OK, as I type this, it’s all but done for Biden/Harris, now that they’re leading in PA and GA, thank God (and by the way, I was dismissive in the past of Stacey Abrams for being this almost ubiquitous presence on MSNBC about any center-left issue that existed without having won an election, even though by rights she should be Georgia governor now, but boy, was I wrong – it turned out she worked her ass off to GOTV for Biden/Harris and definitely should be rewarded in the new incoming administration – my apologies and congratulations to her for her efforts).
The White House was, of course, the big prize that we absolutely needed to win, though I’m sure there will be subsequent legal stuff for the foreseeable future (I remember how much the Repugs fought Al Franken getting seated in the U.S. Senate from Minnesota, and you can expect them to do that at a minimum for the White House). However, at this point, you would really have to wonder about any judge or politician doing anything whatsoever to reward a Trumpster, since, electorally, they’re “dead men walking,” and could only end up staining the reputation of anyone who could still help them at this point.
What does it tell you that it was so close? Well, for starters, it’s incredibly hard to knock off an incumbent politician unless they utterly self-destruct (which the Gropenfuhrer most certainly did, basically causing the worst health crisis this country has faced in over 100 years as well as an economy on the verge of collapse). There are many on my side who have claimed and will continue to claim that Biden was a little too chummy with Republicans. Well, that may be. But a win is a win is a win is a win is a win, and that’s what matters at the end of the day, not some damn Dem/liberal/progressive purity test.
I guess I need to remind our side of this again…in 1964, the Republican Party was flat on its back, having been decimated in a presidential and congressional elections. However, they incrementally worked their way back to power (partly by “working the refs” as always) to the point where they were positioned first in 1976 for their movement conservative guy (The Sainted Ronnie R), who actually showed up 4 years too early and caused the Republican split that led to Jimmy Carter winning. By 1980, though (with the internal fight going on between Carter and Ted Kennedy…I vaguely recall a white-haired guy named John Anderson too), they were poised to return to power, which they did with disastrous consequences. It took 16 years, but they pulled it off. And we’ll need to do something like that to accomplish the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, electoral and tax reform, common-sense gun laws, and on and on (though I realize we don’t have 16 years when it comes to the health of this planet).
The moral of the story is that you have no choice but to play the long game. Like many of you I’m sure, I saw people online like Peter Daou absolutely losing their minds, railing against “corporate Dems.” Yes, I most definitely don’t like them either. But to build a winning coalition (especially for our side), you have to bring a lot of folks to the table, including them. And if you don’t have the political inclination for the sort of “horse trading” and deal-making you need to engage in as a politician to pull off that feat or something like it, then why the hell are you bothering to run in the first place? That’s just the reality, and I don’t know what else to say about it.
Any by the way (speaking of politicians adept at “horse trading”), how about giving Nancy Pelosi a little credit for holding the U.S. House (though apparently Dems lost seats, which will, and should, prompt some self-reflection)? And unfortunately, it looks unlikely that Christina Finello will be going to D.C. as part of the majority, with the PA-01 contest very nearly settled in Brian Fitzpatrick’s favor. However, as far as I could see, Finello ran the best campaign I’ve seen a Dem run for that seat in a long time. I thought Steve Santarsiero acquitted himself admirably in 2016 – Scott Wallace has a great progressive lineage but not much else for my money two years ago, and Kathy Boockvar worked hard and ran well (I always felt the best Dem for that was Patrick Murphy, who managed to win twice), but I loved Finello’s combativeness and the fact that she NEVER let up on reminding everyone just how wedded to Trump Bri-Fi really is. Also, Finello expertly used social media to advance her campaign. The biggest factor going for Bri-Fi, though, is that he does have a bit of a record of some votes that are actually sane, though I believe his terrible votes far outweigh that. Also (and this is something else I’ve said before), never forget how Repug-friendly this district truly is. That sliver of Montco may be a little “swingy,” but Bucks County is red to its core. I honestly don’t know how you make enough of an inroads on that to effect a different electoral outcome, but we have a couple of years to go back to the drawing board and try to come up with a new strategy for next time (also, congratulations to Perry Warren, re-elected for another term in Harrisburg from PA-31).
And speaking of self-reflection on the U.S. House Dems, I thought this was an interesting thread on Twitter from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Yes, I realize the country overall doesn’t share the same demographic composition of her district (not yet, anyway), but I thought she made a lot of good points about the people who are really the core for a lot of the party (African Americans, poor working class…and that’s not a pejorative comment by the way…various other demographics including LGBTQ and non-whites) and how their issues need to be addressed. This was spurred a bit by recent comments here from “centrist” Dems like Conor Lamb and Abigail Spanberger, who all but blamed “the squad” for their harder re-election prospects and the House Dems losing seats. And in response, I would say that there needs to be give-and-take on both sides. Lamb, for example, who has championed fracking in PA, could say that we also need to watch out for children’s health issues that have been linked to fracking, and that affects Lamb’s district too (Will Bunch recently noted this on Twitter also along with AOC), and the NY-14 rep could say that, yeah, I support resolutions to local issues for my constituents, but these people also go out and work in districts that are more centrist than where they live, so issues related to their well-being impact there also (and stuff like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, again, could be beneficial to the whole country if the party could finally get its messaging together on that – a big “if” I know, unfortunately).
Now to the Senate…
To say I’m relieved that Gary Peters won another term in Michigan is an understatement (though, in typical Trumpian fashion, Peters’ opponent John James is apparently refusing to concede). However, part of me seriously wants to email Peters and say, “Congratulations on your victory. Now, announce to the entire world that you’ll serve your term until 2026 and never seek re-election to the Senate again.”
When you’ve been connected to this stuff for as long as I have (not that I’m a big deal, I hasten to emphasize), a lot of different candidates from all over the place are going to put the bite on you for money. And the Peters campaign was easily the worst at that (or best I guess, depending on how you look at it). I would get easily 3-4 emails every day (“Just got off the phone with my team,” “Outraised again,” “I was the only Democrat for the U.S. Senate outraised this cycle,” “No path to the Senate without Michigan”…true, I know, but DAMN, did it get tiresome).
So I thought, well, maybe I can find a somewhat current video from the campaign to include at this blog. Yeah, well, good luck with that. I was able to find a couple of clips from years ago, along with a testimonial from former President Obama…and that was it. Also (for some reason), Peters and James couldn’t work out some way for the two of them to debate, and all the while, I kept thinking to myself “This could be Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly all over again, BUT THIS IS FREAKING MICHIGAN!” And yes, I know the dynamic was also altered by all of the crazy militia garbage going on along with the DeVos family throwing around stupid money to try and get James elected. In a nutshell, I thought Peters’ social media presence (tying into the AOC post earlier) left much to be desired.
So I also thought, if I’m going to focus my contributions on one Senate race in particular, it had damn well better be this one. And after I made my donation, what was I rewarded with? A video of Peters riding a motorcycle.
Ummm…why the hell am I supposed to actually care about that (and as long as I’m on the subject of U.S. Senate Dems having to “get the memo,” someone had better let this guy know his time is about up also. The Repugs ran that stiff Bob Hugin in NJ against him last time, but they won’t make that mistake again.). As for Peters, though, he sure as hell ought to make campaign finance reform a big issue after a performance like this (which it should be for all Dems anyway). Just to show how out-of-hand the money situation has gotten, his office sent out a tweet yesterday saying “Let’s congratulate Gary Peters on his re-election – click here to make a contribution.” HE’S ALREADY FREAKING WON! WILL YOU STOP WITH THE PANHANDLING ALREADY??!!
Update 12/16/20: OK, fair is fair – kudos to Peters for going after that disgusting fraud and utterly repellent human being Ron Johnson here.
Also, it is beyond discouraging that, of all the U.S. Senate races where Dems challenged, so far, we have only ended up with 2 pickups (even though I know that, yes, it’s hard to knock off an incumbent as already stated). One pickup was Mark Kelly in Arizona, who had all kinds of built-in name recognition and was lucky enough to run against the weakest of all Republican Senate incumbents in Martha McSally (not trying to detract from Kelly’s campaign when I say that). The other pickup came in Colorado, where John Hickenlooper had even more built-in name recognition as former Governor, and was running against the second-weakest candidate in Cory Gardner (I was hoping that would work for Steve Bullock in Montana, but it didn’t of course). People like Cenk Uygur have been going nuts over the Dems not running enough progressives, like Daou, and that’s why they didn’t get pickups, which is partly true but also partly wrong. Hickenlooper is most definitely NOT progressive, but it would have been insanity to name another Dem to go against Gardner.
I know you have to put a bit an asterisk next to anyone running in the South (with all due respect to Southern Democrats, fighting a truly lonely and uphill fight, f*ck the South right in the ear – I’ve learned NEVER to trust them in elections, though that doesn’t mean we should throw in the towel either of course). What the hell else was Jaime Harrison supposed to do in South Carolina, for example? Also, this didn’t help Cal Cunningham either – dumb. And even someone as thoroughly corrupt as David Perdue in Georgia is going to a runoff with Jon Ossoff only because the libertarian candidate kept Perdue from 50 percent of the vote (last I saw, Perdue actually was leading Ossoff by about 100K votes, even though Ossoff totally owned Perdue in that last debate). And I have to admit that, deep down, even though I supported her in my way of course, I never took Amy McGrath seriously as a candidate. Yes, we know what Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao is, but he hasn’t lasted this long in his job by being a fool or somehow forgetting how to count. McGrath ended up spending her own stupid amount of money in this campaign and was still beaten by about 20 points. Even if she’d reached out to Charles Booker (who spent a fraction of that money in the Dem primary and very nearly beat her), could she have won working with Booker? Maybe not, but I don’t think Mitch McConnell would have cleaned her clock either.
As far as I’m concerned, there were at least a couple of winnable races out there that we could have captured with a little more imagination and better strategy (and no, I wasn’t “on the ground” in those states). And the pattern was always the same…some social media posts or information getting out there that, say, Texas or Kansas was going purple, or “oh, the Dem has a lead…it’s narrowing, but still leading”…and the Dem ends up losing by double digits. I’m talking about Theresa Greenfield in Iowa and Sara Gideon in Maine (Are you seriously trying to tell me that you couldn’t find a way to knock off somebody as thoroughly compromised as Susan Collins? That being said, I thought this was a very interesting post; again, if there is no message of economic populism – apparently because you don’t have the people on the ground to canvas your electorate and motivate them and independents somehow based on proposed solutions to issues they care about, or don’t understand how to make those kinds of inroads because the political terrain is tougher than you thought – well then, isn’t that the fault of whoever it was who allegedly came up with your strategy? And to be honest, I’d forgotten how red Maine really is also, having elected that brainless oaf Paul LePage as governor for not one but two terms).
Update: And speaking of Greenfield, who raised a ton of dough (though that isn’t an automatic indicator of success as we know), I thought this was interesting.
(Farron Cousins of Ring of Fire presented a recent clip of how quickly voters forgot about Collins and “I Like Beer” Kavanaugh…we’re dealing with easily distracted, low-information voters..and no, I’m not a lib looking down on anybody; I’m just pointing out a fact – I get it that they’re trying to hold everything together with themselves and their families, but it’s just that, for a variety of reasons, the David’s in this country end up firing their slingshots at other David’s instead of the Goliath like they’re supposed to, and I think that’s the biggest obstacle we’re up against. And I overwhelmingly blame Fox News, local news coverage which is more and more conservative, and AM talk radio which is ALL conservative, to say nothing of right-wing social networking and related sites, but that topic is a discussion for another day.)
And yeah, about Sara Gideon in Maine…I went to her web site, and what did I see? Beautiful sweeping vistas of the Maine woods…and oh look, there’s Sara Gideon talking to somebody on a small town street corner in front of clean streets and well-manicured grass surrounding main street shops…and Sara Gideon talking to somebody else on a small town street corner in front of clean streets and well-manicured grass surrounding main street shops…and why the hell am I even at this web site again? I forgot.
Hey, alleged DSCC geniuses…you have literally SECONDS to grab the attention of someone navigating to a web site, especially for candidates like Greenfield (where I saw something similar) and Gideon who have ZERO NATIONAL NAME RECOGNITION! Where the “elevator pitch”? What’s the value proposition for me in giving you my support?
So, given all of that, let’s talk about what that alleged political maven Chuck Schumer, Senate Dem Minority Leader, actually DID DO this cycle. Well, I must say that I just LOVED the hectoring popups to videos with Schumer saying, “Hey YOU. Yes YOU. We have a MAJOR fundraising deadline coming up.” As if I’m supposed to goddamn care when you people GIVE ME NO REASON AT ALL TO VOTE FOR YOUR CANDIDATE!
Here’s something to consider: I hate to use The Lincoln Project as an example (yeah, I know they’re basically Republican grifters), but they would run their good ads, then show a quick video afterwards about how to make a contribution. Maybe Schumer and the Dems should try something like that instead. Stop assuming people will automatically support you because you’re not Republicans. Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
This election cycle made my physically sick with stress (I’m sure you can relate…and don’t get me started on the texts and phone calls), and that should NEVER happen! To me, this is even more of a reason for a progressive version of Americans for Prosperity to pretty much indoctrinate Dem/progressive candidates so they can speak intelligently to issues particular to their state and present common sense solutions, and explain the benefits to voters “on the fence” (and DON’T rely on our corporate media for that, which is worse than useless on this stuff…if you need help with crafting policy recommendations, talk to Bernie Sanders…and yes, if Democrats ever got serious about this, I would support such an organization with a recurring contribution). Aside from basic common sense, maybe, if Schumer and the Dems did that MUCH EARLIER in the election cycle, then they wouldn’t fall prey so much to the negative ads when the dark money descends at the very end (something else Schumer and co. continually hectored me about, as if they’re somehow surprised by that). Hell, it’s worth a shot, because what they’re doing NOW isn’t resulting in any pickups (unless you have the situations in Arizona or Colorado as already noted).
Regardless, this should absolutely be the LAST election cycle with Chuck Schumer as the point person in charge of running elections for the DSCC. His track record absolutely stinks. And yes, as noted already, I know all about the “oh help us…dark money has created a lot of last-minute attack ads against our candidates and we’re losing ground” appeals. Maybe if you spent more time cementing in the mind of voters the populism you’re supposed to be all about and had fewer pictures of candidates on farms posing in front of tractors, the last-minute negative garbage wouldn’t be so effective!
Well (as noted previously), at least we still have two opportunities in Georgia, which is a blessing, even though they’re definitely long shots. And I sincerely hope the DSCC makes the ads not really about Perdue or Kelly Loeffler, but McConnell. Drum it into the heads of GA’s voters that they have NO SHOT AT ALL of relief of any kind for the COVID-19 plague with McConnell as Senate Majority Leader, which of course is the God’s-honest truth (and by the way, I commented on Alabama and Doug Jones/Tommy Tuberville elsewhere).
We have no choice but to continue the fight. Let’s try a different, more intelligent strategy. And stop getting the vapors over what centrist Dems may think (and don’t get me started on “socialism,” though, as I’ve often said, “defund the police” is terrible messaging). People like Conor Lamb and Abigail Spanberger, for example, are no more or less important than anyone else in the “big tent.” We all need to find a way to work together, or we will surely sink separately.
Update 1 11/8/20: I think this supports AOC’s argument even more, and confirms what I always suspected about the DNC.
Update 2 11/8/20: I thought this was an incredibly interesting interview with AOC (if you can get to it behind the NYT paywall). Some of what we learn is as follows: she reached out to Democrats running U.S. House campaigns to help with strategy, and 5 took her up on her offer, and all 5 won (and they were in swing districts). Also, she expressed a great deal of frustration with basically being vilified by some members in her caucus, to the point where she doesn’t even know whether or not she’ll even remain in politics 5 years from now, let alone take a run at the U.S. Senate, for example. If she were to get so exasperated to the point where she would walk away, it would be an incalculable loss for the country, let alone the Democrats and her constituents. But, if her frustration reached that point, I wouldn’t blame her one bit if she said the hell with it and gave up.