Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Tepid Takes #458: Ossoff and You and Everyone You Know

A few weeks have passed-- or months, not sure, the world's been busy-- since Democrats most recent soul-crushing shock defeat in a race they were sure they could win. Indeed, this was just one of three elections in areas that haven't voted blue in decades that Democrats had confidence in winning because some of these voters who never vote Democrat Don't Like Donald Trump That Much. Of the three, Jon Ossoff's race was seen as the closest, polls had him ahead at points. But if you're reading this, you probably know the whole story, and there's plenty of dialogue, much of it profoundly unconstructive*, about What It Means, How Could We Lose, etc.

Honestly, while Moral Victories mean jack shit electorally, the fact that Dems could run competitive races in historically red (who picked the colors anyway?) areas is a legitimately encouraging sign.

One of the arguments I keep seeing is that if Rob Quist or James Thompson had had the sort of massive financial backing that Jon Ossoff had, they'd have won their respective races. I think this is entirely plausible, but hardly a given. Still, let's accept that premise for a second-- that with funding equivalent (even equivalent to half of) the Georgia race, we'd have two new Democrats in office, and the beginning of a Grand Populist Wave on the Wings of Bernie. The embittered argument tends to be that the Democratic Establishment is hell bent on keeping a tight fist around the party, and that a hatred of true progressivism, as well as crony capitalism, has hopelessly corrupted the DNC.

I think the real answer is far simpler, and a little more depressing. Dems** are more invested in winning over moderate suburban Republicans than historically Democratic working class counties is because suburban Republicans are their peers. These are their people. College educated home-owners who take at least one international vacation per year, these are folks they know how to talk to. When Chuck Schumer claimed that for every out-of-work rust belt worker who they lost, they'd gain moderates in the suburbs, he wasn't just espousing dubious political strategy, he was expressing the subconscious hope of a party that just simply doesn't know how-- and increasingly hasn't cared--  to talk to anyone they couldn't see themselves at a dinner party with. They want the votes of people their kids are going to private school with. Folks for whom student loans, health care, rising rents are social concerns, rather than personal ones, so all the arguments can be removed and civil.

This isn't nefarious, or evil, or even unusual-- it's a pretty normal trait to want to associate with, reach out to, and commiserate with people you have things in common with. It may be the most clumsily, sadly humanizing thing about a party apparatus that ignored urgent pleas from people on the ground in favor of data-models and is more likely to source from Tech or Wall Street than community organizers. I get it-- I'd rather hang out with my fellow jaded bartenders and musicians than pretty much anyone who works for the Democratic party. And maybe I'd go my way and they'd go theirs, and I'd trust them and all their vastly reasonable logic if it was working.

But it's not.

(*my favorite question is "How can we more effectively tie people to Trump. Let's make this state/local election a referendum on Trump." My my. If ONLY THERE HAD BEEN SOME ATTEMPT TO DO THIS ON A NATIONAL SCALE. If only we had some way to gauge whether running a negative campaign against Trump is effective. SADLY NO SUCH TRIAL HAS OCCURRED, SO WE BETTER JUST KEEP BAGGING ON TRUMP.)

(**Dems here refers largely to the funding/donor class, and many of those currently holding national office. Not the little old lady who volunteers after church. Feel free to comment with examples of the working class Dem Senator with a history of protecting workers rights; but do know that yes, I know they exist. And that there's a range of grassroots campaigns in the works or underway that are potentially transformative, etc etc)

Tepid takes is a new series of occasional, usual anecdotal musings a few days to months after the fact, usually around politics or social issues, for when a status update or series of tweets simply won't suffice.