People United Means Action and the 2016 Election

PUMA PAC: People United Means ActionGiven all this talk about PUMAs, I was interested to see that PUMA was an actual political action committee (PAC), People United Means Action. It was started by people in the “Party Unity, My Ass” movement. According to, they said, “We are protesting the 2008 Presidential Election because we refuse to support a nominee who was selected by the leadership rather than elected by the voters.” That sounds suspiciously like what Sanders supporters are saying today.

In 2008, I was a John Edwards supporter. The reason was the same as the reason that I’m a Sanders supporter today: because they both got a woman they weren’t married to pregnant during the campaign. Oh, I’m kidding! People tend to forget that Edwards had a great platform. It bothered me that of the three major candidates, I wasn’t supporting the black guy or the woman. But to some extent, I think it is easier (or perhaps necessary) for minority candidates at the nation level to be more conservative.

Agnostic in 2008

Once Edwards dropped down, I didn’t particularly care. I thought that both Obama and Clinton were good. But while fatuous people claim that Clinton and Trump are the same, Clinton and Obama really were pretty much the same. It’s funny that I hear a lot of people say that what Democratic voters really want is a third Obama term. Well, that is what I think Hillary Clinton will bring. And I expect to be about as happy with her as president as I have been with Obama. And that’s why I fine with her but not excited.

It’s funny, however, when the “Party Unity, My Ass” folk decided to create a PAC, they went for the backronym People United Means Action. (For those who don’t know: a backronym is an acronym that is created after the fact.) I don’t mean to suggest that they should have gone with “Party Unity, My Ass.” That wouldn’t have been taken seriously. But “People United Means Action” was clearly picked so that insiders could titter to themselves about what it really meant. In fact, on the PUMA About page, they are even explicit about it, “You may know that there is another, more defiant meaning for the acronym PUMA and that many of us are motivated by a deep disgust with and distrust of the DNC leadership.”

“People United Means Action” Was Angry

I understand the disgust. Clinton did win the most votes in the 2008 primary. And when you look at pleged delegates, Clinton was really close. But as Clinton supporters will tell you today: you play the game with the rules as they are. Obama ran a brilliant campaign, and had the contest been to get the most total votes, it’s hardly clear that he wouldn’t have managed to get that too. At it is, the difference was just a bit more than a quarter million votes (out of over 35 million) and roughly three-quarters of a percentage point.

So the fact that Clinton supporters were angry is no surprise. But People United Means Action didn’t really do anything. In the end, the Democratic Party was united. And that’s what I expect this year. I’m completely with Greg Sargent, Stop Freaking out, Democrats. The Party Will Unify. Probably. He highlights a statistic that you’ve probably heard: 28% of Sanders supporters claim that they will not vote for Clinton in November, But at this point in the race in 2008, 35% of Clinton supporters said the same thing about Obama.

Now, as those in the “kids these days” caucus, like Jonathan Chait, claim that Sanders supporters say the whole system is corrupt. If you are talking about the economic system, that is a difference. But as we saw back in 2008, People United Means Action were making this same claim about the party itself. Even without Sanders’ help, I suspect the Democratic Party will be fine. But I expect that Sanders will end up being a strong advocate for Clinton, just as she was for Obama.

The Truth About Jonathan Chait

Erik LoomisWhen reading people like Chait, the question that comes to mind is, “How does he think liberal change actually takes place?” He and so many other nominally left-of-center pundits routinely define themselves as taking the most possibly left position and attacking anyone to the left of that. That’s because, I think, they have dreams of setting policy from nice offices in Washington, creating the Great Society without talking to any of the people this will affect, all no doubt while wearing great suits the likes of which they saw Don Draper wear. But if you want to create liberal policy, and if you look at the history of successful liberal policy making, what has to happen is on the ground activism. That means people in the streets, it means having buy-in from affected people, it means making deals with labor unions or even encouraging unions to take leading roles. The Social Security Act didn’t happen because FDR and Frances Perkins thought it was the right thing. The same with the National Labor Relations Act. LBJ didn’t push for the Civil Rights Act because he thought it was just good policy making. All of these things take social and political pressure from below. And people like Jonathan Chait hate the thought of that because activists can be intense and sometimes say mean things and yell a lot and might oppose you when you are a good smart college newspaper writer.

—Eric Loomis
Chait Hates Teachers’ Unions! To the Fainting Couch!