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.

Decisions, decisions

Obama: Let folks deep in student debt refi.
Republicans: No.
Natalie Kitroeff (@Nataliekitro): It matters.

Barack Obama and the Senate Democrats want to help college graduates drowning in student debt refinance. Republicans, naturally, are against it. Natalie Kitroeff, who has reported on the ruthlessness of the agency that enforces such debt, explores the long-term damage: apparently student debt is one reason the housing market isn’t recovering.

Really and truly: if you’re not a fanatical partisan Democrat by now, you’re simply not paying attention.

Megan McArdle points out that there are other people than indebted college graduates who are worth helping, and also that there’s an alternative to the Warren/Obama proposal for debt relief: changing the rule that makes student debt undischargeable in bankruptcy. I agree on both points. We could also cut back radically on incarceration and use the savings to restore the savage cuts to public higher-education budgets. (Fifteen years ago, California spent 9% of its budget on higher education and 3% on prisons. Those numbers have now been reversed.)

I’d merely point out that Megan can’t find any actual elected Republicans willing to vote for any of those programs, any more than they’ll vote for the Warren/Obama plan. In the real world, we don’t have a choice between Democrats and an alternative party that cares about the needs of people under financial pressure but prefers a different set of programs to help them; we have a choice between Democrats and plutocrats. That – and not the details of debt-relief policy – is what I claim Megan and her fellow libertarian-leaning but socially concerned pundits aren’t paying attention to.