Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bad Strategy, Worse Policy

Republicans are threatening Democrats with Elizabeth Warren. Politico reports

“In the states that Trump won that Democrats are running in, I can’t imagine that she helps them. I think she hurts them,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), a former chairman of the NRSC.

Heading north and west, another Senate Republican similarly maintain

“One of the responsibilities when you represent an entire state is to listen to all of the voices,” said Daines, who himself experienced a boomlet of attention after telling Warren to take her seat. 

“Ultimately, you want to make sure you are aligned with where most Montanans are on an issue. And I can tell you most Montanans are not aligned with Elizabeth Warren.”

But Daines’ Montana colleague, Sen. Jon Tester, said her reputation in the state is more nuanced.
“There are some people in Montana that love her,” said Tester, a Democrat who is up in 2018. “There are some people in Montana that hate her. And there are a lot of shades of gray in between.”

Heading east, we find

To suggest that we're Elizabeth Warren is ridiculous, especially when you look at voting records and where we've been. They need a boogeyman, and they're rying to turn Elizabeth into a boogeyman. And I think maybe what they should worry about more is actually doing America's work.

A West Virginia Democrat famously less progressive than Tester and even Heitkamp argues "She has her own brand. And I think I have my own brand in my own state, so it really doesn't hurt me," said Manchin. "They've tried the 'guilty by association' with [Obama.]"

They tried it- and it worked, marvelously (for the country, disastrously). But it worked precisely because Democrats in 2014 also turned tail and ran when Republicans linked them to Obama.  CNN recognized at the time

the conventional wisdom to banish the president from key Senate battlegrounds, in favor of either Bill and Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and even First Lady Michelle Obama made sense to most Senate Democratic campaigns. The president's low approval numbers plus the conservative terrain at risk for Democrats in Arkansas, Alaska and Louisiana was a "toxic combination," as another top strategist put it.

The problem with that approach, according to Democratic midterm second-guessers, is that it left the party with little to offer voters.

"I am becoming convinced that many Democrats made a mistake in trying to run away from President Obama and the Democratic party agenda," said Jim Manley, a former spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "How is the base supposed to get excited when elected Democrats are going to such great length to put as much distance as the can between them and a president that was elected twice by the American people," Manley asked.

Charlie Pierce notes

The piece mentions no specific policy position that might alienate the good folks of North Dakota, Montana, or West Virginia because that would spoil all the fun. But what are the issues for which she stands that would so revolt voters in the sticks? A sensible financial regulation system that prevailed in this country for 50 relatively prosperous years? A protection against the trickeration that you find on the back of every credit card? An end to usurious practices in the student loan industry? All of these things poll very well in every poll I've ever seen.

Democrats should not have run away from President Obama or his Affordable Care Act. Voters sense fear in a candidate's eyes and they will read "fear" in the eyes of Democrats noticeably running away from the Massachusetts senator.

In 2012, for reasons which include Hillary Clinton and go way beyond her, the Democratic Party was seen as standing for little, and turnout suffered as a result.  Donald Trump benefited by promising to "drain the swamp" and there arguably is no Democrat, as Pierce understands, who has worked as single-mindedly in the US Congress to do just that.

So Democrats should take their cue from Republican Clint Eastwood and should, in their own terminology, tell Republicans: go ahead make my day. It does not assure victory but running scared, displaying the fear in their eyes, nearly assures defeat for the Party.

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