Democrats’ Tone-Deafness to Its Voters Continues To Cost Them | Blog#42
Another neoliberal candidate ran a milquetoast campaign, and we have another defeat on our hands. Another progressive candidate ran an admirable campaign, and we have another defeat because he was completely ignored by the DNC. These two campaigns took place in Georgia and South Carolina.
Before the June 20th special election in Georgia and South Carolina, we had the election in Montana. In that election, candidate Rob Quist received support from Bernie Sanders but none from the party. He, too, lost by just a few points. Quist is but one progressive candidate who ended up being spurned by the party apparatus, either in favor of a more liberal Democrat, or left to fend for themselves, in total indifference. After losing over a thousand seats, one would think that the new leadership at the DNC would be painfully aware of how close the party is to irrelevancy and oblivion. But no, the party continues to act as it has, in a straight line from the 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, and now the 2017 special elections.
If there was any doubt after the DNC elections in which Keith Ellison lost what should have been a successful bid to take the reins of the party, that the party is still very much the establishment’s, that doubt should be completely dissipated by now. Keith Ellison was handed a bone after what can only be described as a sham DNC chair election. Tom Perez, the new DNC Chair, was Barack Obama’s favorite for the post. Traditionally, presidents no longer involve themselves in day-to-day party politics once they leave office. Obama’s behind the scenes involvement is not the norm. How did Perez win by a hair? For that we must go back to the presidential primary and the then burning issue of superdelegates. Yes, those political consultants, industry lobbyists with super voting powers are still there, deciding the party’s future, instead of its voters. The DNC is as undemocratic today as it was during the presidential campaign.
Whether or not voters are aware of the internal workings of the party, they seem to be aware of candidates’ messaging and whether it represents establishment politics. As Paul Kane of the Washington Post points out in “Ossoff chose civility and it didn’t work. How do Democrats beat Trump?”
“Ossoff, while eschewing the heated anti-Trump rhetoric, tapped into the online energy of that crowd and raised and spent a record sum, upward of $25 million, allowing him a significantly greater ad presence on local television and radio.
But Republicans countered with a message that should cause great concern for Democrats — returning to their effort to tie Democrats to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). One senior Republican involved in the overall effort said that the more the race became national in tone, through the media and the way the voters perceived it here, the easier it was to turn Ossoff into a conventional Democrat.
Pelosi’s image appeared in almost every ad run by Handel, the National Republican Congressional Committee and its affiliated super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund. It was reminiscent of the 2010 campaign, when she was House speaker, and her advisers estimated that more than $50 million worth of negative ads ran citing her. That year, Democrats lost 63 seats along with the majority.
Seven years later, Pelosi remains a polarizing enough figure that she never appears publicly in a highly contested House race, instead focusing all her energy on raising tens of millions of dollars for the DCCC and its candidates.”
Where I disagree with Paul Kane is in blaming a lack of civility for Ossoff’s loss. The problem is that, just as Hillary Clinton was unwilling to break with neoliberal policy, Ossoff was just as unwilling to disassociate himself with neoliberalism by promulgating policies that Democratic voters poll in favor of. Ossoff, for example, does not favor universal healthcare. During the presidential primary, support for Medicare for all was a huge sticking point with voters. In the age of Trump, and as we are about to witness the undoing of Obamacare, Democratic voters are even less likely to come out in droves to support a candidate who doesn’t support them with his policy agenda. Ossoff apparently didn’t say much to appeal to younger voters with heavy student debt, another area in which Clinton lost younger voters. Ossoff’s support for women’s issues was tepid at best. While we should note that Karen Handel is the former Susan G. Komen executive who had to resign for actively working to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, Ossoff stayed miles away from that issue instead of capitalizing on it, as any Democrat should. The entry for women’s on his website is this:
WOMEN’S HEALTH & PLANNED PARENTHOOD
Jon will defend women’s access to contraception and a woman’s right to choose and fight any legislation or executive action that would allow insurance companies to discriminate against women.
Planned Parenthood provides essential preventative and reproductive health care services like cancer screenings, STD testing and low-cost birth control to millions of American women. Jon will defend Planned Parenthood in Congress.
See any mention of a woman’s right to choose? No? Neither do I.
On Ossoff’s website, racial justice, or anything that indicates even some awareness of it, is missing from his platform. The last week of this election saw the return of a Minneapolis jury verdict on the murder of Philando Castile. The dashcam video was released on election day, angering African Americans and socially-conscious Americans of all stripes at the great injustice that was done. It is hard to say whether or not Ossoff’s very sparse social justice platform was calculated to get a maximum of Republican and white upper-middle-class voters who can’t fathom Trump, but in this day and age, this kind of omission is as intolerable as it was to learn of Nancy Pelosi’s directive to her caucus not to support Black Lives Matter policy suggestions or Hillary Clinton going on a Black radio show and saying “maybe I’ll talk to white people,” and not follow up. Voters pay attention and they’re tired of being taken for granted.
But this is who the DNC backed. When Senator Bernie Sanders was asked if Ossoff is a progressive, he answered no. Liberal Democrats immediately pounced on Sanders for giving an honest answer. They also roundly criticized him for supporting Quist in Montana because of his views on… abortion. Quist, by the way, clarified his stance to say that he would not oppose women’s rights. So, now, we have Greg Gianforte, the Republican journalist beater, and Karen Handel, the former Susan G. Komen executive, on their way to Congress. The Los Angeles Times published an op-ed entitled “Even with a win in Georgia Tuesday, Democrats lose:”
“In Montana, on May 25, in a special election to fill the state’s single House seat vacated by the newly appointed secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, state Democrats shaved 14.5 percentage points off Donald Trump’s showing in November, turning out for candidate Rob Quist. Despite that remarkable reversal, Republicans held the Montana seat. Quist lost to billionaire Greg Gianforte by 6 percentage points. Perhaps the most telling stat from Quist’s campaign was this: 95% of his contributions were for $200 or less.
In other words, national Democrats barely showed up for this race. They weren’t savvy enough, or they just didn’t care enough, to recognize that even a few hundred thousand dollars more, combined with despair over Trump and the rarity of a special election, might have switched this heartland prairie seat from red to blue.
That amount of money would have been chump change compared with what the Democratic Party has lavished on another similar special election, Tuesday’s similar special election in Georgia, where Jon Ossoff is trying to flip a House seat in a traditionally Republican suburban Atlanta district. One Georgia-Montana comparison is instructive: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has invested $5 million in Ossoff’s run; the DCCC kicked in about $500,000 to aid Quist.
Those figures raise this question: Which is more valuable, a seat in Congress that represents suburban “elites,” or a seat that represents the newly prized flyover voter, in this case gun-owning nurses and tractor-driving PhDs., city refugees and fifth-generation ranchers, the third-largest landmass in the Lower 48, a sprawling energy and agriculture state with a deep tradition of support for what Democrats once were leaders in: big-hearted, pragmatic populism suited to the rural and urban enclaves of the New West (and maybe even the New South)?
I think the appropriate answer in a democracy should be neither, but the national Democratic Party made a clear choice.”
Six huge electoral failures in, there is absolutely no doubt about the party’s choice. William Greider wrote a great piece following the 2014 election. No one was listening then. No one is listening now.
As for the South Carolina election, Politico reported:
“Republican Ralph Norman has won South Carolina’s special House election to replace Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in Congress.
Norman defeated Democrat Archie Parnell in a closer than expected race for South Carolina’s 5th District on Tuesday night. Norman had 52 percent of the vote to Parnell’s 48 percent when the Associated Press called the race with 89 percent of precincts reporting.”
In a separate piece, Democratic Finger-Pointing Intensifies After Georgia Loss,” Politico further reveals:
“Democrat Archie Parnell finished just 3 points behind Republican Ralph Norman — a far closer result than anticipated, and one that left operatives across the party wondering why so much attention was paid to Georgia’s race instead of that one.
Party officials from South Carolina, including the incoming and outgoing state chairmen, were joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus in urging the DCCC to send even more support to Parnell than it already did over the final weeks, but that committee was one of the few groups to send Parnell any help at all. Meanwhile, Ossoff and outside Democratic groups ended up spending an eye-popping $33 million in Georgia.
“When you think about what actually happened, Georgia is an anomaly — you spend $50 or $60 million on a race? Most of these races and efforts to take back the House are going to look like the South Carolina race, with $2 to $3 million on the race,” said Democratic National Committee Associate Chair Jaime Harrison, a former South Carolina party chairman and one of the Democrats who personally urged the DCCC to step up in Parnell’s race. “The path for us to win goes through the South: those are the seats we lost in 2010, and those are the types of races we need to win.””
Had Parnell enjoyed any support from national Democrats, could he have overcome the 4% differential in the current political atmosphere? He should have!
This is how things have worked out for Democrats over the last six electoral cycles. While liberals have proudly remained true to what they call “realism” and continue to attack progressives over their dogma and insistence on “purity,” they continue to lose elections all the while doing all they can to prevent progressives, who comprise half the party, from ascending to any positions of power.
This should not be happening six months into the scandal-laden Trump presidency after Hillary Clinton suffered such a humiliating loss to the likes of Donald Trump. But here we are, and there is no indication that 2018 will see any different strategy from Democrats.
That Handel won by running against the neoliberalism of Nancy Pelosi is just one more black eye to neoliberal Democrats. Will it really take losing what little Democrats have left in order to see real change? Progressives just had their People’s Summit. I had hoped Bernie Sanders would use the event to announce the formation of a new progressive party. He didn’t, and given the performance of the Democratic party and its insistence on keeping going as it has, it makes progressive attempts at taking over the party seem even more futile.
In his WaPo piece, Paul Kane asks:
“The question that remains to be answered is whether Democrats need more warriors or more priests; complete resistance or civil resistance.”
They need both and they need progressives at the helm. As has been demonstrated over and over in polling since 2008, Democratic voters have increasingly veered left on the issues of the day from economic issues, the social safety net, higher education and student debt and for voters of color, racial and criminal justice. For these groups of voters those are non-negotiable issues and as witnessed in the 2016 election, not even the specter of Trump and nearly an entire year of shaming persuaded voters to split the middle.
In Ohio, Democrats are trying to convince reality star, Jerry Springer, to run for governor! Apparently, former state Senator, Nina Turner, is chopped liver.
Milquetoast establishment candidates have lost in every contest since 2012. Will the DNC pay attention now? I just don’t see it happening, not with Tom Perez heading the DNC, not with top Democrats’ continued entitled attitudes, and not with the way Perez has conducted himself with progressives. The Bernie/Tom tour was a total fiasco. Liberals want nothing to do with progressives, no matter how deep the losses they suffer. The problem, at the core, is one of money in politics, with big dollar donors greasing the wheels of both parties in the knowledge that, whoever wins, they will remain in control. A reader replied to a comment of mine on a recent New York Times op-ed:
Rima, apparently what many voters, right and left, “wanted most” was simply a man promising them all kinds of cool things he had no chance of actually accomplishing. Me, I voted the realist. But then, I live in reality.
Realism? It was the euphemism used by the Clinton campaign to convince progressive voters that wanting decency and fairness is a pipe dream. Clinton lost.
There have been fewer and fewer people who are willing to accept giving up more and more for the sake of “realism.” More and more people have come to the realization that neoliberalism is what has done them in and what will keep their children from the kind of life they once had.
Compromise is fine, but who are we compromising with and what are they about? Look at Ryan, McConnell, Rubio and even John McCain. They talk a great game but in the end, they back Trump with their actions and votes. Look at Trump’s cabinet? How many Goldman Sachs executives do you see? Being happy with fewer of them in a Democratic administration isn’t cutting it for a lot of voters. There are many other areas in which “realism” is no longer acceptable to certain voting groups within the party. The Democrats can continue losing voters or they can change and go back to being their voters’ party.
Increasingly, it appears the Democrats would rather lose. You can color me disgusted.
In “Pelosi faces growing doubts among Dems after Georgia loss,” Politico reports:
“Pelosi told her members in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday morning that Ossoff “was a candidate who was young and enthusiastic, and attracted national support,” according to Democratic sources. Pelosi also pointed out that Ossoff lost by only a small margin, far less than the previous Democratic candidate had done in the Georgia 6th District in November.
Pelosi, though, admitted that “A loss is a loss. It is a setback. Unfortunately, a loss for us. But not good news” for Republicans. Pelosi also cautioned her members not to overreact to the results of this specific race.
Pelosi didn’t talk to members about the GOP ads focusing on her. No members brought up the issue of her leadership or said she should step aside.”
Politico also reports on number two Democrat in the House, Ben Ray Lujan:
“Lujan’s message on Wednesday was that the Trump-driven swing that’s been seen in those races portends a broader shift ahead of 2018.
“As you know, we need 24 seats to retake the majority. Our DCCC polling team and outside pollsters went into dozens of districts in the last few months to learn: Is the momentum real? Is it building to the point that we can win 24 seats and take back the House? The answer is yes. In more than 24 districts and counting, generic Democrats are leading in the polls or have already made significant shifts from the last polls available in 2016.”
One of the polling graphics included in the memo shows an 18-point Democratic advantage in Florida’s 27th District — held by retiring Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — an 11-point lead in California’s 21st — held by David Valadao — and 9-point leads in both California’s 10th (Jeff Denham) and 49th (Darrell Issa) districts.
Lujan also told staff that starting this week, senior aides and allies will be deployed into target districts to ramp up candidate recruitment, and that Lujan himself is planning trips to states including Maine, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Missouri.”
Starting this week, deploying the same message will yield the same result.
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