Hope for the Democrats?


Our local blue dog Democrat, Collin Peterson, lost to yet another incompetent, unqualified Republican. It granted another seat to the Republican party in congress, which sounds like a bad thing…except that it should also help unify the Democrats, disposing of a discordant regressive voice from their ranks. Here’s an interesting analysis.

The Journal editors assert that these losses– including other reactionary Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party “will reduce Mrs. Pelosi’s legislative running room and perhaps test her party control. Her strategy of refusing to compromise on a Covid-19 relief bill may have cost seats, and now she’ll have a harder time getting a blue-state and union bailout through the Senate. If Mr. Biden wins, the GOP will be better poised to retake the House in 2022.” Or maybe the exact opposite. Losses of fake Democratic careerists like Brindisi, Kendra Horn (OK), Xochitl Torres Small (NM), Max Rose (NY), Joe Cunningham (SC), Abby Finkenauer (IA), Collin Peterson (MN)– as well as for virtually all the Blue Dog and New Dem candidates the DCCC and House Majority PAC wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on– will allow the Democrats to better define themselves, if they choose to, as a vehicle for the legitimate interests of working families, rather than as the other party of corporate whores.

The losses allow the Democrats to better define themselves, if the leadership chooses to. Somehow, I don’t see Pelosi/Schumer taking any steps in the right direction. They won’t see that conservative Democratic candidates are losers.

Another thing the more conservative leadership would like to do is pretend the Green New Deal and other progressive social policies were a recipe for disaster. They weren’t. They’re our path to victory.

The fight over the role of progressives in sinking (or not) Democrats’ chance at a robust unified government began late last week in a call leaked to Politico. On that call, Rep. Abigail Spanberger claimed she almost lost her race in Virginia because she was accused of wanting to defund the police (she does not). House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn reportedly said, “we are going to run on Medicare for All, defund the police, socialized medicine, we’re not going to win.” That’s led some progressives to push back; notably, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pointed out every co-sponsor of Medicare for All won reelection and that Democrats are still running like its 2000 instead of 2020.

Earther looked at the Green New Deal, another bête noire of conservatives and Fox News, to see if it sank Democrats chances. The bill has 101 co-sponsors in the House and 14 co-sponsors in the Senate. Of the 93 House co-sponsors who ran for a seat in Congress’s lower chamber in 2020, only one lost reelection.

Using Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index, Earther found four House co-sponsors who are in districts that range from very slightly Democratic to moderately Republican. Of those four, three decisively won their reelection bids, including Reps. Mike Levin, Jahana Hayes, and Peter DeFazio. The fourth, Rep. Tom Suozzi, is currently behind in his race in New York by about 4,000 votes, but is projected to “easily win” once all mail-in ballots are counted, according to Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman. [As of this date, that election has not been called, but he seems to be behind, so maybe not]

Outside of Suozzi, the only Green New Deal co-sponsor to lose is Florida Rep. Debbie Murcasell-Powell. She lost what was a moderately Democratic-leaning seat, though it was previously represented by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, arguably the most outspoken Republican on climate change prior to losing the seat in 2018 to Murcasell-Powell.

This is quick-and-dirty analysis aligns with other data showing that representatives who have sponsored and voted for progressive policies were not punished by voters. An analysis commissioned by the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats and shared with Intercept Washington, DC, bureau chief Ryan Grim shows that Democratic House candidates in more liberal swing districts won by greater margins than more conservative ones.

Basically, the people who actually back progressive policies came through the election largely unscathed and, in many cases, fared better than their more conservative Democratic counterparts in swing districts. And lest we forget, Kamala Harris, one of the Senate co-sponsors of the Green New Deal, is now vice president-elect. To be fair, there were also high-profile examples of progressive Democrats running on a Green New Deal failing to pry swing-ish districts out of Republican hands, notably the Texas race between organizer Mike Siegel and Rep. Mike McCaul, and a post-mortem on that race is certainly something to watch out for.

Here’s the deal: progressive Democratic policies are winners. Voters prefer them when they are not labeled as Democratic policies, because what the voters really dislike (reinforced by conservative media) is the Democratic Party. Maybe if the party actually embraced what they ought to be, a green/labor party, rather than working so hard at being a centrist/corporate party, they’d have more authenticity and earn more trust.

Comments

  1. says

    “rather than working so hard at being a centrist/corporate party,”
    But that’s where all their money comes from. If only we could get some campaign finance reform in this country we could grant a real voice to the left. Until then we’re stuck with mealy mouthed centrists who kowtow to corporate interests. This country really needs a third party and the Libertarians are NOT it.

  2. redwood says

    @1Ray Ceeya–damn, you took the words right out of my mouth. Political parties eat money like popcorn and it’s got to come from somewhere. It’s like Slick Willie Sutton said when asked why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.” Pols think the money is all in big companies so they should kowtow to them. Gotta reform campaign financing. Give ’em all the same amount of money, shorten the campaign to six weeks and let ‘er rip.

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    Voters prefer them when they are not labeled as Democratic policies, because what the voters really dislike (reinforced by conservative media) is the Democratic Party. [Emphasis PZ’s]

    Aye there’s the rub, how do you NOT label a policy as “Democratic” when it clear that only the Democratic Party supports it?

  4. kome says

    What a shock. When given the chance, people show up to support progressive policies and they’re not all that enthused about – to paraphrase a recent Jim Sterling video – “reaching across the aisle with hands that the other side wants to see in handcuffs.” It’s almost as if centrism and pragmatism are perpetually losing strategies. So why the heck do we constantly have to be forced to listen to the pragmatist losers, who work harder to handicap, downplay, dismiss, and attack progressive than they ever do to combat the right-wing? They offer nothing but demand obedience.

  5. says

    @#3 redwood:

    Most of that money got spent trying to shore up the candidates who lost anyway because they were too far to the right. It’s just a vicious cycle, where we have to have more money to make up for the lack of enthusiasm voters have for right-wing policy, and we have to have right-wing policy to attract more money.

    Meanwhile, right-wing states that centrists like Biden can’t win despite betraying the base three times before the cock crows are passing left-wing referendums — Florida raised the minimum wage, another four states — two of them states Biden lost — legalized marijuana, and as mentioned above the Green New Deal and Medicare For All were hugely popular. (Nearly half of Republicans want Medicare For All now, with more than two thirds of Independents and an overwhelming majority of Democrats.)

    Good policy largely campaigns for itself. It’s only bad policy that has to be crammed down people’s throats — and the Democrats have been pushing noticeably bad policy for at least 3 decades now.

  6. says

    Oh, no! Not you, too, PZ?! I saw a similar post from Mano yesterday and I think we need to be very, very cautious about falling into a “correlation implies causation” trap. I didn’t state this in my comment on Mano’s post, but I want to make it clear that I want progressives to win, but I worry about people taking a “All we have to do to win is stick to our guns” attitude when that may not actually be true. To put it another way, if we go forward thinking we know the solution when we actually do not, that could lead to failure. That’s why I want us to be very certain that this is indeed the solution…but I’m not convinced. Thoughts as to why to follow:
    When it is claimed that “every co-sponsor of Medicare for All won reelection,” what I want to know is how many of these were in relatively safe districts? I suspect a lot of them were because I’m not convinced they could have won their primaries otherwise. This is to say that I find it to generally be true that, in less “safe” districts, the Democrat voters themselves tend to be more centrist, making it harder for a progressive to win the primary in the first place. And so it is in the safe districts that progressives can win primaries. From there, it doesn’t impress me much that they then win the general.
    Now the claim that three and potentially four Democrats who were cosponsors of the Green New Deal won “in districts that range from very slightly Democratic to moderately Republican” is interesting and much more useful data, but that’s also a small sample size. Worse, they proceed to acknowledge “to be fair, there were also high-profile examples of progressive Democrats running on a Green New Deal failing to pry swing-ish districts out of Republican hands.” So much as I suggested in my comment on Mano’s post, there seems to be cherry-picking of data as well. The whole “to be fair” phrasing feels like a bit of a giveaway to me. It suggests to me they’d rather not acknowledge that data at all. That’s not good. That data must be part of the analysis. Otherwise, we’re simply telling ourselves what we want to hear, regardless of the truth of it. If it is true that Democrats can win by running on a progressive platform, that would be great! But I don’t think it is true.
    And let me acknowledge I am skeptical of this because of my own personal experience. I’ve backed progressive candidates in primaries here in Iowa. They can’t even win their primaries running on a progressive platform. Why should I believe they can win in a general? So, yeah, I’m absolutely going to question analysis that looks to have logical holes in it when I have failed to see it succeed locally like it is claimed it will. Though, yes…I will painfully acknowledge (painful because these people annoy me to no end!) that there seems to be many Democrats who vote in primaries not for the candidate they actually want, but for the candidate they think their conservative neighbors might vote for. That is so fricking stupid. But I still don’t know if progressives could win even if these people voted for who they like.

  7. says

    I think the virtue of the correlation is that it shows the Green New Deal and M4A are not the poison pills the conservatives want us to believe, not that endorsing those policies lead to automatic election.

  8. mnb0 says

    @1 RayC: “If only we could get some campaign finance reform in this country”
    One of the most necessary reforms indeed (compare France, the European country with a political system most like the USA). The new president however, so strongly promoted by pseudoprogressives, is the product of corporate money and hence has no interest. So an easy prediction is that the next Democrat candidate will dissatisfy as usual.

    @7 LeoB: “I worry about people taking a “All we have to do to win is stick to our guns” attitude when that may not actually be true.”
    The other strategy – reaching out to conservatives – has only resulted in getting done nothing or hardly anything at all. See the attempts of Clinton and Obama to halfheartedly reform the American health system. Not doing what PZ proposes will make sure that the same will happen to the (also halfhearted) New Green Deal too.
    Assuming that you’re right, what’s left? Emigration, I suppose.

  9. raven says

    Her (Pelosi) strategy of refusing to compromise on a Covid-19 relief bill may have cost seats, …

    I doubt this. There is no data to support this.
    This is a detail and people weren’t focusing on details.
    Besides which, you could just as easily blame it on McConnell and Trump, neither of which showed much interest in a relief bill.

    They could still pass one. There are months to go and still a raging pandemic, after all.

  10. nomadiq says

    When corporations can donate billions of dollars to election campaigns, every party will be a corporate party.

  11. says

    The party is more interested in defeating the left than in defeating the right, and that’s why my contributions have diminished. Though not my votes, of course, as I have no choice after the primaries are done. I send more now to organizations that get out the vote in general, rather than waste my time chasing the white working-class voter as the party will forever do. Like Charlie Brown still trying to kick that football.

    I remember earlier this year watching the party (and ActBlue as well, unfortunately) pushing for Amy McGrath to run against Moscow Mitch, only to find out later she had branded herself as more pro-Trump than McConnell and then ran away from that when it got out. Naturally her painful lack of authenticity didn’t work out so well. But she was enough to hold off Charles Booker, and that’s enough for the party.

    Biden is much the same thing to me, a lifetime neoliberal who thinks the status quo ante, circa 2008, was just great thanks. And most of the party including Biden would continue to do just fine if Trump had been re-elected; it was more important to defeat the candidates to their left.

    Hope he enjoys reaching out to the Republicans in the Senate. Like as not he’ll pull back a bloody stump.

  12. kome says

    I’ll never understand the centrist Dems’ aversion to the idea that people actually have values and want to vote for them, and aren’t just content to vote against a set of less-desirable values that conservatives enthusiastically go out and vote for.

  13. billseymour says

    Leo Buzalsky @7:

    Democrats who vote in primaries not for the candidate they actually want, but for the candidate they think their conservative neighbors might vote for.

    I remember a “Politics Monday” segment on the PBS Newshour back when Sanders was still a viable candidate.  Amy Walter could hardly construct a simple declarative sentence without some version of “electable” in it.  It was’t even subtle.  I would, however, describe it as shameless.

    I hope that Biden can get something done.  I believe that he wants to do something moderately progressive (given where the Overton window is right now).  But I fear that reaching across aisle is an example of trying the same thing and expecting a different outcome.

  14. says

    The fundamental problem with the Democratic Party is that my generation (and the preceding one) is still very much in control, especially at the local and state level, and that mostly means elephants-in-donkeys’-clothing like Madigan. Really: Earns his living doing property-tax appeals for big-money owners in suburban Cook County? And he’s just the most-likely-to-be-indicted-in-the-near-future example. In short, “Democratic Party” just isn’t a monolith.

    I may be a Boomer, but “OK, Boomer” (with a sneer from AOC) seems all too appropriate… because I know them really well.

  15. billseymour says

    Another boomer here.  I remember the middle of the last century when America was indeed “great” (for white cis males at least, but I’m making an economic argument here).  There was a rising middle class.  Magazines like Popular Mechanics ran articles with titles like “Car of the Future” and “Home of the Future”.  Parents had the reasonable expectation that their kids would have it better than they did.  It was a time of high marginal tax rates and strong unions.

    If we could make America like that again (minus the racism, sexism, etc.), I’d be all for it.

  16. logicalcat says

    @Kome

    Its not that centrist dems cant understand that people have values, its that they don’t believe we vote. They actually do believe people have values, but ALL people. So they adopt the values of the people who tend to vote the most, and historically that’s centrists and right wingers. It appears that’s changing. I hope so at least.

    Pragmatism works, its just that democrats haven’t realized that their way of doing things is no longer practical. Its no longer the pragmatic approach. Left wing shit is electable ow. But you gotta be careful because Biden’s association with socialism (thanks to right wing propaganda claiming so) cost him the state.

  17. consciousness razor says

    The losses allow the Democrats to better define themselves, if the leadership chooses to. Somehow, I don’t see Pelosi/Schumer taking any steps in the right direction. They won’t see that conservative Democratic candidates are losers.

    Uh…. the story here is that many voters have seen that they’re losers, and they will see to it in the future that those candidates continue to lose. If what we’re talking about is going to be a democratic process, then it must be bottom-up and not top-down.

    It’s also just plain lazy to think we should have “leadership” make such decisions for us, since we can’t be bothered to do anything but whine about it after the fact. This is about our choices. The only scraps of legitimacy our elected representatives ever have are granted by us, so all we have to do is remove them from power. That’s not anybody else’s responsibility. It’s ours.

    Of course it would make no sense to give them huge piles of cash to put “blue no matter who” in office, so we shouldn’t do that either. I doubt too many here are doing that sort of thing. But it’s sort of like donating to a charity: if most of the money isn’t going to the charitable cause in question or is even being used counterproductively (due to waste, fraud, etc.), then find another way to support that cause. Sometimes it’s not even about money, but if unlike a lot of people you do have money to toss around, then you can always decide to toss it somewhere else.

  18. consciousness razor says

    Besides, the progressives were trying to get Shahid Buttar elected to replace Nancy Pelosi. I’m not sure what the fuck is wrong with the people in San Fransisco (all the money rotted their brains?), but that didn’t happen this time. In any case, nobody with any sense was actually waiting around for her to have a “road to Damascus” moment at age 80.

  19. says

    @15
    “OK Boomer” is far less rude than ignoring an entire generation and dismissing them as hopeless slackers. What was gen-X supposed to do? Damn boomers wouldn’t get out of our way and now the future belongs to millennials.

  20. unclefrogy says

    we have a two party system like or not I do not really care what the party name is it is the policies that are important to me after all.
    I end up voting fore the democratic candidate often with some portion of doubt.
    there is truth in the idea that polticians respond to those who vote so the way to get what we want might be to concentrate on getting out the vote increasing registration and participation.
    @16
    that is almost the definition of great again and it stopped being when that changed. fighting labor and cutting taxes were sold as a positive thing. what we have now is the result of that. when we reduced taxes we had to reduce investing in the people and things that would make their lives better. when we fight labor wages , income does not advance as much and often shrank when compared to the inflation rate. both parties have participated in this.
    uncle frogy

  21. birgerjohansson says

    BTW any reality-based politician has an easier job now as the MAGA party digs themselves in a deeper hole with election denialism.
    .
    Example of systemic idiocy: “Trump campaign accuses Pfizer of covering up their vaccine to ensure he lost the election” https://www.rawstory.com/2020/11/trump-campaign-accuses-pfizer-of-covering-up-their-vaccine-to-ensure-he-lost-the-election/
    .
    Yes, a multinational company* would surely delay the mega-profits and PR success of being the first to roll out a vaccine** in order to save an unsaveable politician -especially as the COVID19 pandemic is such a small, tiny deal.
    *Particularly if the jews are in charge of the company.
    **An alternative explanation for the delay is the logistics in producing the tiny alien-technology computer chips that will be injected into everybody alongside the vaccine.

  22. birgerjohansson says

    billseymour @ 16
    “If we could make America like that again (minus the racism, sexism, etc.), I’d be all for it.”
    -But that part has already been deleted from history, along with Republicans of the era having some reasonable ideas. Conservatives have always agreed with Ronald Reagan, and times with high economic growth always coincided with low taxes. The New Deal was a complete failure. Government programs (like Eisenhower’s highways across USA) have always been wasteful fiascos. All black people on welfare are driving luxury cars.

    30-40% of the population are living inside a bubble and most will never change their minds. I leave it to you to suggest how to get truth (or our approxiamtion of truth) to be heard above the background noise of desinformation for the portion of the people who are not set in their ways.

  23. billseymour says

    birgerjohansson @24: I think you’re right on all counts; but as a practical matter, I need to get through the day without being a jerk or an idiot myself.

    And I confess that I’m not a perfect person: I spend a good part of my day inside a bubble, too, in my case, FtB and similar blogs. I try to look at my own beliefs critically, but it’s hard to be sure how successful I am.

    I leave it to you to suggest how to get truth … to be heard above the background noise …

    You’ll have a while to wait because I have no clue. All I can do is hope that somebody smarter than I can figure it out.

  24. Anton Mates says

    PZ,

    Here’s the deal: progressive Democratic policies are winners. Voters prefer them when they are not labeled as Democratic policies, because what the voters really dislike (reinforced by conservative media) is the Democratic Party.

    But the voters don’t dislike the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has won 7 out of the last 8 popular votes, including the current vote, with the highest turnout in over a century. The Democratic Party is consistently viewed more favorably than the Republican Party in polls. A majority–not a plurality, an actual majority of Americans–think the Democratic Party is genuinely concerned about the middle class.

    The problem is that, due to Electoral College bullshit, the voters need to fervently love the Democratic Party for it to actually win. And sometimes their love is not fervent enough. But the Dems are still doing remarkably well in a system that is rigged against them.

    Furthermore, the most common complaint about the Democratic Party–even from its own voters and blue-leaning independents–is that it’s too liberal. Mainstream American voters like slightly progressive economic policies, but they are terrified by extremely progressive economic policies, and they are constantly afraid that the Dems will charge straight into radical socialism if given full power. So even if they’re enthusiastic about the minimum wage or a moderate tax increase, these voters will only support a Democratic politician who is clearly less enthusiastic about these things than they themselves are.

    In other words, economic conservatives are in charge of the Democratic party because voters believe they’re the most trustworthy and reliable sort of Democrat. This is clearly a very strange thing to believe, but Americans are strange.

    Maybe if the party actually embraced what they ought to be, a green/labor party, rather than working so hard at being a centrist/corporate party, they’d have more authenticity and earn more trust.

    Nah. Labor, maybe, but nobody this year cared about green stuff outside the far left (in which I include myself). According to exit polls, the most important issues for voters were the economy, racial inequality, and the pandemic. Crime and health care policy came in a distant and fourth and fifth. Climate and the environment did not even register.

    And don’t forget, green is corporate as far as a lot of Americans are concerned. They think it’s in bed with Big Tech and Big Solar.

  25. Anton Mates says

    The Vicar,

    Meanwhile, right-wing states that centrists like Biden can’t win despite betraying the base three times before the cock crows are passing left-wing referendums — Florida raised the minimum wage, another four states — two of them states Biden lost — legalized marijuana

    In the first place, three of the five states you mention either voted for Obama or voted for Biden, so I have no idea why you’d call them “right wing states that Biden can’t win.” They’re obviously in play, and he did win in two of them.

    In the second place, those referendums passed because they were not perceived as left-wing, but as centrist. The left wing itself is still seen as dangerously extreme, which is why the Democratic politicians in those states still struggle.

    Look at Florida. The same voters who passed the minimum wage increased rejected both Biden and Murcasen-Powell, out of fear that they were socialists. This is clearly not a problem those candidates could have solved by moving their positions leftward. On the other hand, the Democratic party might well have solved it by investing more in their ground campaign…which would have consisted mostly of going door to door and convincing elderly Cubans that Biden hates commies just as much as JFK did.

    It sucks, it’s maddening, but it’s an important strategy for getting us Democratic presidents until the demographics shift. Americans require a lot of soothing.

    Good policy largely campaigns for itself. It’s only bad policy that has to be crammed down people’s throats

    What’s that? I can’t hear you over the last 50 years of California ballot propositions.

    The only policies that sell themselves in this country are “cut my taxes,” “punish criminals harder,” and “find someone who deserves to get bombed.” Everything else, good or bad, takes effort.

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