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Wednesday, June 21, 2017
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I see that the Democrats lost the special House election in Georgia’s Sixth District is suburban Atlanta. Jon Ossoff, the rookie Democratic candidate, made a spirited bid against Karen Handel, his GOP opponent, and the polls were very tight right up to the last few days. But in the final day they started breaking for Handel, and she wound up winning by a comfortable 4 point margin (recall that Trump only won this district by 1.5 percentage points). Handel’s victory came despite the fact that a whole lot of money had poured into Ossoff’s campaign coffers from pro-Democrat groups nationwide. The Democrats had hoped that this race was going to foreshadow the end of GOP control of the House of Representatives, and the breaking of Trump’s popularity in the heartlands.

I’m not going to offer a detailed, well-thought out analysis here. I’m just gonna shoot from the hip, like so much of what you see on social media (especially Twitter — what else is on Twitter but a lot of shooting from the hip?). OK, here’s my shot — the Democrats are just NOT LIKED anymore by too many people. For the most part, it’s not a matter of a particular candidate’s qualities. It’s not that a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren might do better with “working class” voters than Hillary Clinton did. And hey, Jon Ossoff himself talked about economic development and financial restraint in a way that conservatives in his district could appreciate. The problem is that a lot of people believe that the Democrats — all Democrats, not just a particular Democrat — are selling a general world view, a general philosophy that just turns these people off.

Do you need a link to a thoughtful analysis that backs up my point? OK then, how about Thomas Edsall’s recent article in the NY Times “The Democratic Part Is In Worse Shape Than You Thought” ? Edsall cites a whole lot of data and expert opinion in this article.

These anti-Democrat people are clearly not a majority of American voters. Hillary Clinton made that pretty obvious with her popular vote count. However, these folk happen to be geographically distributed in a way that favors the candidates that they happen to favor. Overall, I’d say that the Ossoff loss is a sign that the GOP is not going to lose the House or Senate in 2018, although they may have their margin shaved somewhat in the House.

The bottom line, IMHO, is that the Dems have much work to do, a great deal of re-thinking to do, in order to become nationally relevant once again. Yes, I will be the first to admit that some of the objections of the anti-Democrat legions are tinged with racism, misogyny and homophobia along with anti-immigrant and anti-Islam attitudes. The Dems are generally “on the side of the angels” regarding those issues. But as to seeing and addressing the underlying social concerns and economic problems which inspire such attitudes in the places where these people come from, the Dems are not doing a very good job.

If you follow the money, if you ask where the Dems get most of their funding these days, it generally points to well-educated elites who live in the major urban areas, often along the east or west coast. Very often these donors are involved in technology, international trade and media / popular entertainment; then throw in the last remnants of the unions, especially from the government sector (e.g. teachers unions). The Democrats are more dependent on rich people and well-off professionals than they once were (another Edsall article). These people tolerate and even support the Democratic focus on identity groups and aren’t particularly threatened by more government involvement in society and the economy — so long as they have a say in what that government will or won’t focus on. They aren’t particularly threatened by higher taxes, so long as they can get the particular deductions and exemptions that they need. Open borders and unrestricted trade gives them the cheap products and unskilled workers that keep consumer prices low, along with access to the foreign computer programmers that their businesses need to flourish.

As such, the Dems have not put enough thought and energy into addressing the problems out in “Trumpland”. They don’t have much to propose to people in down-and-out places with shuttered factories other than to offer more welfare, i.e. more Social Security disability payments and subsidized healthcare. Sure, those things will help, but they don’t change the economic and social miasma that has enveloped too much of the nation. Trump has gone to these places and has given straight and direct prescriptions — less immigration, less foreign trade, more need to make stuff here in the states. And also that it’s OK to go to church and own guns and wave flags. Georgia’s Sixth District isn’t exactly mired in economic decay like Akron, Ohio, but they still perceive that the Dems don’t value what they value, and will use big government to make it harder for them to exercise those values (e.g. schools will teach their children to question what they believe in, including their America-first patriotism and their religious beliefs).

Trump’s prescriptions for these places may be a sham, they may well offer false hope — but they did bring attention to the people and places that the Democrats don’t raise much money from anymore. The Democrats don’t seem to be putting much thought or creativity into addressing and relating to the problems and concerns in those regions. (Obama helped transsexuals regarding bathroom access, but how much did he do for Walmart and fast food workers being ordered to work unpredictable hours on short notice?). And as a result, the people in those areas just don’t like Democrats anymore. I’m not optimistic that the Democrats are going to be able to remedy that anytime soon.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:44 pm      

  1. Jim, I must preface this by admitting it is a “scramble” of tho’ts re “around” the topic you chose; it’s the best I can do here. So to get down to business:

    I think you are right: People just might not like Democrats. The question is: Are they right in not liking Democrats? And perhaps in some ways they are right; in others they may not be right. Then too:

    I tend to think that you have two different approaches to the Democrats in this post. One is the individual state of Georgia and its refusal to elect a Democrat for the special House election in its state. The second is the broader more general presidential election (Trump, more specifically). While the two may in a lot of ways be very similar, I think that it is important to clearly keep the differences between the two.

    First, I am not a bit surprised that Georgia tended to elect a Republican. Back in the 1960s Georgia was among the solid Southern states that were Democratic, until . . . the Civil Rights act. If I recall correctly, Georgia was one of the Deep South states that “turned” Republican when they began to realize that they would be required stop treating Blacks as inferior to Whites and to treat Blacks the same as Whites. The South went from Democratic to Republican.

    So it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Georgia has elected a Republican for the House rather than a Democrat. (Seems the South has a long memory.) In fact part of the “problem” (if it is one) is that, if I understand things correctly, Ossoff is young and new to politics; if he had been more experienced at the business of trying to get elected, perhaps he would have been successful at being elected. (I guess there are few Obamas around.) But his inexperience at the general political business may end up being a learning lesson for him; next time he may do better at campaigning in his state. One never knows.

    However. I see a lot of articles in the latest “The Atlantic” clearly critical of the Democrats as a whole and their attitude toward those who voted for Trump. I must say that some of the Democrats I know have been less than empathetic in trying to understand the position of the ordinary person who voted “Trump”; some of these people have taken a kind of “better than thou” attitude toward the Trump voters instead of wondering what their reason for so voting was.

    While I haven’t had time to read these articles (“The Atlantic”) which I intend to do (and here perhaps I can be soundly criticized for writing this comment at this point; perhaps I should wait until I’ve read the articles and then write a comment; but it may take me till who knows when to get the articles read). I often think that with the initial shock of Trump’s winning the presidency a lot of people didn’t think too clearly immediately and reacted somewhat irrationally, letting their emotions out. Not a good approach when there’s a serious disagreement and a compromise of some sort needs to be made.

    As to “The Atlantic” articles: I can see already at the Democrats deserve some of the criticism that is coming their way, but the Republicans are equally as guilty, it seems to me, of similar criticism. Neither group is willing to come to “center” point where there can be at least some common ground between the Democrats and the Republicans.

    It also seems to me that both parties are long on talk about what they are going to do. One group’s leader says it’s going to be very, very, very special; like nothing anyone else has ever seen. The other group doesn’t really seem to have a leader who can unify the party; so it seems to me. There are leaders who can draw smaller groups together but no one individual person seems to be a real leader of the entire group. In fact, as I think about it, the same thing can likely be said of the Republicans. While the president is the nominal leader, he really does not have anything substantive to offer, except hyperbole that people (well, perhaps it’s just me) are soon tiring of and ignoring, not even bothering to read. In short he does not seem a true leader of the country.

    I’m currently reading Al Franken’s latest book. I find myself seriously interested in it (yes, it has a lot of jokes that if you like them are funny; if you don’t care for that type of humor you might find it distracting); but I am surprised in a very good way at his explanation of what is wrong with some of the legislation that has passed in his elected terms and what is right about it. He seems to be one person who finds that people he often disagrees with he likes. I particularly learned a great deal that I never before imagined I would learn about Obamacare (or the ACA). He shows in serious detail the contents of what and how and why certain things had to be done in that bill to make it a possibility, what was compromised, what could have been better. He shows how important the ACA is for many people who do not have insurance. In addition he shows how certain things had to be “compromised on” in order to have the bill pass.

    I like his explanation of Obamacare. In all fairness I also have to say that I’ve always been totally unable to understand insurance and/or how it works. I once took a graduate course in insurance, and that course was the end of my understanding insurance (until reading Franken’s explanation of Obamacare.)

    Then today I see a headline on the Internet (just a headline as I searched and cannot find it again­­taken down?) that Trump has said to a group in Kansas that “poor people” are not the ones he wants helping him in Washington; he wants “billionaires”. Seems to me there’s a big problem there if he’s leaving out the “poor people” in the U.S.; he’s interested then in only the top 1% (is that the percentage?) of the nation and forget the rest. There’s a serious problem there. Leadership is sorely lacking in Trump it seems.

    Meanwhile, in today’s paper I see the House and the Senate both have their own versions of “insurance for everybody”; both bills seem a disaster for anybody who really needs insurance. It seems the House and Senate have a serious need to “please” Trump, further evidence of Trump’s lack of leadership.

    And how simple it would be, how helpful to all, and how perfect a way to solve the insurance problem to simply put everybody in the country under Medicare.

    It’s no surprise really that the Democrats are not perfect; who is? So one has to decide which of our 2 main groups (or even any smaller group[s]) he/she will support in any election. The best one can hope is to choose well.

    I might add one more thing: I do think that a lot of those who voted for Trump would hope to have a return of their “old jobs” that they had in the past. The best thing, as I see it, is to realize that those jobs are long gone and will NOT return. As difficult as it is, we are in a transition period in the U.S. Change is always difficult, most especially for those caught in the middle of it and suffering the consequences of the change. But in the end facts are facts, life is life. One has to simply adjust and find a way to make it thru the change. Hopefully, the choices one makes will be good choices adding good things to the change. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — June 23, 2017 @ 2:06 pm

  2. Yes – You are correct that the less urban parts of the country don’t like Democrats. They see the Democrats as non religious, want to take away their guns, and unreasonably concerned with environmental causes – none of which addresses their needs. I don’t have an immediate answer, but I would argue that the Democrats can start with newer, younger leadership.

    [Steve — yes indeed; Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry — all getting a bit long in the tooth. The Dems of course do have a lot of interesting young people who may well be the next rising stars — but most of them are in Congress, unfortunately. The Democratic list of state governors / recent governor is too short and no one stands out (O’Malley? Cuomo? Hickenlooper? Jay Nixon, to bring back an ironic name? Too bad about that younger guy who succeeded Nixon in Missouri — Greitens — he WAS a Dem, but switched to the dark side!). Governors sometimes make pretty good Presidents, given all the governing experience they gain. Jim G]

    Comment by Zreebs — July 4, 2017 @ 9:33 am

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