Making Voters Care About Policy

Distracted Much?! Do Voters Care?In the novel Primary Colors, Libby is distraught after McGovern loses in 1972. And she tells Jack that they need to learn how to play dirty in politics. And Jack tells her no, “Our job is to make it clean. Because if it’s clean, we win — because our ideas are better.” I love that line because it so sums up liberal thinking. It also sums up the way things are today. Regardless of what you think of the Democrats, at least they have ideas. The Republicans don’t have any ideas other than that the rich should be given everything they want.

It is well known that when you talk to voters about policy, they overwhelmingly agree with the Democrats. People are in favor in Social Security. They are in favor of Medicare. The same thing holds true with most other things. They agree that global warming is real and that we should do something about it. We need to invest in infrastructure — the people agree with that. The people believe that the rich have had things their way for too long and that the poor and middle classes need to be helped out. Americans agree so much with the Democratic Party that it’s amazing that the Republican Party still exists.

The Republican Party Thrives

Yet exist it does. Not only did the Republican Party just win the presidency (with a minority of the votes), but they control the Senate and the House. They control most of the state governments. For all the talk of the Republican Party dying, they are doing really well. All this talk about the Republican Party dying seems to be based on people like me and the assumption that It should be dying. The voters think otherwise.

And the reason for this is that the voters aren’t interested in policy. And the Democrats are as guilty of this as the Republicans are. We can, if we like, get together in small groups and grouse about how stupid the voters are. And if we do that, we are going to continue to have more glorious victories like 2014 and 2016. The fact that voters don’t care much about policy is not their problem. It is our problem. It is the nation’s problem. As this election shows, it is the world’s problem.

This last election was especially substanceless. There were basically only two things that were talked about. For a small period of time, we talked about the tape where Donald Trump and Billy Bush discussed women in a most vile way and the older man claimed to get away with sexual assault on multiple occasions because he was famous. To me, the most chilling thing on the tape was, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it — you can do anything.” That’s not a boast; that’s just a fact.

Email Distraction

Wall Street - We CareBut that was just a week’s worth of entertainment news. The rest of the time was about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. That was particularly interesting for a number of reasons. The first is that it was a technical matter. It’s the kind of stuff that I make a living writing about. So I know that at most one percent of Americans had even the vaguest idea of what the issue was. And the more you knew, the less you cared. It was truly of no interest.

The second thing about it was that “email server” became “email” — something people knew more about. But again, it was an issue that no one really understood. She wasn’t using the private server for classified correspondence. So why did that matter? That was a question that never came up. Occasionally, there was some discussion that some bit of email had since been classified since it went through the server. But that was the closest we ever got.

The third thing about it was that we weren’t talking about troop movements. We all know that way too information is classified. The fact that things were sent as unclassified but later determined to be classified tells us much. So even if Hillary Clinton had sent classified material, so what? Is there anything there that anyone care about? No.

Voters Do Care

Yet lots of people did care — about “emails.” That is to say they cared about the story. “Emails” is a real life example of a McGuffin. That’s something in a movie that the action revolves around. A good example of this is found in the movie Ronin. Everyone is trying to get their hands on something that is inside a steel case. We never find out what it is because it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that everyone in the film cares about.

In the case of Hillary Clinton’s “emails,” everyone cared because it was constantly implied that it was important. It wasn’t. But how is it that the Democratic Party allowed this to be the story? How is it that no one was interested in the fact that a vote for Donald Trump was a vote for taking health insurance away from 20 million people? I know that voters in the United States care about that. They care about a lot of other things too — substantial things. Yet the election had all the gravitas of the Miss Teen USA beauty pageant.

What Democrats Must Do

The Democratic Party has two options. It can get a hell of a lot better at putting on a good reality television election. Or it can get people to care about the policies that they already care about. Frankly, I think the party has been working more on the former. And the reason is because it isn’t as committed to those popular policies as it claims to be.

This year, the Republicans took away a big issue that really ought to belong to the Democrats: our unfair economic system. Sure, they used it in a xenophobic way that has almost nothing to do with reality. And they won’t do anything to make the lives better of those who continue to suffer under our unjust economic system. But what would the Democratic Party do?

Last time I checked, the Democratic Party was still pretty keen on the latest “free trade” deal. Most Democratic politicians still turn slightly green when they talk about raising taxes. The Senate Democrats are poised to elect as leader a Wall Street apparatchik. It’s not that the Democrats are bad. But they seem much more committed to the thinking of Ronald Reagan than FDR

The first thing the Democratic Party needs to do is to proudly embrace its liberalism. It isn’t enough to be against racism and sexism and homophobia. Because all of those will thrive as long as economic inequality thrives. A vote for Wall Street is a vote for segregation and the glass ceiling and the lynching tree. The question that voters ask is, “Do you care?” And the answer, when it comes to the Democratic Party, is not clear.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

42 thoughts on “Making Voters Care About Policy

  1. >The first thing the Democratic Party needs to do is to proudly embrace its liberalism.

    I remember when conservatives starting saying “The L Word.” As if Liberal is a dirty word, something shameful. And we let them get away w/ it.

    • Me too. And that was part of the Bill Clinton message — the era of big government is over, we’re not “liberals” anymore. I understand it strategically for the time. I think long-term it was a disaster.

    • Yes. And it was always a racist attack. What was wrong with liberalism was not big spending — the Republicans were even bigger spenders. It was that liberals wanted to spend tiny amounts on “those people.” And the voters didn’t miss this dog whistle.

      But I’m not talking about the word. I’m talking about what is documented in today’s quote: conservative and neoliberal policy have resulted in much greater inequality. And that’s resulted in American workers running to the people who are absolutely the worst on that score.

  2. There’s something I read once that stuck with me, though I don’t remember where. When a poor white man discovers the system is working against him, he has the choice to turn left and embrace socialism or turn right and embrace racism.

    • LBJ to then-staffer Bill Moyers: “I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

      Jon Stewart to Larry Wilmore as Wilmore was putting together “The Nightly Show”: you take any problem in America and scratch beneath the surface, and you’re gonna find it’s either about race, class, or gender.

      Boy, there are some scared-ass white guys out there, aren’t there?

  3. Clinton talked nearly nonstop about policy.

    But the media didn’t care about that. What it cared about was beating up on a grandmother because they didn’t like her.

    They were the abusive boyfriend. It was so bad she even had to do her own podcasts to get her damn message out because media refused to do their job properly.

    Now what do Democrats do when you have a media bound and determined to never stop beating up on you-the obvious answer of “well don’t let the one they want to beat up on run” is insulting, dumb and means that we would never be able to run anyone except once a generation politicians like Obama.

    One thing-vote with your dollars. If you don’t watch the news, you can still be pretty informed by reading your news. WaPo definitely deserves your dollars-as does Newsweek. Consume alternative media via Youtube if you need Talking Heads. Listen to podcasts (for instance, the one that I keep harping endlessly on.)

    These days, you can have the podcasts broadcasted to your car radio so you can avoid having to listen to NPR (which is as bad as the rest.)

    That is one step.

    There are others. And there are many other things we could do as Dems. After all, we DID win the popular vote. We just lost a fairly small amount in the wrong areas. What we need to do though is get more civic engagement going.

    • Yeah, but people won’t do it. They don’t care about politics the way that people around here do. There’s a reason why presidential elections are largely determined by macroeconomic trends. People get into the voting booth and decide who to vote for on vague notions of how things are going. And that wouldn’t be such a bad thing if we had a parliamentary system where the party in power gets to do what it wants. In our system, it’s a catastrophe.

      After the lead water crisis in Michigan, the people still decided to vote for Republicans? That isn’t because the media isn’t doing its job; that’s because people are irrational. Ten years ago, I would have said, “Well, after 4 years of Trump, people will have had enough.” I know that’s not true now. The people of Pennsylvania may turn against him. But I wouldn’t count on it. The Democratic Party’s only hope is to make economic issues less of a muddle than they have allowed them to be. Is Obama still planning to ram TPP through Congress in the lame duck session? Even if he isn’t, I know it’s what he wants to do. And that’s the problem.

      • It’s “The Wrecking Crew” again. Government fails and you elect Republicans because they’re the anti-government party. Then they pass laws making it more likely government will fail.

        Take the “rural voters.” Some (most) vote GOP because of religion, others because of racism (usually caused by lack of knowing nonwhite people rather than pure hatred). All are upset that rural America is dying. So they buy Republican arguments that Big Gummint is killing farming or mining. They get new agriculture and mining laws which don’t help them out one whit.

        This is where a new grassroots Democratic Party could make a difference. State legislators can avoid the Big Gummint label and connect well with smaller communities. And if these grassroots Democrats committed to avoiding corporate ties, we could begin to change the conversation. Instead of Big Gummint being the problem, it’s really regulatory capture.

        The most popular government agency in Minnesota is the DNR (Natural Resources). Basically fish and game. Rural hunters know not every hunter is responsible, and we need a strong enforcement agency to keep our duck/deer/fish populations healthy. The main reason people like the DNR is it’s very responsive. They have meetings all the time all over the state. If you want to argue for a different fish size limit, you get a voice. And even if you don’t, the DNR wants hunters to contribute data on what they’re observing. Are there more deer this year or more wolves?

        So it’s possible to connect with some GOP voters. But they have to feel listened to. And while a Clinton presidency would have helped these voters and Trump will harm them, the non-bigots believed Trump was so rich (untrue) and Clinton so beholden to Wall Street (mostly untrue) that Trump would be free from “corruption” (the basis of his entire business model).

        • Yeah, and I would accept that if we hadn’t heard it so many times. The rich man will save us! I do think the main thing about Trump’s tax returns is that they would show he wasn’t that rich. That alone probably would have lost him the election. He looks richer than he is because he licenses his name. But all those things that have his name on them are not owned by him. Oh well. This is going to be bad.

  4. Whether it is fair or not, we are seen by many voters as the ideology and the Party of the glamorous job you’ll never get, the city where you cannot afford the rent, the school that you’ll never get admitted to. No matter what else we do, we need to be seen as the ideology and Party that supports workers, students, retirees and anyone else who feel vulnerable in the face of runaway neoliberalism.

    We need to combine redoubled economic populism with robust feminism and anti racist. What is key is how we present it. The low information swing voters goes off of the general feel of a campaign. It is the very partisan, the very rich and the very marginalized who will go to your website and read your policy proposals. As a result, future Democratic Presidential and Senatorial nominees should put that economic populist on display and then in targeted appearances, proceed to direct feminists, LGBT people, minorities and allies to look at their policy specifics.

    In short, policy is still important for the base but if you want to recapture those white non college voters up around the Great Lakes, you need to be aggressively tribunal. No Republican should ever be allowed to appear as more populist then their Democratic opponent.

    • David Graeber, a writer I really admire, in his last book talked about the question “why do rural Americans hold churches and the military in such high regard?” After all, while churches provide valuable opportunities to socialize, and a little bit of charitable support to struggling congregation members, they’re not as useful as Doctors Without Borders or similar organizations. And the military does virtually nothing for rural Americans.

      Graeber had a very perceptive answer. It’s about class and opportunity. If your daughter or son wants to avoid the rat race, wants to be of service to others instead of pursuing personal financial gain, where does she turn?

      If you’re rich, you encourage her to work for the charity world. But she’ll need a degree from a very connected university, Ivy League or Stanford or the like. Idaho State won’t cut it (although the professors at Idaho State are just as good, if not better!)

      Then she’ll need an internship. And that means a year or two of working full-time without making any money. Probably in a very expensive city like San Fran or NYC. So you’ve got to be able to support her through that as well. It’s great if you can afford these things for your daughter or son. We need good people doing important work!

      If you’re rural working class, what options does your idealistic daughter have? It’s the military or a church (“faith ministry.”) That’s pretty much it.

      Where the reality disconnect comes in for rural conservatives is, they imagine every urban liberal to be this overpaid twerp doing “Marketing Strategy Design” or some such useless bullshit, while pulling down $200 K. That class does exist! All my brothers are members of it! And they listen to NPR and TED Talks podcasts in their cars.

      But most urban liberals, as Thomas Frank has pointed out, are poor as shit and gripe constantly about their struggles. In Minnesota I know maybe ten liberals (all my friends here). Three of them are unemployed. The others are terrified of losing their jobs that pay $40 K at most. All have college degrees, half postgrad degrees.

      Well, not one couple. One couple has no education past high school. And they are extremely comfortable, and are sending their kids to the best schools. One’s Black and the other an Irish immigrant, though, so not exactly TED Talks types. They’re pretty rich because they run their own janitorial business (I know, stereotype job or what?) When we hang out, we don’t sip merlot and have cheese tastings. We eat fucking baked casseroles (you call casserole “hot dish” in Minnesota) and swill beer/gin and insult politicians we loathe with very, very bad language (once the kids are asleep).

      (Comedian Ron White, on the radio, promoting his show at a nearby casino: “Don’t bring the kids. I say some bad words.” Radio host: “My kids have heard swear words before.” White: “Not in the order I use them.” Elegant cussing: it’s an art form!)

      I digress, but I’m basically saying “Amen, brother,” to your post!

    • I agree. And I think I got more to my point in my comment to Elizabeth. Why is it that the TPP is very popular among the most powerful Democratic elites? We’re not talking free trade here; we’re talking a big giveaway to Hollywood and the drug companies. A party that does a little bit for workers, nothing for organized labor, and much for big moneyed interest it not not notably different from the Republican Party — at least for people who don’t pay much attention to politics. I don’t want to open up old wounds, but Bernie Sanders is the future. We need someone with the political skills of Bill Clinton but the ideology of Sanders. And that’s one place that I have some optimism. Of course, I suspect that the Democratic Party will respond to that the way Labour has to Corbyn. And while Sanders’ supporters got behind Clinton, I suspect if Sanders had won the primary, the Democratic elites would have treated him worse than the Republican elites treated Trump. That says a lot about just how screwed up the “liberal” party is.

  5. Frank,

    While the idea of Democrats “owning” the liberal label makes sense – I want to comment that with all due respect – one truly cannot embrace liberalism while at the same time regularily disparaging neoliberalism in my view.

    The use of the term neoliberal in the pejorative (with which it is always used of course) – I have often seen as a dishonest attempt by many (and not by you necessarily – but rather others often using it) to harshly critique western democratic values of a free market and range of options and choices available in western democracy.

    You cannot have a liberal society while abandoning the important precepts of liberalism. And many of the same folks who use that very nebulous and rather undefined term “neoliberal” – describe people like President Obama as neoliberal as well I might add.

    Most self described anti-neoliberals that I have read would be less coy in simply describing themselves as far left, or even new left etc.. Now interestingly, this behavior on the flip side is kind of similar to how libertarians are often afraid to be called right of center conservative. Either way it is silly.

    Forgive my very bourgois and centrist sensibilities -but I tend to see myself as liberal on many issues and I am caught in the proverbial middle – and between two intense squabling groups on the left and right polar opposites – where any potential reasoned argument or dialogue gives way all too often to rhetoric and trendy tribal posturing – and views that make little sense in reality (ie.the real world dude).

    • Nothing wrong with being a centrist, my good man! All my brothers and my lone remaining college friend from 1990 are centrists. We can agree to disagree on many things. It’s all good in the neighborhood, baby!

      What bothers me is when centrist Democrats (like Secretary Clinton or President Obama) are presented as the “far left.” They are not. Within their own party, there are prominent figures like Senator Professor Warren (my spouse calls her “Warrior Warren”), Senator Sanders, Representative Keith Ellison, and many more less prominent members of Congress who are WAY to the left of Obama/Clinton. And none of their proposals are as radical leftist as the New Deal or Great Society.

      The richest of my brothers was very concerned about the rise of “populism” in this election. Meaning Trump and Sanders. To him, they were both dark figures. Now? He wishes it was ANYBODY besides Trump.

      I believe the term “neoliberalism” is used pejoratively because the very few people who use it (props to you for knowing what it means, BTW, you’ve been doing your poli-sci reading!) are largely critical of it. In theory, we are not opposed to things like “free trade,” “globalization,” or “open markets” (although we all wish Thomas Friedman would shut the fuck up). What we object to are the tangible results. Mass suicides of farmers in India. Sweatshops with locked doors (so nobody can quit mid-shift) that burn down.

      And above all, forced austerity policies. Overthrowing Arbenz, Mossadegh, Sukarno. September 11 means a very different thing in South America than it does here. They remember September 11, 1973, when the US military murdered Chilean president Salvador Allende (democratically elected, BTW) and instilled autocrat general Pinochet as dictator. So we could fly down a bunch of “free market” economists trained at the University of Chicago and decimate every social program designed to help poor people. Put them back in their place — as indentured servants who are used up and spit out by companies paying off swarming loan sharks from the international financial community.

      That’s the underbelly of neoliberalism. It’s quite real. And while it was originally sold as the painful medicine we have to swallow before our great free-market Utopia arrives, the ETA on that Utopia keeps getting postponed. Where, exactly, is it? Among rich urban liberals with swank jobs in Mumbai and Manhattan, as Colin observes above? Good for them, I’m happy they’re doing well. The rest of us aren’t. (And Thomas Friedman — STFU.)

      I think the burden of proof is on neoliberalism to show how great it is. I’m not seeing it. And I’m seeing democratic socialism, which has a long track record of actually delivering results, in real risk of being dismantled in the West, because too many people have not benefited from the neoliberal, centrist, technocratic “knowledge economy” paradise.

      As for ideological terminology, I’ll own the label “far left” if anyone wants to apply it. No skin off my nose! I’m actually farther left than Mr. Frank who runs this site. But I learned politics from the books of Dr. Chomsky. Why not let workers own the businesses they work in? Perhaps that would be disastrously misguided in some cases — but I got to know all the corporate officers at my last job, and a bigger batch of incompetent dingbats you’d be hard-pressed to find. I could, and this is no exaggeration, select ten ground-level workers at random from that company and seven of them would be brighter than the top executives. Those people in that office wuz Dumb, man. Like, Trump level of Dumb.

      So again, far leftist here. And you’re not! And that’s fine! We need to debate these things! And capitalism has given us some wonderful stuff, like the washer and dryer. I’m just not vastly impressed by it lately. It’s doing a shit job on combating climate change. But, hey, we’ve got Pokémon Go!

      • The main question I was asking is – would it be for example, accurate to call Chomsky a liberal even in the classical sense?

        I think it would be better to use language (haha and the linguist Chomsky would no doubt agree) that accurately reflects as much as possible the essence of anything.

        Or maybe in politics- it just serves politicians of all stripes to blur the lines of truth just to get more votes. Oh happy day..

        • You have to explain this to me like I’m a 15-year old. I’m not quite sure what you’re arguing for. I’m vaguely aware that classical English writers like Locke or Burke are considered part of the honorable conservative, or centrist, or neoliberal, tradition, whatever we label it, but I haven’t read any of them in decades.

          I know nothing of the good Doctor Noam’s linguistics work. I know his politics books, and I basically self-educated from reading the sources he footnoted in those books.

          Again, if anyone wants to call me a wild-eyed leftist, I don’t care. I don’t have a column in some popular magazine. I type shit on blogs. Bernie was a wild-eyed leftist, according to media labels. You wouldn’t rather have Trump out of the Oval Office and replaced by this guy?

          https://youtu.be/2nwRiuh1Cug

          Anyhoo, no hard feelings, my good man. I’m just a little lost as to your meaning. I am a dumb person in many ways!

          • No you should explain neoliberalism to me… cause I may be dumb but I don’t have a clue what exactly it means really.

            If I said anything to upset you I apologize – I did not do it intentionally. And just to add if this helps – I do admire any person who actually cares about other people period. You seem to care. And I think this is great because it seems to me -caring is somewhat out of fashion these days.

            What I am arguing for is a clarity in how terms are defined. One issue that voters had with mainstream politicians is they feel they are lied to regularly and disrespected on both sides of the aisle. It’s a really valid thing I think.

            The reason Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were popular is because both politicians addressed this issue (in their own ways). More than anything, Democrats have to be plain spoken (as Bernie Sanders certainly was).

            I do not always articulate my thoughts well James, but I just do the best I can do.

            • I write passionately about the subject because it’s personal for me. The glorious genius of market forces killed my mom. I’m very angry about that. But not at you or anyone else who thinks more highly of the market than I do. Just predatory profiteers and the harm they do.

              I agree with you that neoliberalism is a imprecise term. So is neoconservative. A better term for neoconservative is just conservative military hawk.

              I don’t know when neoliberalism started getting used. It refers to modern pursuers of extreme economic reforms, particularly things like austerity measures, privatization of social services, and governments that have no power to restrain corporate behavior. It’s heavily pushed by the World Bank and IMF. It’s been a disaster everywhere it’s been tried, resulting in exploding levels of inequality, which often leads to the rise of dictators.

              The term comes from the notion that these policies are in the spirit of classical liberals like Adam Smith and John Locke, who both believed more open markets helped spread ideas and goods freely, tending to undermine bad systems of government. However both warned against the dangers of great wealth and collusion between major business interests. They would probably disapprove of modern neoliberalism.

              I personally believe capitalism can do good things when it’s kept on a tight leash. But it has a tendency to break out of its restrictions and seek the political power to end those restrictions.

              On “liberal” as a label for Dr. Noam — I’d say he’s a social issues liberal. Economically, he’s basically a socialist. Politically he’s in favor of anything that increases freedom and a decent life for the largest number of people. He’s been open about not being an advocate for any particular form of government. Just against dictatorships and oligarchies. Personally, I want a parliamentary system!

              • James – sorry it took me so long to reply. I was actually very moved by your comment. I have left a comment below that hopefully might relate to our discussion overall…

                • No time limit on responses here! Get to it when you get to it, if you wanna get to it. It’s all good,

                  • Well the comment below I think better explains what I mean as per our discussion in general about where the Democratic Party is going. That I will leave as my reply I think because it is much more concise and to the point.

                    All this aside… I do wish you a nice/happy and restful weekend and thanksgiving…

                    • Same to you! I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving! We just had our first snow yesterday. Usually in Minnesota, the first snow means Thanksgiving’s a month away …

                      Here’s a fun story I just heard. I worked with disabled adults at the same house for 15+ years. Got fired this year because of work-related injury (no union), but I still visit, see ’em at ballgames, etc.

                      So this one guy who lives there, he likes going out and buying notebooks, pens, magazines. It’s his favorite thing. And getting people out of the house was always my favorite thing (and a political statement, too — remind people that folks with disabilities are everywhere).

                      So I was usually the one who took him too the store, and this guy developed a friendly rapport with one of the clerks. Whenever we went, if that clerk was working, we’d get in that clerk’s line. This is like, five, ten years or so.

                      I don’t work there now. So other staff take this guy to the store, and he speaks up when he sees his favorite clerk. So the staff got to know the clerk.

                      A staff told me that she went to the store with this guy today, and the same clerk was there. The clerk ran back to the meat freezer and grabbed a turkey! Gave the house a free turkey!

                      You know I’m going over on Thursday to cook that!

                      Anyhoo, enjoy your holiday. And defrost that bird in the fridge soon!

                  • Yeah, I can go days. But I’m glad to see a lot more talk between you all. Lots of web pros tell me how great the comments on this site are. Keep it up!

            • Dictionaries are helpful in this regard. But most are behind the times. For a good definition of neoliberalism as I (and pretty much everyone else) uses it, see Investopedia.

              • Socialist: British-style National Health Service (NHS)

                My current preference, since I’ve come to believe it’s probably the only way to successfully reform US healthcare, which is so blighted that it needs to be razed to the ground and rebuilt. But then I’m a radical — it’s my nature to dislike kludges — and have a personal history of falling through the cracks of other people’s kludges.

                • You are so ignorant! Just let people buy insurance across state lines and all our problems will be solved!

                  I agree by the way: make the doctors work for the government. I used to teach pre-meds. I have a very low opinion of doctors. They should live comfortable middle class lives. They shouldn’t be rich. They are more plumbers than they are rocket scientists.

          • Yes. He also calls himself a libertarian socialist. I am pretty much with him, except that few know what those things mean. In the American lexicon of conservative vs liberal, Chomsky is a liberal.

    • I don’t know where people are getting the idea that this article is about embracing the liberal label. I’m talking about embracing liberal, or even more, leftist policy. I agree that the word neoliberalism is used imprecisely. When I use it, I define it thusly: “Neoliberalism is a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector.” And I’ve written on that many, many times. People want to distinguish the party of Johnson from the party of Clinton.

      It’s fine that you are in the middle. But the middle of what? Of whatever the current American Overton window is? It’s shifted sharply to the right in the last couple of weeks. Are you still in the middle? Is Chomsky the polar opposite of Rush Limbaugh? It’s fine if you disagree with me, but just what is it that you disagree with me on? From what you’ve written, it sounds like you are making a Jonathan Chait “Kids these days” arguments. There are all kinds of idiots in the world. But the tribal posturing I see on the left is mostly a bunch of kids. I see just as much tribal posturing in the middle — and it is by older, well-paid, widely read columnists. You know: people with actual power. Just because one isn’t on the extremes doesn’t mean one is making decisions base just on the facts. And it is presumptuous to assume that those on the left (Or right!) are tribal while those who fit nicely in the center of the constantly changing Democratic (Or Republican!) Party are not. It’s also hilarious.

      • Just to clarify a bit. I apologize but I did not mean for my earlier comment to become an epic topic (emotional or otherwise). And in general I prefer what one might refer to as sober intellectual discussion.

        That said, I want to look at the bigger picture for just a second. The main goal of Democrats should be in consolidating and using any power they have left in the Congress, for example (over the next two years) – to try to keep much of the good that President Obama and Congress managed to accomplish over the last eight years.

        Additionally, the goal for the next election should be a majority Democratic Senate and possibly even a Democratic House majority.

        So the next question is – How is this accomplished?

        Many months ago – I was hopeful that Bernie Sanders would win the nomination. I was concerned that Hillary Clinton was not well liked enough to win; that in a very strange election year like this one – the perception even – of glibness and insincerity would be a handicap. I still believe that.

        And I still think that Sanders would easily have defeated Trump. And this despite the fact that I think Clinton surpassed all expectations this election.

        I liked Sanders because he was the most honest and thoughtful candidate out there. And I believed he would not squander the legacy of President Obama.

        Now, I did not fully agree with Bernie on a number of issues… But that is not the point really. Who agrees with any politician all the time? Overall he was the best person I thought.

        The point I am making here is that even though policy does matter – there is something as important – or dare I say even more important in winning elections. And that is having quality candidates.

        Additionally, if the Democratic Party goes too far left in policies and becomes a more rigid party and more ideological party – it risks alienating potential supporters. President Obama aimed to unify. And for most of his tenure he achieved that. If President Obama had been the nominee this election – he would have won as well btw.

        I leave this as some food for thought.

        PS. I hope in this post-election “fear and loathing”, that at least on this blog there can be serenity and respect (even if we do not happen to agree on everything). My own philosophy (even as that of a contrarian sometimes) is that a difference of opinion is an opportunity that can be for the benefit of us all.

        • I was in a bad mood yesterday. I’m in an even worse mood today. But you don’t need to apologize. Nor do I feel the obligation. Everyone I know is on the verge of suicide. Forgiveness needs to be the default.

          However, I still think you are wrong. I wrote this two years ago, Very Serious Progressives. The truth is that economics is what sways elections. My model said that Trump would win the popular vote. But he was such a bad candidate that he lost. It was in the noise, regardless. His advantage was slight. He’ll be our next president because of a fluke of our electoral college. But this is undoubtedly true: Americans in the middle will vote for the most extreme candidates on the left or right under the right circumstances. The Republicans have tested this a number of times. The Democrats haven’t. In 2008, a year when the Democrats could not possibly have lost, they nominated a Milquetoast centrist who most wanted to get together with the Republican and sing Kumbaya. And what did the Democrats get? Obama was portrayed as a hard leftist — someone well to the left of me. Because that’s what they say of all Democrats.

          Elizabeth tells me the party has become liberal. But there are two problems with that. First is that her idea of liberal and mine are rather different. Second is that if the Democrats are liberal, it’s quite sudden — much too sudden to sink into American consciousness.

          As for the other candidates. My gut tells me you are right. But my brain tells me that Obama’s approval rating would have tanked if he had been a candidate. And Sanders would have been the scary socialist. I know that is where the party needs to go, because elections aren’t about ideology. Also, the Democrats need to more way left so that the Republicans can return to a regular conservative party. I’m not actually much of a partisan. We need to fix the nation. I know I’ll never get the kind of government that I want. But we can get one that is acceptable. We probably won’t though — at least not in my lifetime. The American empire is falling.

          • Do you agree at least that the immediate concern for the Democratic Party is in keeping fit as much as possible the legacy that Obama left after two terms?

            Secondly, another shorter term concern. Winning. As in winning a Congressional majority in the next election.

            I try to be a reality based kind of person. The above two items seem obvious at least IMHO.

            • I am highly pragmatic. There is a difference between my theorizing and what I think we have to do on a daily basis. Also: I’m a freelance writer. Obamacare has been a great thing for me personally. If it goes away, it’s going to be a big problem for me since I am a major pre-existing condition. So yes: we need to try to hold onto the progress that Obama made. I want to move forward, not backward.

              You’re new around here, so you may not be aware of how big a Clinton supporter I was (even though I voted for Sanders in the primary and gave him more money than I did her). Of course, I would say that Hillary Clinton was the first non-DLC presidential candidate we’ve seen since 1992. But I know the Democrats and I know every loss is met with, “Move to the center!” The “center” of course is a euphemism for “to the right of Ronald Reagan.”

          • You did convince me on one thing Frank-we need to build up unions and we only do that by actually getting pressure put on legislatures to pass pro-union bills like repealing Taft Hartley and letting unions do more organizing at jobs. I shouldn’t be scared to call up CWA and as them to organize my fellow employees.

            • You’re right. And it’s interesting because I know people of different ages who were in unions. In the past, unions empowered workers to stand up for themselves. Now almost everyone is afraid to say anything for fear of being fired. There is no one to back them up. My older sister is in the grocery clerk union, and even though it doesn’t have nearly the power it once did, she does things my younger friends don’t even think of as possible. At my last job as a regular employee, I was fired illegally while in the hospital in intensive care. If I had been in a union, that would not have happened. It is only when workers united that they can even begin to have a fair arrangement with capital. And right-to-work laws are totally anti-freedom. It’s funny that only a tiny number of libertarians understand that. But then libertarians just hate workers. Party of Principle, my ass.

              • This is true. One of the things about the 1930s that I always found interesting is the willingness of workers to not care if they got fired. They still went on strike. They still organized. I need to find out why.

                I was in a union but I didn’t do anything with it. I should have.

                • One argument I hear a lot is that people of that time could still remember life on a farm. So they figured they could always go back to that. I think it is also because of the way organizing we done. People feeling that they are part of something matters. It’s hard to think that you are part of something today.

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