Tag Archives: Democrats

2017 politics & Senator-elect Jones

There are a lot of year-end takes on 2017 politics, and at this point I’m not sure that I really need one. Looking back, I find that much of what I wrote a year ago about the big picture holds up.

I think Matthew Yglesias has a good review of the past year which is positive while still realistic. (There are also more pessimistic assessments, which are probably all too realistic, but they just kind of leave me blank.) I plan to write about the specifics of my own year of #resistance this weekend.

Otherwise, in general, I feel like the election of Doug Jones as Alabama’s next senator captures much of the broader American political situation right now:

  1. An astonishing, inspiring, against the odds victory for decency, thanks in no small part to grassroots energy
  2. Which may nonetheless not really matter that much, by itself.

This seems like the executive summary of the #resistance after one year. Ordinary people have put up an amazing fight, and have as Yglesias suggests probably made a difference that is surprising, all things considered.

But this amazing year also ended with a big reminder that the people in power are still capable of ignoring popular resistance, and anything short of taking their power away from them.

Doug Jones’s victory seems to summarize all this. It was possibly the best news all year, and I’m very proud to have supported his campaign in small ways. Yet Republicans still have the presidency and 50 senate seats, and as long as they do, they’re going to go on corrupting and abusing the power of America’s government.

So, we have some reason to believe that our efforts can change things… and we have every reason to believe that more change is needed.

I like the little “How Will You Remember 2017” photo montage that the History Channel has been running. I particularly like the short version which ends with a photo of Jones’s victory party, however, not only because it’s an appealing year-end image, but because it also seems like an apt year-end story.

The Anglophone left and discipline through -isms

I imagine that politics is nearly always a convoluted mess of fractal coalitions, and ruthless undercutting of enemies and “allies” alike. Perhaps it gets more noticeable as one gets older, though.

This week, I’ve been thinking about one or two more relatively bizarre examples. It may in part be a product of spending so much time immersed in the politics of #Brexit, and getting them conflated with American matters. But then plenty of participants on either side of the Atlantic have promoted the idea that there are common dynamics at work, so I suppose it’s fair game for me.

In any event I feel more and more like the establishment-left coalitions, both here and in the UK, are wielding certain topics as disciplinary cudgels as ruthlessly as any right-wing strategist has ever done. The Brexit debate has seen plentiful slime on all sides, certainly, but presuming that Remain is about to win [edit: oops!] I wonder if their success is partly achieved by more aggressively denigrating their opponents. It seems as though anyone who favored Leave, for any reason, was immediately condemned for being xenophobic, Islamophobic, “simply crazy” and indifferent to the poor.* Call me biased if you will, but I have a difficult time coming up with a comparable list for the other side; plenty of people for Leave have said vile things but I just haven’t perceived an equivalent unified execration of the people who favored Remain, themselves.

In any event, considering this got me thinking about how much of the American left uses similar tactics for policing dissent, and that led me to one particularly novel illustration. It seems like at present—having as they do all too many real examples to hand just like in Britain—liberal America’s elites and their followers readily charge opponents with Islamophobia and take for granted that this is simply indefensible. Personally I think it basically is, and I don’t feel like America’s left is actually being over-broad in applying the label, to date. What gets me, though, is that much of this same establishment-left will not tolerate criticism of the Israeli government. So if you suggest that (the predominantly Muslim) Palestinians are victims of abuse… the same coalition that regards Islamophobia as unequivocally unforgivable will unite against you, and warn darkly of antisemitism.

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2016 Democratic presidential strategy note

I wrote this post months ago, but it’s now actually 2016—the 2016 presidential election is only 10 months away—so I’ll finally give up my conscientious objection to obsessing over presidential politics for this cycle.

I’m also going to address “strategic voting,” another object of distaste. Specifically, I want to address other prospective Democratic Party primary voters, many of whom will be voting before I do.

For those who actually want to see Hillary Clinton president, there may not be much I can say. If you really want, in the words of Conor Friedersdorf, “a Patriot Act-supporting, mass-surveillance-enabling hawk who opposed gay marriage throughout the years when it mattered most, still favors the death penalty, and would re-enter the White House having cozied up particularly close to Big Finance,” then we may just be too far apart for meaningful discussion.

Perhaps I’ll try anyway, later, but for now I want to address those who are less eager for such a candidacy, but worry about “electability.” Particularly when it comes to the leading alternative, Bernie Sanders. I know from anecdotal experience as well as independent reports that a number of fellow Democrats worry, in spite of their personal preferences, that he would be too “fringe” for the general electorate and that it would be better to settle for the “safe choice” of Hillary Clinton. For these persons, a couple of reminders.

n.b. I happen to favor Mr. Sanders’s campaign, myself, so I’m not simply speculating on “the political strategy machinations” or concern-trolling.

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Reminder to Democratic Party, Black Lives Matter

This almost feels too important to write anything about, here. i.e., this is just my dumb blog with a maximum readership in the low fews; it almost feels like trivializing something as important as racial equality to post about it. That probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, though, so anyway a note on one or two recent observations.

Last week I attended a meeting of the Lakewood Democratic Club. Though a registered Dem, I’m not a member of this very small organization, and was only there because of a discussion related to Lakewood Hospital. It was interesting beyond that, though, as this same meeting included by chance a long-awaited appearance by the Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper.

His presentation was mostly encouraging. The party leadership, at least here in Ohio, seems to have noticed its big problem with voters only showing up every four years. Doing something about it will be more difficult, but the program outlined by Mr. Pepper seemed like a credibly serious plan.

The only big problem that I noted was two-fold: 1) the suggestion that every important Democratic message ties into economic inequality, and 2) the fact that Mr. Pepper and, I think, everyone listening to him may be presumed to check “white” on the census form.

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What next for the Democratic Party?

Let’s indulge hope, just for a moment, and play pretend. Let’s imagine possibilities, precisely because we’re pessimists and expect that even an illusion of encouraging circumstances is usually short lived, and so one might as well daydream when one gets the chance.

Along these lines, then, let’s ask what liberals/Democrats should do next?

The prompting for this bit of whimsy is, obviously, the Affordable Care Act’s most recent Houdini Act. Plus a couple of recent articles that more directly considered the idea that the Democratic Party might be about due for a new project.

This is, on a basic level, not actually all that fanciful. It does seem possible that the years-long effort to implement and defend the Affordable Care Act is, at least, ready to shift from war-of-survival to maintenance-program. I think it isn’t completely delusional to suggest, as Vox has, that Republicans are just running out of ideas to disembowel the ACA with one stroke. More importantly, perhaps, I suspect that they may also just be running out of steam a little bit. At some level. Certainly the fact that, by the time the Supreme Court finally ruled on King v Burwell, many many elected Republicans were actually quietly relieved that they didn’t have to deal with the consequences of a “victory” suggests that they may be ready to redirect resources to some other issue.

So perhaps the Democratic Party ought to be thinking the same thing. Significantly, and strange as it is to suggest, “Obamacare” arguably completes the several-decades-long project of safety net programs. Compared with e.g. a European welfare state, America’s redistributive social programs are still a net, indeed, i.e. full of holes. But as a skeleton, an outline, they do seem basically complete: old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, disability payments, and, finally, a program that at least aspires toward universal health care access (however short it falls at present). There is no longer any obvious, complete void to demand patching over as priority one.

At the same time, I might add, it looks (from my point of admitted privilege) like social equality is making reasonable progress. Racism, sexism, homophobia etc. still certainly exist, but the space in which it’s okay to be noticed practicing these -isms seems to get narrower every year. Maybe, as I will speculate with some other issues as well, progress from the bottom up is now self-sustaining here without top-down pressure. Perhaps.

All of this suggests both an opportunity and a challenge. A once-in-a-generation chance to think big and dream of something more than just building a floor is kind of exciting, in theory. At the same time, however, a description I read a few years back of legislative reform in America having “limited bandwidth” has only seemed more and more apt with time. It seems likely that Democrats will mark eight years in the White House with precisely one major legislative achievement to show for them (health care reform). It seems just about as likely that accomplishing even that much in the next decade will be a tall order. Yet that’s all the more reason to prioritize. Chance is always a factor, but for the most part this generation shouldn’t expect much further in the way of big, national progressive reform without a sustained, focused campaign for it. Plus, a party ought to have some national agenda to run on in a national election, however dim that agenda’s prospects, right?

So: what to place first in that low-bandwidth download queue? (Note: as this is primarily a look at what should be done, even if there is limited support, it won’t be constrained by present congressional malapportionment, etc., because what do several more years of locked-in gerrymandering matter when it may take 10, 15 or more years to build your case for action anyway? That said, I am going to “score” each issue and will examine political prospects therein, briefly.) Read More →