Thursday, September 05, 2019

Superficial Advice

This is in part why we don't hand the keys to the bus to Never Trump Republicans.

Republican strategist Rick Wilson, who out of revulsion for Donald Trump ran Evan McMullin's 2016 campaign, offers the Democratic presidential candidates free, unsolicited advice in an opinion piece published in USA Today. The old adage is valid: you get what you pay for.

Wilson early on notes, accurately, "The election, like all presidential reelection campaigns, is a referendum on Trump," though he means "on the incumbent" rather than "on Trump."  He goes downhill from there.  "In the heat of a Democratic primary," Wilson argues

.... it’s tempting to think that America is so very, very woke and that all the people in this country crave is a massive government plan to hand out free stuff. For Democrats, the primary incentivizes a race to the left edge of the ideological spectrum and — again, I’m not judging their policies — but just telling them what the polling and politics look like outside the Democratic primary bubble.

He does not specify what this "free stuff" is, though thankfully he says he is "not judging their policies." Except that he is, maintaining "on questions from keeping their private health insurance to abortion to guns to fossil fuels, the Democratic nominee will have to move back into the center to win. "

This comes from- seriously- someone who cautions "it’s tempting to think that America is so very, very woke" while "most of the 15 swing states are decidedly unwoke on at least one major litmus test issue in the Democratic primary field." This is a clever sleight of hand, suggesting that ol' regular Americans are practical, down-to-earth guys and gals while he himself is "woke."  However, there is no Democratic candidate who is obsessed with winning the popular vote, or even of winning it, which is consistent with the push to abolish the Electoral College.

But if Wilson were as aware- uh, er, "woke"- as he implies he is, he would not assume that the populist strain in the American voter responds to centrist policies or candidates. Instead, he contends

... .the Democratic nominee will have to move back into the center to win. In most of the swing states, the Democratic vote model must capture people outside the base to pull off a victory. Don’t underestimate Trump in these states; the populist strain is strong in most of them, and it’s a present danger to the Democratic nominee.

Not surprisingly, Wilson does not identify the "base" of the Democratic Party, nonetheless implying that it is pro- universal health care, abortion rights,and  renewable energy, and anti-gun. For better or worse, however, that is inaccurate because the base of the party is not formed around ideology. The base, the foundation upon which success of the Party rests, is quite simply African-American.  (in 2008, Senator Obama trailed Hillary Clinton, supported by most black Democrats. He won in Iowa, thus convincing African-Americans that he could win and was a safe choice for the party establishment, and turned that deficit around. We know what happened next.)

Wilson notes that the Democratic nominee should ignore all but the approximately fifteen swing states and "As a corollary rule, take the phrase “popular vote” out of your lexicon. You know what a majority of the popular vote and $5.25 get you? A pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks." (Note to everyone under 50 years of age- this is part of the old Republican playbook to tar Democrats as elitist, which began with calling Democrats "limousine liberals." Now it's Starbucks and "woke.")

As Wilson sees it, I would be an outlier. A primary voter who supports elimination of private health insurance, firearms safety legislation supported by the vast majority of Americans, reproductive freedom, and who doesn't believe coal is the wave of the future, I don't buy coffee at Starbucks. And if I did, it never would be pumpkin spice latte. There probably are a few like me.

We have a strategist seemingly concerned with the sentiments of populist Americans in states not reflexively liberal or Democratic who advises a nominee not to appear leftist on health care, guns, abortion, and energy.  That is curious, given that Trump's victory - even accounting for the impact of economic discontent- was fueled primarily by hostility toward immigration and to racial minorities. )Voter suppression, Russian meddling, and Comey missteps are of a different kind.) And yet, beyond Wilson's radar are reparations and immigration, the two issues upon which Democrats have most dramatically moved left during this campaign.

It is entertaining to hear from Never Trump Republicans, interesting to learn of their perspectives. But they helped drive the Republican Party, emphasizing the grievances that gave rise to Donald Trump, ultimately enabling his election to the presidency. They're welcome to come aboard, and may even talk on their cell phones or play their music aloud while in their seats. But they will not be allowed to drive the bus.

This blog is going on brief hiatus. Please come back on Monday, September 9 for analysis you won’t find anywhere else, for which you may be thankful.

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