A few days ago, Bernie Sanders had some pretty pointed comments about high-level Democratic campaign leadership. (Hat tip to Phoebe Loosinhouse.)
Today, Charles P. Pierce unloaded on the sorry state of the senate race in Iowa between Joni Ernst and and Bruce Braley. (Jeff Singer has discouraging news here.)
More below the Orange Omnilepticon.
One of the bigger mysteries of American Politics is why so many people vote against their own interests by voting for Republicans. Looked at from a certain angle of view, it's no mystery at all. It's because Republicans have no opposition in a very real sense. Voters who do show up at the polls too often find no practical alternative to the GOP that they can see - and too many voters stay home for the same reason. The difference between Republican hard core and Republican Lite... is not great enough to get people out into the streets and on to the voting booths. And Republican Lite is all too often what Democrats offer up.
Sanders is pretty blunt about the problem.
...The election coming up in two months, the pundits here tell us, and they may be right — they may well be wrong, but they may be right — they estimate that 60 percent of the American people aren’t going to vote. So those guys didn’t vote for it. So you have 40 percent whose incomes are substantially higher, by the way, and are better educated than the general population. Of the 60 percent who don’t vote, no one knows exactly, the guess is 75-to-80 percent of low-income workers don’t vote. I recently talked to a union organizer in South Carolina who’s trying to organize fast food people. And she just checked with the people — the five or six hundred people that she’s working with, with the voter registration files, and I think 15 of them are registered to vote. You have 5 percent or lower of people working at minimum wage who participate in the political process. It’s not relevant to them. And young people to very large numbers don’t vote as well. And then the Koch brothers spend $400 million.
The Republican Party has gone to (right-wing) extremes, while the Democratic Party is trying hold the mushy middle... which keeps getting dragged farther to the right chasing the GOP over the cliff. But there's this problem. You almost never hear of 'raging moderates'; centrism doesn't get people to turn out.
So the answer is to say, “We are going to stand up for the working class of this country — black workers, Hispanic workers, and white workers. And we do have the guts to take on the billionaire class, and we do have the guts to take on Wall Street and we do have the guts to take on the people who finance campaigns.” Is the Democratic Party there today? No. No one thinks it is.
Let me reiterate. I’m not one who says there’s no difference between the two parties. There are significant differences. The Republican Party is right-wing extremists. The Democratic Party is centrist. That is a big difference.
That's one side of the problem. Sanders finds the high Democratic nabobs plotting campaign strategy are making the calculation that all they have to do to win is wait for demographics to deliver the vote to them. In other words, don't rock the boat. Don't take any chances. Don't take any controversial stands (controversy being defined by the GOP media and compliant MSM, of course.)
And don't play to the base - it's embarrassing to the Very Serious People.
Meanwhile, Charles P. Pierce is not impressed by this campaign of fecklessness by design.
The great failing of the Democratic party over the past three-and-a-half decades has been the party's failure to take political advantage of the obvious prion disease that has afflicted the Republican party since it first ate all the monkey-brains in the mid-1970's. Whether this was out of cowardice, incompetence, or an overly optimistic view of the inherent sanity of the electorate, is no longer an issue. The failure to make the Republican crazee the Republican party's standing public identity has encouraged the increased spread, and the increased virulence of the prion disease, with disastrous consequences for the rest of us. Why, in the name of god, would you not call Michele Bachmann crazy? Because it might offend the people who vote for her? It's supposed to offend those people. Those people beg to be offended, and, by doing so, you at least inject into the discussion the notion that the Republican party has thrown its marbles gleefully to the four winds. A few elections later, that may become the general opinion. After all, the Permanent Republican Majority wasn't built in a day.
There's an astonishing failure to see the obvious here. While the Republican party has spent the last few decades losing its mind, it has also been busy destroying the Democratic brand over that same time span. Dedicated propaganda media proclaims far and wide that everything Democrats stand for, is bad for the country. High taxes! Big Government! Weak on Defense! Freedom Hating Socialists who Kill Jobs and Give Money to Freeloaders!!! They tried to impeach Clinton, they'd love to impeach Obama - because even if they don't, they still delegitimize the Democratic brand with the effort.
And what do Democrats typically do? They apologize or try to change the subject. Bill Clinton triangulated GOP talking points into Democratic dogma! Some of the biggest Democratic accomplishments under President Obama have been rolling back Clintonian compromises like Don't ask, don't tell and DOMA. Andrew Cuomo is blatantly enabling Republicans in New York State for his own political gain - and the oligarchs he represents. Never mind that the New York Democratic Party could easily take both houses of the state legislature. They'd have no excuse for not enacting a truly Democratic agenda - and that's Cuomo's fear. (Although to be fair, Democrats did briefly hold both not that long ago - and they were in such a hurry to cash in in the State Senate, they royally screwed the pooch and revealed how corrupt they are.)
Given that Republicans have been largely setting the agenda ever since Reagan, there's been enough time for their record of failure on every major issue to become too big too ignore. Too bad there's no one calling them out on it, save for a few exceptions. It shouldn't be that hard, either. To recycle a comment I posted the other day,
Why Democrats don't make these points is crazy. There is no good reason to vote for a Republican these days. If you live under a Republican government...
1) You're more likely to have a shorter and unhealthier life. It's not just about fighting Obamacare - it's about having dirtier air, dirtier water as polluters run wild because of deregulation. It's about going to work and risking your life because nobody is making sure your employer is running a safe operation.
2) Your employment chances are worse - because odds are those 'job-creating' tax breaks mean your state has lousy schools, crumbling roads, failing infrastructure, and employers who pay as little as possible while shipping money out of the local economy back to corporate HQ. Who wants to locate a business in a third-world style economy - aside from looters that is?
3) Tax breaks aimed at the rich and corporations mean everyone else has to pick up their share of the tab; higher license and permit fees, higher sales taxes - and everything takes longer if it involves government agencies with the workforce cut to the bone.
4) You get government of, by, and for the dollar: legislators and judges who put private gain over public interest, who measure virtue by how much money you have. When trouble strikes, you're on your own.
I could go on and on - so why don't Democrats campaign on the plain truth? If you live in a Red State, you're in a race to the bottom.
I can see where candidates might feel uncomfortable going negative - but in this case it would be telling the truth. Telling comfortable lies and refusing to see what everyone knows - the economy still stinks for almost everyone, and no one thinks government is working for them - reinforces GOP talking points. So long as Democrats are reluctant to talk about how government CAN be the solution (Reagan is dead, after all) and IS making a difference (thousands of Americans will not die this year because they're finally getting healthcare), what do they have to run on? Not being as crazy as the GOP? It'd be a start.
It's possible to go on the attack against a GOP candidate without getting personal. Just point out the really crazy people in the party that he or she would be expected to work with and vote with. Point out that Mr. or Ms. Nice Person will be best buds with people who want to slash Social Security and take away health care. They'll be lined up with people who want to keep wages as low as possible while giving huge tax breaks to the rich. They'll be supporting people with extreme religious views that make Sharia law seem mild. They'll be going to join people in government who are determined to keep government from working at all, and are just looking to cash in. (And if the Republican candidate IS crazy - say so, dammit!)
Until we get Democrats who are not afraid to take it to the GOP and make them own the mess they've made of everything, the best we can hope for is the race to the bottom to slow down. Because that's where we'll still be headed if the party doesn't change direction.