The Conundrum Professional Democrats Face

Because this time, they promise it will be different. Paul Waldman sort of gets at, yet misses a very important power dynamic (boldface mine):

Here’s the political dilemma they find themselves in: Although tackling difficult problems and passing legislation won’t ever guarantee victory for a party, not doing so almost certainly guarantees defeat. Delivering for the voters is the necessary but not sufficient condition for success.

What happens when legislation fails? Your supporters grow disenchanted and demoralized, just as Democratic voters are becoming now. They feel unmotivated to organize and turn out to vote. And it doesn’t help when all they see from their own representatives are complaints about what a bunch of failures Democrats are.

President Biden hasn’t been much help, either. His first impulse is to reach out to the other side, but even when he doesn’t — as with the aggressive speech he gave on voting rights in Atlanta — it can come at a moment when defeat is already upon him.

And here’s a truth Democrats have trouble articulating, especially when they’re so worried that the odor of futility might be hanging on them: The boring, uninspiring answer to all these problems is to simply elect more Democrats.

If Democrats had an extra couple of senators (along with keeping the House), Manchin and Sinema would no longer hold the balance of power; the party could reform the filibuster, pass voting rights legislation, pass the BBB bill and do a bunch more besides. It’s as simple as that.

But it’s hard to say to your supporters, “I know we didn’t give you what we said we would, but if you just turn out for one more election, I promise we’ll deliver next time!” It sounds weak, and doesn’t fit with the widespread (but incorrect) belief that success in politics is just a matter of will.

The problem is this is not the first time Democratic politicians and their apparatchiks have had to say this. I have heard this argument my entire adult life–and I am not young at all–and it’s always an ‘n+2’ argument: Democrats need a couple more senators than they currently have in order to pass good legislation. Yes, maybe we’ll get voting rights passed, but how many more senators do we need for a $15/hour minimum wage? And on, and on, and on… So there are a lot of Democratic rank-and-filers who, while they might vote, aren’t very motivated to do much else. At some point, there have to be multiple displays of good intentions.

The only path I see is to break the items that won’t pass anyway due to the filibuster into smaller bills, and force votes on them, then use this in the election to run against ‘do nothing Republican senators who want to deny you nice stuff’–and ‘the nice stuff’ must include a $15/hour minimum wage, if Democrats want to maintain Warnock’s seat. Of course, this would mean more than a few Democratic senators would have to take hard votes, which is to say, piss off their big donors.

But senate Democrats won’t do this anyway, so instead, they’ll likely lose and blame ‘the left.’

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3 Responses to The Conundrum Professional Democrats Face

  1. Bern says:

    The model for “Insert more Democrats here” is California. So we know it works, more or less…

  2. jrs says:

    And then even when they have complete control, as on the state level in some blue states like California, Dems are so disappointing. Maybe not as bad as Reps? Okay, yes, but altogether mediocre. That’s really the strongest argument there is against more Dems being the answer. And I find it quite strong. Even if states have less power than the Fed government, they aren’t powerless.

    Because unless we look at the state level examples, the “more Dems is the answer” claim, is almost an un-falsifiable claim. There is almost no way to prove it true or false either way. We always need a number of Dems that we don’t have, and so who knows what the counterfactual might be. And it gets even harder to elect more Dems as voting rights are taking away while Dems control the Federal government and look on. The claim becomes more un-falsifiable. We hardly even have the right to vote, we have a radically biased political system that gives Reps vastly more power than their numbers, but somehow we should by some miracle elect more Dems as we lose voting rights.

    So convince me it’s not all a giant racket? A marketing plan, PR, for Dems to give some answer for why they exist. I mean they really exist because we have a garbage 2 party political system where one party is so far right and nutty that there is a marketing niche for anything that is not them. But they have to pretend they exist because they actually stand for much besides being a smidge less bad than Republicans. People have effectively almost no power by voting. It’s NOT irrational to still vote for the lesser evil in primaries and generals of course, but don’t expect anyone to feel empowered by it, rather than just: “gotta vote, like I have to go to the dentists, or fill out my tax forms, or be stuck in traffic to get to work. One may have to do it but …. IT SUCKS!!!!”.

    And we have 40 years of things getting worse for everyone but the rich, with either political party in power, and we’re still what, waiting for godot. 40 years is “not enough time”. Why should anyone care about politics then? 40 years is a working lifetime!!! Anyone motivated to put in decades of work for political change that only their grandchildren might see, is probably going to choose to work for a vision more inspiring than the watered down policies of the Dem party, even if the Dem party is occasionally instrumentally useful, and even if they are the lesser evil in the voting booth.

  3. Phaedrus says:

    I think there are two points :
    1. Agree completely that Dems find a way to fail (see Lieberman) to the point that a reasonable person would say that they don’t really want the things they promise, they just say those things to get our vote. The newest example is how the progressives smartly linked bill passage because they didn’t trust Dem leadership and rank and file, caught holy hell from dem institutions and finally caved, and sure enough Dems didn’t follow through and pass both bills. Dems find a way to pass the things they want, and kill the things they don’t.
    2. Even if get our Democratic super majority and they pass everything they say, we end up with a society built for the rich, destined to burn from warming as we have forever wars sparkling around the globe. Obligatory #RepublicansAreWorse, but, sweet jesus, we have some real problems and even the best Dem solutions don’t really address them.

    So, yeah, being told to “clap louder, lefty, or it’s all your fault” grew old a long time ago. That the Obama’s consider George Bush a friend, and the Clintons take advice from Kissinger should be all the evidence anyone needs to show how corrupt the Dems are (#RepublicansAreWorse).

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