How to win elections in America

Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers returned to training camp in 1961 in a grim mood, having lost the previous season’s championship game. Lombardi kicked off their first team meeting with a strange opening statement.

“Gentlemen,” he said, holding a pigskin in his right hand, “This is a football.” What followed was a lengthy introduction the rules of the game, delivered to some of its most elite and experienced players. That speech set the tone for the rest of camp and the season, an emphasis on the fundamentals of their profession. The team went 13-1 that season and won the championship.

The Great Trump Freakout has fed a spike in interest from voters who regarded themselves as politically engaged, but never really understood the fundamentals of our system. It might be helpful to review some basics.

Never lose sight of the bedrock of success in American politics: Get more of your voters to the polls than your opponent does. You do that through appeals to fear and hope, in that order. Dear fellow allies in the Resistance, this is a football.

There’s been much hand-wringing in anti-Trump circles over the need to reach Trump voters. That’s not how this works, at least not exactly. Beating back the StormTrumpers in the next three elections is not primarily about changing their minds on any topic, not even about their vote for Trump. Winning depends on offering something voters want while animating the enormous army of disillusioned voters who didn’t care enough to show up last time. You won’t win by persuading committed Trumpers. You’ll win by defeating them.

It is a common misconception, rooted an idealized understanding of US civics, that you win an election by persuading voters with appeals to logic, patriotism, and enlightened self-interest. That has never been a reality in the US. No one wins elections in America by making rational arguments from facts that change the minds of a previously hostile or skeptical electorate. Winners in American elections persuade their voters to vote and dissuade their opponent’s voters from doing the same.

Persuasion fails. Motivation wins.

Why does persuasion play such a miniscule role in our politics? The psychology of decision-making offers some explanations. More important however, are some unique qualities of our system that depress turnout. So few Americans vote that persuasion amounts to a costly waste of resources. Winning depends on finding that combination of incentive and fear that will motivate your base to action and depress the enthusiasm of your opponents.

Under the best of conditions persuasion is challenging and rarely works. Pause for a moment and try to remember a time when a rational, fact-based argument from a stranger changed your mind on a deeply held issue. Old enlightenment-era concepts about rationality are deeply flawed. We are not rational creatures. Absent intense training running against our instincts, we do not form our opinions based on a cold assessment of available facts.

Persuasion can work within circles of tribal loyalty. When we receive accurate, dissonant information from a distrusted source, our first instinct is not to reassess our beliefs, but to grow angry and frightened. At an emotional level, data that challenges our model of reality is received as a threat. The more secure someone feels, the more open they are to dissonant ideas.

However, even inside circles of relative comfort, authority tends to carry more weight than rational evidence. Where there is a recognized, trusted authority figure with a clear opinion, arguments against that opinion will carry little weight among those who respect that figure. Decision-making based on the rational evaluation of evidence is not natural or normal for human beings. We can train our brains to operate this way, but it forever runs against our wiring. Even under the most favorable conditions, fact-based persuasion is rarer and more difficult than we would like to believe.

Americans Don’t Vote

Difficult as persuasion is, we might be pressed to attempt it if more Americans voted. Since our turnout levels are among the lowest of any stable democracy, persuasion of opponents is seldom necessary.

A look at turnout statistics for Presidential elections tells a stark tale that gets worse as you dig deeper. While barely over half of Americans participate in Presidential elections, the number is closer to 30-40% for off-year Congressional elections. Good turnout for a primary would be in the 20’s. In the local elections that set the frame for the rest of our system, participation is regularly less than 10%.

When you get a chance to look at precinct level statistics you notice something interesting. While roughly half of eligible Americans participate in Presidential elections, they aren’t consistently the same voters. Mobility, mortality, apathy, and low levels of registration and participation mean that somewhere between a third and half of the Pennsylvania voters who turn out in 2020 won’t have voted there in 2016. The percentage of the overall electorate showing up in two consecutive Presidential elections can run at barely 1/3. Overlap in off-year elections might be less than 1/5. In states regularly won by only 5-8 point margins, that means turnout is everything and there’s little need for outreach to opponents. Only about 1% of Americans participate consistently in politics.

Several reasons explain America’s remarkably low voter engagement. First, our winner-take-all elections curtail choice. In a more authentically democratic system of this size, providing credible representation would probably require 20 or more political parties competing to build coalitions. With only two, voting in general elections becomes a symbolic exercise.

Other factors further depress interest. Ours is a system of legalized bribery, in which no one can dream of running for powerful offices without the approval of wealthy patrons. Few rules bar the wealthy from buying political outcomes. What rules exist are mostly unenforceable. For ordinary people, political competition means deciding which wealthy individuals and corporations best align with their interests and allying with them. In this system, rarely if ever will a candidate represent the interests of the overwhelming bulk of lower income voters.

Our system has always been hostile to democratic engagement. Our founders had no interest in universal suffrage. We hold our most important elections on a work day. We make registration unreasonably burdensome (and becoming more so). Our most powerful legislative body, the Senate, is specifically anti-representative, starkly devaluing the voting influence of Americans in big cities and large states. Making matters worse, both the Senate and the House have evolved arcane rules to suppress legislation lacking the support of leadership. The bulk of the candidate selection process happens in high-touch, in-person settings behind the scenes, long before even a primary occurs. The overwhelming bulk of those who know about these processes and have the resources to participate in them are either from the affluent classes, or are just noisy cranks with too much time on their hands. By the time ordinary working people see a name on a ballot, most potential political outcomes have already been sliced away.

How Do You Drive Turnout: Fear and Hope.

In a climate like this, how do you generate turnout? Two rhetorical tools are the most reliable methods to move people to action: fear and hope. Fear is more powerful than hope, but it is a toxic fuel to be used with care. Winning on purified, high-octane fear can create a climate in which governing is impossible. Temper the fear with a settling dose of hope, and you have the energy to get people off their sofas and the practical benchmarks you’ll need to justify compromises while in office.

What should Democrats do in the next 3 elections? First, offer some hope. Not nuanced, couched, “maybe we can do it” hope, but energetic promises of things that would impact voters’ lives. Identify what your voters most need and offer it to them. For Democrats, that means backing something like the Sanders agenda without reservation, and without counting the cost. Realism helps, but only around the margins. Don’t let realism stand in the way of vision. Ever. Republicans never do.

In her post-election book, Clinton mocked Bernie Sanders for offering “Magic Abs” and promising every American a pony. She lost the General Election to man who made utterly contradictory pony promises to each audience he faced, sometimes making a promise and taking it back again across just a few paragraphs of a rambling speech. Ponies win. Accountants lose.

No one in the Democratic Party should have the slightest qualm about the cost of potential liberal programs. Sanders’ pie-in-the-sky universal free college plan would, by some estimates, have cost a staggering $75bn a year. In the real world, Republicans actually passed a tax cut requiring the government to borrow roughly $200bn a year and give almost all of it to corporations and our wealthiest families. Giving everyone a gift-wrapped pony would have been far cheaper than voting for Trump.

Voters do not care about government debt or fiscal responsibility. They never have. Truth be told, voters don’t care about taxes either. Give them something they want they’ll vote for it. What made the ACA ultimately so unpopular was its meagre scope and limited impact. If Democrats had raised everyone’s taxes 20% and provided real, universal health care for everyone, a year later everyone in both parties would have found themselves defending it.

And as for the thin slice of conservative voters Clinton won in 2016, their potential concerns about the most liberal plans should be ignored. They didn’t change the outcome in ’16, and losing them in ’18, ’20, and ’22 won’t matter. To win, Democrats need to put down the calculator and offer people something they want.

While building meaningful, concrete proposals that will improve voters’ lives, identify what’s frightening about your opponents and describe it in lurid terms. In that regard, Trump is a gift. No US politicians have ever enjoyed such dumb, evil, rancid opponents. It took creativity to paint John McCain or Mitt Romney as scary figures. It will not be difficult to create a climate across most of the country in which Trump voters will feel nervous making any public assertion of support. Hound Trump supporters relentlessly, until they are isolated, unnerved, and demoralized. The worst mistake Clinton made in ’16 was trying to be pragmatic with her promises. Her second worst mistake was hedging her “deplorables” comment. Democrats should have put that on a bumper sticker. That’s what Republicans would do, because it wins.

Republicans often mock Democrats for “buying” votes with favors, but Republicans are the modern masters of bribery and fear. Their fear pitch is basically this – Vote for us, or brown people will rampage through your neighborhood and take all your stuff. Their bribery pitch is just as sick – Vote for us and we’ll strip the republic down to bare pipes and wires, but we’ll give you a small cut of the loot. It isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing. And it’s winning.

About Those Racists

What about the racism and sexism of white working class voters? Committed bigots are lost to you. The good news is that they’re a smaller core than they might appear. People are motivated (not persuaded – pleased don’t lose sight of the difference) by a hierarchy of interests. White voters who see white supremacy as their chief concern above all others are rare. White voters who see the “culture war” and the protection of white supremacy as their second or third highest concern are horrifyingly common at all levels of society, from Wall Street to West Virginia and beyond. If no one offers them anything that might address their top concerns, perhaps health care, access to education, or other economic issues, but there is a candidate who centered his entire campaign on their hysterical fear of brown people, well you know what comes next. This is not about changing their minds or influencing their values, but offering something that appeals to their highest priorities.

Lots of voters who aren’t bothered by racism also aren’t particularly invested in it. Offer them something they want and many of them will choose it over a racist agenda.

You Don’t Need Trump Voters to Win

Keep in mind that it isn’t necessary to win the vote of a single 2016 Trump supporter to win future elections. The Obama/Trump voter is a unicorn. They did not influence the outcome of the last election any more than Romney/Clinton voters did. Trump won a slightly smaller percentage of the white vote than Romney. He won fewer votes than Romney overall in Wisconsin while carrying that state.

What tipped the 2016 election was the disillusionment and disengagement of millions of Americans in a demographic bloc that voted for Barack Obama in 2008, when he won the entire Great Lakes region including Indiana. Pause for a moment to digest that crucial fact. In 2008, a black candidate carried North Alabamastan, the home of Mike Pence. What was different about ’08 and ’12? We quickly forgot, but Barack Obama was the Bernie Sanders of the ’08 election. Clinton in ’08 complained relentlessly about Obama’s unrealistic and extreme progressive promises. He was perceived on both sides as the most solidly leftist candidate in our history. While Obama carried Indiana, the centrist Democrat running for Governor lost by 18 points. By 2012, it was clear that Obama would govern from a position slightly to the right of Nixon. All across the country, support for Democrats steadily faded.

By ’16, Obama’s ’08 voting bloc had melted away, including almost 2 million black voters who dropped out of the electorate between ’12 and ’16. The 2016 Election was decided less by white racism then by alienated Democratic voters who felt no reason to care.

And though you won’t reach white working class Trump voters with rational persuasion, you might reach a slice of them by offering tangible benefits. Not welfare programs, but universal programs that benefit everyone, like taxpayer-funded single payer healthcare, universal free college tuition and a steep hike in the minimum wage. They won’t be inspired by the fear part of the pitch, but many may respond to hope. Remember that winning voters is not the only part of the equation. You’re also looking to depress the interest of your opponents. Create the right climate and the few voters willing to cross the aisle might turn out while large numbers of Trump supporters just give up. And you’ll see a wave of new voters who previously drifted away come streaming back. Obama’s ’08 coalition is still out there, ignored and latent.

Abandon the Center – Stop Trying to Win My Vote

Here’s the rub – people like me are going to oppose these extreme liberal plans. I’m not suggesting this agenda because I think it offers our best potential future. I’m suggesting it because I think it might head off our imminent descent into dictatorship. Your temporary allies on the right and center, like me, will become a liability if you keep trying to cater to us. My vote didn’t stop Trump. And as soon as some stability is restored and America offers any credible conservative political outlet free of Nazis, I’ll be off to join them. For Chrissakes, accept my advice and abandon my vote. I am not your future. Rick Wilson and David Frum and Jeff Flake are not your future. This country needs (at least) two healthy national political parties. Today we have none. Your future lies not with me, but with millions of working Americans who haven’t bothered to vote since 2008 because no one is offering them anything worth the effort.

Stop hedging and build an aggressive program of real, tangible benefits. Stop flinching at the cost. Relentlessly marginalize the old-school, Clintonite, DLC centrists in your midst. They are your kryptonite. Identify your enemy in the most specific terms and stir up the fear and resentment necessary to drive your turnout and suppress theirs. Abandon the privileged fantasy that some arcane collection of “democratic norms” protects the republic. That might, arguably, have been true once. Those days are long gone. Most of all, if Democrats want to reclaim the initiative in American politics they have to stop being such a bunch of neurotic, hand-wringing wimps. If Democrats want to run this country again they must develop a pitch more inspiring than “at least we’re not Nazis.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a football. Get more of your voters to the polls than your opponent does. Do this by deciding what you believe in and fighting for it as if it matters.

103 Comments

  1. The DNC keeps telling us that the future of the party will not be served by a lurch to the far left. Perhaps, perhaps not. We could hear arguments on either side of that. What is absolutely and undeniably certain, though, is that the future of the party is not old white men playing at Rustic Everyman and all but conceding defeat to the mighty forces of conservatism. For those who warn that trying to fire up a progressive base will create a McGovern scenario, I have news: that has already happened. Republicans control the White House, the Senate, the House for what may be an eternity, and 38 state legislatures (!!!). It is difficult to conceive of how much worse things could go if they tried something a little different. But instead they will comfort themselves with what they know and then wonder loudly why old white centrists failed to excite their most important voters.

    http://www.ginandtacos.com/2017/03/01/who-do-you/

  2. Money doesn’t always win elections, but it is always useful. The key message of this article is will the Democratic Party have “sufficient” funds (not more than Republicans) to counter the GOTV effort the GOP can launch with the mega bucks pledged by mega donors? I guess it remains to be seen how far enthusiasm and hard work can take you absent comparable dollars to spend.

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/02/06/democrats-have-money-win-congress-my-night-tremors-getting-wo-jesse-ferguson-column/307072002/

  3. Here’s one idea to save the GOP: “If conservatives want to save the GOP from itself, they need to vote mindlessly and mechanically against its nominees.”

    As Chris noted in his post, “Never lose sight of the bedrock of success in American politics: Get more of your voters to the polls than your opponent does. You do that through appeals to fear and hope, in that order. Dear fellow allies in the Resistance, this is a football.”

    Time to “up the ante”, conservatives!

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/03/boycott-the-gop/550907/?

    1. I am pleased Alito refused the GOP appeal; however, the U.S. S. C. has allowed these redistricting cases to linger way beyond reason. Republicans drag these cases out for years, then complain when the rulings are adverse to them that changes shouldn’t be made in an election year. I cry, “FOUL” to this.

    2. Given PA Republicans’ scorched-earth tactics in trying to fight this and Gov. Wolf’s public opposition against gerrymandering, it’s likely the court will ultimately step in to draw the new map. That said, if Dems could expect to pick up 3 or 4 more seats from it, that’d go a long ways towards reclaiming the House majority.

      Still waiting to see what the SC decides with respect to Whitford and Wisconsin. The Big Fish is still lurking out in the judicial ocean.

      1. Gerrymandering cases are a tougher sell with SCOTUS than the PA situation due to the state law basis for the suit. They shouldn’t be, but historically, this has been the case. I wonder if SCOTUS might wait to release their decision until after November ’18 mid-term election outcomes? A change in the majority in the House/Senate and in state legislatures and governorships – “if” Democrats were to prevail, would present greater opportunities for expansion of state level non-partisan election commissions, ergo, more representative, democratic elections.

  4. While we’ve all been dissecting the latest Monmouth poll and Democrats’ seemingly waning advantage on the generic ballot, the latest ABC poll offers a far more optimistic outlook, with Democrats +14, though an in-depth analysis tells us far more about where those numbers are coming from, with some potentially interesting implications for November.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/strength-party-strongholds-key-midterm-outcomes-poll/story?id=52795264

    In Democratic-held districts, Democratic incumbents, as you might expect, due to their geographic isolation and Republican gerrymandering, post an eye-popping advantage of 64-26. Given our partisan polarization of course, you might think Republicans would post a similar advantage, right? Well, maybe not..

    Even as Democratic districts vote more heavily D than Republicans vote R, according to ABC, Republican-held districts only posted a meager 6% advantage for the Republican. To put that into context, in ’16, red districts held an average voting advantage of 27%. If ABC is even *close* to accurate, that’s an absolutely cataclysmic collapse and would portend an incumbent loss on an unprecedented scale if true. How cataclysmic?

    https://twitter.com/gelliottmorris/status/960246955862642688

    If true, Democrats would have a 96% of retaking the House majority and come away just shy of a whopping 300-seat majority.

    Needless to say, this *is* an outlier poll and ABC could, frankly, be ass backwards, but it’s worth keeping in mind as election season heats up and we’ve more special elections come just down the pike. If Democratic performance continues as it has (as elections in Wisconsin and elsewhere have demonstrated), perhaps the polls really are missing something and a wave is on the horizon.

    1. As Chris would remind us, in football parlance, there’s always the “hail Mary” to protect against. Speaking of which, I didn’t watch the game last night but did view the T-Mobile commercial (posted on FB). What a clear, bold statement by this company! I am so going to post a thank you on their website!

      1. This interesting comparison of the Eagles and Patriot organizations from owners to players, extends the football metaphor of the post. Yes – the Eagles – the little engine that did.

        http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/eagles-jenkins-long-lead-field-article-1.3795382

        The ever eloquent, sincere commitment by Malcolm Jenkins (Eagles), needs to be read to remind us (mostly white folk) how important the conversation about racism is to all of us.

        https://www.theplayerstribune.com/malcolm-jenkins-eagles-a-time-for-action/

    1. I rather think that was the gist of Ladd’s post. As for the “bots”, if Congress doesn’t make a “peep” about T dismissing their vote to sanction Russia over essentially the same “bot” issue in the election, why would anyone think they will ever care about this invasion “Until they become the recipient of the ‘botmania'”? This plays neatly into their game plan.

  5. In the next exciting episode of “Well… that’s not looking too good,” our national debt looks set to take on a real beating this year. According to the Washington Post, our yearly deficit is set to take on nearly a trillion dollars, with, notably, many of the cuts from “tax reform” still to be felt. Best of luck, everyone.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/02/03/the-u-s-government-is-set-to-borrow-nearly-1-trillion-this-year/?utm_term=.a1f85ab5e9ba

    1. See In Defense of Federal Budget Deficits: https://www.politicalorphans.com/forums/topic/in-defense-of-federal-budget-deficits-2/

      There are two problems with the tax cut, neither of them that rich people have too much money or that the government has too much “debt.”. One is that everyone else doesn’t have enough money, and the other is that rich people are using their money to buy things that shouldn’t be for sale, like Congress.

      What will actually happen to most of that money is that it will end up in Cayman Island banks, where it will do nothing. As David Hume noted in 1752, “If the coin be locked up in chests it is the same thing…as if it were annihilated.”

      1. Even granting every point in your Off Topic post, that only speaks with respect to the debt’s effect on the actual economy, not our political situation. It’s increasingly difficult for a political party, at least one that actually gives a damn about the country rather than simply having power for its own sake, to justify increased spending when you’re going into debt an additional trillion+ dollars a year.

        Up and until such time that the Republican Party’s been politically annihilated beyond a shadow of a doubt, they’ll be hypocrites on the debt so long as they can squeeze even an iota of political leverage out of it to get what they want. That’s just political reality, and we can’t just ignore it, much as we might like to.

      2. EJ

        Creigh:
        Unlike money locked in chests, money in the Cayman Islands needs to earn interest, and so will be invested by the bank. I am told that part of the issue that the finance industry is currently facing is that there is too *much* liquidity out there in search of secure places to put it.

        You know much more about economics than I do; can you explain this to me?

    2. Great explanation from Politico on the looming (yet another) potential “shut down” of government. The GOP is in a box of their own making relative to funding government, having less flexibility due to having less revenue, due to tax cuts…and not wanting to acede to Democrats on DACA etc…

      Of course, they could continue to ply their “memeaux” tirades and kick the budget/debt ceiling issue down the road another week….or, as Adam Schiff suggested, actually do the work the electorate sent them to do!

      https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/05/government-shutdown-2018-house-republicans-389943

    1. EJ

      The democrat machine is, in my understanding, utterly pragmatic, holding to no ideology and defending no allies except where those things can be leveraged to gain power. By international standards, it is a Right-wing party; by modern American standards it is pretty centrist.

      It is the fate of pragmatic centrists to be attacked by anyone who believes in ideas of any sort. The editors at Jacobin are true believers on the Left; Ladd is a true believer on the Right. They probably have little else in common.

  6. The recent Monmouth Poll offers exceptionally good news for Republicans, dampening enthusiasm for the likelihood of a “blue wave”. Combine this poll with the campaign to promote excitement for the tax cut and our mid-terms might end up affirming the lunacy of current actions. Two articles today speak to just this point….while noting it is “early” to use the Monmouth poll as a predictor, it can’t be ignored, neither can the strong economy nor the low unemployment numbers. Reality is interpreted differently by different people, just like facts.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/02/upshot/polls-midterm-election-republicans-democrats.html?

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/congressional-gop-a-bit-more-optimistic-after-roller-coaster-year/2018/02/02/f4a6ab1e-0844-11e8-8777-

    1. If that’s what happens, then that’s what happens, and I can start looking at moving to Canada. 🙂

      To put things in a bit of historical context, it’s worth remembering that at this point in ’10, Democrats actually held the *lead* on the generic ballot, and they went on to get their asses royally handed to them all across the country in November. History may not repeat itself, but that’s just how things work in politics. No sense getting worked up over it.

      In the meantime, the best thing we can do is focus our efforts on the upcoming special election in Pennsylvania. Democrats have been outperforming the polls by quite a bit in recent special elections, so seeing how actual people are voting will tell us a lot as to whether Democratic enthusiasm is honestly cratering or whether the polls are missing something.

      1. Polls are polls. They misled us in 2016. Also an item I noted recently, the stock market hasn’t done too well the last few days. The long overdue correction may be beginning. Will it be a correction or something more significant? I can’t read the future. But I am convinced that we are in a bubble.

      2. The timing of the market’s sharp decline/reaction is not good given the looming Feb 8th deadline to raise the debt ceiling/pass budget….Remember, the CBO has sent out a warning that due to revenue losses from tax cut, the US Treasury doesn’t have enough money to wait until March. Their request? Sooner rather than later. Also note, that many of the “cuts” don’t begin until 2019…Gonna be interesting times in the marketplace…Wonder how a “tight” market with declining global investment in America (Why would other nations wish to risk their capital in a country being led by a man who clearly lacks good judgement?) will squeeze Kushner’s looming debt on his NY loans?

        We keep thinking that: the American people are going to wake up; or, the GOP is going to come to their senses; or, Mueller’s investigation will result in removal (somehow) of Trump et al. It might be much simpler – if the economy tanks, that might just do what politics and rational thinking have not accomplished.

      3. Yes, and some of T’s investments in Panama and elsewhere that are having trouble. I’d be much happier if he were simply removed per democratic processes rather than suffer an economic recession/depression, but as Ryan noted, this process is not proceeding logically or even democratically, so chips may simply have to fall where they may.

      4. Unfortunately, a crisis is the only way real progressive change ever happens in America. That’s simply because the Constitution, Congressional Rules and electoral system makes progressive change so difficult. The conservative elements are very strongly favored. The discussion in this blog sometimes touches on what would be required to make the system more responsive, but right now the ongoing Trump crisis drowns all that out.

      5. My son lives in PA 18th so there is a lot of interest here. I am hoping for a Democratic wave for the midterms. But I do not want to see Trump impeached or removed. Of course all stupid appointments would be blocked. Instead, I’d like to see a sane congress write laws that require behavior by politicians that we assumed would be taken for granted. Things like mandatory public tax returns, spell out what emoluments are and the punishment for taking them.

        This is assuming vetoes could be overridden. If not, maybe a special prosecutor looking at Russian mob ties and money laundering would be in order.

      6. How about a Congressional majority that shows some spine (not to mention principle)? Congress voted overwhelmingly to pass sanctions on Russion. This happened in July, 2017, and T never implemented them….In his SOTU address, he said “they” weren’t needed anymore….So, Congress is going to simply allow the president to ignore their legislative votes?

      7. Mary, truly, you don’t expect that to happen, do you? The puppet tyrant has at least one great ability. One of them is to gauge public sentiment on exactly how far he can shred democratic institutions before he would get widespread pushback. Clearly both houses are going to rubber-stamp exactly what the puppet tyrant wants. That has been been made crystal clear in the past months. He knows this.

        So he will be used by the oligarchs to do their bidding for the foreseeable future, plus he will wipe out any resistance in the FBI, DoJ, SCOTUS, et al, and Congress will simply cheer. And as for “elections” in 2018, and 2020, nothing will change. If actual polls indicate a shift in the House, or even the Senate, let alone the presidency in 2020, the elections will be rigged and results faked. We have reached that point.

    1. Trump unilaterally deciding to “not enforce” Russian sanctions that were overwhelmingly approved by Congress….saying, “the threat alone did the job”….

      Trump and Gen. John Kelly, a veteran of foreign wars, refusing to respect the dual request by the FBI and DOJ to Not release the Nunes Memo with classified information……refusing redactions of sensitive data….

      Paul Ryan who backed Nunes on his demands to see the FBI/Intelligence from the Trump/Russia investigation, then cautioned members of the House not to “make too much of the Memo”……says, “The FBI needs to cleanse itself”…..

      Rick Mulvaney who has done what Congress couldn’t do by voting, has stripped the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau of its ability to fine corporations that hurt consumers……requested zero appropriations drawing down operating reserves….https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/mick-mulvaney-cant-legally-kill-the-cfpb-so-hes-starving-it-instead/2018/01/25/4481d2ce-0216-11e8-8acf-ad2991367d9d_story.html?

      Cutting research budget into renewable energy by 73%, because….fossil fuels? Coal?

      When should I stop being outraged? Afraid for our country? What’s next?

      1. “I thought he would be a moderating influence on Trump”

        The response to this can go either:

        1) Where did you get that impression?*

        or

        2) What do you mean, he is a moderating influence.**

        * Kelly was selected by 45 because their politics are the same and Kelly never said anything mean about him. You can’t expect a moderating influence from a person who is on board the full package.

        ** Kelly was assigned to moderate 45’s dysfunctional management, not his politics. He was assigned to make the White House function. He achieved that.

        I was halfway hoping he wouldn’t, that 45’s baby fist-flailing would be so bad that Kelly would get smacked in the eye, and then 45 would be too busy dealing with White House dysfunction to ever properly advance anything. But on the other hand, wanting chaos to happen usually leads to more chaos.

        So with that frame of mind, Kelly can be considered a success in moderating 45.

      2. We are focused on how bad we think things are here in the United States. Maybe we need to look more broadly at how Donald Trump may be inspiring demigogues in other parts of the globe. If America, the “beacon of Democracy” allows someone like Trump, to say and do the kinds of things he’s doing WITHOUT CONSEQUENCE, does this example embolden others to try the same tactics?

        https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/01/world/middleeast/trump-sisi-egypt-strongmen.html?emc=edit_th_180202&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=41048410

      3. EJ

        Lots of generals from my country also chose to serve their nation. That doesn’t mean that they were right to do so: when your nation’s government is engaged in doing something wrong, it is wrong to serve it.

    2. #1 – cut taxes thereby reducing government revenue
      #2 – revise date by which government will run out of money to pay bills
      #3 – raise debt ceiling by a “few weeks” earlier to cover shortfall in tax revenue from “tax code overhaul projected to lose at least $1 trillion in 10-year revenue”
      #4 – invoke automatic spending cuts per the 2011 sequester accord to offset revenue losses – impacting social security, medicare, the Pentagon, and other programs
      # 5 – wrap that $1.5 T budget deficit in a red box and send it to every American

      1. EJ

        Remember that the Army voted for Trump by a huge margin, both among the officers and the ranks. If there is violence, then the resistance will probably not win.

        In your opinion, is it moral to engage in violence even if you know you’ll probably not achieve your aims?

      2. EJ, you are correct regarding large-scale violence. It would be impossible for there to be a civil war. Chris has detailed this some time ago.

        However, I think the question is “Is it moral to sit back and do nothing when the government has been completely taken over by fascists”? Invoking Godwin’s Law here, but wonder how many Germans in 1946, 1956, or 1966 thought to themselves “wonder what it would it would be like today if we acted in 1928?”.

      3. EJ

        Every German is taught in childhood to behave in such a manner that, had they been in 1928, history would have turned out differently. We can’t change what our nation did but we can try to be better people than our ancestors were.

      4. “Every German is taught in childhood to behave in such a manner that, had they been in 1928, history would have turned out differently. We can’t change what our nation did but we can try to be better people than our ancestors were.”

        This points to something I believe is a major contributor to the current political mess we are in- widespread ignorance of our own history. It is to Germany’s credit that it has owned up to the ugly chapters in its history. Many Americans are still in denial, and it doesn’t help at all that the history taught below the college level tends to be very sanitized and whitewashed. We’ve got a metric @#$%ton of denial and the delusion that it can’t happen here. We have people who prattle on about freedom and equality, yet cheer on an authoritarian bully like Boss Tweet.

      5. Yet, history appears to be repeating itself, as data collected by the ACLU corroborates. The growth of the Nationalist Movement is not limited to America. My second link references recent changes in Polish law regarding “free speech’, especially as it relates to the Holocaust. This is what happens when the leader of the world impugns democratic institutions. It emboldens those whose ideas and goals are racist and self-serving.

        https://www.adl.org/education/resources/reports/white-supremacist-propaganda-surges-on-campus

        https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/02/poland-holocaust-free-speech-nazi?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=262776&subid=20116704&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

  7. Very on topic for this post: “[T]here’s no bipartisan way forward at this juncture in our history — one side must win”

    The article describes how California was paralyzed by Republican obstructionism and hyperpartisan feuding, until the Republican party was repudiated almost completely and the state government became viable again under Democratic supermajority. What we are experiencing nationally is a new (cold, so far, although with all the gun nuts out there I couldn’t rule out a few John Browns popping up) civil war in which one side or the other must be not only be defeated but thoroughly discredited.

    https://medium.com/s/state-of-the-future/the-great-lesson-of-california-in-americas-new-civil-war-e52e2861f30

    1. Creigh, I’ve not read the article and I do not have time at the moment. However, the premise totally concurs with my observations from Seattle. It also concurs with what has happened in the State of Washington. The Democrats took control of the state government in January by a single Senate seat. Already in less than a month, issues are being resolved. Even the R’s are willing to cooperate to a certain extent. This after almost a decade of complete gridlock.

      Now the State R Party has determined that they are going to campaign on an anti-Seattle proper basis this November. That tactic has backfired several times in the since the 1990s and I expect it to backfire in November.

    2. Under this article’s logic, that in such a short time California became supermajority Democrat except a few odd areas, and therefore the civil war was resolved, then nationally the Republicans won, being that in such a short time the nation has given Republicans full control of every branch of government in the federal and most state houses, and it’s just a few odd coastal territories where fringe Democrat candidates still manage to stick in their craw.

      Another thing I’d like to say about this article is, there’s no permanent victory in politics. Things are running good for Dems in California now, while they’re cleaning up some of the most popular issues. Wait until things get more complicated.

      Other than that I rather liked it. For one thing, it’s very likely the next Democrat administration* focuses its One Big Policy Win on either healthcare, immigration liberalization, or free education. What it’s One Big Policy Win should be is voter and electoral reform, a whole package of anti-gerrymandering autonomous districting (of which the best solution is shortest-line algorithmic districting, but the problem with that is that it ignores geography and comingles urban and rural areas, which it SHOULD, but that’s not popular among either the left or the right), open primaries, automatic or efficient runoff voting procedures (of which ranked voting is my favorite, but there is lots of play room here), automatic voter registration,

      and some that may even push the boundaries of the Constitution, such as changing voting days to weekends (Constitution literally dictates that the general election has to be on the first Tuesday of November), re-apportioning House Representatives to be more population equitable (long since lost to a limit of 435, but changing the distribution would want to lean more originalist, which would put the numbers of Representatives in the House to far into the thousands, and try arguing that that’s efficient), and reversing Citizen’s United (would literally require an amendment).

      * if one ever exists again, presuming the pillars of democracy hold over the next three years. Remember, by EOY 2017 we had reverted to 1982. Now the Republicans are at work reverting us to 1968. After that comes 1930s in 2019, and then 1886 in 2020.

  8. “Pause for a moment and try to remember a time when a rational, fact-based argument from a stranger changed your mind on a deeply held issue.”

    [Raises hand]

    I can, at the beginning of grad school. I went to a seminar about the biology of homosexual behavior. That rational, fact-based presentation started me to questioning what I had been taught in a conservative Catholiic household. It was the first step in a complete reversal of an opinion. Granted, that old opinion did not have all the anti-gay fervor you see with the really zealous Evangelical types, so you could quibble about how deeply help it was ITFP. But it was one of the things that started shifting my opinions more leftwards.

  9. “White voters who see the “culture war” and the protection of white supremacy as their second or third highest concern are horrifyingly common at all levels of society, from Wall Street to West Virginia and beyond. If no one offers them anything that might address their top concerns, perhaps health care, access to education, or other economic issues, but there is a candidate who centered his entire campaign on their hysterical fear of brown people, well you know what comes next. This is not about changing their minds or influencing their values, but offering something that appeals to their highest priorities.

    Lots of voters who aren’t bothered by racism also aren’t particularly invested in it. Offer them something they want and many of them will choose it over a racist agenda.”
    Ding. Ding. Ding. We have a winner. This is the Obama Trump voter that the media obsesses over. When they thought mitt Romney was gonna outsource their job to Cambodia, voting for the black guy didn’t seem all too bad. When Hillary offered them nothing the white culture warrior was far more preferable. You should seriously write a letter to the nytimes. I’m sick of all their articles about these people

  10. To all of your points, there’s actually one “good” reason for America’s low election turnouts. Generally speaking, when both candidates are reasonably sane, operate from a broad consensus view of the world, and where the institutions of government work fairly well, there’s very little motivation to vote. This has been the case for most of America’s history since at least the New Deal. You’ll generally be okay regardless of who gets in.

    Some of the countries with the highest levels of voter participation are places where if the opposition party wins, you will very likely be murdered, or at the very least, your property confiscated and your wife raped. That’s a profound motivator to get out to the polls.

    Until The Donald got elected, political fearmongering in America was just that: mongering. It wasn’t real. Most Republicans knew that the world wouldn’t end if Obama got elected, and most Dems knew the same if McCain or Romney got elected. It’s hard to motivate people when the prime difference may be a few percentage points off your taxes and/or a little extra money for your pet cause.

    IOW, high voter turnouts are not always a sign of a healthy democracy. It can sometimes indicate a decaying of the other, undemocratic parts of a functioning government (e.g. an independent judiciary, a professional, efficient civil service, etc). Which I guess means we can expect higher voter turnout this year, but necessarily for good reasons…

    1. EJ

      France has had the opposite pattern in its national elections. They used to have one of the highest turnouts in the world. As the far Right has risen, the turnout percentage has fallen. It’s not clear which way the causation lies, or if there is even causation.

    2. That was the explanation I always took for granted until I dug into the numbers and discovered that I was wrong. Leaders in voter participation are countries generally considered to have the healthiest democracies, the Nordic states, Germany, France, NZ, etc.

      The US is consistently at or near the bottom by any measure, even when you include more sketchy democracies like Mexico or Thailand.

      There is one interesting anomaly – Switzerland. Their turnout is consistently even lower than ours, around 40%, despite being in every other respect the kind of stable, highly participatory democracy that should lead to high turnout. The only explanation I’ve seen is exhaustion. They have a high number of referenda, resulting in a dense calendar of elections. People seem to show up for the ones they care about and ignore the rest as a simple load-balancing mechanism.

      Generally, high engagement seems to signal greater stability.

      1. Chris – you mention “exhaustion”. I can really, really relate to that explanation but personally and with those who are resisting the T administration. The pace of outrageous actions is breath-taking. It feels as though the world is spinning faster and faster, all the while wobbling more and more like a top that is running out of flat surface. Yet – to disengage is to give up – to abrogate our individual responsibility to do what we can to stop this craziness….which just continues to double down. I find myself both repulsed by the news and unable to ignore it. Honestly, it’s incredibly difficult to try to understand the events that are happening from any type of rational point of view. Is the world now this mean? This uncaring of the common good? Of those who have not been born White, in comfortable, safe middle class neighborhoods? Who say such incredibly insensitive, thoughtless, irresponsible things that hurt and put at risk, people of color and different class? I just don’t know any more. At 74 years of age, I find myself donning a pink pussy cap, marching in solidarity with women of many ages, and spending an inordinate amount of my time and capital trying to make a difference – because to stop frightens me more.

        Yet, there are those who are facing challenges simply by virtue of the color of their skin, whose families dare to aspire to the American Dream, and who are unwelcome and cause for suspicion. People like this young, smart black man, who is fighting back not for himself, but for his mother, who worries if he will be the next black young man who is assaulted or killed – for having the audacity of being born “black”. How can anyone be so hurtful and oblivious to the consequences of their very shallow actions. I hurt for this family and it makes me mad as hell that I can do so little to change their behavior.

        http://voxatl.com/white-lady-racially-profiled-me/

    3. Interesting. I stand corrected 🙂 I’m especially curious about the French results. You’d think that as voters get angrier they’d be more motivated to turn out for their politician. Or maybe people get demoralized and stick their heads in the sand.

      Also, have you read _World on Fire_ by Amy Chua? It’s a book that shows that in countries where an ethnic minority dominates the economy, an increase in democracy often leads to the ethnic minority being butchered (sometimes just economically, in the extreme cases literally). The point being that a pure democracy can devolve into nothing more than mob rule unless it’s tempered by the right political infrastructure. For example, an independent Supreme Court is the most anti-democratic institution devised: a group of obscure “experts”, selected by the government, appointed for life, with the power to strike down anything an elected government passes, with no check on their power. Replace ‘selected by the government’ with ‘born into by divine right’, and, last I checked, we fought a revolutionary war to get out from under such tyranny… And yet it’s an absolutely necessary check to the mob-rule tendencies of a democracy.

      1. Our “obscure ‘experts’ selected by the government, appointed for life, with the power to strike down anything an elected government passes, with no check on their power….an absolutely necessary check to the mob-rule tendencies of a democracy”

        Depends. On how those appointing and appointed protect the rule of law vs those who annointed them ‘experts’. The independence and integrity of especially the appellate and SCOTUS seemed to work only when the democratic institutions of government were working. We are watching that unravel. Who then will protect and preserve democracy?

    1. That’s not what Chris was saying. His overarching point was that for Democrats to win in the immediate future, they’ve got to take Obama’s ’08 playbook and be the government-loving party they always have been and run with that, full steam ahead.

      Step back and remember that Trump only won by a few thousand votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. That didn’t happen because of some surge of disaffected rural voters. It happened because Democratic voters stayed home. African-American turnout was particularly dismal, and those saying it’s because President Obama wasn’t on the ballot need only look to Doug Jones victory in freakin’ ALABAMA to see what a load of pessimistic shit that is.

      Trump didn’t defeat Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton defeated herself. If she had run as the unabashed progressive that she is in her heart of hearts, she would’ve won hands down. Instead, she ran her campaign with numbers in place of heart, fear in place of honesty, and cynicism in place of hope.

      None of that’s to say Sanders would’ve beaten Trump like a rented mule. Anything can happen in politics, but what’s important now is to learn the lessons of Obama’s ’12 campaign and particularly Clinton’s ’16 campaign to make damn sure that we’re not our own worst enemy heading into ’18 and beyond. That’s all.

      1. Ryan-
        We can’t blame AA’s for not doing their part in 2016. They did. Their voter turnout declined by 7% compared to 2012, but that puts them back at their historical norms. IOW, 2008 and 2012 were the statistical outliers: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/05/12/black-voter-turnout-fell-in-2016-even-as-a-record-number-of-americans-cast-ballots/

        We also can’t blame white women: while women overall are majority democratic, white women have always voted majority Republican. Hillary’s share in this group was not really different than Obama’s (or Kerry’s).

        The bottomline is that there is no specific demographic group that we can scapegoat for Democrats’ failure. As you say, Hillary defeated herself with a lackluster campaign that didn’t really motivate even her own supporters, much less someone on the fence.

        As far as drawing lessons, this is where the real battle is 🙂 Centrists will say Obama’s push for a divisive healthcare bill is what caused Dems to lose seats in 2012, and that Sanders’ primary run from the left in 2016 weakened Hillary for the general campaign (they still believe it was all those Bernie supporters staying home that caused Hillary to lose). Of course, those aren’t the lessons that progressives will draw from those elections. Which narrative will prevail will be based entirely on who has power to impose their narrative on the party infrastructure, and very little to do with which one is actually “correct”.

  11. Trey Gowdy of Benghazi/Email fame announced that he will retire and return to the Justice System. As happy as I am to see him leave the House Oversight Committee, I have greater concern with someone with his track record moving back over to Justice – right now. What could possibly go wrong? This move was telegraphed recently by Gowdy when he “defended” the Mueller investigation….One wonders “whose” position Gowdy will be taking? Rosenstein?

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/rep-trey-gowdy-announces-plans-to-retire-return-to-justice-system/2018/01/31/a7ddf4a4-06aa-11e8-b48c-b07fea957bd5_story.html?utm_term=.e1f514ba67a4&wpisrc=al_politics__alert-politics&wpmk=1

      1. This “rat” is jumping to higher ground….and, I fear, a perch where he will be more powerful in his support for the Trump and GOP agenda. Gowdy was one of 3 members of the House Intelligence Comm. who saw the FBI/Justice info in the strict agreement that Nunes then abandoned. The next day he bails? I smell a rat, alright, but I do not believe for one second that this calculating former prosecutor is “tired” of serving in the Congress; rather, I think he is making a career move.

  12. I would support Republicans “like you”. As disheartening as it is to read your recipe for electoral success, I know you are correct. I know it because I live it. I am disappointed that the liberal viewpoints expressed on your blog have not been more persuasive, but you have always been honest about your core conservative beliefs. What is positive is the civility of the discussion and the attempt to bridge differences through reason and honesty. I fully believe America is in crisis. Every day evidences a new attack on our institutional norms and basic decency.

    I do believe that you have been informed by your contributors, and that matters more to me than our differences – which, I feel, are reconcilable through responsible governance. That’s how democracy is supposed to work. Winning never takes a second place to losing when the stakes are this high. Republicans have clearly shown how little principle means and how sordid the political process can be. I won’t forget that lesson but I am disgusted by it and so sad for our country. I am one of those liberals who will be on the front lines doing battle with those who are destroying our democratic way of life. If I ever get to the point where I feel that I can’t make a difference, then the Trumps of the world have won conclusively. I am not there.

      1. Thanks for sharing this article. It is powerful – and, disheartening, because I don’t see the will or the organization to thwart what is being done to our country. The DNC doesn’t seem to have the organizational capacity or the confidence of its base to lead; the grassroots momentum evidenced in the women’s movement and resistance groups are wonderful but simply not enough; Republicans who clearly understand what “their” party is doing to America’s democratic institutions are loathe to actively assist in the destruction of their party ….once more putting party before country – even if passively (not voting Dem, not speaking out, not actively helping overturn the GOP in power because they are Republicans to their core and don’t have the stomach for it); Independents are a complete “wild card” group who now outnumber either party but are highly unpredictable; and the GOP donor money machine is ginned up with millions of marketing dollars to blunt and divert average working people’s awareness and sensitivity by buying them off with a tax cut pittance that pales when compared with what is being taken from them, and it may be working.

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/02/01/the-gops-big-tax-cut-gamble-appears-to-be-paying-dividends/?

        Yet, all each of us can individually do is the best and most we can to avert looming disaster, or, move outside the U.S. Even then, the “earned income class”, including seniors, still depend upon the stability of promised entitlements instead of savings. The Economic Policy Institute – EPI – reports: “the vast majority of Americans have under $1,000 saved and half of all Americans have nothing at all put away for retirement”. Yet, these same vulnerable people are the people we need to stand up to the Republican Party that is gutting their safety net.

        The awful reality is that small, individual contributions may not be enough. We will need everyone to stop the outrageous, dangerous dismantling of our Democracy. And, that includes Republicans who must help.

    1. Daniel,
      It may not be fair but I blame you entirely for me losing the past 3 hours…when I should have been doing productive things. That game gets addicting and the correlations between policy effects is educative. Its cool, but yeah I am blaming you for not getting anything done this afternoon. Thats my excuse anyway.

    2. Ish indeed. Not surprisingly, given that it’s a product of–among other things–Pete Peterson’s shop, it’s based on some completely specious assumptions about government finance, namely that long term debt will expose the economy to slower growth, higher interest rates, and greater risk of financial crisis.

      The debt will not burden our children and grandchildren. It never has and it never will. Deficits do play a role in regulating aggregate demand, and should be part of a strategy for threading a path between inflation and unemployment. Because full employment and price stability are the Holy Grail of fiscal policy, not some arbitrary condition of fiscal balance.

      Once again–ignorance or dishonesty?

      1. On the other hand, I found it very easy to “win.” I jacked up taxes on the well-to-do, and axed deductions (not to be confused with credits). There was plenty left over, if one is willing to dip into the upper-middle-class.

      2. I go with dishonesty.

        To every politician who says our national debt will be a burden on our children in the future, I want to ask “What is the burden on a child if his parents are unemployed or without health insurance *right now*?” I don’t care what a Fed governor tells me about the long-term impact of a 1% increase in inflation rates. My children will suffer far more if the Fed sacrifices my job to protect bondholders’ returns on their 30-year T-bills.

        It also grates on my nerves when people say the Fed gov needs to balance its checkbook like a household. Umm… only if your household is responsible for 15% of the world’s economic output, never dies, and can print its own money. Otherwise, please stop talking about economics.

        This doesn’t even begin to delve into the reality that people are only interested in reducing spending when they’re the ones out of power.

      3. I wouldn’t even call them confiscatory. Just somewhat higher. The rich will still be very wealthy; but they will finance important social mobility for everyone else in society, so that we bend the arc away from aristocracy.

        I also axed nearly every, if not every, deduction I could find. Yes, even that much-howled about SALT deduction. Mortgage interest was swapped for credits. I also killed horizontal military expansion projects (staffing size, another aircraft carrier), but boosted military technology spending.

  13. Overall, I concur with the thrust of your argument. The D’s only future is to truly embrace liberalism and forget the DLC type centrism. I am firmly of the opinion that had Sanders been nominated, he would be President today. Also this country really needs some real progressivism, with some real provisions for the earned income classes to get a decent break economically and universal health care.

    On the other hand, I am sorry to say that I believe you will be waiting a long time for a “political outlook free of Nazis”. The far right political faction has fully seized control of the Republican Party. Their motive is maximizing wealth of the wealthy, maximizing authoritarianism and purging the US of all undesirables particularly those that are of brown or dark brown skin. That has always been the motive of the personality types that now make of the Republican Party. That was true through the Revolutionary period up to 1814, the Ante-Bellum period and the late 19th Century. To a certain extent it was true through the 20th Century as well. However, during the period following the Great Depression, they were so suppressed that the Rockefeller type Republicans emerged, but they were purged as soon as feasible.

      1. Great post. I couldn’t agree more with almost everything you said, and it seems as if you see what many of us Sanders supporters saw then: Sanders’ policies may not have been realistic, but not because they weren’t possible. Those policies weren’t realistic because politics would have gotten in the way. Not trying to channel Strongman Trump or anything, but any negotiator starts by demanding everything they want, and compromising afterwards. Clinton, and centrist Democrats tend to start with a watered-down version of liberalism. Just because I drink water and occasionally beer, doesn’t mean I am interested in drinking watered-down beer. Offer me watered-down beer, and see how excited I am about drinking it. And we’re not even getting into the character assassination against HRC that has been ongoing for close to 30 f-ing years.

        As a Sanders supporter, and the first person on the old site to predict Trump as the Republican nominee with a campaign still ongoing November 8th 2016 (yes I’m bragging about that) it was clear that 2016 was the year that people wanted a non-establishment candidate and President. Maybe Sanders would have lost the general election to Strongman Trump. But we know for damn sure that Clinton would lose the general election to Strongman Trump. That guessing game may be moot, but Clinton didn’t win, so the game is interesting. And relevant.

        Ultimately, you’re 100% correct that until the modern US Conservative movement of right-wing authoritarians d/b/a the US Republican party is destroyed, that sane Republicans need to pop a squat with the big-tent Democratic party. And that the Democratic party doesn’t have to cater to y’all, because either you vote your conscience and vote for the Democrat, or you’re an enabler of the right-wing reactionary authoritarians you say you cannot support. Voting for Zombie Washington/Space Jesus is NOT an option if you actually give a shit about the Republic. Full stop.

        But, don’t fret. What the goal of sane Republicans/conservatives should be, is to help destroy the right-wing reactionary authoritarian Republican party, and then take over the Democratic party for itself. Let the actual left-wingers form another party, while the conservative Democratic party does what it does best: incremental, pragmatic tweaking around the edges and tempering left-wing policies.

        In essence, we still need a conservative party. Right now, the only classic conservatives we have make up close to half of the Democratic party.

      2. Agree with n1cholas. I don’t think you’ll have to wait long. The Chuck Schumer (D-Wall St) wing of the Dem party would rather split off from their party than from their donors. If/when the Bernie faction takes over the reigns of the Dem party, the centrist portion will split off faster than you can say “I thought you were a Yellow Dog!”

        I’m not necessarily saying you and Chuck see eye-to-eye on everything (I hope not; I hold your opinions in higher esteem than Schumer’s, despite our nominal party affiliations), but certainly I think you’ll get an opportunity very soon to help mold a new centrist party from the fleeing blue dog Dems and the currently orphaned moderate Republicans.

      3. Sorry WX, I do not see Schumer or anyone else on either side splitting off to create a third party.

        Now, a sub-party under the larger tent of one of the two? Sure. Just in recent history we have seen two in the fascist party: The Tea Party and the Freedom Caucus. Those are both essentially extremist fringes within their own group. So I can see something like that happening on the left as well.

        But a third “centrist” party morphing out of the mess in Washignton today? Can’t see it. The entire structure is predicated on a two party system. I am all for a massive overhaul of the political system that allows for 3 or more parties, since then compromises usually have to be made to get legislation passed. But which group is going to step forward to essentially weaken their power?

        And my use of the word “centrist” is poor, at best. The current Democratic party is currently centrist. Something that falls between the Democrats and the fascists would be the Republicans. This just demonstrates how far to the right the entire political landscape has shifted. People talk about the pendulum swinging back, but in this case, the top of the pendulum has shifted way way right.

      4. Dinsdale-
        The reason why centrist Republicans haven’t split from the Republican party yet is because their donor base hasn’t made them. That’s because the Tea Party (by accident or design), is entirely compatible with the economic goals of Republican “moderates”. They could care less about the white supremacy fascism and other culture wars, as long as they get their tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks. Susan Collins may rant about the fascists, but she voted for their tax bill because that keeps her Republican donors happy.

        OTOH, the Sanders wing is pretty much incompatible with the current Dems’ donor class. His entire appeal is his anti-Wall St., anti-free market, anti-free trade, pro-tax the rich economic populist stances. There’s no way Chuck Schumer can vote for a Bernie tax bill and still keep his Wall St. donors. When he’s faced with that choice, which side do you think he’ll choose?

      5. Exactly, WX. Bill Kristol finds himself in just such a place. How long before David Frum, Jeff Flake, Rick Wilson, (and Chris Ladd?) will give up the “good fight” on principle because so many conservative goals are being met that they find themselves being isolated by their peers….who are caring less and less about the “how or who” is making it happen?

        The emperor has no clothes. He is stark naked and his audience likes what they see – because they benefit. Smaller government? Check – don’t worry about the process, the people, the services lost. Tax cuts? Triple Check – sure, the GOP threw out a short-term sop for the working stiffs, but it will trickle down, wink – wink. Health care cuts? Double Check – Just starve the beast…keep cutting its rations – it.will.die. and “the poor and sick”? They will too. And, that’s a problem, not a solution? Social Security? A dinosaur if I ever saw one….who needs it when you have 21% tax rates and 401 k and stock options and you keep the poor and ignorant from dipping into the largesse? Environmental regulations? Another triple check. Who’s worried about clean air and water when they can filter theirs and make plenty of money on all that virgin, formerly protected American land grabbed by all those tree-hugging presidents. Public education? Who needs it? Only the elite should be offered quality education….the rest? Let ’em lay bricks. Justice? How quaint. Who needs courts any more? Equality? Ah, now you’re talking. Keep ’em in their places – in the kitchen, in the closets, in the ghettos.

        Yes, that is not so inconcievable given what we are witnessing.

        https://www.newyorker.com/culture/persons-of-interest/bill-kristol-wanders-the-wilderness-of-trump-world?mbid=nl_Daily%20020218%20–

      6. WX-

        I can concede virtually all your points. I may not agree with them completely, but I recognize they have some validity.

        But you talked about donors not allowing Schumer go hard-left (and I don’t really think it is that hard, taken in a global context). The very same could be said about the republican “centrists” getting financial backing. I can’t imagine rich donors would abandon the repubs as long as the repubs keep giving the donors what they want, which is what we see every day.

        The oligarchs don’t truly care whether the puppet tyrant got in because of russians skewing the message. All they care about is if the tyrant keeps delivering what they want. And anyone who rocks that boat, aka breakaway moral republicans, will not see a penny of funding.

      7. ” I may be a political orphan for much of the rest of my life.”

        Being an unaffilliated voter isn’t so bad, I was my entire life until I registered Republican to vote against Trump in the primaries.

        People shouldn’t identify with parties, it ruins their own ability to make decisions and other’s abilities to listen. Any time someone would say, “Of course you’d say that, you’re a Democrat/Republican/conservative/liberal/progressive/fascist/whatever,” I’d blink twice and say, “What? No I’m not. Where did you get that impression?” And the conversation would quickly change its nature from there.

        In fact, I’ve always held this belief but never really wanted to float it out there, but I don’t think individual citizens should be allowed to register for a party. Party registration should entirely be limited to the process of legally starting your candidacy. The party apparatus that supports candidates then have a stronger ability to say, “Now hold on, this guy doesn’t really fit our defined values” and can choose, from there, which primary candidates in any given primary to endorse.

        Instead of individual registration to a party, all parties holding primaries should be included on a combined ballot, which individual voters can then vote for the primary candidates in EACH and EVERY party holding a primary. If a voter doesn’t want to vote for either candidate in a specific party’s primary, they can leave that area blank, and if that party doesn’t get enough combined votes among their various primary candidates, they won’t be featured on the general ballot. That reduces the opportunity for people to vote for extremists on one party’s primary in the hope of poisoning that party’s general chances, because by merely adding a vote to that party you’re supporting their presence in the general election.

        This should in general result in a relative moderation between all parties included in the general election, as well as a much less strong sense of ‘belonging’ to any individual party underwriting individual voters’ voting choices.

        Anyway alls I’m saying is, fuck belonging to a political party. You’re free now. Now you can think what you please and no party gets to tell you you’re not ‘-ist’ enough to hang out with them, and nobody outside of the party gets to dismiss your ideas because you’re one of ‘those people.’

      1. It’s a concept I’ve been playing with for several months. I feel it really differentiates those of us who have to work for our bucks, from the investor class, who depend on capital returns. You are welcome.

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