Why Do Democrats Seem So Intent On Alienating So Many People Inside The Party?
We think it’s leaving a lot of Democratic voters unsure of where — or if — they fit in
We keep hearing political operatives who back certain candidates, or causes, or philosophies, as well as pundits whom they rely on to echo them, telling us these days that in order to beat Trump, the Democratic Party must become all about young people and POC. Leaving us with the distinct impression we’re not wanted.
Likewise, the more “mature” candidates talk about “electability” and building their victories on bringing back traditional Democratic voters — union members, etc. — who might’ve voted for Trump, and rallying the party’s “traditional” base. Although demographically we do, we don’t always feel like we fit in there either.
The overarching question for us, whatever angle they’re coming from, is why?
There’s now an increasingly clearly defined split, that might’ve started in the 2016 midterms with the victory of more progressive candidates, which did scare a lot of the party faithful we know, a little. But not a lot. Yet it’s being portrayed as such an “us against them”. Already. Within the same party!
Both speak so definitively about how theirs is the only possible path to victory.
But how do they know? Many of these exact same people — on both sides — were telling us in 2016 Trump had no chance of winning. Zero. And we understand all anybody’s trying to do to is correct that mistake, and think they’ve found the way to do it, and make a compelling case for their preferred candidate, who of course differ in terms of appeal and ideas, because candidates always do.
But they can’t possibly know. (Actually, we think a lot of politically punditry is BS: it’s really just people making guesses, and the ones that turn out to be right, get paid a lot the next time around, and then they’re often wrong.) Trump’s victory has kind of proven that, but it’s such a big industry, that’s kind of been ignored, plus candidates have got to turn to someone to run their campaigns.
So why such a split and such definitive and unyielding commitment to one viewpoint or the other, to the point of willfully alienating people who might otherwise vote for you if you helped them understand where you’re coming from, and didn’t just shove them aside even though that’s easier?
Maybe part of it is most of the candidates aren’t getting directly snippy or dirty with each other, at least not yet, so the role of surrogates doing that work for them just barely in the background has grown ever more important. The danger being that indirect attacks are often more insidious because they’re carried out by the truest of true believers, or paid operatives, and not candidates who know how to roll with the punches and pull a room together. Or at least should.
But factions within the Democratic party seem perfectly willing now to run the risk of alienating a huge portion of the rest of the Democratic party no matter how you slice it. We’re willing to support a progressive, younger Democrat, but not if they keep telling us day after day, every time we listen to guests on a podcast on NPR, or read political analysis, that they don’t want us, we’re not gonna be allowed to participate anymore, and actually we are the problem. That just sucks.
And we’re hearing it more and more. And that storyline seems to be gaining momentum, meaning political factions are actively digging that rift deeper. And that’s nonsense.
Because no one knows what the winning formula’s gonna be. No one can possibly know. We’d imagine the most inclusive message possible would be the most compelling, but that could also be wrong. Still, no one seems interested in pursuing that path. (Except maybe Elizabeth Warren, although we do not intend that at all to be an endorsement. And funnily, Bernie Sanders seems to straddle both but is being portrayed more an more as a “mature” candidate this time around than something fresh.)But why work so hard to spread the message that if the Democratic Party doesn’t move to the Left, or to the Center, or wherever the hell else, it’s a personal unforgivable insult to a huge chunk of voters? How can that possibly help Democrats win back the Presidency? The implication can only be that for huge swaths of people, if they don’t get such and such a candidate, and instead get another, it’s not worth voting. Which is why Democrats lost last time. Which we can say definitively because it already happened.
Yet that message, or strategy seems to be wedged deeper and deeper into our political discourse. It certainly doesn’t seem like a winning strategy to us. But who knows? We’re not going to say anything about anybody being a sure winner or loser beforehand, because the truth is no one knows. That’s why we have elections.
So too a growing chorus of Democrats who now say they’re resigned to Trump winning again anyway. How do they know? As we said, many of those same people were saying he couldn’t win last time.
What set us off about all of this today in particular is this story in Slate, with the headline: “There is hard data that shows that a centrist Democrat would be a losing candidate”. It then goes on to cite an academic paper written by a French economist which suggests a lot of things that might be true, and probably are true about the transformation of the Democratic Party.
We see a lot of value in what’s presented in the story and find it interesting and insightful. And it very well may turn out to be correct. What irks us is not what’s being presented, but how, and how definitive it’s made out to be.
And what it definitely isn’t is hard data! In fact, it’s the opposite of hard data! Because there will be no hard data on the 2020 Election until after the election!
And we repeat our disclaimer: we are not endorsing nor have a mind to endorse any candidate right now.
Politics is about elections, which are events. Those are the only definitive results. (Which is why we often also rail in these pages about Democrats claiming “near-victories” because they were able to greatly narrow Republican margins of victory in certain places. But near victories don’t count in elections; they’re still losses). Also, predicting results before they happened got a lot of people into a lot of trouble in 2016. Or maybe it didn’t, because they’re still out their spouting their BS as “fact” when they should’ve been spanked hard.
Similarly, the Slate article calls the economist’s conclusions an “inconvenient truth” for Democratic centrists. Except it’s not a “truth” of any kind. It’s the opposite of the truth. It’s pure speculation that may be very valid, and fascinating to think about, but applying it to the result of an election that has not yet happened is as far from truth as you can get. How about let’s get away from all these “truths” and have some intelligent conversations about who and how Democrats can have the best chance of winning, and can best be served regardless of who they are or what they seem to stand for.
And that doesn’t necessarily mean a mandatory choice between centrist or progressive dammit! It means holding together and having some common sense!