Friday, November 06, 2020

Next Steps


With the election of Joe Biden looking more and more certain every hour, the topic of discussion amongst my online community has turned toward the future of the Democratic Party. These conversations fall into two broad camps:

  • One group maintains that, in order to win elections, we have to be a more centrist or center-left party … no radical proposals, nothing earth-shaking, just an incremental approach toward progress.
  • The other group holds that, because of the fact that down-ballot races tended to swing progressive, it is time for the Democratic Party to adopt a more activist and liberal platform.

Both of these groups are right, and both are wrong ... and both of them overlook a very key point: that the Democrats have been abysmally bad at communicating what we are for.

Back in the day the Democratic Party was the party of the working class, the party of unions, and fair wages, and keeping the 1% in check, and a level playing field. And while we still stand for those things, we have been horribly bad at telling people we are in favor of these things. Instead of saying what we are for, we have allowed the Republican Party to put us on defense, forcing us to deny increasingly absurd accusations and thus taking time away from outlining our platform. If we are going to increase out majority, if we hope to regain the majority in the Senate, we have to completely revamp our messaging.

This is where we can actually learn from the GOP playbook. Say what you will about the Republican Party, say they are hopelessly corrupt, say they are in the pocket of billionaires and corporate America, say they are reactionary racists and misogynists, say they are enables of our worst impulses ... I forgot my point.

Oh, right.

Like 'em or loathe 'em, the Republicans have always been very good as message discipline. They have a platform, they have marching orders, and they go out and follow those orders to the letter. Granted, many of these orders are abominable -- using "religious liberty " as a shield to enact all manner of regressive policies, employing racist dog whistles, etc. -- but they are effective and efficient. We need to start employing this same message discipline, but on the side of good and light as opposed to evil and darkness (okay, a bit hyperbolic, but you get my point).

The best way to do this is to cop a move from Ronald Reagan's playbook. During the 1980 presidential debate against Jimmy Carter, Reagan ignored attacks by simply shaking his head and saying, in a rueful, kind voice, "There you go again." This completely delegitimized anything Carter said, and gave Reagan the rom to make his own points ... and, in the process, make attacks that forced Carter to rebut, thus taking time away from his message (seeing a pattern yet?) We need to simply dismiss any Republican attacks in this manner. Basically, ignoring them and moving on to what we want to say.

This is all well and good in the long term, but we have a more pressing need right now: retaking the Senate seats in Georgia.

Raphael Wornock and Jon Ossoff are facing runoff elections on January 5th against Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue respectively. These are winnable seats, but not if we double down on the strategy that failed us this time around. We no longer have the boogeyman in the White House as a convenient foil, so this means we have to give voters something substantive.

This means that Ossoff and Wornock have to articulate clear visions for what electing them to the Senate means for Georgians and for the country apart from "hey, at least we aren't those assholes." This can be anything from highlighting how the Democratic Party will protect health care for all, or competent handling of COVID, or making education more affordable, or cutting taxes on the working and middle classes, that sort of thing. The Republicans should not enter into our messaging until after we have made our points, and then only in the context of how they are trying to screw the average Joe out of everything they can get.

We also, and this is much tougher row to hoe, have to get the point across that just because people of color are getting more than they have in the past, this doesn't mean that white people are getting less. We need to highlight how increased equity -- in gender, in race, in sexual identity, in ethnicity -- benefits everybody, not just these marginalized people.

Finally, we need surrogates. Lots of 'em. And they need to be tailored not just to the message, but to the people to whom they will be delivering it. For example, to have Julian Castro speak to the LatinX community on behalf of Raphael Wornock, or Stacey Abrams to speak on behalf of Jon Ossoff to the African-American community. This approach will work not just in Georgia, but also nationwide.

See, it's not that Republicans appeal to more people -- they don't. An absurdly large number of studies have confirmed this. This is why the GOP has been pushing gerrymandering, voter suppression, etc. as strongly as they have ... they know they cannot win elections based solely on their agenda, as people have said time and again that they do not favor these things.

If we can do these things, we can pretty much guarantee a Democratic majority for the foreseeable future.

I gotta lie down.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2020

The Time Has Come


Well, it's election day. I've been laying quite low for a while for mental health reasons, but here we are. We are on track to have the highest voter turnout (as a percentage of the eligible population) since 1908.

What makes this especially impressive is the fact that, in 1908, the eligible population only consisted of white males. I mean, yeah, African-Americans ostensibly had the right to vote thanks to the 15th Amendment, but racism and Jim Crow put so many barriers in place to prevent it that I think there were roughly 73 black people who were actually allowed to vote.

Also, in 1908 the population of the United States was around 88 million, and there were only 46 states (Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Arizona had not yet been admitted to the Union and were still territories). The total number of votes cast was 14,889,239, or roughly 17% of the population of the United States at the time.

Today, Election Day 2020, around 3:30 PM Eastern, we have already seen over 100 million votes cast (out of 331 million people), or around 30% ... and there's still six or seven hours to go until polls close out West.

Whether you like 45 or dislike him (and I dislike him intensely, with a level of disdain and loathing I have never before felt in my life ... and I am not happy about this emotional poison at all), he has managed to get people to pay attention to the electoral process and its shortcomings, as well as many if the institutional flaws in our nation's government. There are some who maintain we should express some gratitude for this, and while I can understand the logic behind this sentiment I cannot in good conscience agree with it.

This is a man who, while the echoes of his oath of office were still reverberating off the sides of the Washington Monument, announced a ban of people of Muslim descent entering this country based solely on their religion. He then went on to lie to the American people over 30,000 times, kidnapped children away from their families with no plans for reunification, and exploded the deficit by giving tax breaks to his Wall Street cronies. All of which was bad enough, but then came COVID.

As of this writing, there are nearly 230,000 people dead as a result of the pandemic. We are ninth in the world in fatalities compared to total population (behind San Marino, Peru, Belgium, Andorra, Spain, Brazil, Chile, and Bolivia) with 237,636 (compared with such advanced societies such as Burundi, which has had one COVID fatality out of 12,007,734 people, or Vietnam (35 out of 97,635,833) or even the Democratic Republic of Congo (308 out of 90,459,807).

Hell, Papua New Guinea has had only 7 out of 9,003,821, and these are people who are descended from cannibals.

When some place like Somalia, with its internal strife and warring factions and kidnappings and murder and so on can get away with 104 out of 16,040,033 (0.00065%) while the United States, supposedly the most advanced country in the world, can't get below 0.07% (two orders of magnitude), then there is something seriously wrong. And this seriously wrong can be laid squarely at the feet of donald trump.

This is why I think he will lose, and lose big. Granted, he will do everything he can to avoid this, stooping to some pretty slimy tactics (Republicans in Harris County, TX trying to get 127,000 ballots form a heavily Democratic district thrown out on spurious grounds, for example, or insisting that the vote counts have to be completed by election night -- which has never happened in our country's history, not even once) to do so.

And despite all indicators pointing toward a rout of the GOP at all levels, you can bet that he will not go gently into that good night. There will be violence. There will be intimidation. There will be endless lawsuits and Constitutional trickery and shenanigans. And through it all he will be exhorting his followers to get into the streets and make life miserable for anyone who does not hew to this line.

So the trick here is to stay positive and keep hoping. With any luck we will get enough results tonight to point to a complete repudiation of all that the GOP has become in the past ten years. And, if we are really lucky, Mitch McConnell will also be sent packing, along with Lindsay Graham, Thom Tillis, Martha McSally, Joni Ernst, and all the other enablers he has cultivated on Capitol Hill.

And I will be smug and self-satisfied, and with any luck I will be able to get in some trumper's face and say "neener, neener, neener. You LOST. Just accept it" in the same condescending tone they have used on us for the past four years.

I gotta lie down.

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Next Steps

With the election of Joe Biden looking more and more certain every hour, the topic of discussion amongst my online community has turned to...