It seems to me….
“I hope the two wings of the Democratic Party may flap together.” ~ William Jennings Bryan.
Democrats suffered a humiliating defeat in November – not just for the presidency, but in Congressional and Gubernatorial races. The House: 241 Republicans, 194 Democrats. The Senate: 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats, 2 independents. Governors: 32 Republicans, 17 Democrats, 1 independent. Republicans are now in control of a record 67 (68 percent) of the 98 state legislative chambers in the nation, more than double the number (31) in which Democrats have a majority. Democrats are in danger of becoming a failed party.
The Democratic Party is best described as a collection of group interests while the Republican Party is unified by ideology. There is asymmetric polarization: Republican voters behave in more partisan ways than do their Democratic counterparts. They identify more strongly with their party. They show more bias in interpreting new information. They engage in more boosting of their party (and derogation of the other). And, they are more likely to selectively ignore messages from the other side.
The Democratic Party must be rebuilt from the ground up starting with the Democratic National Committee (DNC). There was a rejection in the 2016 Presidential election of the status quo, a repudiation of politics as usual, and a deep and profound distrust of elites, including the power structure in the U.S.
The 2016 presidential election results very clearly demonstrated that not everyone is experiencing the same America. Partisanship has reached such an uncivil extreme that it has divided our nation preventing opposing political parties from compromising even on issues clearly beneficial to the nation. It is time to replace today’s political environment of suspicion and mistrust with a politics of decency, civility, and trust. The question is how.
Yes, we should have seen it coming. I have written, on numerous occasions, about the intolerance and inability to compromise by the extremes of all political persuasions. This has led to the chasm currently dividing us politically preventing any meaningful legislative progress – and I do not see how it can be prevented. Controlling the Presidency, both houses of Congress, the majority of governorships, and soon, the Supreme Court will only embolden those on the extreme right to enact their brand of ideology. Those on the left, powerless to prevent it, will most likely dig in their heels and cast meaningless stones of frustration seeing their most cherished accomplishments being abandoned and discarded. The liberal message and those preaching it have failed to speak to the great unwashed masses of average citizens. Hillary Clinton’s reference in the 2016 Presidential election campaign to Trump supporters as largely being a “basket of deplorables” only demonstrates an unfortunately too common disparagement toward those not sharing Democratic party beliefs; not a way to win an election.
Yes, we should have seen it coming. I have written, also on numerous occasions, how increasing economic inequality was leading to anger in the lower/middle-class bypassed in the recession recovery, how automation and computerization were eliminating many employment opportunities available to the less educated, how the Gini coefficient was in a range frequently associated with mass protests. But I never anticipated that anger was sufficient to elect someone as unsuitable as trump.
Yes, we should have seen it coming. The least intelligent candidate, normally a Republican, has repeatedly been elected over an obviously superior candidate; President Obama was a notable exception. Voters elect the candidate they feel speaks to them, not someone with a better understanding of the issues: the primary qualification is personality, not ability or preparation. trump might be an unmitigated ass but he also is not highly intelligent and speaks proletarian – someone the electorate apparently felt they could relate to.
Liberals must honestly reflect on what we, including myself, have done that is partially responsible for the indifference to others not sharing the elitist beliefs that we frequently display. As idealistic as the goals and ideals might be, they must be sold rather than dictated. I believe Obama was an excellent president but must accept that he shares in the failure to not speak to the frustration and anger of those feeling left behind. It is obvious that neither Sanders nor Warren – as well as trump – understood the actual issues: it was not globalization or off-shoring. Clinton and most other politicians – left and right – are not only equally guilty but unable to change and address the problem due to the pervasive intellectual isolation prevalent in the political/academic environment reinforced by lobbyists and supporters.
Those on the left have primarily focused on style rather than substance and in the 2016 presidential election the electorate finally said “enough” and rejected it. Instead of emphasizing basic kitchen-table issues they reflexively advocate postures, such as civil liberties and abortion rights, rather than positions with little or nothing to say regarding poverty, small business, public education, government services other than being in general support.
Yes, we have to respect diverse political discourse while insisting on civility but while many of us express this opinion, we primarily are preaching to a common choir. It took governments over a hundred years to adjust to the industrial revolution with educational, societal, and other changes. The question is how long will it take for Democrats to adjust to what essentially is a point of economic discontinuity?
Given the number of Senate seats that are going to be up for grabs in 2018 – most of the which are currently held by Democratic incumbents – recovery will be difficult, and in the House the challenge will be even greater given the prevalence of gerrymandering. The Democratic Party has to get up to speed very, very fast as it is rapidly facing becoming non-relevant.
That’s what I think, what about you?