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Category Archives: Democratic Party
In the past week, I had three conversations that all intersect on the issue of the future of the Democratic Party. Three quite different people, and varying subject matters. I have not yet reached a conclusion, but the questions raised fascinate me.
I belong to a political action group and we had a meeting. While the topic doesn’t matter, this comment still rings in my ears: “I work in a factory, and we make decisions immediately. I hope the rest of you won’t take this wrong, but you are pencil pushers.”
The vote on the second ballot was 235-200 indicating that the rift between the old guard and the new left continues. So what does this mean for our party?
First, Tom Perez is a good guy. He’s smart, he’s well educated, he has held political positions (both elected and appointed) of increasing responsibility, most recently as Secretary of Labour. While his tenure at Labour was not a rousing success, he is in favour of the Fight for $15.
However, he was in favour of TPP. In addition, he feels that the Democratic Party does not answer enough to rural Americans, and that the DNC did nothing to help Hillary Clinton directly. And therein lies the problem with his election.
This election is a bitter pill to swallow because everybody got it wrong. Apparently even the internal polls of the RNC in the last week of the campaign showed Secretary Clinton ahead. At the end of the day, President-elect Trump managed to avoid shooting himself in the foot just long enough during the last two weeks for Republicans who were telling pollsters that they were voting for Governor Johnson or were undecided to hold their noses and come back home. Certainly, the polls with two weeks to go encouraged the Clinton campaign to dream about states that they could go into and help Democrats in down ballot races. The perception that Clinton would win in some ways gave permission for Republicans to hold their noses and vote for Trump to keep the margin down and for Democrats to cast protest votes for third party candidates.
It’s also a bitter pill because the race got very personal. Since the election, I have gotten e-mails from local activists about the issues that the party needs to address. On most of the issues, there was a plan on that issue from the Clinton campaign. The issues, however, never got aired as the campaign focused on the flaws of the two candidates. I don’t think that the choice of the Democratic candidate mattered on this aspect of the campaign. In the primary, Trump also ran a very personality based campaign, slandering his opponents and coming up with labels to characterize the rest of the Republican candidates. Certain issues that were mentioned in the DNC WikiLeaks memos were not good issues for a Democratic primary but would have proven useful tools for the Trump campaign in the general election. Trump was such a big personality and so uniquely “not ready” to be President, it is hard to see how any Democratic campaign could have avoided the temptation to focus on Trump’s flaws and gotten the media to focus on the issues rather than the personalities.
Given the closeness of this election what needs to change between now and 2020.
Tuesday brought a lot of bad news for Democrats and the Democratic Party. It was not, however, a disaster. For the sixth time in the past seven elections, our candidate won the popular vote for President. (However, for the second time in the past five elections, we lost the electoral college while winning the popular vote.) We gained two Senate seats and come close in several others. A slim Republican majority in the Senate will hinder the ability of the Republicans to go as far as some in the Republican party would like. We gained approximately five seats in the House. While the Senate map is favorable for Republicans in terms of the location of races, mid-term elections generally favor the party out of power. (The supporters of the new administration tend to be disappointed by the failure to get more done while the opponents are outraged by what has been done.) In other words, while the party does have to think about its agenda for 2018 and 2020, we are in a slightly better position than Republicans were after the 2008 elections.
I spent Election Day working for the county, greeting voters, putting those voters in one of six lines to make things move more quickly. Our polling place saw about 2200 voters that day, plus 184 absentee ballots. From that one polling place, there is a lot of insight about what went wrong.
The loss was obvious when the tape was run a little past 9, indicating that while Clinton had won the vote, turnout wasn’t high enough and the percentage wasn’t big enough. This ended up being the pattern across both the state of Pennsylvania and the country at large.
First, an anecdote that explains something. The voter who came out from voting grinning ear to ear, proud. Told me that although a lifelong Democrat who had never voted for a Republican, she proudly voted for Donald Trump. Why? “I did all my research because I wanted to be really sure and I think Clinton went bad when she shot all her partners at the Rose Law Firm and then Vince Foster.” When told that never happened, the response was: “Yes it did. I read it on the internet.”