Thursday, January 05, 2017

Avoiding "Poor Us, What Have We Done?"

In December, Politico reported

When Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine greet the very top fundraisers and donors to their failed campaign at New York’s Plaza Hotel on Thursday evening, many of them will have one question in mind: Where’s the autopsy?

The call for a deep and detailed accounting of how Clinton lost a race that she andher donors were absolutely certain she’d win didn’t begin immediately after the election — there was too much shock over her defeat by Donald Trump, and overwhelming grief. Her initial conference call with top backers, which came just days after the outcome, focused primarily on FBI Director Jim Comey’s late campaign-season intervention.

Whatever their motives- idealistic, selfish, or a combination- these (mostly) men put a lot of money into what they believed was a fairly sure bet and are getting little or nothing in return.  And so

“A lot of the bundlers and donors still are in shock and disbelief by what happened. They’re looking for some introspection and analysis about what really happened, what worked and what didn’t,” said Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and a top campaign bundler himself. "It may take some time to do that, but people are still just scratching their heads."

Or, in the words of a Midwestern fundraiser who’s kept in touch with fellow donors, “A lot of people are saying, ‘I’m not putting another fucking dime in until someone tells me what just happened.’”

Three weeks later

the Democratic National Committee has yet to announce any plans for a full post-mortem of its own in the style of Republicans’ 2012 Growth and Opportunity Project, causing some party officials to worry that they may not see one at all — at least until a new chair takes over in the spring.

Don't succumb to the temptation.

After defeat in the 2012 presidential election, the Republican Party completed a report cleverly entitled "Growth & Opportunity Project." Assessing the "GOP," in June, 2015 this journalist reasonably observed

If the last few months are any indication, Republicans have done little to pull these voters back into the GOP tent. 

Latino voters are especially critical. The GOP autopsy report called for abandonment of the party's anti-immigration stance, declaring that "we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform." 

More than two years later, however, Republicans are no closer to passing immigration reform, even though they control both houses of Congress. In fact, the party remains bitterly divided over the issue.

A year and a half later, even those more sanguine about the Party's prospects wanted the GOP to be sensitive to the needs and wants of the Hispanic voter.  Charles Krauthammer wrote "The other party thinks it owns the demographic future- counter that in one stroke by fixing the Latino problem." Similarly, Sean Hannity thought "It's simple for me to fix" the immigration issue. "I think you control the border first, you create a pathway for those people that are here, you don't say, 'You gotta go home.' And that is a position that I've evolved on."

Hannity would not have "evolved" to a position not then the dominant view of the movers and shakers of  the GOP.

It is a truism of modern American politics that Democrats suffer from off-year elections but benefit in presidential election years. Yet, roughly ten months after conservative Republicans Krauthammer and Hannity recommended the GOP mollify concerns of Latinos, Democrats gained only six seats in the House of Representatives, even though 37 races had been considered competitive. Although Republicans had to defend 23 Senate seats and Democrats only 10, the Democratic Party picked up only two seats in the upper chamber.

And then there was the presidential race, pitting arguably the most pro-immigration candidate in modern American political history against inarguably the most anti-immigration candidate of the same period. How did that turn out?

The Democratic Party may yet conduct an autopsy, although fortunately it is becoming increasingly unlikely.   It conducted honestly, it would find that determining how to appeal to the Trump voter is not as simple as it might seem.  Huffington Post Polling Director Ariel Edwards-Levy revealed Wednesday that a HuffPost/YouGov poll has found that more Americans support than oppose President Obama keeping sanctions against Russia, with Democrats considerably more favorable than Independents or Republicans.

It isn't surprising that the action of a Democratic President- even if directed against a foreign, formerly Communist, enemy- would be largely unpopular with voters of the other party. But consider

Although few Trump voters approve of Obama’s dealings with Russia, they’re split on what he should have done differently. Thirty percent say that Obama has been too tough on Russia, and 35 percent that he has not been tough enough.

Even those Trump voters who say Obama wasn’t tough enough on Russia, however, also say by a 9-point margin that Trump should lift the sanctions after taking office.

So Barack Obama hasn't been sufficiently tough on the Russians and shouldn't have penalized them for interfering in American elections.

Go figure that one out- or, rather, don't bother. The Democratic Party should save itself some angst. Eschew the self-flagellation of an autopsy, and simply demonstrate its values by opposing Trump Administration policies and dedicating itself to the progressive/populist programs the other party wants to destroy.

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