So I’ve given myself a few days to process everything that happened to us before writing another post here. But as it turns out, I could just have easily written this post on Wednesday morning as well. The underlying premise is quite simple really: The Democratic Party isn’t working.
The Democratic Party, in coordination with the Hillary Clinton campaign, decided to adopt a campaign strategy that was at best arrogant and at worst just completely irresponsible and indefensible.
This was a campaign that spent 7x as much money on advertising in Los Angeles as they did in Milwaukee. I was trying to think of a sports analogy before writing this piece to make my point, but it’s such a stupid stratagem that I am struggling to find one. There is just no defense for spending exponentially more money in a city in a state that you know is blue than in one that could be a swing state. End of story.
This was a campaign that decided it was more important to stroke the egos of the limousine liberals that were always going to vote for them rather than shore up the working class that made up a third of the Obama coalition. What were they thinking?!
Lena Dunham is extremely annoying to almost everyone. The family who lost their jobs because the factory left their hometown does not like her! And the demographic who watches shit like Girls is already voting for you.
So they adopted a strategy that would appeal to the tiny affluent demographic they already had in their pocket. They entirely ignored their working class base. And apparently they just thought that their Hollywood-celebrity message would swing suburban Republicans. I wish someone could’ve whispered in their ears that suburban Republicans either don’t like or don’t particularly care about the opinions of Beyonce, Lena Dunham, and Jay-Z.
All they did this entire campaign was confirm the worst suspicions the forgotten people had all along: they really do just live in their own little bubble. They’re the haves, and we’re the have-nots, and after all this time we’ve tried to tell them that the Washington and the Hollywood mentality is the thing that alienates us the most, they literally premise their entire campaign around promoting those very themes. They just don’t get it. And they never will.
The people pulling the strings of the campaign and the party exhibited such a remarkable misunderstanding of what its base cares about, that it begs the inevitable question of why are they even in positions of power in the first place. They were wrong about everything. They were presented with the candidate they wanted to face, the candidate who was the most disliked candidate in at least modern presidential history, perhaps ever, and they did everything in their power to screw this up. My dog could’ve run a better operation. I have no doubt in my mind he could’ve swayed more Obama voters who stayed home than these clowns were able.
Unsurprisingly, the party and campaign elites haven’t gone on to self-reflect since Tuesday evening. There has been no contrition, no mea culpa, no “we got it wrongs”. I’m not sure if this is just to save face or if they actually don’t think they ran a pathetic campaign that misread literally everything at the most inopportune time for it to happen. Normally I’d argue the former, but these folks were too dense to realize all along that their campaign sucked so maybe even a blowout on election night wouldn’t turn them towards the light.
Publicly they blame Comey. Comey didn’t help, but Comey’s not the issue here. They blame “the press corps”. Indeed, the media’s obsession to balance out everything Trump said and did with Hillary’s emails was unfortunate to witness, but I mean, guys, they weren’t terribly charitable to Trump either. It’s not the press’s fault that you refused to do any press conferences with them.
They blame Bernie Sanders supporters. As if these supporters weren’t the ones telling you all along that it might be a good idea to adopt aspects of his campaign message into your own as you proceeded to the general. Of course, the relationship became a little tenser when it became clear that you actively sabotaged his candidacy during a primary that you were going to hold onto anyway. Doing sleazy things like that has a tendency to bother people.
At the end of the day, Hillary Clinton did not win the presidency because her people got the tactics wrong. Egregiously wrong, if we wish to be candid. The warning signs were there, and they were ignored. Once again, we arrive at the question of who is to lead us, when quite clearly those who were steering the ship were using a bogus map?
The Newsroom was a show that was easy to mock in many respects, but when Will McAvoy says his famous quip, “If liberals are so fuckin’ smart, how come they lose so goddamn always!” the writers of the show have a point. Why does it keep happening? Liberals can bitch and moan about the electoral college all they want, but they know the rules of the game by now, and in all fairness a party who is literally up against a party whose platform is to give tax cuts to the 1%, nuke every country that sounds funny, and make life harder for the people that already have it hardest in every way they can should be one that a center-left party should wallop with or without the drawbacks of the electoral college. So I ask once again: Why does it keep happening?
I would posit that it’s because the people that are running the show are clueless generals in the tactical battle. They find a way to make the liberal message sound either wonky or condescending. They aren’t ruthless, I’m not sure if they’re able to get angry because this election would’ve been a reason to, and instead they’re on Twitter quoting Harry Potter or retweeting positive quotes that the fortune cookie business already has covered. It’s as if they treat this as one big game, and it’d be nice to win, but when we lose it’s all golly gee that big bad GOP got us again this year. But hey, at least the coach said he’d take us to get ice cream either way. It’s like, guys, for the benefit of humanity, get mad!
The GOP, on the other hand, is ruthless. Those motherfuckers will literally shut down the government if you dare to give $1 to Planned Parenthood so the poor single mother can get a cancer screening. They’ll refuse to rule on a Supreme Court appointee, per constitutional requirement, when they realize that it would swing the court in the favor of the Democratic Party. They doctor the maps so that they can lose popular votes and still dominate the House, state legislatures, and district courts. They play for keeps.
What I try to tell people is to not conflate the GOP’s bad (evil) policy with bad tactics. They practice their tactics with surgical efficiency. Liberals love to laugh at the GOP for their blind patriotism and whacko social conservative values. What we don’t realize is that the GOP leadership’s the ones who are laughing at self-righteous us. The average Republican official doesn’t have strong thoughts on abortion. But he knows his base does. He knows these people will turn out on off-election years because they are so passionate about this issue. And when Joe Evangelical looks and sees that his party is literally willing to shut down the government over the issue that he cares about, he is loyal. He turned out when voter participation was 20% two years ago. He’ll be there in 2018, too.
And here’s the kicker: the GOP will abandon Joe Evangelical when the time is right. It’s just a numbers game. The GOP leadership isn’t stupid, they know the culture war isn’t tilting in their favor, but clearly the math tells them the payoff of the turnout of evangelicals on off-years offsets however many people my age they alienate with their agenda. But when the math finally doesn’t make sense to them, they’ll drop them like a sack of potatoes. It’s a devil’s bargain, and one can argue (as liberals always do) that the GOP just wins by getting people to vote against their own self-interest, but the gamesmanship is pristine.
Thus, the GOP is playing a game of chess with its next 7 moves mapped out. The Democrats can’t recall whether the bishop moves diagonally or horizontal and vertically. And the average liberal doesn’t even realize that they’re being conned. They’re too busy using gallows humor to point out the fact that military people and veterans vote for the very party that votes to cut their benefits and send them to stupid wars.
Until the Democratic Party learns how to play chess (or stops avoiding the fact that they’re in a game of chess and need to learn the rules), the GOP will continue to wipe the floor with them. Having the moral high ground isn’t enough, and when you talk about how you have the moral high ground all the time you just piss off the people that don’t agree with that estimation.
Having the ethical argument on your side is a start, that it is the Democratic Party that actually tries to help our disabled is the reason I will never vote Republican, but you need to have a plan on how to sell it and you need to execute that plan. Running a shitty campaign isn’t the answer, nor is talking down to people that don’t agree with you. The Democratic leadership may have to get angry. Prove to the working class you actually fight for them, because right now you stand for nothing and are refusing to accept any responsibility for Tuesday.
Our eyes now turn to the leadership of the party. Please learn from this. Please do better. Because if you’re not the answer, and I fear you may not be, then we will have to look elsewhere for it.