Friday, July 7, 2017

Break The Spectrum: Use Your Y-Axis for Once

If you think the Democratic Party is in a bit of trouble these days, you're probably one of the few people paying attention to facts on the ground instead of whatever noxious swill cable news is trying to force down our throats, gavage style instead. Happily, the New York Times ran an op-ed yesterday that has the solution you've been looking for: do what Bill Clinton did and move back to the center!

On the face of it, it's not a horrible idea, except in the many ways that it is. Part of the problems that I had with Mrs. Clinton's two candidacies was that both resembled a Reunion Tour for aging political operatives in ways that were damaging to both the Democratic Party and her chances in the election*. You can't run like it's 1992 in 2008 and yet in '08 all the old Clinton faithful were back in the saddle again. You also can't like it's 2008 in 2016 and try and glue together what appears to be a once-in-a-generation coalition put together by President Obama not once, but twice to help him to victory.

SPAM-flavored centrism some Clinton Disciple found in a warehouse somewhere marked 'MADE WITH LOVE IN 1992' needs to be put back on the shelf where it was found. You've got a few things to consider:

1. People hate labels. There are more independents than ever before. In what appears to be a post-partisan era, you can't rely on the same tired spectrum when things get bad. "Oh, they don't like our leftism, BACK TO THE CENTER BOYS!" You may hate our Tangerine Overlord with the heat of a thousand fiery suns, but he broke the spectrum and started using his Y-Axis and his X-Axis on the great big graph chart of politics. Oh, said he, there a blue collar working class demographic that's seen their jobs shipped overseas for two decades? Might they be willing to vote for someone who at least talks tough on free trade? 

Turns out, they were. Whether they still listen in 2020 is still up for debate, but the point is that the field is opening up in a big way. Pick your issues and you might win support in places you weren't expecting. (Locally, Johnson County saw granola eating hippie types ally with Ayn Rand reading Libertarian types to (somewhat myopically, IMHO) vote against a new jail.) 

Issues and ideas matter. Offer the right platform and policy solutions and who knows who might vote for you.

2. States are important. Everything everything everything begins at the state level! If you can't win in all 50 states, as a party you're not much use to anyone, now are you. States were also conceived as laboratories of democracy- so don't be afraid to try new ideas. Just because a Progressive Revolution is unlikely on a national level doesn't mean it can't happen on a state level. Field test ideas for reforms. Think outside the box. See where it  goes. Republicans have been doing all of this for awhile now. Democrats desperately need to get in on this as well. 

(Oh, and the 8 million Republican candidates versus the 6 or so Democratic candidates in 2016 illustrates another reason why states are important: that's where the next generation of Democratic leaders are going to come from. The depth of the Republican 'bench' as it were stood in stark contrast to the shallow 'bench' the Democrats had last time. TL; DR: be the Golden State Warriors. Don't be the Cleveland Cavaliers. Sure, the Cavs have Lebron and he can win. But Golden State has a small platoon of awesome talent. That's what Democrats should aim for.)

3. Do I think we should do away with caucuses and go to all primaries as the op-ed suggests? I don't know. I go back and forth on that. On the one hand, yes, caucuses do tend to skew to the more hardcore supporters of the party which may not be where the electorate as a whole is. On the other hand, caucuses do lend themselves well to retail politics and making candidates shake a bunch of hands and meet a bunch of people too. For sure the role of super delegates need to be looked at carefully... yes, they're supposed to be a check to protect the Party itself- and given what happened to the Reform Party, I think they could be useful. 

The irony of this post is that I'm a registered Independent. I've voted for Greens, Libertarians, Democrats and Republicans in various elections over the years, but I desperately want the Democratic Party to get it's shit together. Dreaming of impeachment and fondling chicken entrails to try and see some future smoking gun to bring down Our Tangerine Overlord becomes counter productive at some point. Our Tangerine Overlord might not fuck it up all that much. And banking a Democratic comeback on whether or not he does is a risky bet indeed. 

Honestly: if the Democrats can't claw something back on the state level by 2020 they could be out of power for a generation. The Party cannot go into the next census where it is now on the state level. 

I'm glad people are talking seriously about solutions, but it's time to stop playing checkers and start figuring out the rules of that 3D Interdimensional Space Chess. Because that's the world we're living in now and moving one way or the other on the spectrum isn't going to cut it any more.

*We can re-hash '16 and '08 til we're all blue in the face, but let me just say this: I voted for Mrs. C in '16. But I found both of her campaigns to be very frustrating experiences. They could have and should have been better than they were both times.

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