Fighting to Save Political Parties Out of Sorts with the Base

Edinburgh  Eating curry last night with leaders and organizers of ACORN in Scotland, once the usual questions about Trump were quickly exhausted, one veteran activist asked what Senator Bernie Sanders, last year’s surprisingly successful Presidential candidate, was up to and whether he was gaining ground and credibility in the current chaos. It was a good question, and my answer was that the best I knew his people where focused more on positioning in the Democratic Party than the larger issues. I told the ridiculous story of some moderate Democrats trying to convince Sanders to call off the dogs and make sure that town hall protestors only attacked Republicans, as if Sanders was pulling any strings at all in the activist moment. I found that notion among conservative Democrats as bizarre as the Republican conservative claim that poor old George Soros is paying demonstrators these days to voice their outrage.

Turns out I was either lucky or timely in my observation. Almost as soon as I logged on to the news I stumbled into a story reporting that Sanders’ operatives had been scoring some significant wins in Democratic inner party elections.

In California, supporters of the 2016 presidential contender, Barry Sanders, packed the obscure party meetings that chose delegates to the state Democratic convention, with Sanders backers grabbing more than half the slots available. They swept to power in Washington State at the Democratic state central committee, ousting a party chairman and installing one of their own in his place. Sanders acolytes have seized control of state parties in Hawaii and Nebraska and won posts throughout the party structure from coast to coast.

Presumably the agenda is to move the party in a more solidly progressive direction.

Observers in several papers noted that as miserable as the 2018 midterm elections look for the Democratic Party’s shot at control of the Senate, there’s an arguable path to pick up 24 seats in the House by targeting districts either won by Hillary Clinton by stout margins or where the demographics are heavily weighted with educated white and general Hispanic voters. Polls indicate that Trump’s slide steep has accelerated in both camps. There are fewer districts that Sanders won last year though, so that crossover is uncertain.

Others might argue that you have to be careful what you wish for though without a deeper strategy to engage the base. The Labour Party’s predicament in the United Kingdom is a case study here. Having moved in a more progressive direction as the left took control of internal elections without a program effectively responding to the working class base, right leaning pro-Brexit forces are cleaning their clock. By-elections in hard core Labour districts that they have held for more than 30 years are being watched closely to see if the party can even survive.

Sanders in some ways is well-positioned internally since Clinton is not part of the picture and a more moderate Democratic Party leader has not emerged.

Is it a winning strategy? That’s another question for sure. No lucky guesses will count on that one.


Not Much of a Machine

Source BBC


Little Rock The problem with the first draft of history contained in the snap dash conclusions and generalizations of journalists and pundits is that too many times we forget that a first draft is always replete with errors. We have to hang our hats somewhere, but sometimes we forget to go back and tidy up and start believing the first garbage that went in. In the wake of continuing information coming forward from the election, not only does a movement trump, excuse the pun, a machine, but it also might not be quite the machine we might have hoped it was either.

Factoids are flying our way that are disturbing, and that we have to reconcile:

· 52% of white women voted for Trump.

That’s an almost unbelievable figure given both candidates. The message of women’s empowerment and correction of historic grievances was obviously swallowed and lost somewhere.

· General voter turnout was the lowest for this election since 2000. African-American vote was down. Trump got almost the same share of the African-American and Latino vote as Romney did in 2012, in spite of his incendiary comments throughout the campaign. There was no surge in the Latino vote belying the early voting predictions. Their vote was about the same percentage as the overall totals in recent elections.
· According to NPR, Detroit’s Wayne County delivered 80,000 fewer votes for Clinton than they did for Obama in 2012. She lost the state of Michigan by something like 13,000 votes. If she had even half of those lost, largely African-American votes, Michigan would not have gone to Trump. There were similar stories in other cities.

Demographic shifts don’t matter if we can’t – or don’t – turnout our vote.

· This so-called working class “revolt” for Trump may have been more of the Nixon-Reagan “silent majority” “white-lash.” A better analysis says that where Trump really significantly carried white voters was in the range of families making over $70,000 and less than $100,000.

The pain that drove votes to Trump is real whatever the income, but it matters whether this was the heart of the old Democratic base or aggrieved and entitled middle class, white voters feeling unrecognized and unrewarded.

I talked to organizers I knew in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. One had been on the doors for several days with a contract canvass crew doing turnout for the vote in white working-class turf. She described the training as one-role play and out to the doors along with two-and-one-half hour lunch breaks on the shift, and no accountability on numbers contacted. Organizers are close to the ground, but no one had seen this coming, but perhaps we were not on the ground where we needed to be?

Several raised questions with me about whether the Bernie Sanders campaign had laid the seeds for this defeat. We’ll have to look at that, but it also seems clear that either the machine was not working, or the machine could not overcome the weakness of their own candidate, and we are going to have to come to grips with that as well. Trump may have won, not so much with a movement as by turning out the traditional Republican vote and outperforming in some demographics, but also benefiting from a flawed, sloppy, and arrogant Democratic campaign.