The Daily Escape:
Black Oak trees in Shastice Park, CA with Mount Shasta in background – October 2021 photo via Northern California Hiking Trails
Every political writer thinks that Tuesday’s elections reinforced their preconceived view of what the Democratic Party needs. The Dems spilled gallons of metaphorical blood by blindly walking into a political propeller on Election Day.
Wrongo wants to add his two cents to the story, so he turns to a Republican for perspective. Charlie Sykes says:
“The Republican Party — populated with cranks, crooks, clowns, bigots and deranged conspiracy theorists — has spent five years alienating women, minorities and young voters….So, now, Democrats need to ask themselves this rather urgent question: Why can’t we beat these guys?”
A few words about the Virginia gubernatorial election, won by Republican Glenn Youngkin. All the talk about white suburban women being the new Democratic Party base isn’t true in Virginia. A year ago, Joe Biden won Virginia by 10 points. Four years ago, Democrat Ralph Northan won the governorship by nine. Last night, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic former governor, lost it by two points.
Youngkin won because he convinced enough Joe Biden voters to switch sides. The Virginia suburbs have a large college-educated population. These voters moved strongly to the Democrats both times Trump ran. This time, Youngkin won enough of them without sacrificing votes from Trump’s base.
Terry McAuliffe is a terrible candidate. He walks into the room dragging the whiff of campaigns by both Clintons, but without any of Bill Clinton’s charm or political skill. McAuliffe tried to nationalize a local campaign, trying to run against Trump instead of Youngkin. Youngkin, by contrast, made a point of sticking strictly to in-state issues. Youngkin also came across as the nicer guy.
Youngkin had been the co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, a huge private equity firm with deep DC political ties. If this had been a real campaign, McAuliffe would have attacked Youngkin as a capitalist who wouldn’t do a thing for the middle class. But since McAuliffe is an investor in a Carlyle fund, he didn’t.
Welcome to today’s Democrats!
The Democratic Party’s basic issue is that it’s out of touch with average people. As an example, we’re in a time of growing pro-labor sentiment, but the leadership of the Democratic Party says little to the working class. The switch has been flipped. Now many Democrats are rich, and blue collar workers are Republicans. Getting them back will take years, if ever.
Also, each time the Democrats have a victory based in political change, they move back to the center, alienating those to whom they gave hope. So why should that part of their base continue to show up and vote?
American politics is polarized by cultural issues. Outside of marginal economic questions, Democrats have taken the big economic issues off the table. They’re at a disadvantage, because Republican cultural issues have broader appeal, while the Democrat cultural issues appeal to mostly the college-educated, who are a minority of voters. That means whenever Dems get in power, they can’t really change the policies that the monied and corporate classes want.
Wrongo thinks that it was good that the Dems lost in Virginia. Virginia, now led by Republicans, will also try to pass the same social warrior cultural programs as other Red states. The meanness and tone-deafness of those programs will horrify suburban Virginians. And they will swing back in 2024.
Still, senior national Democratic leadership needs an overhaul. They’re old and incompetent. How difficult is it to establish whether bringing in the big guns for a local election is going to be positive or negative for a campaign? The power of money in elections means that the first priority for any race is a candidate with the ability to raise money. This is why we see McAuliffe a second time, and not someone better.
That’s corruption, as Elizabeth Warren defined it in 2020. Add the callous way Democrats react:
- They speak of the opposition as stupid, or brain-dead. As deplorables, or as clinging to their guns and religion.
- Their radicalization of wedge issues like “Defund the Police”, or Supreme Court Packing reveal them to be intellectually lazy.
McAuliffe said about angry parents attending school board meetings: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” That lost him the election because Dems never came up with a counter message.
The Republican’s success with defining control of education as a wedge issue could turn out to be a winning message in 2022.
When a Party won’t pick charismatic candidates and can’t focus on the issues that people are crying out for them to answer, voters react to both the poor messaging and leadership by going back to slogans, grievances, sports-like dynamics, and elevating trivial issues.
In other words, the Virginia campaign.
Democrats must shake up their leadership if they are to re-take the now-lost inroads they made in suburban (and female) Republican voters in 2020. They’ll need to talk in simple terms.
They’re not telling the story of how white working parents need food stamps to supplement their income. They’re not telling the story of how a family in rural America sends their kids to a school that can’t teach them how to use a computer.
There’s work to be done.
Schumer and Pelosi should report to HR for their new assignments.