Bait & Switch Won’t Work For #Dems This Time, Either. It’s Not ‘The Other Guys,’ It’s YOU!
Bait and switch politics didn’t work in 2010, 2012, 2014, or 2016. When, in 2014, President Obama was asked to stay away from the campaign trail, all of the Clinton-supported and approved candidates, for whom both Clintons campaigned assiduously, lost their bids. Who remembers Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes‘ run for Mitch McConnell’s Senate seat? How about former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn’s daughter, Michelle, and her run that same year? There are others… All lost. There were lessons to be learned from that election cycle and some fine advice was meted out after the results were returned.
Did Democrats listen in 2016?
James Baldwin famously wrote: “I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.” Memorize the line if you don’t already know it. Here we are, again, contemplating life in the Trump era, with nary a contrite Democrat in sight, in spite of what some headlines would lead us to believe.
‘Democratic leaders plan to roll out a new economic agenda and messaging strategy for the 2018 campaign after deciding that simply running against Trump won’t cut it.
Democratic leaders are zeroing in on a new mantra for their long-promised economic agenda: a “Better Deal.”’
Oh, goody! Finally, a sign they get it. But then, one reads:
“Senate Democrats already have proposed an infrastructure plan that calls for $1 trillion in direct federal spending rather than the White House’s approach of leaning heavily on private developers.
Schumer and Pelosi are also aligned on legislation that would more than double the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, which Pelosi has vowed to pass within 100 hours if Democrats take back the House next year.”
17 Democrats in the Senate have yet to sign onto the #FightFor15, and several have already declared their opposition to it. Joe Manchin articulated his view on the subject:
“If they think $15 works in every state, it doesn’t,” Manchin said in an interview. “That’s a challenge. But saying you can leave it to $7.25, that’s just ridiculous.”
How many in the House are opposed is unclear, for now. But just last week, twenty-four House members defected and went ahead and voted with Republicans on anti-Latino bill, ‘Kate’s Law.” The bill now goes to the Senate, where at least 10 vulnerable Democrats may also defect.
As for infrastructure, again, the message seems to be designed to contrast Trump’s, but not as an overall economic policy designed to answer the needs of all Democrats across class, race, and geography.
“Senate Democrats already have proposed an infrastructure plan that calls for $1 trillion in direct federal spending rather than the White House’s approach of leaning heavily on private developers.”
The same is true on trade and, presumably, banking, on which the Democratic leadership, aside from protesting the rollback of Dodd-Frank, has had nothing much to offer. Whereas the Trump administration and Congress have rolled back Dodd-Frank banking regulations and done relatively little on trade other than roll back NAFTA, the Democrats’ proposal to hit Republicans on trade, specifically China’s currency manipulation, seems wholly inadequate, not to mention the fact that not one word was heard on banking, something that the Clinton campaign took quite the beating on during the Democratic primary and general election.
If trade and infrastructure are components of bringing back good jobs, then so are fiscal and monetary policy. On the monetary policy front, the Fed has already raised the interest rates, with a promise of more to come. On fiscal policy, between what the House and Senate have passed, what they are sure to slip into whatever tax bill they end up passing, the budget which they have to pass, and what the Trump administration has undone by executive order, jobs are on track to suffer, as inequality is now being accelerated, with wealth transfers on steroids, with nothing to shield the lower rungs of the economy. One must not forget that the healthcare law currently in the Senate, in and of itself, is a massive wealth transfer, no matter whose version wins out. The AHCA, if passed, will also be a job-killer in every state with an Obamacare exchange. If, as it is now evident, the AHCA won’t clear the Senate, then Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will focus on reauthorizing funding for Obamacare. What that means is that, while Obamacare will not be repealed, it will have been considerably weakened by all of the other actions that were taken by the Trump administration, beginning by ordering the IRS not to enforce the Obamacare mandate and rolling back this or that aspect that is crucial to ensuring the exchanges have enough insurers for there to be a marketplace. Reauthorizing Obamacare doesn’t mean that reductions in funding levels won’t be made or that Medicaid and Social Security Disability won’t be cut, either. As it is, some red states, Kentucky is one, have asked the Trump administration for permission to make stricter the work requirements they condition Medicaid eligibility on for “able-bodied” recipients. In a gig economy, not all definitions of “job” are equal. Other states that are considering this kind of change include Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Maine and Ohio. NPR reports in detail on what states will do to drop people from the Medicaid rolls regardless of what Congress passes:
“But other efforts that are garnering much less attention would further reshape Medicaid, potentially knocking millions more off the rolls. They include asking beneficiaries to verify their eligibility twice a year, instead of once under the current law.
In many ways, the current battles pit those who view Medicaid as a health insurance program, in which higher enrollment is not seen as a problem, against those who see it as a welfare program, in which lower enrollment is prized.
Some states that have experimented with more frequent verification and other techniques to manage enrollment say they’ve worked well, while others say they’re not cost-effective and are overly burdensome.
In addition, the Trump administration has said it wants to let states experiment more with their Medicaid programs, inviting them to ask for waivers that do not need congressional approval. In recent months, states have proposed changes that include requiring able-bodied adults on Medicaid to work, drug-testing enrollees, capping the length of time some can stay on the program and limiting the number of people who can be on the program at once. The Obama administration had rebuffed some of those efforts.
“All of the bells and whistles and hoops that people have to jump through create an enormous amount of red tape and that depresses enrollment,” says Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families, a research center at Georgetown University. “That’s a proven strategy.””
While Bernie Sanders has taken a leadership role on many fronts, few are the issues top Democrats got behind him on. Whereas many Democrats are now fully in support of a $15 minimum wage, few are those who publicly support Medicaid For All, in spite of it having overwhelming public support. California just had a sudden turn of events, with the state assembly leader unilaterally pulling the plug on single-payer healthcare for the state this year. It was already known that Governor Brown is opposed to the measure and, whereas previous attempts failed, none took place while there were attempts at the federal level, to end healthcare as we’ve come to know it. Healthcare is one of several issues that most of the 14 million voters who chose Sanders are still united on. The California Nurses’ Association’s criticism of what it sees as dirty tactics employed by the California assembly leader is being portrayed by right of center journalists as bullying.
— RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) July 6, 2017
The piece DeMoro links to in her tweet is by none other than Kevin Drum who, during the Democratic primary, wrote racially tinged pieces about Senator Sanders. Ms. DeMoro is leading the charge to get single-payer in California. California is the sixth largest economy and it doesn’t, as Drum claims, need to wait for federal policy.
As for bullying, if telling voters the truth about their representatives is bad, then we’re in deeper trouble than we knew.
— RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) July 6, 2017
On jobs, Reuters reports that we are again seeing a slowing in new jobs and a rise in jobless claims. While the percentage of unemployed hasn’t changed, if this trend persists, it will rise. Those numbers, of course, don’t include the millions of Americans who still haven’t returned to work since the Great Recession or describe in any way the plight of those who are trapped in the ‘Gig Economy.” Today’s jobs report appears to be a good one, with 222,000 new jobs for the month of June 2017, and upward revision of previous months. The thing, though, is that the number of unemployed has risen as people who’d given up due to the lack of “good-paying jobs” are now looking for work again. Wages, however, have only risen 2.5% in the last year and, given the history of flat wages, that is a problem.
This brings me to Nancy Pelosi’s much retweeted tweet:
Under Democrats, we saw record-breaking auto sales & job creation. W/@realDonaldTrump we're on track to produce the fewest new jobs in 7 yrs
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) July 5, 2017
This won’t fly with a whole lot of minority, left-leaning independent voters and middle and working class Democrats who either sat out the 2016 election or defected because of jobs and the economy. Discontent among various classes of voter was very well documented during the primary and general election and it encompassed all but two groups of voters: those who are wealthy enough and those who are retired.
Voter discontent by the end of the Democratic primary:
A New Year’s assessment of the political and economic picture:
The Politico piece I started with does not demonstrate that any kind of consensus has been reached or is close to being reached. This passage near the conclusion says it all:
“Some House Democrats, for their part, say they haven’t fully bought into the “Better Deal” slogan, which harks back to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and will be embraced only if it’s the consensus of the caucus. Others also questioned the idea of a big messaging rollout, saying that might be too “inside the Beltway” and suggesting members take ideas back to their districts for a trial run during the August recess.”
That a member of either caucus can even think that this leadership is even capable or in a frame of mind to arrive at anything like the New Deal or, conversely, that some kind of big messaging campaign is “too inside the Beltway,” just proves that the party has hermetically sealed itself inside the same bubble the media was trapped in all throughout the election cycle.
The issues we’ve discussed here, so far, are economic in nature. They are hardly all that concerns the American people. These past few months have seen prosecutions of police brutality come to a close with not so much as one conviction of killer police officers in the last two years’ worth of high-profile police brutality cases. Not even Sandra Bland or Philando Castile saw their cases end in any semblance of justice, giving rogue cops the comfort of knowing their actions will be met with impunity, and hanging a veil of despair over the Black community. Communities of color have been watching each case of racial injustice end in the expected exculpation of racist cops.
The Department of Education, under the direction of Secretary DeVos, has begun the dirty work of decimating a goodly amount of what is at their discretion to dismantle. On the civil rights front, in Candice Jackson, DeVos hired a person with heightened animus toward civil rights for the job of dismantling it, Jeff Session’s Department of Justice has been working overtime to undo much of the work of the Obama administration on multiple fronts, including voting rights, supervision of problematic police departments, the return to the ‘War on Drugs,’ maximum sentencing for drug offenses, etc.
For Democrats to assume that the whirlwind that has been the first six months of Trump will have made voters forget why they left, shows just how out of touch and arrogant the Democratic leadership remains. Given what the nation went through from 2016 to the present, and given how much of the acrimony of the Democratic primary still remains, it would be foolish for Democrats to bet on voters being happy to go back to things as they were in 2015. They weren’t happy then. That is why the Clinton message didn’t resonate with voters. As a reminder, here is Nancy Pelosi speaking to CBS mere weeks after the election:
Going back to the James Baldwin quote at the top of this piece, Democrats are in the same confused place Nancy Pelosi found herself in November when answering John Dickerson’s question about messaging. Congressional Democrats just sent this hot mess to their voters:
The other guy? Wait! Wasn’t that Hillary’s campaign strategy? Persisted? How is that the right imagery to use? The ‘persisted’ slogan came up when Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced by a roomful of male senators. It has ZERO to do with the resistance congressional Democrats were supposed to put up against the GOP.
Speaking of resisting… Where have the Democrats been on issues that aren’t Russia or Trump’s tweets? Politico has been running a series of things Trump did while we weren’t looking:
“The Labor Department was busy, Part 1
The Department of Labor issued some big regulations under Obama, and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta isn’t wasting any time targeting those. Just this week, he took aim at three big ones: the overtime rule, the fiduciary standard and an electronic record keeping rule.
Under Obama, the department said it would require certain large employers to electronically submit data on injuries and illnesses, starting July 1. But on Tuesday, the Department of Labor officially proposed delaying the record-keeping rule to December 1. The rule isn’t final yet, so it will technically take effect Saturday but the Department previously said it won’t yet accept electronic submissions. Supporters of the rule hope that sunshine will act as a disinfectant, shaming companies into better labor practices; companies say it is onerous and unnecessary.
Then on Thursday, the Department asked for comments about delaying the January 1, 2018 compliance date of another major Obama rule—the “fiduciary standard,” which requires financial advisers selling investment products to act in the best interest of their clients.”
Where was the resistance? To those among us who are paying attention to the news and aren’t distracted by Russia or Trump’s tweets, these might read like this, instead:
Were it not for the three special elections that were just had in Montana, South Carolina, and Georgia, we wouldn’t have a clear understanding of where voter sentiment is at. But we did have those elections and Democrats focused all of their attention on Georgia and a threadbare platform filled with platitudes and no detail. While Jon Ossoff did relatively well, given that the district has voted Republican for the last 30 years, he didn’t win at the height of discontent with our new president and Congress, and against a candidate with a radical anti-women’s rights resume.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s MyAJC website published a report of precinct-by-precinct results in the Georgia special election:
“The precinct-by-precinct results in the recent Sixth District contest are out, and a Republican number-crunching friend has turned up some interesting tidbits that boil down to this:
Democrat Jon Ossoff had a turnout problem on and before June 20. Republican Karen Handel didn’t. Some examples:
— The Pleasantdale Road precinct at the Gwinnett border is the only majority-black precinct in the DeKalb County part of the District. Ossoff won 82 percent in the precinct, but turnout (among active registered voters) was just 34 percent — well below the 57 percent average for DeKalb.
— Precincts 15A and 15B are apartment-heavy enclaves along Roswell Road in Sandy Springs. Ossoff got 84 percent in 15A and 66 percent in 15B. But turnout was just 30 percent in 15A and 44 percent in 15B. Turnout overall in the Fulton County portion of the Sixth was 57 percent.”
This confirms many critiques of the Ossoff campaign platform’s threadbare planks. When presented with a candidacy that doesn’t offer even a single issue distinct groups of voters can get behind, they just don’t show up. This has been true of every election cycle since 2010, and was certainly true of the 2016 candidacy of Hillary Clinton, especially on the heels of a hard-fought, issues based primary contest. Voters counted on the candidate to present their issues. Not only did the candidate not do that, but the candidate’s appearance schedule was sparse and limited to particular coastal centers.
If an Ossoff-like strategy is what Democrats have in store for 2018, then they are sure to fail. If Democrats are unable to put together a real progressive platform, one that matches everything we know about what voters have wanted all throughout 2015, 2016 and still want now, voters will continue to disengage and the party will sink further into trouble. Not only does the national Democratic leadership need to adopt the DNC platform as it was developed during the DNC convention, they need to enforce compliance on the part of candidates. Congressional Democrats cannot afford to be seen as having regular defections during House and Senate votes, nor can they afford to have candidates whose platforms are completely divergent from the party’s stated positions.
Democrats need leadership that is younger, more progressive and representative of the racial makeup of our nation. The leadership of the party cannot remain mostly white, older, and male. Public figures such as former Ohio state senator, Nina Turner, North Carolina NAACP president, Rev. William Barber are two highly gifted thinkers and charismatic leaders. They should be drafted to run for leadership positions in the party.
Reverend Barber’s argument for morality in politics shouldn’t be a difficult one for any American to agree with. The moral argument gets a very graphic representation in a piece in Forbes Magazine, entitled, ‘How Much Is A Dead Person Worth To The Wealthy? $3 Million‘, by Erik Sherman.
“So, assume the population won’t go up and that the estimated number who will die is on the low end of the spectrum. The repeal or delay of taxes is expected to be $541 billion over ten years, or an average $54.1 billion a year. Divide that by 18,000 and you get about $3 million a person. Each person will be allowed to die so that taxes can decrease and that the wealthiest can collectively retain that much money.”
Donald J. Trump won by telling voters what they wanted to hear when he had no intention to follow through on promises he knew were lies. What those voters still want happens to be what Democrats should have been doing all along. Democrats need to decide that the money they fundraise to run campaigns needs to come from single small donors. Bernie Sanders showed them all how it is done.
As stated before, if the Democratic leadership thinks voters will gladly go back to 2016, they’re in for a big surprise. If Democrats think they can squeak by on a minimum of policy promises, they’re in for a shock. Democrats should be thinking in terms of the coming twenty years and preparing this nation for a world without work. The world is changing no matter who is in power. What is now happening with jobs is both a result of no fiscal policy to go with the monetary policy the Fed has been implementing. Now that there’s been a change in Washington, the Fed is pulling back to match the new regime’s actions. That doesn’t mean we still don’t need to make the changes we needed all throughout the Obama years and couldn’t get from a divided Congress. By raising interest rates, unemployment will be affected as fewer jobs are created. By not effecting fiscal policies that are conducive to greater investment at home, the economy will not expand as needed. As the New York Times recently reported, Confidence Boomed After The Election, The Economy Hasn’t.
Long-time Democratic voters have demonstrated several times in a row now that they will neither be tricked, shamed, or scared into submission. They’ve also demonstrated that they will support a candidate whose platform they like and whose promises they trust, even if that candidate is an outsider. Bernie Sanders appeared at the right time and wasn’t allowed a win. Sooner, rather than later, someone else will appear and Democrats will be powerless to stop them.
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As technology renders jobs obsolete, what will keep us busy? Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari examines ‘the useless class’ and a new quest for purpose.