LG&M: On the Extremely Limited Value of Campaign Tactics Tautologies

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Mike Schilling

Mike has been a software engineer far longer than he would like to admit. He has strong opinions on baseball, software, science fiction, comedy, contract bridge, and European history, any of which he's willing to share with almost no prompting whatsoever.

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  1. Avatar Damon says:

    “After every remotely close election campaign, there are almost as many just-so stories about how there was one perfect campaign tactic that could have changed the outcome as there are pundits.”

    And the losing side works itself into a frenzy looking for someone to lynch, ’cause SOMEONE’S going to have to pay!Report

  2. Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

    I agree with what you’re saying, but losing an election is really the only practical opportunity a party has to have a conversation about its messaging, its coalition, and its values. If you win, who cares, you won.

    This conversation is overdue with the Democrats. Although it is widely believed that the “sick” party is the Republicans, I think it is the incompetence and “out-of-touchness” of the Democratic party that has allowed the Republicans to drift ever more to the right without political consequence.

    The Democrats have given up their traditional role, since Wilson, as the party of the “little guy.” They don’t know how to talk to the electorate, except for their narrow coalition partners (immigrants, minorities, the cultural left), and don’t know how to be persuasive. They have squandered their position on culture wars and dismissal of their opponents as “racists” or “oppressors” or “rednecks”.

    Historians will look back in curiosity at our era as the left party saw unprecedented concentration of income and corporate power and the virtual annihilation of the union movement, and spent their political capital securing restroom choice for transsexuals.Report

    • Avatar gregiank in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

      In general i agree with this but the D’s “narrow coalition” did get a couple million more votes. It isn’t a narrow coalition. If anything the D coalition is made up more groups and is larger whcih doesn’t mean all the other criticisms of them you listed aren’t true.Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to gregiank says:

        It is a narrow coalition: just take a look at an electoral map. The thin hold the Democrats has on the general electorate has resulted in the US political parties being at a virtual 50-50% split in national contests since 2000, and permitted the opponent political party–which is largely corrupt, cynical, and dominated by extremists–to be viable despite its extremism.

        There is a huge swath of America the Democrats have alienated, and they’re not all racists and yahoos. And it is only because of the weakness of the Democrats that the Republicans can be both insane and viable.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

          How about this argument – the average Republican voter has always been this crazy. It’s just that they used to be ignored because they were voting in a one party state (Democrats in the South) who could ignore their crazier impulses and that the lack of media meant conservatives in other areas of the country could rail against liberal in a town hall in Iowa, then go back to Congress and make a deal over drinks in a Capitol Hill bar.

          It’s only now, that the crazies are all combined under one banner with 24/7 coverage of various congresspeoples RINOism that they’re getting what they want.

          40-45% of the population basically either doesn’t believe in the American welfare state (Paul Ryan) or thinks it should be for people who “deserve” it only (ie. Trump’s base). There’s no way to get those people.Report

          • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            That’s a comforting argument, but half of the current Republican coalition used to vote Democratic (and I’m not just counting the anti- civil rights south).

            The Republicans have driven polarization, particularly since the 1994 Newt Gingrich revolution, to such a degree that liberals abandoned the perfectly-acceptable term “liberal” because it had been sullied in political discourse. I now watch, discouraged, as the same thing happens to “progressive.”

            I disagree with your main thesis that the Republican party is the same as it always has been: I don’t think that’s true. There is 20% of the country that is batshit ideologically crazy (the anti-communists, the neo-racialists, the free market fundamentalists, the conspiracy theorists, etc.), but the makeup of the political parties has changed quite a bit over the last 50 years, particularly as the Democrats lost the rural votes, and the white working class.

            There used to be quite a bit of overlap between the parties, and the Republicans used to be dominated more by the pragmatic business and shopkeeper wing. The conservative movement took over the party, starting with the Goldwater presidential campaign, but deepening its grip with every election cycle since then.

            Democrats used to be Democrats mostly because of their economic policies (anti-trust, social welfare, pro-union), but has moved most of its energy to social concerns since the 1970s. I am personally convinced that the economic message is central to the heart and soul of liberalism: that the government is an active agent against concentrated power in the private sector. But now, I fear, the Democrats have become as addicted to big money as the Republicans have always been, and it’s torn out the heart of the party.

            If you look at what (I believe) got Trump elected, it was his implicit and explicit promises to reduce exploitation by both government and corporate America. Trump voters feel taken advantage of, and a good part of Trump’s winning message was to rebalance power. The Democrats can co-opt most of this message, with the singular advantage of instituting policies that will actually resolve these issues.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

              Yeah. Specifically, though this isn’t explicitly mentioned by you or by the cite from LG&M in the OP, the election outcome was driven substantially by disaffected Bernie supporters or its demographic. We’ve heard (or at least I’ve heard) a lot about Eastern Kentucky and Western PA, etc. but the Bernie supporters who stayed at home or voted for Trump were tremendously influential in the outcome.

              Especially in relation to the OP, the just so story that we should be hearing but haven’t, is that Hillary’s history of lies and deception and corruption specifically turned off the Bernies relative to any other candidate thereby allowing a lane for Trump to get through.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

              Trump voters feel taken advantage of, and a good part of Trump’s winning message was to rebalance power. The Democrats can co-opt most of this message, with the singular advantage of instituting policies that will actually resolve these issues.

              If you mean current office holders, the DNC, the DCCC, etc, then I have to disagree with you. Bernie could take advantage of this – and he did – but right now the Democratic party’s institutional identity is fundamentally incapable of “co-opting” that message. Too institutional, too cautious, too intellectual.Report

          • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            That’s a comforting argument, but half of the current Republican coalition used to vote Democratic (and I’m not just counting the anti- civil rights south).

            The Republicans have driven polarization, particularly since the 1994 Newt Gingrich revolution, to such a degree that liberals abandoned the perfectly-acceptable term “liberal” because it had been sullied in political discourse. I now watch, discouraged, as the same thing happens to “progressive.”

            I disagree with your main thesis that the Republican party is the same as it always has been: I don’t think that’s true. There is 20% of the country that is batshit ideologically crazy (the anti-communists, the neo-racialists, the free market fundamentalists, the conspiracy theorists, etc.), but the makeup of the political parties has changed quite a bit over the last 50 years, particularly as the Democrats lost the rural voters, and the white working class.

            There used to be quite a bit of overlap between the parties, and the Republicans used to be dominated more by the pragmatic business and shopkeeper wing. The conservative movement took over the party, starting with the Goldwater presidential campaign, but deepening its grip with every election cycle since then.

            Democrats used to be Democrats mostly because of their economic policies (anti-trust, social welfare, pro-union), but has moved most of its energy to social concerns since the 1970s. I am personally convinced that the economic message is central to the heart and soul of liberalism: that the government is an active agent against concentrated power in the private sector. But now, I fear, the Democrats have become as addicted to big money as the Republicans have always been, and it’s torn out the heart of the party.

            If you look at what (I believe) got Trump elected, it was his implicit and explicit promises to reduce exploitation by both government and corporate America. Trump voters feel taken advantage of, and a good part of Trump’s winning message was to rebalance power. The Democrats can co-opt most of this message, with the singular advantage of instituting policies that will actually resolve these issues.
            Snarky McSnarkSnark,Report

        • Avatar gregiank in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

          Colors on an electoral map don’t indicate narrowness or width. Lots of red in the middle doesn’t mean people don’t’ vote D. Heck i live in Ak and we are colored red. Ak is bigger than every other state (take that Texas) and totals around 700K people. All those red pixels doesn’t mean more people didn’t vote D and the D coalition is large. And also all that you say about the D’s failures is largely true.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

      I will point out , putting aside your fantasies that immigrants, minorities, and the cultural left are a “narrow coalition” is that in the one election basically fought about transgender bathrooms, the Democrat won despite Trump winning that state on the Presidential level.

      Remember, Trump essentially ceded ground on that and said it was a state issue.

      But hey, if you want to be part of the center-right and centrist group of people who think that Democrats have to toss brown, black, gay, and transgender people under the bus to get some votes in rural Michigan, so be it.

      Economic justice without social justice and vice versa isn’t actually justice.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        I will point out , putting aside your fantasies that immigrants, minorities, and the cultural left are a “narrow coalition”

        I’m not sure what this means, actually. Are you suggesting that immigrants, minorities and the cultural left comprise a wide range of ideological values and commitments? Maybe that’s true. I dunno anymore. 🙂

        Seems to me that appealing to Is, Ms and CLs is fine. (I’m glad Dems do it!) However, limiting yourself to only appealing to those folks and their interests strikes me as a problem, ideologically as well as politically. Bernie was aware of this. So was Trump.Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        I certainly don’t think that liberals should toss minorities under the bus: what I was arguing was that the Democrats have put most of their energy into social issues (and I agree with most of them, for the record) at the expense of the economic.

        But in a two-party system, you have to compete near the center, and liberal discourse about “social justice” is, for better or worse, alienating and dismissive of the broad center of the country. It’s not so much that people disagree with liberal ideals of equality, equity, etc–most people hold the same ideals. It’s that the urban coalitions of “tolerance” have been pushing the middle past their comfortable rate of change, and then condemning it for its narrow-mindedness, intolerance, and racism. Those are not winning strategies for pulling people over to your side.

        I don’t think that most people are particularly left or right (or even, for that matter, particularly political). But if you really talk to people, you’ll find most have pretty nuanced views.

        I’ll give you a concrete example: liberals have been advocating for gay marriage in earnest since the late 90s, and it produced significant backlash. In fact, it was the core “wedge issue” that Karl Rove used to get GWB re-elected in 2004. But if you look at polling from the period, you’ll see that a pretty substantial majority of the country was okay with civil partnerships, but considered gay marriage to be a bridge too far. And I honestly think that if the left had taken a more thoughtful, incrementalist approach, we would have arrived at the same place we are today with one-quarter of the friction. Once people saw that civilly-partnered gay couples did not threaten the Republic–and, in fact, changed their lives not at all–further progress could have taken place without most of the drama.

        And you’ve certainly noticed the tribal nature of political party affiliation. If the liberals had been able to appeal to more of the middle attracted by economic populism, they would have had more allies for their social causes, as well.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

          Again i largely agree with you. However i think its more accurate to say it was gays/lesbians who pushed hard for marriage with the D’s being luke warm and liberals largely on the side of the gay/lesbian folks. It was the affected people driving hard for the hoop. I’m on their side but its to easy, and many people have been, throwing around “the left” as some sort of monolithic thing.Report

        • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

          Snarky McSnarkSnark: Democrats have put most of their energy into social issues […] at the expense of the economic.

          Really? Where?

          I hear again and again that the problem with the Democrats this election cycle was that they focused on “social issues” or “identity politics” at the expense of economic issues that would have won them the white house.

          Only, the history of the Obama administration has been:

          *Economic stimulus, especially in the midwest
          *Expanding health coverage
          *Financial Reform
          *Student Loan Relief
          *Middle-class tax cuts
          *End Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
          *Federal Hate Crimes law

          And the major Democratic proposals of this campaign were:
          *Maintain and incrementally improve Obama’s tax/finance/health policies
          *Increased Minimum Wage
          *Improve college affordability
          *Campaign Finance Reform/Citizens United
          *Immigration Reform
          *Equal Pay

          So, while there are a couple of social issue items in each set, the Bulk of issues that Obama and Clinton focused on were economic issues.

          Sure, there were lots of social issues at the forefront of liberal politics in recent years, but those weren’t politician-driven issues–Gay Marriage was a court battle by by-partisan lawyers and Black Lives Matter is a grassroots movement.

          So it’s hard for me to escape the nagging suspicion that the “Social Issues” that lost us the election were electing a Black president and wanting to elect a female one.Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        …in the one election basically fought about transgender bathrooms, the Democrat won despite Trump winning that state on the Presidential level.

        You mean North Carolina, where there is a Republican supermajority in both houses of their legislature, and a narrow win by the Democratic challenger to the governor?Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

      I’d like to think that sticking out for immigrants, minorities, women, and the LGBT community is sticking out for the little guy. There are lots of ways to define what it means to be a little guy but the general idea is one put upon by forces out of his or her control. The general problem facing the center-left since the 1960s is that the economic and societal beliefs of liberals and social democrats have often clashed and required a balancing test that is difficult to get right. Many of the working class who might like the economic arguments of liberals and social democrats do not like the social arguments for LGBT rights or minority rights.Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I don’t disagree.

        But the liberal project should be to help establish a broadened sense of who constitutes “we.”Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

          There has always been a tension between the economic parts of modern liberalism and social democracy and the social or cultural parts. Even if they weren’t religious, many members of the working class could be very socially conservative and into whatever traditional hierarchies and traditions existed in their nation. These provide a source of stability in unstable lives. Trying to exclude people outside that hierarchy like Jews, people of color, women, and the LGBT community have caused working class people to flee towards the conservatives.

          The Democratic Party under Lyndon Baines Johnson tried to fight for Civil Rights and the White middle and lower class. The Great Society was intended for them to. It didn’t work out. Many of the unions did not want to integrate and they hated hippies, the sexual revolution, feminism, and the emerging gay right’s movement. Part of the move towards neo-liberalism was because corporations could be more agnostic about these marginalized groups. Their money was as good as anybody else’s money.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Have you heard the story about how Clinton never even *CAMPAIGNED* in Wisconsin?Report

  4. Avatar Stillwater says:

    A huge percentage of campaign analysis consists of two basic and related categories:

    And then there’s the blue moon campaign where analysis reduces to the candidate’s insurmountably huge unfavorables across all spectrums of the electorate.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Stillwater says:

      Clinton won the majority vote though by two million people and only lost in the Electoral College because of razor thin margins in three states. Every poll indicated that Clinton would win these states. Your point only makes sense if Clinton lost the popular vote by millions.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

        {{She ran against a man who was under multiple criminal investigations and admitted to sexual assault. And…. and… and… }}

        On the other hand: I’m happy for you that you like her!Report

        • And so did Rubio, and Jeb!, and Cruz, and the rest of that crowd, and he beat all of them too. So “Hillary is a historically weak candidate” isn’t all that’s going on here. Brother Scotto wrote a great series on the mechanics of the various Republican candidates failing to stop Trump, but the deeper question is why he was popular enough that that was necessary.Report

    • insurmountably

      This is the analysis where the team that loses the seventh game of the World Series in extra innings was not good enough to win a championship.Report

  5. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    On smugness:
    I found it hard to take this analysis seriously, that liberals are smug and condescending to country folk.

    It just seems petty, that somehow the burly guys who snarl and spit and say things like “Suck it up buttercup!” are somehow sniffling because Pajama Boy sneers at their choice of domestic beer.

    But maybe the word “smug” is doing cover for something more real. When we use the word “smug” it usually is synonymous with “self righteous” and “closed minded”.

    Which used to be the word of choice for fundamentalist Christians, the Elmer Gantry Babbit types who lived in small towns with small minds and smugly knew they were going to heaven while the fornicators and homos in San Francisco were all going to burn in hell.

    But there’s more to the word “smug” than that isn’t there?

    It also usually has an undertone of privilege, of undeserved success, of being on the winning side; like the pretty girl who tells us she just makes good diet choices and washes with the right soap, or the wealthy heir who tells us his wealth is due to righteous living.

    I am imagining a rural blue collar guy, maybe a sheet metal worker who hears about some college twit speaking about transgender intersectionality something or other and how rednecks should die in a fire.

    Why should it sting, this insult from someone he doesn’t even know?

    Maybe its because in the evolving new economy, this twit has a future that is bright and promising, and the sheet metal guys don’t. That the privileged pajama boy has been born on third and is telling everyone how to hit a triple.

    I think “smug” is a way of saying “check your privilege” for people who don’t feel very privileged.Report

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