TOUGH LOVE FOR DEMOCRATS!
Let's not sugar-coat it -- Democrats just got soundly thumped at the ballot box! I'm not talking just about the defeat of Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump for President -- I mean Democrats got walloped across the USA at the national, state, and local levels.
Republicans now have majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, 33 state governorships across the nation, and control of a similar number of state legislatures. This is a titanic event -- Barack Obama has presided over what is perhaps the most substantial decimation of the Democratic Party in U.S. history. Democrats across the USA are now as shell-shocked as the sad donkey in the picture above!
But things did not need to go this way for the Democrats. There was lots of clear evidence over the past decade that Democrats were making bad decisions. There were even places in the USA that provided Democrats with models of better ways to do things. In fact, one of those places is my current hometown of Houston, Texas!
In the Houston area of Harris County, Democrats won convincingly all over the ballot box, sweeping up every single county-wide seat, even including posts such as the district attorney and sheriff’s offices. The big reason for this, in my opinion, is that Houston Democrats differ in key ways from national Democrats (as I pointed out in my previous post, "Voting in America's Most Diverse City"). The Democratic success in Houston was stunning -- yet, strangely, I've not seen much national coverage of it.
Because national Democrats don't seem to be paying much attention to local Democratic successes in red states, I thought, in the spirit of tough love, it would be useful to point out a few lessons from Houston. Just so readers will know that I'm not picking on Democrats, I should say that I'm an independent voter. I don't particularly like either major political party, and I was unimpressed with both Clinton and Trump. I routinely vote split tickets in elections, as I did this year.
So here are a few words of advice to national Democrats, drawn from local experience (I'm going to limit myself to three lessons):
Lose the obsession over identity politics!
The seemingly irresistible Democratic desire to divide the world into cliques defined solely by race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. is debilitating to the Democratic Party (see my earlier post, "When Identity Politics is Corrosive"). Perhaps the biggest problem with this obsession is that it drives Democrats to fuzzy thinking about over-arching national issues such as national security and economic growth.
I wrote posts about all the Democratic and Republican primary debates (check out #debate2016), and one of the things that struck me about the Democratic debates is how the discussions usually turned to identity politics, no matter the topic. It made the Democratic candidates appear to most Americans as if they were clinging to the 1960s.
The ultimate expression of Democratic fuzzy-thinking on identity politics was Hillary Clinton's comment that half of Trump's supporters belong in a "basket of deplorables" who are "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic". Besides being obnoxious and self-righteous, the statement was simply wrong about the facts. As it turns out, Trump made gains for the Republicans in nearly all the "social identity" demographic groups that Clinton assumed belonged to her.
Houston is the most diverse city in America. And yet, local Democrats here do not depend on identity politics to get votes. As Lane Lewis, chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party, commented, “They don't vote for us because they’re black, brown or gay. They vote for us because we speak in concert with things that are important to them.” Yes! Things like international policy, war and peace, economics, taxation, etc. -- people of all social groups are interested in issues other than their identities!
Stop hating businesses and wealthy people!
When national Democrats are not preaching about sexism, racism, and xenophobia, they are are attacking wealthy people and businesses. According to the Liberal wing of the Democratic Party (which now largely encompasses the entire national contingent of Democrats in Washington, D.C.), all wealthy people are evil and greedy (except the ones who make donations to prominent Democrats). And businesses actually pursue profits (gasp!) -- how dare those wicked businesses earn more they spend, the demons!
Look, Democrats must get past this vilification of the people and businesses that create wealth for the nation. Yes, call these people to task when they do something wrong. But, for goodness sake, don't attack them for being productive!
America's wealthy people and businesses are among the most productive and generous in the world. America has been living in a decade of historically depressed business start-ups as federal government regulation and political hate-mongering has made would-be entrepreneurs think twice about creating businesses and, thereby, creating wealth for the nation. Is it any wonder that economic growth is at a crawl in the USA?!
In Houston, Democrats don't hate businesses and wealthy people. In fact, businesses and the wealthy are often leaders in local social projects. It's time for national Democrats to motivate wealth creators rather than demonize them.
Bring back the Blue Dogs and get re-acquainted with America!
Moderate Democrats were once called Blue Dog Democrats -- the name originated with comparatively conservative Democrats from the South and eventually spread to all moderate Democrats. Blue Dogs were generally socially progressive, but were more moderate than their Liberal colleagues on issues of national security and economic growth.
Blue Dogs were historically important to governance because it was the moderate Democrats and the moderate Republicans who could often find ways to work together and get bills passed. Under the control of President Obama, House leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate leader Harry Reid, moderate Democrats were largely purged from both houses of Congress. This made non-partisan negotiation and compromise on a national legislative agenda all but impossible.
As the moderate Democrats dropped out, the party became increasingly focused on the agenda of Liberals from the two American coasts. Now about one-third of Congressional Democrats are from California and New York. It's little surprise that those national Democrats lost touch with voters in the middle of America!
Such a concentration of Democrats within the Liberal ranks, supported by a Liberal bent in America's mainstream media, has also led to a kind of group-think about what Americans want and support. Hillary Clinton even chose to run as a status-quo candidate, promising to continue policies which have cost Democrats seats in every national election since 2008. It was as if Clinton was determined to double down on what Americans had already told her they didn't want!
Hillary Clinton won the Houston vote, but President Obama's policies did not win. Democrats in Houston did not embrace the "Obama Legacy" -- as a result, Democrats swept the local elections. There is a lesson in this for the national Democrats, I believe!
OK, there you have it -- three tough-love lessons for Democrats. I want to re-emphasize that I'm not picking on the Democratic Party. I could easily write a similar tough-love post for the Republicans. It's just that I think, given the devastating election results, the Democrats may be more receptive to input than the Republicans right now.
The silver lining for the Democrats is that the field should be wide open now for fresh ideas and new people in the Democratic Party. In the absence of the ideology of Barack Obama, the machinery of the Clintons, and the mean-spirited partisanship of Harry Reid, there is finally exciting room for a regeneration and a renewal of the Democratic Party!
Top image: From archive.litecointalk.org