Saturday, January 21, 2017

Why Hillary Lost - Organzing, or Lack Thereof.

People are driving to Washington to protest a Presidency.   Where were they six months ago?

During the election, I was talking with some friends here on the island and said, "You know, we should have some sort of fund-raiser for Hillary - sent out invites, have a barbecue in the back yard, hand out t-shirts and hats and yard signs and bumper stickers and get people to donate to the campaign."

And when I said this, their eyes glazed over and they said, "yea, that would be nice" but nothing ever came of it.   Of course, some of these folks actually thought an aging socialist from Vermont was a better candidate.  Anyway, Hillary lost - she decide that getting "big donor" checks was better than organizing and getting smaller donors like Obama did.   And she decided to run on an anti-Trump platform not a pro-Hillary one.   And she lost.

She did prove two things.   First, big money isn't all that big as people suggest.   She outspent Trump by more than 2:1 and lost.   So much for Citizen's United.   Second, she proved that negative campaigning only works so far.   When you go too negative for too long, people associate your name with attacks, and not anything positive or any platform.   If you were to ask me for the fundamental planks in Hillary's campaign platform - even one - I could not tell you.   And this is someone I voted for!

You can't win elections by having people vote against the other fellow.   People will simply not vote which is what happened in several key places.

Anyway, these same friends who couldn't be bothered to organize for Hillary drove 12 hours to Washington to protest Trump - sound and fury signifying nothing.   Protests often don't accomplish a damn thing, other than to make your political position look ludicrous.   Think about the 1968 Democratic Convention and the accompanying protests and riots.   What did that accomplish other than to hand Nixon the Presidency?   The Democrats were divided and refused to compromise, because the younger generation wouldn't rally behind anyone whose political views aligned with theirs 100%.

And the same thing happened this time around.   Young people - God bless 'em - are idealistic and naive.   I hear often from young people that they refuse to vote for any candidate whose views do not mirror theirs 100%.   As a result, as a group, they tend not to vote and are not a political force to be reckoned with.   Old people vote, which is why they get Social Security and Medicare.   Young people don't, which is why they are stuck with student loans, a 21-year-old drinking age, and fighting in the nation's wars.

They didn't "get" that this division between Hillary and Bernie would cost them the election - and many of them pouted and said, "Fine!  If I can't have it my way, then America deserves Trump!"  An this echoed similar phrases than rang throughout history, when leftists divided themselves over fairly trivial issues and allowed fascists to win.  Like Wiemar Germany in the 1930's.

If Democrats want to win, they need to take a page from Uncle Joe Biden's playbook:
“My dad used to have an expression. He said, ‘I don’t expect the government to solve my problems. But I expect them to understand it,” Biden said.
“I believe that we were not letting an awful lot of people — high school-educated, mostly Caucasian, but also people of color — know that we understood their problems.”
There’s “a bit of elitism that’s crept in” to party thinking, he worries, setting up what he sees as the false impression that progressive values are inconsistent with working-class values.
“What are the arguments we’re hearing? ‘Well, we’ve got to be more progressive.’ I’m not saying we should be less progressive,” he said, adding that he would “stack my progressive credentials against anyone” in the party.
“We should be proud of where the hell we are, and not yield an inch. But,” he added, “in the meantime, you can’t eat equality. You know?”
He also distinguishes what he describes as the middle-class agenda that President Obama has put forth from the more populist, anti-Wall Street message that helped power Bernie Sanders’ rise in the Democratic primary.
“I like Bernie,” Biden said, adding he agrees with the Vermont senator on many issues. “But I don’t think 500 billionaires caused all our problems.”
It was election eve, and Biden had just concluded the last of 83 campaign events he would headline on Hillary Clinton’s behalf. Something once again didn’t feel right.
Stepping off the stage after an at-times sentimental appearance in northern Virginia with Sen. Tim Kaine, the man he hoped would succeed him, the vice president shared a nagging concern with aides: Any enthusiasm among the crowd of several thousand was not about the party’s presidential nominee.
“You didn’t see any Hillary signs,” Biden recalled. “Every time I talked about Hillary they listened. But …”
Joe gets it.   The Democratic party didn't need to go further to the Left, but rather needed to capture middle America - the "Joe Paycheck's" of the world.  The folks in the "flyover States" who feel no one is talking to them or about them.

As I noted in earlier postings, my stinking hippie brother used to blather on about Communism and "the workers" as if he understood what it was like to work in a factory - or indeed, even work.   I tried to explain to him that if he came down to the plant, the 'hardhats' would stomp his hippie ass into the ground.  They might want socialism in the form of union benefits, but they don't subscribe to Communism, which they viewed as the enemy.   And they certainly didn't view pot-smoking hippies as their allies.

This time around, the middle-of-the-road factory worker was turned off from the Democratic party largely due to the far-Left issues that the Democrats seemed to embrace and label themselves with.  Your typical working class guy isn't going to vote Democratic if he thinks it will make him gay, and I am quite serious about this.

Much ink was spilled and protests (again ineffectual) about Trump talking about "grabbing pussy" and how awful that was.   I have a clue for you - that's how men talk when women aren't around.   Guess what white men say when blacks aren't around?  Or the Jews?   You get the picture.   Men are pigs.   So when the "Trump Tapes" came out, most men might decry this in front of their wives, but high-fived each other when the womenfolk were absent.

The Democrats have to come up with a platform that is more centrist - that a vast majority of Americans can sign onto.  We can't win elections by making all white men feel bad about themselves - it simply won't work.  And it is not that they have to abandon any segment of their constituency, just not feel so obligated to be politically correct by pandering to small minorities of it.

The fascinating thing about the gay-marriage issue was that a lot of centrist Republicans were relieved when the Supreme Court weighed in on it.   Since the Supreme Court took the flack, they could retreat and say "the court has spoken, move on".  Only the real right-wing-nuts from Alabama continued the fight (and may still continue it).  No politician wants to get caught up in sticky social issues - you simply can't win no matter what you say. Staying on the sidelines as much as possible is the best strategy - taking action only when it really counts.

Promoting more centrist issues is the first step - and maybe convincing the leftists voters that getting a candidate elected is better than losing elections is the step-and-a-half.   Although, in reality, it is quite possible to win elections without the Bernie contingent.  When you pander to the far-Left, you lose the center - guess where most Americans actually live?   Not Vermont.  

But the second part is just as important and related to the first - the Democrats have to do a better job of organizing on a block-by-block level, and not from 10 miles up in space using a telescope, but on the ground, with block captains, precinct captains, county organizers, State organizers, and so forth.   And all of this has to be in place years ahead of time not months in advance.

Hillary made a big deal about how her "ground game" was better than Trump's because she opened more offices in various States than Trump did.   But hiring a lot of political professionals and renting storefront space is not the same as organizing.   Hillary did not have much of a game in terms of going door-to-door to get out the vote.  There were no Hillary yard signs, no t-shirts, no bumper stickers, no hats, no pins, no nothing.  "Hillary for President" pins will be rare collectibles on e-Bay one day because they already are very scarce!

In the old days, they called this "the machine."  Harry Truman was elected to the Senate as a result of the "Pendergast Machine."   And while Pendergast was corrupt, maybe machine politics did serve the needs of constituents from time to time.   In machine politics, each County, City, and Precinct is divided up and organized on a block-by-block level. The block captains make sure people get out to vote, but they also listened to the needs of the residents and passed this information upward, not only so that the Politicians would know which issues to address, but also to know when to intervene on behalf of the voters.  In a way, it worked like the old Mafia dons, who won the hearts and minds of their people by solving their problems and maintaining order.

Today, the machines are gone.  Instead, the parties use polling data and top-down management to solicit donations (mostly from large-pocket donors) and then hope to persuade us to vote using television commercials which an entire generation doesn't even watch.  It is all about strategy - what they can say that will get out the vote in a "swing state" and then just forget about all the other States and count them as "in the bag."  It was a strategy that maybe worked in the 1980's and 1990's, but started to fall apart in this age of the Internet.  Politics became impersonal and we were being sold candidates rather than elevating them ourselves.

Maybe this needs to be more of a ground-up movement, rather than a top-down one. Maybe, if Democrats want to win elections, we each need to figure out who lives in our neighborhood and whether they are inclined to vote Democratic, and then go door-to-door polling people, handing out brochures and campaign swag, getting donations, and getting out the vote.  And no, results won't happen overnight, it could take years - even a decade.  But we need to build an organization from the bottom up, not top down.

Just a thought.  It won't happen, of course.   People only vote when they sense things are going horribly wrong, which is why our politics are so polarized and swing from Left to Right.