Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There

The morning after the election one of my sister activist Dems wrote, “This is because the Democrats have lost the ability to talk to the white working class.” There were countless similar posts, arguing that Trump won because Berners didn’t turn out or Hillary was fatally flawed or black people were unenthusiastic or…

Allow me a modest proposal. Let’s spend a little time figuring out what actually happened, not so we can blame each other but so the next steps we take fix the real problem(s). Questions to be asked include:

–Were African-Americans actually unenthusiastic about Hillary, or was their turnout suppressed by new voting restrictions? Remember, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, and Republican-controlled states took full advantage of the fact.

–Have the Democrats lost the ability to connect with the white working class, or did we lose that ability with the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1965? As long as the economy was strong, whites in the north stuck with unions and with Democrats; but once the economy collapsed, they went the way of whites in the south. It’s easier to scapegoat immigrants and people of color than it is to talk realistically about the very modest steps which can be taken to ameliorate the decline of human-powered manufacturing.

–Did Berners actually stay home, or vote Libertarian, or otherwise succumb to the narcissism of small differences, or did they just do a little less work for Hillary than they’d done for Obama? (Admittedly I ran into someone yesterday who said Hillary “deserved it” [to lose} because “she stole the election from Bernie.” Well, no, not unless your definition of “stole” encompasses “getting more votes than the other guy.”) Remember, the never-Hillary people were vocal but no more than a tiny minority of Sanders supporters.

–If Latinx turned out in force for Hillary in Nevada, which she won, but failed to do so in other states, does that reflect a problem between Latinx and the Democratic Party or does it simply demonstrate that a well-organized effort gets voters to the polls whereas a sloppy one fails?

–Why was the Hillary campaign operating with such poor intelligence that it instructed Illinois to waste hundreds of volunteers in unwinnable Iowa who could have been going to winnable Wisconsin and Michigan?

–Do the results, so contrary to every poll, reflect a groundswell of “shy” Trump supporters, or do they reflect tampering in key states and precincts? Remember, Russian-supported hackers broke into Democratic files and sowed dissension between Bernie’s people and Hillary’s, while pro-Russia Julian Assange kept the email story alive; why stop interfering on Election Day? The BBC reported that day that the four states whose voting systems were most susceptible to tampering were Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada and Colorado.

–Was Hillary a fatally flawed candidate or was she just a woman who’d been vilified for 30 years and had the nerve to keep going? Remember, whenever people actually saw and heard Hillary herself–at the convention, during the debates–her poll numbers went up.

–As Hillary actually won the popular vote, what should we infer from her loss other than that, for the second time in 16 years, the Electoral College has interfered with the will of the people? And is there anything realistic to be done about it?

So before the Berners blame Hillary, or elites blame the working class (which is overwhelmingly brown and female), or we all blame the media and misogyny (real as those influences are), let’s do some serious analysis. Only the right diagnosis will yield a cure.

This is what “No enthusiasm for Hillary” looks like

My little corner of Chicago–two wards, with a tiny boost from Evanston–has more than 100 people signed up to go to Wisconsin to knock on doors for Hillary this Saturday.  With less than 10 days’ notice, we’ve turned out enough people to spill over the boundaries of our original target (Kenosha) and conquer Racine as well.

To put that in perspective, that’s a bigger group of volunteers than we sent to Wisconsin at this time during the Obama campaign.   After Labor Day, we’re going to flood the zone in Iowa.

So don’t let anyone tell you there’s no enthusiasm for Hillary.

And speaking of reality . . .

Suddenly, a moment of clarity:

avatar

People aren’t voting for Trump to be President–they’re choosing him as their avatar, who can do all the things they’d like to but can’t. So his qualifications or positions are just not relevant.

I suspect something similar is going on with Sanders and his fans: who wouldn’t want to be the the bold dreamer who can rise above mere politics to demand pure unadulterated justice (insert flaming sword here)?

And the persistent discontent with Hillary is, among other things, because she’s not an avatar: nobody wants to be that careful, nobody wants to be that flawed, nobody wants to be that real.

So the challenge for Hillary supporters (among whom I am proud to count myself) is to remind everyone that we’re selecting someone to do a difficult job, not to reflect back at us every fantasy we’ve ever had about ourselves.  President Obama was the once-in-a-generation person who could do both; the last one before him was FDR.  Usually it’s either/or: Kennedy inspired us, but we needed Johnson to get the Voting Rights Act passed.  

Next time you hear about Hillary’s “negatives,” ask yourself whether she’s being measured on the right scale. She’s not Florence Nightingale or Lady Liberty or Sojourner Truth, but if we want someone who can actually do the work, she’s our man.