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Democrats Will Not Save Us

Democrats Will Not Save Us

After the Republican National Convention last July, I resigned my position as a local GOP precinct committeeman. I spent nearly three decades voting and volunteering for Republicans in Texas and then Illinois. My reasons for becoming a Republican have not changed, though the party has abandoned those values. I still have far more faith in commerce and business as tools for public good than in the influence of a central government. If anything, the elevation of a man like Donald Trump to the presidency merely reinforces my belief in the merits of markets and my suspicion of concentrated government power.

I find myself voting for Democrats as a defensive measure, but I will not be joining that party. There is no longer a major political party in America that shares my values.

Forces of bigotry, authoritarianism, and outright delusion that haunted the margins of the Republican Party in my youth now occupy the center, dictating every party position. Nothing remains of America’s party of commerce and free enterprise but a few tired slogans. Thanks in large part to a generation-long party switch by Southern conservatives who brought their small-minded bigotries with them, the Republicans are now irrevocably America’s White Nationalist Party. We have fought wars to rid foreign countries of political forces less toxic than today’s GOP. Decent people clinging to the Republican Party increasingly reek of cowardice and complicity, as every day brings a new moral outrage they must either ignore or embrace. Remaining a Republican is a moral compromise beyond defense.

For all its problems, there remains space in the Democratic Party for basic human decency, scientific realities, and the empathy essential to sustain civil society. Preserving the republic through this miserable moment means defeating Republican politicians wherever possible. But what comes after that? If voters from all over the spectrum unite to push the Republican Party out of power, what vision for the future will we embrace? Absent such a vision, Republicans facing electoral disaster need only wait for another swing of the pendulum to recover power. The Democratic Party does not have such a vision. It can’t. The structure of our partisan system makes innovation extremely difficult.

Democrats may create more room for sanity than Republicans, but they are no more aware of America’s changing needs. Just like the Republicans, Democrats are selling nostalgia. Powerful unions, high income taxes, an enormous and ever-expanding federal bureaucracy, they are forever recycling a New Deal agenda. Our two major parties are the political equivalent of rentiers, squeezing the last drops of value from a rapidly depreciating asset. No force in our system presses them to adapt.

Our two-party system protects each organization from the risk of failure that would otherwise drive innovation. With a large, geographically dispersed, culturally diverse public trapped between only two options, neither party can grow beyond a certain size and neither party has room to collapse. Both parties enjoy a guaranteed floor of support regardless how irresponsible or dysfunctional they become. Like a Hollywood studio churning out their 547th remake of Spiderman, neither party needs to risk their capital on a new script.

George W. Bush should have been our warning of unsustainable partisan dysfunction. A presidential administration cannot possibly be more measurably, empirically disastrous than Bush II. Republicans, no matter how good-hearted, intelligent, or insightful could not halt his rise or blunt his administration’s catastrophic decisions. Democrats, despite a rising tide of disasters, never formulated any convincing alternative to his agenda. By the end of his administration we were mired in multiple losing wars and facing economic collapse on a scale that threatened the survival of the global financial system. In response, Democrats continued to occupy the same political space they’d held for thirty years, waiting for the political pendulum to swing back in their direction.

The Obama administration was never more than a political janitor that swept away the broken glass and mopped up the blood. Possessing veto-proof power for two years, their only major achievement was to pass a health care plan formulated by conservatives and originally signed into state law by Republican Governor Mitt Romney. Handed the power to remake America’s political and economic landscape, they did virtually nothing.

Having utterly ignored the warnings of the Bush II Era, now we get Donald Trump. In response, Democrats are simply replaying the script from the Bush II years, waiting for their turn to once again occupy better office space. Our political status quo is unsustainable. We will not continue to be trapped under two sclerotic political parties. As commentator David Frum once pointed out, “Things can always get worse.” If we fail to achieve some broader form of political representation, our system will continue to careen between Republican insanity and intermittent Democratic patch-work until something breaks.

French voters, threatened with the possibility that their next government might be led either by Neo-Communists or Fascists, achieved a feat that would be nearly impossible in our system. In the spring of 2016, an entirely new centrist political party emerged. Barely a year later, their candidate won the presidency with two-thirds of the vote. They then swept the National Assembly.

Our system blocks this kind of third-party political adaptation, but it is possible to achieve something similar without changing our election laws. In fact, our government already incorporates features of a parliamentary system. There is an opportunity hiding in the structure of our system that could create space for political sub-parties, distinct institutions that could negotiate legislative coalitions.

Congress today is arguably being led by a European-style Prime Minister. A Republican faction, or sub-party, calling itself the Freedom Caucus, deposed our previous Speaker of the House and negotiated to select a new one. What prevents coalitions of like-minded Democrats and Republicans from building similar sub-party coalitions across existing party lines? Nothing more than a failure of imagination.

Our national ideological divide is a myth. Solid electoral majorities exist in favor of sensible policies to fight carbon pollution, create a universal health care system, tighten gun regulations, and dozens of other overdue 21st century reforms. These steps are being blocked by partisan gridlock, not public gridlock. It makes no sense whatsoever for Republican Senators like Ben Sasse and Susan Collins to be forever trapped defending and promoting a policy agenda embraced by Ted Cruz or Tom Cotton. They are casualties of an antiquated partisan duopoly that locks them into irrelevance while cancelling the will of their voters. Our present system awards control to the noisiest, most obnoxious, and increasingly the most cultish forces in our system. Anyone who pauses to consider subtleties or consequences is neutralized.

A change as modest as sub-partisan collaboration could break our legislative logjam and isolate extremists. Making sub-parties effective would require a combination of precinct-level organization and legislative cooperation. Candidates and officials might come to identify themselves more by their sub-label than by their party affiliation. Urban-Republicans, Suburban-Democrats, or unhyphenated identities like the Freedom Caucus might exist under the already weakened infrastructure umbrella of the existing parties. Their power could force leadership and legislation to be built on a broader foundation of ideological compromise, larger than each party.

Donald Trump is a symptom, not a disease. Our existing political infrastructure distorts public will, stifling democratic processes. Pressing our elected leaders into coalition-style arrangements could give our politics the flexibility of parliamentary systems without waiting for changes in election rules. Someday Donald Trump will be gone. If the dysfunction that created him remains unacknowledged and unaddressed, he will be replaced by something worse.


  1. Democrats may not save us but they may provide critical space for America to find its center again. The slash and burn/secret processes implemented by Republicans to present a Health Care Bill as a fait-au-complit, take it or leave it piece of legislation, has exposed the tyranny of this approach. It appears Republicans may not only not save us, they are trying to destroy us.

    The fat lady hasn’t sung on health care repeal and replacement, but there are many other nefarious (yet legal) ways to achieve that goal through design. “Let it die,” says President Trump. The irony of this vindictive, small statement is that those who “will die” are real people. Is political success so important that the loss of human lives is acceptable?

    The 2018 Budget has been revealed. Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security are all impacted. Republicans are planning to use the 50-vote Reconcilliation process to pass this monster budget – once again having concocted their plan in stealth, ramming it through with little input from those pesky Democrats, and onwards to the Senate and Potus’ small hand. But, there may be more than the obvious problems with this all too similar controlling tactic. And, it involves Democrats – the ones who will not save us…..Apparently, Democrats may be our only hope for preserving any shred of our Democratic process. I will watch this process unfold with great interest….balanced budgets are a “thing” for conservatives until it’s “their” budget. Stay tuned.

  2. “The Obama administration was never more than a political janitor that swept away the broken glass and mopped up the blood.”

    Yeah, that was a lot of blood. Complete economic breakdown? Terrorist attack that killed thousands? Several failed wars? Horrifying response ot natural disasters? All during W. And more.

    Obama successfully reined in our idiocy for 8 years, without as much scandal as Trumo had in literally his first week in office. Obama was preventing this bullshit from happening sooner. Does the name “Sarah Palin” ring a bell? And “doing nothing” isn’t a bad thing, if you rephrase it as “maintaining stability”. This is the literal definition of conservatism. If the Obama years don’t satisfy you, you’re not a conservative. I would add, however, that Obama allowed the culture and society to develop in positive directions without getting in the way. (Gay marriage, solar/wind, etc.) The incremental progress on climate change. And, like, not alienating every single one of our allies. We’re the most prosperou, free-est society to ever exist– we don’t need to do much. Let’s settle down and stop pretending like we’re in any crisis that isn’t that Republicans are racist psychos with an inferiority complex.

    I do agree that the Democrats dont seem to yet have a strong alternative strategy or candidate, and also that the signs of illiberalism on the left are not heartening. But let’s not deceive ourselves with the silly false equivalency. Some boots-on-the-ground-perspective: I live in New York City, liberalest of liberal strongholds, and last week, my neighbor, some Trumpy white psycho, was screaming horrifying epithets across the street at this guy, whilst trying to assault him for no other reason than he was drunk and the guy was black. It was awful. This is the **real** problem. The white baby boomers are just out of their minds. It seems like all of this rage and callousness is cauing them to want to destroy our society, in spite of our unprecedented peace and prosperity.

    The Democrats are not feeding this fire. It’s that simple.

    1. It’s hard to stop dinging Democrats just because your party has been exposed. Your points are valid, including the dysfunction of the Democratic leadership. As time has passed and I have reflected upon the Obama administration more objectively, I see more failings – more of ommission rather than commission, but things that should have been dealt with differently. Yet, President Obama was an honorable, good man who served at an incredibly difficult time in history (instead of broken glass, think “broken lives” from the Great Recession he inherited), and served with dignity. One may not “like” him but they can respect what he achieved under arduous circumstances.

      All of the achievements you note in your post plus stabilization of America’s economy surely is worth more than comparing him to a political janitor sweeping up broken glass and blood. When we talk about why racism and stigma continues, we should all watch our words. Too often they conflict with what we say we stand for.

    1. Leaving is the Republican version of wearing a pink knitted hat. It means nothing if they don’t vote against the GOP at any or all opportunity.

      It’s a special kind of cowardice to say you’re against something, but not vote in alignment of that decision. The GOP needs to wither so it can either be revitalized or die so something better can take its place. Conservatives need a party, but this isn’t a conservative party. It’s just a pile of destructive dementia and partisan hatred at this point, acting out of spite and openly ignoring the principles of accountability and responsibility they once championed.

      1. And I say that as an independent and centrist. This country needs to return to bipartisanship, and do so soon and in earnest. Many fear that we’re the closest we’ve been to a civil war in centuries, and we’ve already had one partisan shooting on the fringe.

        It would be novel if a new conservative party showed up to play, giving up the failed policies and attitudes of the GOP in favor of focusing on fact-based solutions that work rather than partisan contrarianism. The Dem’s are spread thin, and there’s ground to be taken from them politically and still uphold conservative principles. I say novel, because it’s a concept that is definitely more fiction than nonfiction right now.

  3. This current situation would be easier to deal with if Dems had done the right thing in the 90s and forced Mr. Clinton to resign. I say this in the warm glow of retrospect, at the time I was tired of the endless fake investigations and an inability to see the consequences. Now a lack of honor comes back to roost with an awfully hard landing.

    1. Can’t go along with that. I’d classify what Bill Clinton was impeached for as a low crime at best. He was re-elected with full knowledge of what he had done, and supported by majorities in polls, so the House couldn’t claim to be following the will of the people. And what is happening now isn’t a problem of honor, it’s a problem of conflict of interest and obstruction of justice. Those are offenses against the public interest, and a different level of problem than lying about an affair. (I suspect there’s more to come out, possibly something like money laundering, but that’s to be seen.)

      Trump will not be removed from office unless the Republicans decide to do it. In the circumstances, I’m kinda ok with that. Democrats shouldn’t stand in the way of Trump being impeached and convicted, but R’s need to do the heavy work. And the only way they’ll do that is if Trump’s problems start to threaten their re-election prospects.

      1. Creigh, your comment is correct at the present time. However, if the D’s take both houses in 2018, what would your comment be then? Insofar, as the present, I have yet to see any developments that would change my previous assessment of the willingness of the Republicans to impeaching and convicting Trump or to invoke Amendment 25. I’ve previously discussed that and the problem is the 2/3 supermajority required by the Constitution for conviction.

        There may be a possibility of a high level delegation from Congress visiting the White House as happened with Nixon, if they are convinced that they will be swept from the majorities in both Houses. Remember that the worst case scenario in the Senate, the Republicans would still have 44 seats in the Senate, enough to preclude conviction. As long as Ryan sees any possibility of getting his program through and McConnell sees any possibility of maintaining power, the Republican leadership will do nothing.

        There is also the possibility of the Trump family fleeing to Moscow as was discussed in this forum several weeks ago.

      2. Tm, I’m pretty skeptical of the impeachment route in general. Putting on my originalist hat, it seems to be a mechanism by which people can undo an election when necessary, but it’s going to be really divisive. And then of course it would just put Mike Pence in the presidency. I think if D’s control both houses but without 67 votes in the Senate, just use the budget process and other institutional methods to put Trump on a really short leash.

  4. Completely unrelated to the thread here, but a question I find most pressing: Did the kid, the son-in-law, and the campaign manager break any laws meeting that russian national?

    I know it is sleazy and unethical, which makes it modus operandi for this regime, but were any laws broken? I don’t know the laws well enough, but I do know that if no laws were broken the House and the Senate will do nothing.

    1. Zack Beauchamp wrote:
      “the problem is that federal campaign finance law states that it is illegal to receive or solicit anything of value from a foreign national to aid a campaign. And according to legal experts he interviewed, Trump Jr. may have run afoul of the law merely by soliciting this information from a foreign source — even if he didn’t get anything in the end.”

      Complete story and quote:

  5. If the Republican Party can change to abandon principle, value, and independence for power, dominance, and loyalty, then the Democratic party is just as pliable.

    Failure to participate in negotiation is a failure to represent your values. If Republicans abandon the GOP’s descent into dementia, they need to negotiate with Democratic candidates, offering votes and terms. To continue to vote Republican support this anti-intellectualism and salted-earth politics, and to be silent is to be complicit.

    Make no mistake: Be prepared to offer your best, practical solutions to problems, and Democratic candidates will listen, now more than ever. You will not, nor should ever get even half of you want in exchange for a vote, but you do get to negotiate on the value and merits of why you vote and your expectations that come with it. This is the free market of ideas. Trade. Negotiate.

    1. Unmistakable, mass defections turning over local government back over to the Democrats will either scare the GOP straight, or scare them stupid. Both are better than the current situation. This shouldn’t be an unconditional benefit for the Democratic candidates.

      Important thing to remember about Democrats is that managing their demographic is like herding disinterested cats. Even a small, moderate conservative ‘rank and file’ offers a lot more value for the effort.

      1. Cats are extremely easy to herd. You just rattle the food bowl and then walk to where you want them to go.

        I know that’s not the point you’re making but the expanded metaphor should be how politicians think of demographies. Figure out what the hell people seem interested in having, and then work out ways to get them those things. For the most part politicians seem to do the inverse: try to figure out ways of getting people to vote for what the politicians want to do.

        Something something special interests, lobbyists, and so forth but I also just think pure ideological posing is also part of the problem. Hard to figure out an effective way of governing when you’re more concerned about being conservativier-than-thou for primaries.

      2. Actually, it’s an apt comparison, but you need some food to rattle. The point mostly being, Republicans are generally far more willing to commit to a purpose and vote. Democrats have to be baited to the polls.

        The idea is that if we don’t start injecting more moderate positions, policies, or, I dare say, ‘centrist’ policies, this thing is going to go off the rails hard. This country cannot function as a manic-schizophrenic one-party system under such polarized conditions. We’re matching the recipe for a civil war with every heavy swing.

  6. Lots of good stuff here! My thoughts:

    1) I actually think we had more of a parliamentary system in the past than we do now. The Republican and Democratic parties were never ideologically cohesive. They were largely coalitions of various regions, but with significant ideologies within them. That’s why you had guys like the Blue Dog Dems (centrist / conservative Dems), and the Rockefeller Republicans. While they generally voted for their own party’s nomination for Speaker, other than that, they had a lot of leeway to vote against their party line. Indeed, plenty of Speakers (not to mention cmte chairmen) put together coalitions from across parties to pass legislation.

    Heck, as recently as 2000, the Dems, while pro-choice, specifically included a statement of inclusion in their official platform that they respect and welcome members who are pro-life. While that may just be rhetoric, it was a significant nod to ideological diversity.

    This started decreasing when Newt Gingrich made the House more partisan, and came to a crashing halt with the implementation of the odious “Hastert” rule (a bill can only be passed with a majority of the majority party, i.e. no bill will be brought for consideration that depends on minority votes to pass, even if it could actually pass with them). I don’t bring this up to blame Repubs (although I do blame them :-), but merely to suggest that the progress you see looks a lot like regression to me… If we want to reverse that course, we need to see what prevents party members from crossing lines on votes these days.

    2) Call this paragraph the defense of patronage :-). I think you would say that parties (especially the dems) were less ideologically rigid before because they were primarily based on patronage, especially in big city machines. If so, maybe patronage isn’t so bad after all… If the price for national policy progress is that a bunch of connected guys get sweet gigs driving city buses, maybe that’s a worthy price.

    I will point out that IMHO it’s no accident that Obama (or Carol Mosely Braun, or Harold Washington for that matter) rose from one of the last remaining democratic machines. Patronage doesn’t care about ideology or race. It cares about counting votes and distributing spoils. Numerous ethnic groups (e.g. Irish, Poles, Germans in early Chicago, later African Americans and now Hispanics) learned that you can advance despite whatever racism there may be by harnessing patronage and understanding how to leverage the machine. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing?

    3) I think you underestimate the ability of American parties to change rapidly. Just because they’re still called Dems or Repubs doesn’t mean they don’t change. LBJ famously changed the course of the Democratic party in a single term. It took a couple of decades for the transition to be complete, but the initial change is no less stunning than what happened in France.

    Similarly, the Democratic party of Bill Clinton in 1992 is far different than the Democratic party of Mondale or even Dukakis in 1988. Their standard bearer went from a liberal New England’er who campaigned on a traditional Democratic platform of higher taxes & spending, to a candidate that said the era of big government is over. That’s a difference in a single election, and one totally unexpected, since Bill Clinton was a little-known governor from Arkansas who only won because the Democratic big guns didn’t want to take on a popular wartime President. The fact that the new party was still called the Democratic party doesn’t diminish the extent and speed of its transformation.

    While the Republican party transformation has been a disaster, the Dems’ transition in 1992 created a far more flexible (policy-wise) party, with less rigid adherence to old party doctrine, that was able to respond quite well to the rapid changes in the economy, foreign policy, and science (i.e. the internet) that occurred then. (I realize that’s an overly rosy view; I wouldn’t be a Bernie supporter if I didn’t have an issue with some of their changes! But even I like Bill 🙂

    4) It may still make your skin crawl but you really should give the Democratic party a chance! You’re so focused on the Bernie hordes storming the gates, you forget that we lost (fair and square, IMHO). Hillary was not a corporate shill or Wall St. lackey like some people believed, but there’s no doubt that the democratic establishment is lukewarm on unions (they still like their political contributions, but it’s telling that Obama never tried to pass card check when he had a supermajority in Congress), fully embrace trade, understand the automation revolution coming from “their guys” in Silicon Valley, believe in an internationalist foreign policy, etc. etc. The difference between your belief in the free markets and theirs is a matter of degree, not a matter of kind. And that’s where healthy debate begins. The only part that I’m personally worried about is the focus on identity politics over the universal issues we all face like the economy.

    Anyway, I guess my summary is that parties do change rapidly in America, but if anything, their ideological rigidness is increasing, not decreasing these days, and that today’s establishment Democratic party is a lot closer to your views than you realize. This ain’t FDR’s party no more (Not when a Democrat repeals Glass-Steagall).

    1. >] “1) I actually think we had more of a parliamentary system in the past than we do now. The Republican and Democratic parties were never ideologically cohesive. They were largely coalitions of various regions, but with significant ideologies within them. That’s why you had guys like the Blue Dog Dems (centrist / conservative Dems), and the Rockefeller Republicans. While they generally voted for their own party’s nomination for Speaker, other than that, they had a lot of leeway to vote against their party line. Indeed, plenty of Speakers (not to mention cmte chairmen) put together coalitions from across parties to pass legislation.

      In a weird kind of way, we’ve never really stopped having a psuedo-parliamentary system, it’s just that we’ve gotten a whole lot better at hiding it. Republicans are hopelessly divided amongst moderates, conservatives, uber-conservatives, neo-conservatives, self-described libertarians, etc, etc, etc. Granted, they’re an absolute clusterf*** that can’t so much as pass a street sign, but you get the point.

      Democrats are much the same way, it’s just that because their political numbers have shrunk so dramatically, it’s harder to see on the surface. If they regain a majority in Congress, it would obviously become much more apparent.

      That aside, there’s really nothing of substance holding our two political parties together anymore. That obscene lacking is, in part, what helped the Orange Menace steamroll the both of them and crush them underfoot. It’s also why the number of Independents has skyrocketed in recent years, outnumbering both Republicans and Democrats.

      People are hungry for alternatives, and eventually something’s going to break. If it’s not offered to them, then they’ll make it on their own. I honestly believe we’re a whole lot closer to a new political order than some might think. It might take a few years, but the dam’s close to breaking.

  7. This excellent article ( discusses a meeting of five Democratic senators from red states up for re-election in 2018, decrying “the lack of a “clarion message about the economy with an appeal to all 50 states.” The article discusses in embarrassing detail the lack of a response on the part of the five senators, or the complete lack of even an understanding of how economic policies embraced by both parties have completely neglected the interests of the working class. The article concludes with the following recommended approach, which has been the University of Missouri (Kansas City)’s long-standing proposal for both party’s economic policy:

    “Our party stands for full employment at all times. We will make the federal government the guaranteed employer of last resort for every American able and wanting to work. We recognize that the United States has a sovereign currency and can always afford to ensure full employment. We recognize that austerity typically constitutes economic malpractice and is never a valid excuse for rejecting full employment. The myth that we help our grandchildren by consigning their grandparents and parents to unemployment is obscene. The opposite is true.”

    1. It seems to me that there may be a deeply disturbing flaw in Democratic messaging that will only get worse as the party starts processing the message of the Bernie-folks. Thing is, people don’t actually WANT the Dems’ solutions. A Republican approach to economic problems (with the exception of health care) is what people actually want.

      People want to be left alone to the greatest degree possible. They don’t want their government to give them a job. They want to live in an economy in which they can create their own way. They (rightly) equate much of the Democratic agenda with a deeply unwelcome form of dependency on government – and then by extension –
      politics. For the most part, voters do not want that.

      Bill Clinton was more popular than Walter Mondale for some very good reasons that extend beyond personality. Clinton embraced the post-Reagan economic order, currently derided as neo-liberal. Things haven’t changed, in that this neo-liberal order remains what people want to live in. Yes, they may complain about the disappearance of factory jobs, etc, but when you probe you discover that their sense of independence remains. They want jobs, but they don’t want elected officials to control those jobs.

      This attempt to return to Democratic paternalism is going to backfire. It isn’t what voters want. They want prosperity coupled with independence, and they are willing to give up far more prosperity than most Democrats realize in exchange for that sense of independence.

      1. I don’t want dependency on the government either, but I don’t see any possibility of jobs coming back depending on free markets either. Recent history is pretty clear on that.

        I believe a job guarantee would actually turn out to be a much smaller program than most realize. Putting unemployed people to work and paying them would stimulate demand, and force the private sector to expand to meet that demand.

        Chris, you’ve advocated for a UBI. Are you going to argue that’s not dependency?

      2. >] Are you going to argue that’s not dependency?

        No more than Social Security is, and it’s the single most popular social program in America. Chris isn’t wrong when he says that people want independence, and so the answer is simple. You create a program where every single American has a buy-in and a stake in it, giving them a sense of ownership over it. To illustrate that point, FDR lays it out quite simply:

        We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a moral, legal, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my Social Security program.”

        One need only look at the result. Would any remotely successful politician dare raise their hand against Social Security today? Exactly.

        A basic income would go to all the people, and so the people collectively would pay for it and own it.

      3. Chris, I have a question for you. Assuming your opinion of what people want from the gov’t is accurate, what makes the American populace different than the rest of the world, at least the majority of developed nations.

        Look at the G7. Is there a nation in that group that has a economic/ political climate as right-wing and hands-off as the U.S? In general, the citizens of those countries seem pretty happy, compared to the U.S. (Yes, I recognize the counter to that statement with Brexit). What is different between an American and say, a Canadian, or a German, when it comes to their views of what a gov’t should do for them?

        BTW, all other G7 countries find profiting from sick people just wrong, and find the concept of global warming deniers both laughable and terrifying.

      4. Chris-
        I don’t disagree with you here. In fact, you changed my thinking in your articles about why white people don’t like Democrats whose only response to their losing a job is that they’re free to go on welfare. So I agree that people would rather have a real job than a govt. handout.

        But I do think part of this is successful marketing by Republicans. And not just slogans. A tax cut is economically no different than a spending increase. But it hides your dependence on govt handouts. As you mention, middle class health insurance is far more subsidized than poor people’s, since we spend more on the corporate health insurance tax deduction than on medicaid. Yet since one is a hidden tax deduction and one is overt govt spending, the former is hidden. While Republicans decry spending programs that implement social policy, they have no problem using tax cuts to do the same (marriage tax deduction, child care and education tax credits, home mortgage deduction, etc.).

        As a result, IMHO, Americans like to delude themselves into thinking that they’re free spirit cowboys (one of the most subsidized jobs in existence) but do you really think Americans want their health insurance tax deduction, their home mortgage interest deduction, their subsidized mortgage interest rates (thank you Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, which had to be bailed out with >$100bil in 2008) to go away in the name of being independent of the government? How much of that prosperity are they truly willing to give up in the name of independence? The truth is, the average American is suspicious of a govt program only until they start benefiting from it, at which point, you can’t pry it away (witness Obamacare).

        (Incidentally, that’s George Will’s criticism of creating new govt programs. I understand his POV, but it doesn’t speak highly of Americans choosing independence over a govt program).

      5. “A tax cut is economically no different than a spending increase. But it hides your dependence on govt handouts. ”

        Yes yes yes.

        Republicans learned how to dole out favors without making them look like patronage. Medicare and SS, for example, are very popular. They are structured to appear as though they are “earned.”

        Democrats are still trapped in an antique mode in which you WANT to tout your patronage influence. People don’t like that anymore. They still want free stuff from the govt, but they don’t want to feel obliged about it.

        It’s sick and weird, but it’s modern America. Once you learn the language, it almost feels like it makes sense.

      6. 1) I’m talking about messaging more than substance, though the closer the two track each other the powerful the messaging. Americans want to be left alone. They do not want to perceive that they owe their job or anything else to the govt (or their brother in law, or anyone else).

        2) That “left alone” concept is part of the appeal of a (properly marketed), and universal, basic income.

        3) Yes, Americans are radically different from our European brethren, and even more radically different from our brethren in East Asia, in what we think we want from govt. We were founded on a violently anti-authoritarian ethic. Our heritage of slavery and racial oppression then wove a very perverse strand of govt distrust into our national fabric that remains prominent today.

        4) Patronage is dead in the US as a lever for broad political control. Francis Fukuyama devoted half of a (very long) book to this idea. Basically, people reach a level of affluence beyond which they just become too difficult to bribe. On that note, median incomes in the US are running almost 40% beyond France & the UK. Roughly 30% higher than in Germany. They are about to start passing the same threshold. Note that Macron’s first order of business has been an attack on the power of French labor unions.

        5) I need Democrats to start winning some elections, even if I don’t particularly want to see them implementing their plans. I’m rooting for you guys, but there’s some issues with this program. I really think that this old-fashioned business of just coming up with new stuff to offer people just isn’t going to get it done anymore. Beyond healthcare (which truly needs govt involvement), you just got nothing. There has to be something else out there. Perhaps by rethinking the messaging, you could package concepts like a basic income and universal health care in ways that seemed less intrusive and frightening. Also, by starting with the messaging, the plans themselves might change to better fit what works.

        Anyway, the entire comments string on this post has been remarkable. Love this place.

      7. >] “5) I need Democrats to start winning some elections, even if I don’t particularly want to see them implementing their plans. I’m rooting for you guys, but there’s some issues with this program. I really think that this old-fashioned business of just coming up with new stuff to offer people just isn’t going to get it done anymore. Beyond healthcare (which truly needs govt involvement), you just got nothing. There has to be something else out there. Perhaps by rethinking the messaging, you could package concepts like a basic income and universal health care in ways that seemed less intrusive and frightening. Also, by starting with the messaging, the plans themselves might change to better fit what works.

        As far as messaging goes, you don’t get much easier than a basic income, IMHO. It’s putting people’s futures in people’s hands again. In a time where so many feel the system is rigged (it is) and no one much gives a crap, if there’s a simpler, more straightforward policy proposal to tell people that we do care, I don’t know what it is.

        Health care… is a royal pain in the ass in terms of messaging. No matter which side you’re on, the other side will always, without fail, vilify you and make your life miserable. How do you fix that dynamic?

        Bipartisanship on this issue, at least in this political climate, is a lame-ass joke, so forget that. So what do you do? Insofar as I see it, you have to tie healthcare into a bigger issue so you box the other side into a corner where if they try to attack what you’re doing, they attack the bigger initiatives you’re going after (like a basic income) and in turn attack the public. Obviously, the prerequisite for this is that you’ve got to have public opinion on your side for those bigger issues. If not, it turns into a double-edged sword that comes back to bite you twice as hard.

        Specifically, my line of attack would be something incredibly simple. Propose a massive expansion of primary care centers to every corner in America. That’s it. You can explain that to people in less than ten seconds and it has a plethora of benefits: creating a lot of new jobs, saving a metric ton of money in healthcare by treating people before their conditions get serious, tackling the drug epidemic head-on (which would help in places like W. Virginia, Ohio, and others, and build a lot of political good will at the same time), etc, etc, etc.

        Seriously, how would Republicans try and fight something like this? They could rail against the cost, but that’s about it, and you can blow that attack out of the water in less than a few seconds.

        Democrats’ problem is that they’re so laser focused on universal healthcare for all that they can’t see other proposals that, while not 100% of what they want, would go a long ways towards solving our problems and building good will with the public at the same time.

      8. “They still want free stuff from the govt, but they don’t want to feel obliged about it.”

        That’s a very perceptive but ultimately exceedingly discouraging observation. I think you’re right, and in the short-term, we’ll have more success by going along with this delusion, but in the long-term, this will be disastrous.

        Republicans have been amazingly successful at this for the past several decades. They’ve deluded people so much that a large portion of Americans who receive direct cash assistance, literally a check in the mail every month from the U.S. treasury, don’t believe they get any govt assistance. And you get gems like this one in 2009 from Craig T. Nelson: “I’ve been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No.”

        IMHO, feeding this delusion, while maybe making for short-term electoral success, is destroying our country and our ability to implement effective public policy. It’s why we can’t even fund simple things like infrastructure nevermind complicated problems like the coming automation revolution.

        What’s wrong with acknowledging that the govt helped you and as a result, when you do well, you should pay it back? That it will even *benefit* you to pay it back? Even if it leads to short-term electoral losses, I don’t believe Democrats should give up on convincing people of the benefits and obligations of having a common purpose.

        Take subsidized college education: it’s been painted by Republicans as a giveaway to spoiled young people, part of the “free shit army”. No one thinks of it the other way: in an economy that requires ever more skilled workers, not developing the next generation of workers to the utmost possible will devastate all of us. Do they think people who are smart enough to attend college but don’t due to financial constraints is a long-term good thing? That the next Einstein may instead pump gas the rest of his life because when he was 18 his family couldn’t afford to pay tuition?

        The GI Bill, a “free shit” college plan for veterans returning from WWII, paid back many multiples in the increased taxes of the people who now got better, higher paying jobs as a result of the subsidy. This doesn’t even include the enormous benefits the rest of us got as they powered the explosive economic growth we experienced on their backs.

        We’ve gotten to the point that people don’t even want to pay an extra few cents for gas in exchange for paving the potholes they ride on each day, even though their increased commute times, not to mention increased wear and tear on their cars, cost much more than an increased gas tax would. Maybe we might find some short-term electoral success paving the road and hiding the cost, letting people believe some magic asphalt fairy waves her wand at midnight and fills the potholes out of the goodness of her heart. But do you really think feeding that delusion is good for us long-term?

      9. Reading from afar….interesting comments, but….economic solutions (generally) and health care (specifically) is too narrow when focusing criticism on Democrats. Polls support the fact that America is shifting left in values…becoming more secular with greater support for diversity and equal rights. The Safety Net is predicated upon the principle of creating a floor beneath people’s lives. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans’ benefits – to name the four largest programs – are important to the American people, as has been documented every time Congress has experimented with major changes that would affect them. These programs are taxpayer funded. These programs have huge economic impact. Where, therefore, is the “real” justification for the statement that the American public prefers the economic policies of the Republican Party? Obviously there are many within our country and certainly within the GOP who would prefer that these programs be discontinued or dramatically cut (Paul Ryan, Freedom Caucus, et al); however, what would happen if the GOP actually achieved their goal of eliminating these programs? How would the American public react? Would they “still” favor the conservative position?

        From my perspective, one cannot simultaneously say they support the Safety Net and the Republican Party’s economic agenda. And, there is more. Who stands up for womens’ rights, gay rights, worker rights, minority rights? These groups have been targeted for years by conservatives. I agree that leadership within the Democratic Party is in a very sad state; however, I disagree that health care is the only area of public policy in which Democrats/Progressives offer substantive value. There is a great deal more at stake than economic policy and health care. The heart and soul of our country is being tested and that, to me, is equally important to any discussion of which party offers what value to the American people. Our values as a nation should underpin and drive our economic policy, not the other way around.

    2. >]

      This excellent article ( discusses a meeting of five Democratic senators from red states up for re-election in 2018, decrying “the lack of a “clarion message about the economy with an appeal to all 50 states.” The article discusses in embarrassing detail the lack of a response on the part of the five senators, or the complete lack of even an understanding of how economic policies embraced by both parties have completely neglected the interests of the working class. The article concludes with the following recommended approach, which has been the University of Missouri (Kansas City)’s long-standing proposal for both party’s economic policy:

      “Our party stands for full employment at all times. We will make the federal government the guaranteed employer of last resort for every American able and wanting to work. We recognize that the United States has a sovereign currency and can always afford to ensure full employment. We recognize that austerity typically constitutes economic malpractice and is never a valid excuse for rejecting full employment. The myth that we help our grandchildren by consigning their grandparents and parents to unemployment is obscene. The opposite is true.”

      Creigh, the article says, over and over again, how generic and unappealing Democrats’ calls all, but in a stunning show of hypocrisy, your article does EXACTLY the same thing by calling for full employment.

      Yes, that sounds very nice, but as is almost always the case, the devil is in the details. People don’t just want jobs, they want good jobs, great jobs with awesome pay, lots of benefits, vacation time, sick pay, etc, etc, etc. What does full employment matter to a former coal miner in W. VA if he can only find a job that pays a third of what he was making before?

      The same dynamic is playing out all over America as the knowledge economy and automation continue to steadily eliminate more and more outdated jobs, with more and more of our people being left behind. One need only look a couple of years into the future when automated trucks really start taking off and hundreds of thousands, millions of jobs get put on the chopping block. Where are all those former drivers going to go?

      It’s not enough to just have a job. Not anymore.

      1. I’m on my phone now, so this will be short, there’s no end of useful things people can do for each other and the planet, the problem is our economic system doesn’t acknowledge the value. The government can buy that unemployed resource and put it to use, paying a living wage plus benefits.
        As mentioned earlier, the private sector would hire out of this pool as needed, and return employees to the pool during downturns. Awesome pay? No. Dignity of useful employment, socialization, experience, ojt…yes.

  8. Commenting on Macron and En Marche!

    It’s a tired American cliche to compare politicians to Ronald Reagan and I’ve never attempted it before, but I see at least a couple similarities worth pointing out, especially as they concern the current state of decaying global politics:

    First, his optimistic messaging. In historically ‘but I’m le tired, I suffer ennui’ France, such messaging was not expected to resonate; nevertheless, it not only hit, it hit hard and has inspired a wild variety of En Marche! candidates whose only real political similarity are big grins on their faces as they campaign and canvas. For all people talk about Reagan’s policies in his candidacy, ‘Dawn in America’ always gets a shout-out for underlining the campaign with a sense of optimism and hope.

    Second is the huge sweep beyond what incumbent districting would cause the cautious pollsters to expect.

    (For less clear 1-to-1 comparisons, there’s the whole global neo-liberalism and intent to disentangle unions and tax codes etc. and so forth)

    I just today read The Economist’s special report on ‘Trump voters’:

    It goes over a variety of issues but basically comes down to, “This is a group of people who have not been talked directly to by politicians for years, have seen their economic statuses lowered in comparison to richer degreed and accredited ‘elitists’ and non-white or non-naturalized people for decades, and don’t hate rich people in general.” Corresponding to that negativity they feel is America’s historical ethnic tensions and contemporary geographical stratification. All these things discussed on this forum before, but The Economists’ work is in clarifying the difference between, for instance, “Being alarmed about a relative loss of status is not racist, but views about status are conditioned by race.” More eye-opening to me personally was the difference between economic reform politics of recessions and status resentment politics of prosperity:

    “In an essay published in 1955, “The Sources of the Radical Right”, Seymour Martin Lipset tried to explain why the post-war boom, now remembered as a golden era for the economy, also gave rise to paranoid political movements such as the John Birch Society and to McCarthyism. He thought that when the economy was growing or stable, some groups of Americans developed “status anxiety” about being eclipsed by others. “In the United States, political movements or parties which stress the need for economic reform have usually gained strength during times of unemployment and depression,” he wrote. “On the other hand, status politics becomes ascendant in periods of prosperity.””

    Or another way of putting it is:

    “Kathy Cramer puts the question more succinctly in “The Politics of Resentment”: why would someone without teeth not support government-funded dental care? Her interviewees farther north, in Wisconsin, provided the answer: “The government must be mishandling my hard-earned dollars, because my taxes keep going up and clearly they are not coming back to benefit people like me. So why would I want an expansion of government?””

    Chris Ladd has also spoken about Democrats lacking a good story to tell people and there has been plenty said here about the lack of inspiring leadership behind “I Mean, Have You Seen the Other Guys?” ( ).

    All of these disparate pieces of information sell to me that the American public is desperate for someone, ANYONE, to sell them policies based on “Here is how they help you directly and make your life better” — pretty much regardless of what those policies are. For all the “at least Trump talked to us”, the negativity of his campaign has not been described as the winning part — the negativity of the Democrat’s campaigning has been described as one of the losing parts, though.

    The problem with the ‘politics of resentment’ is that it’s very easy to feel them and that’s why they are the first approach from both sides. I have to honestly admit one of the reasons I stayed out of the political fray for a long time is because I was avoiding resentment, either being expressed toward me or expressing it — policies, and politics, outside resentment, is actually pretty interesting to me. Now that I’m in the fray I more immediately feel resentment than I feel any kind of thing like hope or strong belief in the workability of a certain solution.

    And to be clear, one reason I feel resentment is because the current administration’s policies directly hurt me and many of my close family and friends. Hearing that people in Liberal, Kansas hate me because I have a college degree hurts my feelings the way they claim me being ‘condescending to them’ seems to hurt theirs. It’s hard for me to break away from the, admittedly probably condescending, perception that these guys are the same people who made fun of me for getting good grades in school: bullies who feel they need to take a person down a notch because they don’t like feeling like they’re losing a competition.

    So honestly a lot of what I’m hearing is that any coalition of people who get together under a certain candidate or small group of leadership need to be twice as good: they need to both have credentials and meaningful policies meant to fix specific problems facing society, but they also have to be inordinately kind and positive to each constituency and demographic they face and most especially pound their message in on how their policies help people who are afraid of losing status.

    I do feel such stories can be designed and structured around things like single-payer health insurance, a basic income or (my preference) negative income tax, and actual tax simplification and reform. I think it would be a harder push for things like infrastructure (a lot of that is held back by legit red tape and crazy complexities of an overburdened state type), prison reform, and gun safety, all necessary things with widespread polling support but zero political capital.

    In this way I wouldn’t necessarily discount Mark Zuckerberg being the next billionaire in chief. As The Economist sez, ‘the base’ doesn’t hate rich people. It’s just a question of if he’s able to sell the concept of a basic income as a good story.

    If not him, then somebody. It could come from a Democrat but the problem is that it wouldn’t come from THE DemocratS. For each Democrat who is paying attention and thinking, “Shit man, I need to come up with some solutions and figure this stuff out stat” is at least one Democrat that’s like, “This is ridiculous, we’re not stupid like Republicans, you people will vote for me eventually” and an additional noob now banging the tin pot, “Bring on the non-binary pansexual non-appropriated ungentrified color blind but also at the same time color respectful Eden!”

  9. Gerrymandering in the USA accounts for a LOT more than 6 seats!!!!
    Chris is a couple of decades out of date

    This used to be a minor problem – but the advent of database analysis and computers changed it from a niggle into a huge club

    The GOP with the 2010 results were the first to make use of the NEW Gerrymandering – this is chalk and cheese compared to the old one – should probably have a new name “Computermandering”!

    But the problem contains the solution – with the old Gerrymandering it was like art – I knows it when I sees it – but I can’t measure it – so the courts were unable to do anything about it

    But using the same techniques as “Computermandering” we can now produce a definite repeatable measure of just how “Computermandered” a map is

    With a definite measure of the degree of bias caused by the map and your constitutions equality of voting provision the court should be able to provide a limiting factor

    1. Guys, sometimes bad news just needs to be confronted, without scapegoats or excuses. Over the past thirty years, having Southern conservatives ripped out of your party has turned you into a minority across most of this country’s geography. You still control the cities, which means you can stay close in some elections (and win the popular vote for President), but it means that your appeal has narrowed in some weird ways. Gerrymandering, or no gerrymandering, there just aren’t a lot of Democrats in Tennesee or Nebraska, and there aren’t gonna be.

      Start there, with the bad news, then try to build a solution. Blaming electoral failures on money and dirty tricks is not going to solve a single problem. Not one.

    2. Jaw-dropping though it is for me to say, Florida can actually be a help here.

      Duncan, prior to the ’16 election, Florida’s state Senate maps were redrawn by the courts to be split virtually right down the middle, with an equal number of Republican and Democratic-leaning districts.

      Care to take a whack at how many seats Democrats picked up with a fair map? A whopping single seat. Just. One.

      Republicans continue to have an outsized majority in the Senate, 24-15.

      At some point you have to wake up and realize that gerrymandering and voter suppression, legitimate issues though they are, are not the reason Democrats have been wiped out. Dems controlled N. Carolina for forever until ’10, and now they can barely even keep Republicans from having super majority control. Gerrymander all you want until you’re blue in the face, there is no single reason for a state to flip that absolutely. And no, voter suppression isn’t an excuse either.

    3. Alright, this time I can finally agree with Chris with no “ifs/ands or buts” 🙂

      While fighting gerrymandering is a worthy cause, it’s become the Dem’s version of the Republicans belief in voter fraud (not as delusional, but still a false problem). Yes, we lose some seats due to gerrymandering, but our problem is our policies / message / candidates / campaigns. Work on those and gerrymandering will solve itself (not least because we’ll win more statehouses).

      (One nitpick though: there are plenty of Democrats in TN and NE. Both have had Dem governors and / or Senators in the recent past.)

    4. WX,

      “With a definite measure of the degree of bias caused by the map and your constitutions equality of voting provision the court should be able to provide a limiting factor”

      The courts should be able to provide a limiting factor to gerrymandering. But, will a Republican Supreme Court do it? I seriously doubt it. Kennedy has spoken about gerrymandering in the past. But no one knows if he will be on the Court to hear this case!

  10. As mentioned, the Freedom Caucus is already in the mold of a sub-party within the broader Republican conference. Granted, they’re more a yuge middle finger to more or less anything constructive than anything resembling a coherent governing philosophy, but the aforementioned still holds true.

    By all rights, this shouldn’t be that difficult a lift for Americans if someone can just get the ball rolling, and the more I think about it, the more I feel that the time is increasingly right. Citizens are hungry are true representation, and with Baron von Munchausen in the Oval Office, more people are getting involved than ever before. We can do this.

    If there were one overriding concern though, it’s how such budding sub-parties would survive long enough in a political climate that deems unsatisfactory elements warranting immediate destruction. Republicans are the obvious case in point, but Democrats are no innocents to this practice either. As long as they’re tied to the national parties in some form, doesn’t it seem like that warring factions would break out, resulting in purges just like how the GOP purged liberal and moderate conservatives from their ranks?

  11. “I still have far more faith in commerce and business as tools for public good than in the influence of a central government.”

    These things serve the public good in different ways. Both are necessary, both need to be subject to controls that make sure they actually do work for public good.

    “[S]teps are being blocked by partisan gridlock, not public gridlock.”

    Political action under our system is subject to veto by pretty small minorities (especially if they come from a small rural state).

    Good stuff here, and good comments from some unfamiliar but welcome names.

  12. I agree with a lot of this in general, but I feel that most articles I read in the vein of “What’s wrong with the Ds?” are missing a key point. Over the last couple of decades, the belief in our institutions has been gradually but inexorably been eroded. These institutions include academia, science, and now, finally, the fourth estate.

    It’s not random happenstance behind their downfall. These institutions are intended to prop up our ability to reason and make sense of a complex world, two areas our monkey brains need help with. And reasoning and understanding of a complex world by the electorate is the last check against oligarchy.

    There used to be sub-parties within the major parties, they were called “moderates”. Yes, Ben Sasse and Susan Collins are forever trapped behind a rightward-moving party line, but you fail to point out why. The moderates are afraid of something called “being primaried”, in which a moderate faces an onslaught of well funded, focus-group tested, ultra-conservative attack ads designed not to appeal to reason or facts, but the leftover parts of our primitive brains which still fear darkness, Willie Hortons, and the other tribes.

    When we woke up on November 9th, our worlds shattered from seemingly out of nowhere, we had no choice but to look around and wake up to our new reality. The stark truth is, the project started by a small group of ultra-wealthy Americans a few decades ago has been completed. We knew they were there, we saw occasional stories about them and went “huh”, but despite occasional successes of Swift Boating, ultimate faith in our institutions was not shaken.

    Now, our reality is this. All levels of government, from state and local, governorships, both houses of congress, the senate, the presidency, and the supreme court, are now beholden to the interests of these wealthy donors. We have REDMAP gerrymandering the house, we have Citizens United allowing the money to flow, we have ALEC writing our legislation, we have Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, and Sinclair Broadcasting selling their PR on radio and TV. And our crucial check on this power, our cherished institutions, have finally been discredited to a critical mass of the electorate. The worst part? The more our our country’s resources are redistributed upward to the wealthy, the more desperate we become and the more we’re willing to listen to the irrational voices.

    You mention Donald Trump is a symptom, not a disease. We are in complete agreement there. But the cause of the disease is rarely identified. The cause is the Koch Donor Network. I’m to the point now where I immediately just search an article for “koch”, and if that word doesn’t appear, it’s not going to be a very useful article to me.

    All seems lost, but things can change very quickly. People are naturally afraid of narcissistic injuries resulting from being wrong about a core belief, but if an opposing critical mass of belief arises about all of us being duped by a small group of inherited-wealth, pampered, out of touch, greedy billionaires like the members of the Koch Donor Network, I feel there can be a huge wave of outrage that will wash away the Ted Cruzes, Scott Walkers, and Jim Inhofes of this world.

    It’s not too late. We don’t have students getting shot at Kent State University yet. But the ship is approaching the iceberg at an alarming clip.

    1. I’m planning to write more about the “why” here, but a quick tease – I don’t think it has anything at all to do with the Koch Brothers or any other shadowy conspiracies. The answer, as usual, lies in evolution.

      Our environment has changed. Our political system hasn’t. It perhaps can’t. If that’s true we’re in for a world of misery.

      Compared to the Cold War age of centralization, the complexity of our world has not just grown, it is accelerating. Older, centralized models of government can’t function effectively in this climate. My fear is that they also cannot adapt fast enough to survive.

      1. And that’s a part of the problem. Equating the Koch Donor Network with shadowy conspiracies stops the conversation.

        Did chemtrails spend $400M on the 2012 election and have a target of double that for the 2016 election? Do the Rothchilds host lavish retreats featuring Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and most of the R leadership? I’m pretty sure Obama’s birth certificate didn’t provide the seed money for Rush Limbaugh’s radio program or the Citizen’s United lawsuit. I’m fairly certain the Illuminati didn’t set up think tanks to fund position papers saying global warming is a hoax.

        The Kochs are real people, they are in the top 5 of richest people in the country, their father was a real guy who started the John Birch Society, and their goals are public. Their actions are well documented, the Kochs do not even dispute much of the reporting, and the data shows that they have had a profound effect on our perceptions, not to mention dragging the Rs to the right. They have a real network comprising donors owning a large portion of the country’s wealth.

        We don’t need laws stopping the Kochs. We need smart people with blogs, columns, and TV slots to take on the well-funded, professionally staffed PR machine created by these ultra-rich donors. They have expertly framed every conversation and their work continues unabated!

      2. You already have them. They are funded by guys like Tom Steyer, Peter Lewis and George Soros. Where do you think got its funding? The Koch’s have been reasonably effective (though it’s tough to point to a lot of actual victories) because they are highly focused on grassroots politics, but you have the same infrastructure on the left.

        These are “shadowy conspiracies” because they are an entertaining distraction. Money is not why you’re losing.

      3. 99, take a moment to step back and look at where Democrats are right now. Despite losing several special elections (they’ve also won several smaller ones in states like N. York, N. Hampshire, Illinois, etc, flipping many previously Republican seats), Dems are overperforming the average often by double-digits and look to be on track for a wave election in ’18.

        In Virginia’s state House races alone, Dems are running candidates in almost every every contestable race, something that they’ve noticeably been unable to do for several cycles now.

        The list goes on and on, and, of course, all of this is thanks to the Orange Menace sitting in the Oval Office. If Clinton had been elected, the situation would be flipped on its head and Republicans would be on the cusp of clinching a filibuster-proof Senate majority in ’18.

        Looking at this, you face the disturbing reality that, once again, Democrats are left playing reactionary to Republicans, with any relevant power they have being almost entirely dependent on the weakness/insanity of the other side.

        This lacking is not because of the Koch Bros., Citizens United, the 1%, gerrymandering, voter suppression, or whatever else. Democrats’ favorable environment right now is occurring in spite of all that. In other words…

        It was always possible to make this happen. Democrats were just too damn weak to do it on their own.

  13. So much of this is true. The mirror effect has become even more apparent as Trump radicalizes the alt-left the same unhinged way Obama radicalized the alt-right.

    The idea that we are all waiting for the pendulum of public opinion to swing in order to witness a grand rinse-and-repeat is a hard one to dispute.

    The intuitive human response is to check out, let the whole thing burn and start over but the grand scale damage and suffering that could/would cause both nationally and globally makes it not only a position of cowardice but of complicity.

    I do not believe in the antiquated Great (wo)Man Theory of history, and even if I did I do not think one person, no matter how great, could change a system with this much inertia. —unless they had an army behind them and sought to bring change by way of revolution/civil war.

    But the idea of voters collectively delivering results in this vein seems out of reach. Color me pessimistic but hoping to be wrong.

    1. It might be risky to assume that the pendulum swings are automatic and an immutable law. The pendulum always swings back, until it doesn’t. Conditions are so different now than they’ve always been, and things are changing fast. With automation upon us and increasing exponentially, how many jobs are there really going to be in 20 years? And we have an increasingly desperate, heavily armed, fact and reason-resistant population. And income inequality not seen since the late 1920s.

      Sometimes, after the latest tweet or an ill-advised visit to the comments section of Breitbart, I DO join the “lets watch it all burn” team, but it’s brief. Perhaps the much-maligned millenials and some Great Men will save us!

      Let’s hope it happens before The Weather Underground (I guess you call it the “alt-left”) comes back and starts bombing things.

  14. “What prevents coalitions of like-minded Democrats and Republicans from building similar sub-party coalitions across existing party lines? Nothing more than a failure of imagination.”

    That, and gerrymandering.

    Fix gerrymandering and you solve the problem of Republicans looking over their right shoulders, Democrats looking over their left, and the rest of us stuck with representatives who don’t represent us.

    1. This. So much this. As long as the parties are more scared of their fundamentalist bases in primary elections than they are the general electorate, the idea of a moderate coalition seizing power is fantasy.

      This is both gerrymandering, but also just as importantly the corrosive effects of big money in politics. Modern pols can’t piss off their active donors nor their primary voters… both of which push them to take more extreme positions.

      I was interested to see if Trump would push the GOP donor base as being “a bridge too far”… but they all fell in line.

      And sadly, the big money folks that might step in as moderate voices to counter-act the extremes immediately/easily are demonized as “establishment” by both sides… so we can’t even fight money with money.

    2. Look, gerrymandering accounts for perhaps as much as a six-seat Republican advantage in the House. That’s about it. Gerrymandering by Democrats in places like New York and Illinois has blunted the rest of the impact of GOP efforts.

      Geographic concentration, combined with the inherent rural-weighting of our system is the rest of it. As long as North Dakota keeps sending two Senators to Washington, our political system will continue to hand disproportionate power to rural white people.

      1. I am not going to debate if it is a 6 seat swing or more. You have a better handle on that than I do. But I can tell you it is going to get a LOT worse in the future. This plan of the republicans to get precise information on every voter is for more than just voting suppression.

        When you put together this voting information, the puppet tyrant filling hundreds of state judicial spots, plus what looks like 3 SCOTUS seats, you have a perfect storm of the inequity in the vote taking a quantum leap more to the advantage of big-money controlled “elected” representatives.

        I am betting that if by some miracle the Democrats take the 2018 Congress, it will be the last one we see for a long long time. It will take a couple years for all the lawsuits brought on by more extreme gerry-mandering to work through the judicial system, but once they do, forget about American democracy.

      2. So-called big money doesn’t have nearly as much influence as you think it does. A small group of dedicated activists can equate to hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars in opposition, not because some bored rich guy wants to throw some money around, but because that’s how much is required to at least try and equal the power of local grassroots politics.

        You’d be shocked if you realized just how much weight a representative or Senator places on how many phone calls they get and on what issues.

        You have a lot more power and influence than you think you do.

    3. >] “That, and gerrymandering.

      Fix gerrymandering and you solve the problem of Republicans looking over their right shoulders, Democrats looking over their left, and the rest of us stuck with representatives who don’t represent us.

      Gerrymandering and voter suppression are legitimate issues, yes, but Democrats place FAR too much emphasis on them and use them to excuse themselves from forming a more relevant agenda and actually talking to people that require more than just telling them that the 1% sucks and we need to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr.

      Georgia’s 6th is a prime example. I don’t remember the name, but a GA Republican openly said that the 6th hadn’t been drawn to elect a Democrat. Uh-huh, and yet a closet liberal Democrat came within about five points of a win in the closest race that a traditionally conservative district had seen in decades.

      Keep that in mind. Handel was not an exceptional candidate by any stretch of the imagination. Exceptional candidates do not go on a debate stage and say they don’t support a living wage, and yet the impression from people in the know about Ossoff’s campaign was that they were left basically throwing everything against the wall and seeing what stuck. They were trying to talk to everyone without knowing what they wanted to talk about.

      All of that, and this race was still as close as it was. Handel didn’t win that race, Ossoff lost it. Talk about gerrymandering all you want, but Democrats continually use it to excuse themselves from the reality that they just don’t know how to win. They’re damn weak.

    1. Get involved in the party (choose which one you can stomach), and participate in candidate selection/primaries.

      The extreme voices dominate our current political parties, because they are the ones that participate ALL THE TIME. That goes for both the right and the left. Until the moderates pay as much attention as the extremes, the extremes will continue to win.

      1. The left wing “extremists” currently run blogs where they have 6-7 active commenters.

        Please, BothSidesDoIt™ is the BigLie that has enabled the Republican party to sprint rightward the past 35 years.

      1. Problem with that would be what the Tea Party was to the Republican Party. The loudest voices (and the ones making all the calls to representatives and Senators) you hear are essentially the Sandernistas, the ones calling for a $15/hr minimum wage, free college, YUGE taxes on the wealthy, and Medicare-for-all.

        Well-intentioned, but not exactly the minds you want in the room when you’re talking about the best way to deal with automation and an appropriate climate response.

      2. Instead of centrism, let’s have pragmatism. If it works, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t do it. As FDR said, “Try something. If it fails, admit it frankly and try something else. But above all, try something.

    2. As a citizen, what you can do right now is, to the best of your ability, pay attention to your local politics and the most pressing national issues and contact your representatives on a regular basis, at least two or three times a week and make your voice heard.

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