Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Freaking Cannibals

With the predictability of the sun rising, Leftists have freaked out over Tom Perez's selection as DNC chair.  One writer I really respect called him a "neoliberal shill."  Others have said that the "table needs to be overturned" and all the DNC routed.

This is why we can't have nice things.

First of all, the idea that Perez is anything but a progressive is ridiculous.  He was an excellent Assistant AG for Civil Rights and an excellent Secretary of Labor.  I really hoped that Clinton would have picked him for her Veep slot, before she selected walking dad-joke and Smurf cosplay enthusiast Tim Kaine.  Tom Perez is an excellent choice.  Keith Ellison would have been an excellent choice, too.  Who freaking cares?

Predictably, the election became a re-litigation of the primary between Sanders and Clinton. Ellison was an early supporter of Sanders, whereas Perez supported Clinton, so the contest became viewed through that lens, especially by the die-hard Bernie supporters.

At the heart of the Sanders dead-enders is an important fallacy that they need to confront.  Among those saying that Perez was a neoliberal shill was the idea that the Democratic party had to move further left to win elections.

Further left.

I'm guessing their evidence for this is based on two things: spotlight fallacy and post hoc ergo propter hoc.

The spotlight fallacy precedes from the idea that an observation of a small, unrepresentative sample extends across the entire group.  In this case, a Leftist assumes that because everyone in their social circle is also a Leftist, and because they are often disheartened by the centrist impulses of Democratic candidates, then EVERYONE must be disheartened by the centrist impulses of Democratic candidates.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc says that because one event follows another, it must have been caused by the previous event.  Democrats nominated a technocratic left-of-center candidate and lost, after rejecting the socialists candidate.  Therefore, nominating a technocratic left-of-center candidate is why they lost.

They no doubt look at Trump's rhetoric over free trade and see an echo of Leftist criticism of free trade and assume that this is why Trump won.  They hate TPP and NAFTA, Trump's rhetoric agreed with them, therefore, Trump's victory was a product of his trade positions.

This, I think fundamentally misreads why Trump won.  When you listen to Trump voters they are clearly two different groups: Trump supporters and Clinton haters.  The Trump supporters are clearly not motivated by positions on issues in any logical way.  Trump hates who they hate, so Trump is there guy.  These are the people who look at Trump's shitstorm of a first month and think he's doing a good job.  When he bars certain members of the press from a briefing, they applaud that.

You will NEVER convince a Trump supporter to vote for a Democrat.

The Clinton haters are a variety of people.  Some are just bog-standard Republicans.  Some are poorly informed suburban swing voters who figured there just had to be corruption there somewhere or why else would Comey have written that letter?  Some are those whose economic anxiety did lead them to vote for Trump.  They blamed politicians for their problems and Clinton was a politician and Trump wasn't.

You aren't going to win many Republicans, but you certainly aren't going to win any moving further left.  Those suburban GOP-leaning voters are already turning on Trump.  That's why his numbers are cratering already among whites with college degrees.  

That leaves the economically anxious as a group of people who can be persuaded to vote for a Democrat.  In fact, many of them did vote for Obama and then flip to Trump. You can make an argument that you can woo them with more left leaning policies, except Clinton offered them those left leaning policies.  The problem is that they don't believe anyone who is a "politician."  Even though Trump was and is a historically dishonest candidate and president, Clinton was Clinton.  Despite being verifiably honest, she was seen as dishonest, because she was a politician and because she was Hillary Clinton.  You can solve the second problem by not nominating Hillary Clinton.

The question of embracing leftist populist economics is that this group of people won't believe you, because they assume that all politicians are lying.  Hell, they assumed Trump was lying to them, and are surprised that he might actually gut their Obamacare.  Trump's rampant mendacity will only reinforce the idea that "all politicians lie."  So your plan for universal college tuition or single payer health care or nationalizing the banks is hinged on getting these people to believe you, when they are hard-wired not to believe you.  Alternately, they believe that you are really just trying to give everything to "those people."  Remember, white people get government services and brown people get welfare.

This all sounds pretty bleak. I don't think it is.  Trump won about as much support as Mike Dukakis won.  He has shown zero aptitude for governing.  He has yet to be tested by a real crisis, not of his own making.  He might still be exposed in the ongoing Russia scandal.

The job of the DNC chair is not to woo the guy with Gadsen Flag decal on his truck and the Confederate flag t-shirt.  It's to woo his sister, who doesn't vote, but likes the nice gay man who she works with at the florist shop.  Or whose heart bleeds for those poor refugee children, but doesn't see what she can do about it.

Democrats have more support, that support is simply poorly lumped into certain geographic areas.  The job of the DNC chair will be to increase outreach in those suburban tracts where people are pretty horrified at living in Trumpistan.  Flip the suburbs and return the rural areas to 35-65 as opposed to 20-80 losses and you win the White House, the House and the Senate in the next four years.

Tom Perez and Keith Ellison both know this.  Both are going to work for it.  Stop with the circular firing squads.  Sanders lost.  As a certain liberal group says, "Move On."

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