Democrats Are Losing The Thread

What with the self-sustaining tire fire that is Il Trumpe, it’s tempting to focus on Trump’s myriad gaffes and failings–they are amazing in a car-wreck sort of way. While they do need to be highlighted, I think Democrats are losing their way in all of this. Or, as we like to say, people have to like this crap.

For Democrats (and independent highly-likely Democrats), focusing on Trump’s flaws is appealing (to me as well). But that’s not what’s going to excite people. If you think back to the Democratic primary, Sanders really took off when he started promising that people would get good stuff if he were elected: a higher minimum wage, free public college tuition, better healthcare, an end to trade deals that historically have screwed the middle class, and so on. I don’t want to get into a policy argument about this, since we’re dealing with rhetoric, but those issue served him very well (I’ve made this point before, but many people over thirty, give or take, completely underestimated how critical Sanders’ college tuition stand was for drumming up support among the under thirty set).

Where Sanders went off the rails–and I say this as a Sanders supporter from day one–is when he started emphasizing corruption and revolution at the expense of the good stuff. There’s nothing wrong with noting how corruption leads to the absence of good stuff, but, too often, that link wasn’t being made, especially by his surrogates and followers.

Clinton, when she was focused on the historical nature of potentially being the first woman president and on her ‘competence’, didn’t do so well either. It was when she started talking about the concrete things her presidency would bring: Supreme Court justices, a higher minimum wage, her own college tuition plan, her child care plan (which she cribbed from Sanders), and so on, she started to regain her front runner position.

To be clear, I’m not arguing that Clinton should be talking in policy position language. And to her credit, Clinton herself is emphasizing her policy positions–because people have to like this crap. But her surrogates as well as ‘unaligned allies’ (pundits, bloggers, media personalities, etc.) aren’t doing this. Someone who views voting as a chore and hasn’t really been paying attention (and wants to pay as little attention as possible)–that is to say, most voters–need to hear clear messages about how they and those they care about will be better off with Clinton than Trump (not a hard argument to make in my opinion).

Democrats and those who might vote Democratic aren’t Palinists: they’re not looking solely for symbolism, but also for things that will make their (or others’) lives better in concrete ways. Democrats forget this at our peril.

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One Response to Democrats Are Losing The Thread

  1. Thank you for saying this, for posting this.

    The extreme divisiveness is the promoted culture.
    People are nasty to even people who would be their allies on many issues. With us or against us. It’s all or nothing.

    I’ve watched people alienate each other for no good reason.

    Like when the conversation is about monopoly power of comcast and pharmaceutical companies, and suddenly people are pushing anti-vaccination and anti-GMO stuff.
    Or a conversation about complaints about the US health care system someone starts a Clinton vs Sanders muck fest with name calling.
    Or the union that ticked off a bunch of its members by endorsing Hillary Clinton without so much as a member survey. It’s not just Bernie Sanders supporters who have a problem with that. There are right-leaning union members who particularly dislike Clinton.
    Or then you have so-called liberal anti-racist Democrats personally disparaging poor white people in a way that sounds really kind of judgemental of the exact people they purport to be supportive.
    Or the LGBT organization that took up the cause of opposing Israel for whatever reason and obviously pro-Israel Jewish gay people have a problem with that.
    Or apparently recently there was also some anti-Israel stuff at some Black Lives Matters demonstration and that was alienating to Jewish people who are anti-racist. And then inevitably someone has to say that there are anti-semetic African Americans that exist, as if that’s a relevant or helpful comment.

    And this is how solidarity is broken and we are divided and conquered.

    I have come in contact with a lot of people, as it happens, who have been in a position where they have wanted to explain to me why they’re not interested in voting. And the #1 reason people volunteer as to why is because of the negativity, they feel they don’t have time to get involved in “all that craziness & hostility”.

    It’s like the article in the New Yorker recently about paid trolls:
    “The real effect, the Russian activists told me, was not to brainwash readers but to overwhelm social media with a flood of fake content, seeding doubt and paranoia, and destroying the possibility of using the Internet as a democratic space.
    “The point is to spoil it, to create the atmosphere of hate, to make it so stinky that normal people won’t want to touch it,” the opposition activist Leonid Volkov told me.”

    What a terrible thing for democracy if the most busy and most sane people choose not to pay attention for their own well-being & survival…
    It’s a terrible catch 22.

    The cult of personality is not a viable substitute for substantial policy issue promotion.
    Negative campaigning is not an acceptable replacement for actually standing up for something.

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