Wealthy Liberal donors to the Democratic Party are debating whether to double down on their identity politics and victimhood culture-based strategy or to attempt meaningful outreach to the white working classes whom they so conspicuously cut adrift in 2016
And so the post-election autopsy begins, as analysts slice open the carcass of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign and methodically pick through the vital organs to determine what possible failure allowed a well-funded presidential campaign that has effectively been running for over a decade to go down in flaming defeat at the hands of Donald Trump.
Politico reports that the hilariously named Democracy Alliance (a group of mega-rich Democratic Party donors using their wealth to tilt the scales of genuine democracy every bit as much as the “evil” Koch brothers) is holding an emergency meeting at the Washington DC Mandarin Oriental hotel to thrash out the issues:
George Soros and other rich liberals who spent tens of millions of dollars trying to elect Hillary Clinton are gathering in Washington for a three-day, closed door meeting to retool the big-money left to fight back against Donald Trump.
The conference, which kicked off Sunday night at Washington’s pricey Mandarin Oriental hotel, is sponsored by the influential Democracy Alliance donor club, and will include appearances by leaders of most leading unions and liberal groups, as well as darlings of the left such as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Keith Ellison, according to an agenda and other documents obtained by POLITICO.
The meeting is the first major gathering of the institutional left since Trump’s shocking victory over Hillary Clinton in last week’s presidential election, and, if the agenda is any indication, liberals plan full-on trench warfare against Trump from Day One. Some sessions deal with gearing up for 2017 and 2018 elections, while others focus on thwarting President-elect Trump’s 100-day plan, which the agenda calls “a terrifying assault on President Obama’s achievements — and our progressive vision for an equitable and just nation.”
However, there are now murmurings of discontent among some of the Democrats present, who claim that persisting with the same tired, clapped out old ideas and electoral strategies will not reverse their sliding fortunes:
Yet the meeting also comes as many liberals are reassessing their approach to politics — and the role of the Democracy Alliance, or DA, as the club is known in Democratic finance circles. The DA, its donors and beneficiary groups over the last decade have had a major hand in shaping the institutions of the left, including by orienting some of its key organizations around Clinton, and by basing their strategy around the idea that minorities and women constituted a so-called “rising American electorate” that could tip elections to Democrats.
That didn’t happen in the presidential election, where Trump won largely on the strength of his support from working-class whites. Additionally, exit polls suggested that issues like fighting climate change and the role of money in politics — which the DA’s beneficiary groups have used to try to turn out voters — didn’t resonate as much with the voters who carried Trump to victory.
“The DA itself should be called into question,” said one Democratic strategist who has been active in the group and is attending the meeting. “You can make a very good case it’s nothing more than a social club for a handful wealthy white donors and labor union officials to drink wine and read memos, as the Democratic Party burns down around them.”
This blog (and many others) have already written extensively that the cynical decision by the Democrats and the American Left in general to wage a relentless identity politics war against the Right is not only misguided, but actively polarising the country, as continued efforts to label working class white people as privileged “oppressors” will only further encourage them to form into a cohesive identity group of their own – the very one which elected Donald Trump as the next president.
Obsessing endlessly about the politics of race, gender and sexuality at a time when many Americans are either suffering economically or teetering on the brink of real economic insecurity is a privilege only available to the type of people who meet at the Mandarin Oriental to naively ask one another how anybody could possibly not have wanted Hillary Clinton to be the next president. To anybody else, the narrow interests and shrill, hectoring tone of the Democratic Party are an irrelevance at best and a source of supreme annoyance and alienation at worst.
People living in towns decimated by the loss of skilled manufacturing don’t want to be told that it is actually a good thing that their air pollution-causing factory closed down and took their job with it, or that they are borderline racists and bigots for not immediately adopting the latest social justice buzzwords spewing out of the university system. Yet the Democrats had little of value to say to the white working classes, the candidate herself clearly much more at home among the Wall Street and progressive celebrity class, spending the night before the election partying with the likes of Beyoncé rather than showing any empathy for struggling voters in the so-called rust belt.
Unfortunately, other delegates seem so wedded to the present profile of the Democratic Party that they believe that change is neither necessary nor desirable.
The Politico report continues:
“We should not learn the wrong lesson from this election,” said the operative, pointing out that Clinton is on track to win the popular vote and that Trump got fewer votes than the last GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. “We need our people to vote in greater numbers. For that to happen, we need candidates who inspire them to go to the polls on Election Day.”
In other words – keep pursuing the SJW vote, even though many of these people have proven that the limit of their political activism is sharing a smug little meme on social media rather than taking the trouble to actually walk to their local polling place and participate in democracy.
This is abysmal advice, not only because it places the future hopes of the Democrats on the shoulders of people who have never once come through for the party, while many of those young people who were politically engaged are probably still smarting from the party’s frantic efforts to thwart Bernie Sanders and allow the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the eventual presidential candidate. That’s one very valid reason, but the other reason is that no party should actively seek to write off the votes of such a large constituency as the white working class. Even if the Democrats could win without the core of America, what does it say about the party that they don’t even bother with meaningful outreach?
Of course, one could level exactly the same criticism at the Republican Party, who for too long have been more than happy to cede the black and growing Hispanic vote largely to the Democrats rather than highlighting the many ways that conservative policy actually often meshes far more closely with some of their concerns (e.g. the Hispanic focus on the family). Indeed, the 2012 Growth & Opportunity Project report outlined a path toward better engagement with these communities and might have started to pay dividends in 2016 had the party not decided to tear it up and focus on complete obstructionism toward Barack Obama instead.
But while it is undeniable that the Republican Party has serious issues of its own – not only relating to minority outreach, but also a more fundamental question of how much to accommodate or push back against president-elect Trump’s authoritarian, big government instincts – it is the Democrats who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and who twice in two decades managed to lose a presidential election despite winning the national popular vote. The onus is on the Democrats first and foremost to work out what they stand for in 2016.
More encouraging than the billionaire talking shop underway at the Mandarin Oriental – a sign of just how disconnected the modern Democratic Party has become from its former roots – is defeated primary candidate Bernie Sanders’ efforts to wrest control of the party away from the dull, visionless centrists who have nothing to offer once you strip away the thin veneer of jealous identity politics.
In another Politico piece entitled “Bernie’s Empire Strikes Back“, we learn:
Supporters of Bernie Sanders’ failed presidential bid are seizing on Democratic disarray at the national level to launch a wave of challenges to Democratic Party leaders in the states.
The goal is to replace party officials in states where Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton during the acrimonious Democratic primary with more progressive leadership. But the challenges also represent a reckoning for state party leaders who, in many cases, tacitly supported Clinton’s bid.
“I think the Bernie people feel very strongly that they were abused, somehow neglected during the primary process and the conventions,” said Severin Beliveau, a former Maine Democratic Party chairman who supported Sanders in the primary. “In Maine, for instance, where Bernie got 70 percent of the caucus vote, they are emboldened and in effect want to try to replace [Maine Democratic Party chairman] Phil Bartlett, who supported Clinton.”
[..] The movement outside Washington to install new leadership — especially new leaders whose progressive credentials include support for Sanders’ presidential bid — mirrors the battle in the nation’s capital for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship in the wake of the devastating Clinton defeat and congressional elections where Democrats failed to win back either the House or the Senate. Sanders has endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison, leading House progressive and a prominent backer of his presidential campaign, to be the next permanent DNC chairman.
While this blog disagrees with Bernie Sanders on nearly everything, Hillary Clinton’s defeated primary opponent does at least correctly identify many of modern America’s ailments and propose more authentically (if flawed) left-wing solutions to them. And one can plausibly argue that Sanders has a greater ability to reach out to unionised or working class America than Clinton displayed (though one can only wistfully imagine how much better Joe Biden would have been in this role).
Better still, Bernie Sanders seemed to have comparatively little time for peddling in divisive identity politics. Rather than seeking to fracture America into a thousand competing victimhood groups, each one jealously guarding its own unique set of grievances against the common oppressor, Sanders has consistently more interested in the wealth divisions in society. And while playing rich and poor off against one another in quite such an overt way as the openly socialist Sanders comes with its own set of problems, on balance it is probably much less harmful to the fabric of America than seeking to divide and stoke up fear based on race, gender or sexuality.
Indeed, the fact that Bernie Sanders frequently found himself on the wrong side of Black Lives Matter and the gun control lobby only proves his resonance with the great core of working class America rather than the ultra-progressives. If only Sanders didn’t hug the S-word (socialism) quite so tightly in a country where people are (rightly, in this blog’s view) raised to be automatically suspicious of it, he might have prevailed over Clinton in the primary and taken the fight to Donald Trump on a number of very different fronts.
In short, as during the primary season, none of the options facing the Democratic Party are greatly appealing. Having taken conspicuously little interest in white working class concerns throughout the 2016 presidential election cycle, any efforts to restart outreach will be met with scepticism at first, and take time to pay dividends.
But for their own sake, the Democrats must persist. The alternative – doubling down on their toxic identity politics strategy and continuing to carve America up into competing victim groups and seeking to make them all fear the Evil Republicans – will only inspire an equal and opposite reaction among America’s largest minority group, the white working class.
In 2016, this strategy brought us president-elect Donald Trump. Do the Democrats really want to roll the dice and bet that the same inputs will deliver a better outcome in 2020?
Top Image: Wikimedia Commons
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