to say it’s going to be legit.” No sitting president should do this, ever. But when one party is still insisting that the entire election system was rigged last time in a massive conspiracy to overturn a landslide victory for Trump, the other party absolutely needs to draw a sharp line. Biden fatefully blurred that distinction, and took the public focus off the real danger: not voter suppression but election subversion, of the kind we are now discovering Trump, Giuliani and many others plotted during the transition period. Reforming the Electoral Count Act could, in fact, help lower the likelihood of a repeat of last time. And if the Dems had made that their centerpiece, they would have kept the legitimacy argument and kept the focus on Trump’s astonishing contempt for the rules of the republic.
Back to Teixeira:
5.) The Democrats are making a mistake assuming that their razor-thin victory in 2020 gave them a mandate to completely transform America:
Any reasonably clear-eyed look at the election strongly indicated that Biden was elected to get the country back to normal by containing the covid pandemic and fixing the economy. But the need to barrel ahead with transformation was pushed consistently by the Democratic party left—pushed in fact to the point of collapse in 2021.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill was held up for months as the House’s Progressive Caucus refused to vote for it unless a truly transformational Build Back Better bill could be elaborated. .
. . . And one might add, exposing the left’s lack of understanding of what the American people most wanted, which was very simply the return of normality not transformation. While the Democratic Congress wasted months in arcane negotiations about bill structure, what programs it would and would not cover and how many trillions of dollars it all would cost, ordinary voters were trying to cope with the Delta wave and the emergence of supply and inflation problems in the economy. As they became increasingly unhappy with the Biden administration and increasingly unsure just when things would finally get back to normal, the endless, confusing negotiations went on.
Most of these points ring true to me, and I’d say I’m the average left-centrist registered Democrat. It’s mystified me why my party spends all its time arguing about voter-registration laws that the average American doesn’t care about, or engage in Wokeist shenanigans that are repugnant to those on the center. Biden needs to get out more–seriously. As Sullivan proposes, he should sit behind a mirror every week while a focus group of average Americans beef about their worries.
Teixeira doesn’t really offer a solution for Democrats, but Sullivan does, giving a series of things “that can hurt Trump”.
Here’s what hurts Trump. Biden doing sensible deals with Manchin and Sinema on tangible areas of agreement, instead of castigating and alienating them. Insisting that our election system is, in fact, solid and legitimate. Celebrating the re-opening of schools. Firing the heads of the CDC and FDA, after their appalling performance during Covid. And imagine if Biden had given a tub-thumping speech last week not on why it’s still 1964 in America, but on why he is appalled by the soaring murder rates in many cities, especially in poor and minority neighborhoods, and opposes the catastrophic soft-on-crime policies Democrat DAs are promoting around the country. Go visit the NYPD with Mayor Adams. Work with Romney on childcare assistance. Head to San Francisco to support Mayor Breed’s attempt to rein in anarchy. Now that would hurt Trump.
Biden also seems incapable of grappling with the cultural leftism — from critical race theory to the replacement of biological sex with subjective gender — that is increasingly defining the Democrats as a party. He’s just absent, distant, irrelevant on these issues, even as they have shown to be deeply unpopular and deeply divisive. Has he said anything about education and the rights of parents, a burgeoning issue for many suburban voters? Not that I’ve noticed. Meanwhile his party becomes more and more associated with the teachers’ unions, whose refusal to teach children in person for two years is now legendary.
His capitulation to the cultural left — from federal funds for abortion to “equity” across the federal government — is puzzling. . .
Indeed it is. I am not sure about firing the heads of the CDC and FDA, as they were operating in a constantly moving empirical landscape. But I believe with every fiber of my being that doubling down on culturally leftist issues is not going to help us keep Congress this fall or the Presidency in 2024.
One more quote from Sullivan, well, because it’s there:
His silence on all these things [cultural leftist tenets] offers a chance for a future pivot, of course, to remind us that he was once Barack Obama’s vice president, and not merely Ibram Kendi’s tool. But he’s as cowed by these fanatics as the rest of his party. And I doubt he hears a smidgen of criticism of wokeness from his advisers. I mean he appointed Susan Rice to impose it on the entire federal workforce. All he hears, I suspect, is that opponents of wokeness are just racist, transphobic bigots.
Maybe a huge Republican wave this November will force Biden to recalibrate, as happened with Bill Clinton. But Biden, one is increasingly reminded, is a party man, and his party has moved so far to the left in the past five years there is no way he can pull a Sister Souljah moment without splitting the Democrats in two.
So he may well become a transitional figure like Jimmy Carter — a response to a criminal president, as Carter was, but too isolated, partisan and controlled by left interest groups to build a coalition for the future. Instead, a growing backlash including many Latinos, black voters, a slice of Asian-Americans, and suburban parents could create a viable and resilient multiracial coalition for the center right. We just have to pray that Trump is not the man who leads it.
41 thoughts on “To the Democrats: How not to lose”
Both Teixeira and Sullivan (and Coyne) are right, of course, but with some qualifications.
The fight against the GOP’s new voting laws does have to be fought. Without fighting them, especially in the courts, they would probably be even worse than they are. It is also worthwhile to cast the GOP as trying to cheat. It has been pointed out by many that democracy faces a bigger challenge from the GOP’s attempt to subvert the Electoral College vote counting mechanism. I think both have to be fought.
Both of these voting battles aren’t going to sway voters that much. They mostly don’t pay attention to the political mechanism and, when they do, they put it down to inter-party squabbling. Still, the Dems have to fight the GOP’s attempts to subvert elections even if voters don’t give them credit for it.
One big problem with the Biden administration that neither Teixeira or Sullivan mention, is that Biden doesn’t do much to set the narrative. I suspect his limitations as a public speaker, the desire to demonstrate good governance and avoid the grandstanding of his predecessor, have made him reluctant to communicate directly with Americans. This is a big mistake in my opinion. Trump did demonstrate the power of setting the narrative. Biden shouldn’t ignore it.
Another Dem mistake is not fighting against the Big Lie right from the start. Now the idea has settled into GOP voters and will be very hard to dislodge. Biden evidently thought that this would be seen as partisan bickering, and it probably would, but letting half the voters believe he stole the 2020 election is far worse.
I agree with your first paragraph. Pace item #1, focusing on voter turnout IS going to be a critical strategy in states where (a) the majority of voters is expected to be moderate to liberal but (b) the GOP’s control over the state legislature lets them pass a maze of voter barriers.
That won’t be everywhere, but in Georgia, Ohio, maybe a few others, simply getting voters to the voting locations may be an important factor in who wins.
Yes, the places where they are requiring restricted forms of ID don’t bother me so much as voters will rally to solve those problems. The ones where they have only one polling place in a very large and/or very populous county are a much bigger problem. People won’t want to wait in line in the cold for 8 hours just to vote and you know this is happening in Dem districts, not Republican ones.
Lincoln County, GA just closed 6 of 7 of their polling places, requiring some voters to travel over 20 miles to vote in the one remaining place. The population of the county is 29% black, mostly rural and poor and living away from the county seat. The county commission – which appoints the election board – is all GOP.
These moves probably won’t make much difference in the outcome of county elections, since the county was already overwhelmingly Republican. But for state-wide contests, I can’t imagine it not suppressing minority turnout.
Not having an octogenarian candidate for “the hardest job in the world” might help too…
Woke does not care if Democrats win or not.
They actually probably prefer a new rise of Donald Trump. Woke’s mission is to destroy the foundation of this nation: freedom, individual rights, property, capitalism, which sit as default at the root of most Americans. They vaguely promise a culture/gov supplanting the United States, in which WokeNewMan will be automatically given “an environment free of worry and fear.” ~ Herbert Marcuse
Even if all the above suggestions get a grip on the Democratic Party, it will not stop the tactics and rhetoric of Woke that alienate 75% of voters. (I include the entire middle and moderate left, who are on an ‘ignore to despise’ spectrum about Woke, although the left wing of this group will still vote Democratic.)
Woke does not care if Dems win or not. They will not help you win. They will not stay quiet.
A good litmus test is that Biden uses the term “Latinx”, which appeals only to the uber-woke activists, and which Hispanic/Latino voters generally don’t use and dislike. If he can’t get that right then he has the political antennae of a rhinoceros.
Anti-rhino bigotry is just as shameful as any other type of bigotry
I think one thing to do might be to recognize that Republican behavior is not “beyond the pale,” but sits with the spectrum of American political beliefs. If you don’t do that, then you cannot possibly understand how to attract voters outside the hard core of the Democratic Party, or why it is that the Dems are sinking in the polls. The media spent four years (five if you include this last one) painting the Republicans as fascists on every issue. Given how reliable their reporting has turned out to be on so many issues (which is to say that it has not been reliable), it might be advisable to consider that their reportage is at best questionable and at worst dishonest. (Ever notice that all those “gotcha” headlines in the NYT never actually got anyone? That we’ve had a year of hand-wringing over the January 6 riot, but that the FBI itself said there was no evidence of a conspiracy?) Personally, as a conservative, but not a Republican, I am turned off by the idea that it is government’s job generally, and the Dems’ in particular, to remake society. There is nothing about elected officials (or appointed bureaucrats), or Dems, that gives them special knowledge about what is best or even better for people, and if one says that people are stupid and need to be led, well, then that person is a fascist. The Dem used to claim to listen to people. They don’t even pretend to do that anymore. The polls show that people see that.
What I meant is that it’s futile to try to change the views of diehard, mainstream Republicans.
@DrBrydon … You do an admirable job of presenting half the problem. The other half is that the “other” media spent the last 20 years painting Democrats as Communists, and, especially, that the values of Democrats (and by extension, liberal, centrists, and even right-leaning centrist) are “un-American”. And to say nothing about dire warnings that “good Christians” will be locked up and persecuted for their faith should Democrats gain any ground.
I live in Southern Illnois, and you can’t turn on the radio without hearing what amounts to basically non-stop bashing of Democrats, Liberals, and “progressives”, and “them hethens”, of which I’m a member.
It’s not unusual for me to be someplace (stores, gyms, even doctors offices) and overhear conversation punctuated by ultra-conservative sound-bites. Needless to say, I don’t engage in even casual conversations. Not with Liberals nor with Conservatives since both seem to have replaced their ability to reason with the ease of parroting whatever they’re told by their camps.
I keep hearing about the resiliency of American Democracy, and I might even believe it where it not for what I experience, hear, and see, and not just here (Colorado, Michigan, Hawaii, and, of course, a large swath of the Central states).
I think both parties need to look for the cancer inside their ranks, but, seeing as both parties believe it advantageous letting the cancer spread, that’s not likely to happen.
The cynic in me says that, probably, neither party adheres to or believes half the crap they shovel at their base, and that they assume they will be able to spin and control said bases while they are in power . . . except that I think we’re pretty close to the mobs taking on a life of their own, be they woke or Trumpers. I hope to FSM that I’m wrong.
What does today’s Republican Party stand for, DrBrydon — I mean, aside from guns, god, forced births, anti-immigration, trolling the Left, grasping power the will of the majority be damned, and absolute fealty to Donald Trump, however ludicrous his claims may be? It’s certainly no longer the Party of the Bushes and Gerry Ford, or even of Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater, much less of Dwight Eisenhower. Hell, it no longer even bothers with a written Party platform.
Given that today’s voters are motivated more by voting against than by voting for, I suppose that they will give GOP bonus points over NOT standing for reforming citizens, vilifying and discriminating against whites, dumbing down students to the lowest common denominator, forcing males onto vulnerable females, and putting illegal immigrants first.
“Turnout, turnout, turnout!” generally refers not to policy, but to grass-roots’ activism in the months, weeks, and days leading up to an election, and on election day itself, to ensure that potential voters sympathetic to your side register to vote and actually cast their ballots.
Excellent point. Teixeira cites David Shor, who says “The story for this turnout increase is less about the mobilization efforts of either Democrats or Republicans; it’s that interest in politics increased in general.” But I think he’s putting the cart before the horse. Part of the increased interest in politics is the effect of mobilization efforts. We’ve got more nonvoters and irregular voters than Republicans do. An increase in the importance of mobilization is a good thing for us. And certainly unilateral disarmament in mobilization is not the answer.
The biggest thing to me and that I don’t hear anyone campaigning on is addressing the opiate epidemic. I think it’s accurate to say that there’s nobody out there whose family hasn’t been affected by it in some way, or knows someone whose family has. It’s a two-degree-of-separation issue.
Besides all the people in the trades that I know of, most recently I heard that the son of a distant cousin (who I last saw in 1984) just got out of prison on meth charges. His excuse – “There’s nothing else to do in Buckhannon WV.”
I think the reason nobody campaigns on that is that they regard it as hopeless.
I can confidently say that my family has not been affected by the opiate epidemic. I suspect most people would say that. I’m not trying to minimize the problem, which is terrible, but just keep it in perspective.
My son’s late good friend, a lovely young man who was an excellent and creative bricklayer with a good job in Vancouver, BC, was prescribed opiods for his painful knees, He ended up homeless and eventually dead, at about age 32.
And to think there was a time, not so long ago, that the professional regulatory Colleges would discipline a doctor who failed to do exactly that. Cast off the myth, they said, that opioids are dangerous in chronic pain. We know better now, they said. There is no upper limit on dosing. All the best-funded scientists say so. You should too. Take, and pass, this course on modern pain management, on penalty of losing your licence, and we will demand follow-up reports to confirm you are not still an opiate-denier.
And people wonder why no one wants to do general practice.
Sorry, but are you asserting that all training for GPs in medical school says that there’s no danger in dosing with opiates nor any upper limit. Could you support that assertion because, frankly, I don’t believe it. “All the best funded-scientists say so”. Seriously?
That’s not what they teach now. They learned from the mistakes of the 1990s when that was the teaching, based on dishonest claims that long-acting opiates were not addictive or euphoric and would therefore not lead to diversion into the street. Doctors who adhered to the traditional teaching that you don’t prescribe opiates for chronic pain (except in cancer) were deemed deficient when patients complained about not getting what they wanted. Teaching materials and lectures were funded by Purdue. It was a continental scandal and once the market was created, the criminal trade stepped in to serve it with highly potent junk mailed from China after reform efforts in the profession caused the pendulum to swing back. And then there’s meth, which at least wasn’t our fault.
This is a long story about expert opinion going badly astray in the service of marginalized communities. We are still struggling with it as a society.
Did you read David French’s theory that our political polarization is made worse by a cult of ideology on the left and a cult of personality, aggressive personality, on the right?
The religious right has heard French’s cry from the wilderness … and has rejected it emphatically. See “Against David French-ism.”
Someone (I volunteer) needs to slap the members of the Progressive Caucus in the collective face, like Cher did to Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck, and yell, “Snap out of it!” Politics is the art of the possible; it’s about who has the power. As reprehensible as we might find McConnell and his ilk, as well as Sinema and Manchin, they have power and we must respect that and work with them. AOC, Jayapal, Tlaib, Omar, even Bernie (I voted for Bernie in 2016 and Biden in 2020.) come across as living in a fantasy world where they can strut into Congress, zap the members with their Magic Progressive Powers, and thereby have the opposition fall to their knees and accede to every progressive wish. The Progressive Caucus and the Dems as a whole need to stop acting, in the immortal words of fellow Chicagoan Rahm Emanuel, so “f-ing r*t*rd*d” and get real.
I hear this criticism quite a bit, that the DP needs to work with the RP, but I really don’t get it. Have people forgotten the past 12 + years? The RP decided back around Newt Gingrich to categorically refuse to work with the DP on anything, and they’ve held to that almost without exception. Opposing anything and everything the DP brings to the table is one of the RP’s primary tactics.
They’ve said many times that it is and they’ve said why too. It isn’t because they disagree with everything the DP brings to the table. It is entirely and only about crippling the ability of the DP to get anything done so that the DP loses support and the RP gains support. Let’s be clear about what this commitment to this tactic is. It is a refusal to do the work of a legislative government. It is a dereliction of duty. And, together with their Big Lie propaganda efforts it has worked very well for them. So well that many of the DP and IP voters are convinced to one degree or another that the DP sucks so bad that they are as bad as the RP or nearly so.
The DP has continued to try and work with the RP long past reason at it has cost the entire nation. Imagine what Obama could have accomplished in his first 2 years when the DP had majorities in the House and Senate, when he could have pushed through legislation whether the RP agreed or not. Instead he wasted it by continually trying to engage the RP and then the DP lost their majority and it was too late. There is no working with the RP unless they decide to change their long standing tactic. This is not the DPs fault. Blaming them seems precisely analogous to blaming the victim to me.
Let me clarify a bit by enlarging on the point of your last paragraph. I’m not saying that the Dems have to work always with the Repubs as a matter of principle. My point is about power, who has it and who can exercise it. In our present situation, with the Dems just s
(Seems WP cut off some of my reply. To continue:) squeaking by with a majority, they must work with Sinema, Manchin, Romney, and McConnell out of practicality in order to get anything done. Conversely, this same practical approach points out where Obama failed in the example you gave above. He had the power but failed to exercise it. In this he was a poor politician. It may sound ruthless, but there is no need for bipartisanship when you have enough votes. In our present situation, the Dems do not have enough votes, so they must not rely on magical thinking to pass pie-in-the-sky legislation but must get down and dirty, negotiate, trade horses, twist arms, compromise, whatever, to get the job done.
I’ve long wondered where McConnell’s breaking point will be or if he has one. On a few occasions it seemed like maybe he had reached his limit, perhaps was having trouble looking at himself in the mirror over one of the myriad ridiculous things Trump or one of his acolytes had done, and would work with the Dems on something. Except of course that whenever it came down to it, he did not. Based on his record It is so unlikely that McConnell would work with the DP that it seems insane to suppose that he would. It doesn’t matter how hard the DP tries. More than once McConnell has made noises as if he would, only to shoot them down later. There is no good reason to suppose that he was every honest about any of those incidents.
Romney seems to maybe actually have a conscience hiding somewhere deep inside and it has peeked out every now and then, but whenever it might actually really count for something he has declined to work with the DP. The odds are not good. Counting on Romney to deal in good faith all the way through to an actual vote that matters is not a good bet.
Manchin and Sinema show no evidence of being willing to work in good faith with their own party. The DP, Biden, has tried to deal with Manchin. From where I’m sitting it seems like they made a good effort and that Manchin was either not dealing in good faith or was made an offer from an interest group he couldn’t refuse. For example, read this article Manchin says he won’t vote for Build Back Better Act. From the article,
Is the White House misrepresenting their dealings with Manchin? I seriously doubt that. I have not noticed a lack of the DP trying to work with the RP. I have noticed that the RP has continued as per their SOP in refusing to work with the DP.
I don’t think the right people are being blamed here. I for damn sure wish the DP would do a better job of dealing with the RP’s tactics, but I’m putting the blame for our current existential woes right where it belongs, on the RP, their moneyed supporters and their chronically gullible voting base.
This was meant as a reply to Darrelle.
While I agree with a lot you say here, I do think that Biden could have been much more practical in his approach. For example, many in the GOP are interested in infrastructure but not in the “social infrastructure” parts of it. Some are interested in beefing up the Electoral College but don’t like everything in the Dem’s voting rights bills. Perhaps hindsight is 20/20 but they clearly would have been better off going with bills that at least some in the GOP could get behind. It is hard to figure how Biden concluded he had a mandate for passing “transformational” bills. Perhaps he just didn’t think Manchin and Sinema would be so recalcitrant.
Supposedly, there’s a bipartisan electoral bill that is being worked on right now. Biden should put his efforts into getting that passed.
In trying to understand the plight of the Democrats and Biden, I offer the following observations:
1. It is very typical for the president’s party to lose seats in mid-term elections. It would have been unusual, to say the least, for the Democrats to hold on to the House in November considering its razor-thin majority. For the Democrats to hold the House considering Biden’s and the Democratic Party’s blunders will take one of the greatest political miracles in American history. While they should strive to minimize the losses as much as possible, because the House is run strictly on majority rule even a thin Republican majority will usher in the Trumpist freak show.
2. What is neglected in these discussions is the fact that about 80% of the voters will vote for their respective parties regardless of the candidates (usually split 50-50 between the two parties). So, the goal of the Democrats is win over the relatively small percentage of the electorate that is open to changing their Party preference from election to election. Here the Democrats are failing because they seem incapable of disassociating themselves from the Woke. The Republicans have waged a culture war that the Democrats have failed to successfully repudiate. Until they do this, they will remain in deep trouble. In other words, the Democrats need to place a bet that possibly alienating Woke voters will be less damaging than alienating moderate voters susceptible to rational argument.
3. For the last few decades, Democrats have shown themselves to be terrible politicians. They have let the Republicans control the political agenda, which is cultural. From the perspective of raw politics, the Democrats fail at messaging. The Democrats have proven themselves inept in conveying to the public why Biden’s Build Back Better proposals will help the vast majority of Americans. Instead, the media is dominated by stories of how Manchin and Sinema have blocked the Democratic agenda. One is hardly aware that it is the entire Republican Party that is blocking the agenda. The Democratic blunders go on and on.
4. Teixeira is correct that the Democrats’ attacking the Republican Party as a threat to democracy will probably not win many votes even though the Republicans are beyond doubt a threat. In Foreign Affairs Magazine, political scientists Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way discuss how the collapse of democracy could look like under a Trumpist regime.
The “threat to democracy” electoral strategy will not work because many Americans, probably most Americans, care nothing about democracy. If democracy does not bring home the goods (economically and psychologically) they will quick abandon any fidelity to it. For Trumpists, its main appeal is to those that fear the changing nature of American society is a threat to “their way of life,” meaning White Christian nationalism. Hence, for the Trump cult and many others, the death of democracy will be greeted with a yawn, if not a cheer.
You and Disperser make some critical points here. Another excellent commentator is Heather Cox Richardson, (HCR) a Boston College historian. (Letters from an American. https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/january-22-2022/comments).
But what USA -centric USA seem to forget (or totally fail to understand), that were the Trumpists to win, the global impact will be vast, and maybe irreversible. The Repubs will rapidly undo as many environmental constraints as possible – and this will have global effect. Which is why the continual media downplaying of Biden’s program is so disastrous (see HCR’s comment). Plus there are plenty of Governments in countries (including Australia) who would love to shift to a more totalitarian state – a Trumpian victory would encourage them.
I hear you but you seem to be suggesting that the media boost Biden in order that Trump not gain power. This would position mainstream news sources as the Left’s version of Fox News. This seems dangerous to me. I know the Right think that’s already the case but we gain nothing by turning their lies into truth.
You understated point 2 by implying that there are Woke voters that the Dems could alienate. There are approximately zero voters for whom strict adherence to Wokism is a make-or-break issue. It’s not remotely like, say, pro-life voters.
As for the threat to democracy, I’ll repeat what Paul Topping said, but in my own words. The point of raising these issues (including voting rights) is not to win swing voters, but to ensure that your voters actually get to decide anything.
At this point I will be shocked if the Democrats don’t lose hideously this year. An idea Andrew Yang had that I like (not UBI!!), is ranked choice voting. There has to be more flexibility in what political positions people can vote for. I’m firmly anti-Republican, but do not like a lot of what Democrats are doing. The inability to work together has resulted in some pretty insane things. We develop awesome vaccines and donate more than all other nations, but then we have some of the worst vaccination rates of developed countries on the planet. Also, inflation will reflect very poorly on Biden. And don’t forget that many prominent democrats want student loan debt completely cancelled. That is another $1.7 trillion.
As I read Jerry’s column and these comments this morning, I got an image of sitting on a beach in a peninsula while waves to the left and right of me recede quickly away, creating two competing tsunamis that will return to bury anyone still sitting in my spot. Yuk. The energy in both parties seems to be at the extreme opposite ends of the current American political spectrum. Since those extremes don’t represent the views of the folks in the middle, maybe those of us who sit here should eschew political teams and seek to support like minded people regardless of the political team with which they identify. While we head for higher ground. That’s the proposal of rational suzi. The news saturated, covid exhausted, emotional, senior citizen suzi asks, in blue America, why does my life matter less that of a person of color sharing the same risk factors I have to covid? In my country and state, access to the covid pill is seriously rationed and is based on a series of risk factors that may include being a person of color. So now we are getting into existential territory, basing life and possible death or serious illness decisions on an individual’s actual risk factors and possibly on an individual’s identification or nonidentification with a racial group other than white/Caucasian. I voted for Joe Biden but, despite intellectually knowing better, emotionally I feel that he and my blue state health officials don’t care whether people like me live or die. Simply because of my race. And, if the 2022 election were held today, the emotional suzi would be the one showing up to vote.
my reply to the question “How do Democrats not lose?”
Same applies to liberals, left or right. Be liberal.
Many years ago during the “Darwin Wars” which was documented by Ullica Segerstråle in the book Defenders of the Truth: The Sociobiology Debate, someone said (forgive me, I’m writing from memory. I will go try to look up the exact quote later) “Why can’t these Marxist’s just be honest?!”
Empirically, what it looks like to me is that a demographic perhaps three generations removed are repeating Lewontin, Rose (x2) and Gould’s arguments without even knowing who Lewontin, the two Roses or Gould were. I witnessed this first in the old Richard Dawkins forums in the 90s after the publication of The God Delusion. Atheists flocked to the forum believing they were now bonefide rationalist humanists. But they also called sociobiology and evolutionary psychology pseudo sciences, not realising Dawkins was a sociobiologist.
That was when I stared to get worried and created a forum called Darwinian Gender Studies in 2007 – after attending Helena Cronin’s seminars at LSE – because (and this was before I was invited to the Sexnet Listserve) there was NOWHERE you could parse these very important issues in public discourse.
That inability to intellectually parse those issues, via a kind of populism meme that Dawkins created with The God Delusion, was significant. Where was the culture war born? Perhaps then. And it depended on scientism, because as much as I respect Dawkins, The God Delusion was not science.
Since then, the culture war has become mega marketed; books, podcasts….
And Nero fiddled while Rome burned is the most acute diagnosis I can give right now. I’ve resisted making a Substack account and starting a blog myself because of this. I am actually in despair that none of the people who taught me critical thinking – Dawkins, Pinker, Haidt, Wright (R), etc – are now agnostic about principles if they clash with clicks and podcast invites to sell books. What is their legacy?
Similarly, organisations like the Heterodox Academy, FIRE and Counterpoint who have a hidden system re the criteria of who they help which, on observation, looks like they pick and choose the people they find either simpatico or are young/clueless enough to be groomed.
I’m not about to attempt a Jonathan Israel account of the complexities of the radical de-enlightenment. I’m not that talented. But I can see it’s happening. People aren’t being intellectually honest. People have lost themselves. The whole Enlightenment programme is on life support. But it’s not dead yet. I can’t revive it. I’m nobody. I’m willing one of you, those people who were the original defenders of the truth to inspire others. Or is legacy really now more about clicks than principles?
“Sullivan: ” . . . the teachers’ unions, whose refusal to teach children in person for two years is now legendary.”
I question that two years claim. Sounds like an indulgence in hyperbole. Is he projecting nationwide what’s happening in a couple of major cities?
Many schools have been in-person teaching for not a few months, and at least a plurality if not majority are short-staffed, not a little of which due to Covid infection. One occasionally reads of a school necessarily going virtual due to staff shortage caused by Covid infection (hopefully temporary once Covid infection subsides).
Many school systems are short on substitute teachers. Do these subs not darkening the school house door warrant Mr. Sullivan’s umbrage? Sounds like an excellent gig for Mr. Sullivan, except that it pays a pittance. Is that more than sufficient to wave him off? Too inconvenient to sub and do his writing gig? (John McWhorter seems to manage some multi-tasking, as do teachers who have offspring, and like Mr. Sullivan, a beloved pet to tend to.)
If teachers leave the profession to do something else (whether or not motivated by Covid stress to do so), are they to be righteously faulted by Mr. Sullivan? Whom do you expect to go into teaching, Mr. Sullivan?
As a retired high school teacher, I am SO very grateful that I don’t have to teach, either virtually or in-person or both during these trying times for all. I have so much respect for those still at it. Ontario is trying to get retired teachers to come back and sub…
We just heard from a friend who is a teacher on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi … she quit her job, forfeiting her pension, because it was too stressful; a combination of inconsistent COVID guidelines and little to no support for both remote and staggered in-classroom guidelines. She held for two years but she felt it was affecting both her physical and mental health.
Just an anecdote, and while I won’t hazard a guess as to how many others are at (or approaching) a breaking point, I don’t dare speak about others as if I know what they are going through, be they teachers, health care workers, or in any profession/job where the public seems to expect much more of them than said public is willing to endure.
Everyone has answers about things that don’t pertain to themselves. I’m lucky to be retired, but if I were in those situations, I don’t know what I would do.
Yes, Sullivan is exaggerating. However, he is quite right about what the teacher’s unions want. Type ‘NEA school reopening’ into Google and you see that the school reopening is not the top priority.