A few quick thoughts on the November 4th election

(1)There is almost always a low turnout during a midterm election and the party which controls the White House tends to lose.  This is definitely true but should not let us off the hook.

(2)The Democratic base largely stayed home except in certain important races, such as in North Carolina.  I think that we have to face the reality that the base that would be expected to vote Democratic was dis-spirited.  It is not just the ads that the Republicans ran.  The Obama administration has not led in a progressive direction.  There are certainly some major accomplishments, but there had been great expectations by many that after the 2012 election he would come out swinging.  I never had such expectations, but many people did.  Instead the administration continued to be stuck in various crises but also was not articulating a clear direction.  The Republicans were able to make Obama out to be the problem despite certain important facts, e.g., the economy has improved; troops had been pulled out of Iraq.

(3)Though the economy has improved, the condition for the average working person has not.  Yes, unemployment is down but we are still dealing with structural unemployment that is weighing on everyone.  The damage from the foreclosure crisis is far from over.  And the rich are the ones who are benefiting from the improved economy.   To turn any of this around masses of working people need to be organized to fight for a division of the wealth.  Yes, that means building and supporting labor unions.  But when the President does not make that a clarion call–except when speaking with union members–he has no answer to the public that is asking for their share.

(4)Race, as always, was a factor.  The Republicans had sufficient codes to make it clear that race was an issue in the election.  Discussions about Obama allegedly being prepared to open up the flood gates to immigrants is a case in point.  But there were many other messages.  Once again, the Republicans have positioned themselves as the “non-black party.”  Race arose in some additional and odd ways.  The Ebola crisis, for instance, was tinged with a racial cover.  The fear and panic associated with it and blaming it on Obama!

(5)This election was about money…but also not:  This was the most expensive midterm in history.  Yet it was not a guarantee that one would win if there was money on the table.  The Democrats, in various races, sunk in a great deal of money.  So, we cannot put it all on that.  Money, however, plus motivation can make one VERY bit difference.

(6)The Democrats keep falling back into running technocrats.  While this was certainly not the case in every election, it was striking that there is this default position of channeling Michael Dukakis ’88 and suggesting that one is a good candidate because one can run the trains on time.  Instead of positioning as an advocate for the people, and especially the people who are being squeezed, too many Democrats were running as technocrats and bi-partisan healers.  Yet this, in part, relates to money.  If you cannot run a campaign without goo-gobs of money, it is more difficult to run as a progressive populist.

(7)Progressives need to support and create organizations that are fighting for political power at the local and state level.  We need formations (which i have called “neo-Rainbow”) that can identify and train candidates; build bases; take on initiatives and referendums; and run our candidates either in Democratic primaries or as independents, depending on the tactical situation.    This brings with it a series of major challenges not the least being accumulating resources.    There is no easy answer to the resource question but one thing that is certain is that building the sorts of organizations i am referencing, e.g., Virginia New Majority, Florida New Majority, Progressive Democrats of America, will necessitate around the clock resource accumulation, including but not limited to fundraising.  We will NEVER have the funds of the Koch brothers so we need to get over that and think about the strategies, tactics and organizational forms necessary and appropriate to an asymmetric situation.

8 thoughts on “A few quick thoughts on the November 4th election

  1. Where I live, some good local unconnected Dems candidates focused on identifying progressive voters and getting out the vote. In spite of finances and the general Repub character of the region, they had a fair chance of winning. I think they were advised to “assimilate” and homogenize in order to attract the center. Their yard signs and public image had no content such as saving our schools. Michigan, like Wisconsin is a leader in public education and public sector union devastation. The monied right morphed the issues into a referendum on ACA, abortion, gay rights while simultaneously taking credit for supporting the demographics and programs they’ve been looting while giving additional tax breaks for large corporations.

    • Adding: I do believe that race and racism as you mentioned Bill also skimmed off the progressive candidates’ fragile potential leads. The earlier Republican ads characterizing Dems candidates as being for the Affordable Care combined with character assassination in the cascade of snailmail ads just days prior to the election.

  2. Glad you made the comment about inequality, Bill. The Dems keep on talking about how the economy has improved, citing the Dow Jones Industrial average, and unemployment statistics. On the ground, however, things are not looking up for the majority of the people. Folks are working longer and longer hours just to stay even. The progressive movement in this country dropped the ball when Obama got elected. He used images of change in his campaign, and then appointed Geitner and Sommers to key economic positions, insuring that change – at least on a fundamental level – wouldn’t occur. Progressives should have held his feet to the fire, marching and demonstrating to force Obama’s hand. Instead, the attitude of the “left”, at least what there is of it currently, gave him a pass. Race was a factor here. Folks thinking ” the Black guy’s got it.” He’ll lead us in a progressive direction. I wonder what folks think about a possible Bernie Sanders run for the Presidency?

    • Absolutely on the money, John.
      In terms of a Sanders candidacy, i am still waiting. I wrote a piece for The Progressive some months ago that posed some questions about what the character of such a campaign could be or, perhaps, would need to be. I have not seen any response by the Sanders camp.
      I actually think that the Left and progressives need to refocus our attention at local and state races. Take a page from the right-wing’s playbook. We need to fight for local power and turn some states. We, and i include myself here, frequently get drawn into Presidential campaigns and the local work really suffers. No, i am not suggesting that we block out the broader picture at all. Rather it is a strategic reorientation, for lack of a better term.

  3. Two things: 1. People who have been marginalized over decades/centuries need to believe that voting will make a difference. So far, the Dems have not delivered … unless you’re the Wall St. fraudster…who wins with every election cycle. 2. The tactics of voter suppression have got to be exposed as the latest round of Jim Crow throwbacks! Civil society has to express its outrage… not just the orgs interested in “elections”…but the layers and layers of civic bodies that express a belief in democracy.

    • Well said and i want to double underline your point #2. Progressive forces really need to rethink the question of voting rights and how to mount mass campaigns that challenge this 21st century version of precisely what you identify.

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