BRANDING

For myriad reasons Shaun King is not the most reliable of commentators, but I'd encourage you to give this take on the fundamental problem with the Democratic Party moving forward a look. In particular this part at the conclusion is worth thinking about:

Recently, I’ve asked the crowds where I am speaking two key questions about the Democratic Party. The response that I get is always the same – mass laughter or audible frustration.

The first question is, “If I asked you, in just a few sentences, to sum up what specific policies the Democratic Party stands for, what would you say?”

People have no genuine idea. They know some things the party stands against, but it’s genuinely hard to be sure of what they stand for.

The other question is, “What exactly is the strategy of the Democratic Party to take back the government from conservatives across the country?”

That one always gets the most laughs. Nobody has any idea. Not once has somebody stood up and said, “Hey, I know the strategy.” Hell, I don’t know it. I don’t think one exists. Whatever the strategy was this past election, it didn’t work either. And again, I don’t just mean in the presidential election. Democrats lost all over the place in national, state, and local elections.

I think this is as good a way to sum up the current problems on the left as any – twenty years into the experiment in forever moving toward the middle to "peel off moderate Republicans," nobody can really tell you what the Democratic Party stands for anymore. Republican Lite and the post-Reagan death of actual liberalism have left the party without any meaningful identity other than "Not the Republicans" and the GOP has managed to brand a party that is barely left of center on most issues (and to the right of it on a few) as some sort of radical Marxist death cult. That was a problem before 2016 and it's a problem now.

Ask people what the GOP stands for and they will say small government and low taxes. Now, you and I know that they don't actually stand for small government in practice; they merely want the government to be very big, expensive, and intrusive in a way that suits their preferences. But the point is that people can tell you what the Republican Party is about. They can tell you what the brand name means.

Try to explain what the Democratic Party stands for using any amount of words, from a short slogan to a healthy paragraph, and you'll find that you can't. "Liberal on social issues" is about the clearest, most concise true statement I could come up with, and even that is a comparatively recent development. Ten years ago they were still talking about Civil Unions, the most prominent example of their inability to show leadership on these issues and instead to wait until they're absolutely, 100% positive that a majority of the public will support them before embracing any changes.

Economically and in terms of foreign policy, they've signed off on so much of the Republican agenda since 1990 that it's essentially impossible to give a meaningful explanation of their overall ideology. "Like the Republicans, but maybe not quite as much" is disturbingly close to the truth. A party can only throw its support behind so many wars before they can no longer sell themselves as anti-war and so many neoliberal economic ideas before it can no longer claim to be usefully distinct from the right. The centrist Democratic Party has had some electoral successes; that is undeniable. It has also had some staggering failures, though, and its biggest shortcoming may be that it has left Democrats poorly positioned to recover from those failures. Lacking any real identity, the path to success, as was the case in the early George W. Bush era, seems to be to wait until people tire sufficiently of the Republicans and then elect some Democrats because our system offers no other real options.

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93 Responses to “BRANDING”

  1. mago Says:

    Irony note: less than two years ago observers inclined toward this blog and its ilk (including myself) were gloating about a Republican implode with the Trump's advent and resultant party division.

    So who's imploding now?

    Is anybody laughing?

  2. The Jack of Hearts Says:

    I would say they're for Healthcare, Education, and Liberal on Social Issues. Also, Gun Control (theoretically)? I mean, it's not called Obamacare for nothing, and Hillary Clinton did attempt healthcare reform and helped implement an insurance program for 8 million children while First Lady.

  3. rustonite Says:

    The problem is, I have no idea how the Democrats become competitive without a swing to the right. Here in Missouri, the state House is 71% Republican, the Senate 75%. Claire McCaskill is still there but almost certainly doomed in 2018. Democrats are extinct everywhere but KC and St. Louis.

    So what are the Ds to do? The only thing I can think is throw the blacks under the bus, which is horrible, but a solid white nationalist push would probably get significant rural support for better education and healthcare. Probably also chuck abortion and contraception (sorry ladies) since those are major Republican bugaboos here.

    What alternative do we have?

  4. jharp Says:

    I'd say us democrats stand for equal rights to all. Including equal access to a quality education and health insurance. And that means for everyone.

  5. scott Says:

    I'd say Democrats are about standing up for the little guy against big corporations–whether the little guy cares or not. They're about fairness for all, not just the rich or the white.

  6. Andrew Laurence Says:

    Not Republican is good enough for me. I vote Democrat because I like their social policies. And because they're not blatantly racist.

  7. Poultine Says:

    @rustonite – I'd think another route to go would be trying to emphasize practical solutions to the problems faced by large portions of the non-white/straight population. Clinton tried pretty desperately to surround herself with black supporters, but she did a crap job of actually being human in a way people could relate to (Hils, please do neither the whip nor nae-nae- just have an honest conversation with people). There are a ton of people that voted for Obama that just stayed home in 2016.

    Republicans are amazing at having their policies be nice, succinct ideas. Democrats seem to love subtlety or something. Meanwhile, we have "regulations are ruining industry; removing them will bring jobs back" vs "global warming is real, and we're mostly sure that if we use a coordinated effort to create new taxes, provide targeted incentives to consumers, and fund research, we may not see the climate change" or "we're going to make a bunch of obscure updates to the ACA which you won't understand unless you spend half an hour reading a long-form article on the subject." The GOP is the party of the red-blooded American heartland, man. The actually own the goddamn brand for the country (which perpetually puts me on tilt).

    People loved Bernie for this, despite his policies being fairly outrageous. Free college! Living hourly wage! He framed the ideas as being simple, American, and obvious. More of that can win people over.

  8. Coises Says:

    Back in the late 1960s the hard-core left had a saying:

    A “liberal” is a person who supports the appearance of progress so long as nothing really important changes.

    That is what the Democratic Party stands for.

  9. Whitt Staircase Says:

    When they want to defend slavery and discrimination against Blacks,
    they use the phrase "States' Rights".
    When they want to defend their wish to discriminate against Gays,
    they use the phrase "Religious Liberty".
    They always have to have some kind of fig leaf to cover
    their true intentions. That's the difference between the
    Left and the Right…As [a leftist], I can come right out and say
    that I believe that everyone should have equal justice under law.
    I can come right out and say that no one deserves to suffer
    because of their circumstances of birth. I can say that we all
    should have the right to breathe clean air and drink clean water,
    and that no one should profit financially from human suffering.
    People on the Right are not so free.
    They can't come right out with what they want to say.
    They always have to disguise it.
    –internet commenter 'Buddy McCue' (alicublog)

  10. Major Kong Says:

    I'd keep it short and sweet, like: "At least we're fucking sane".

  11. anotherbozo Says:

    Equality of opportunity, aka a level playing field.
    A strong social safety net.
    Equality under law.

    What's so difficult? jharp and scott said essentially the same thing, and maybe better.

  12. Sophia Says:

    So many people, I feel, are presenting certain issues. Healthcare, education, reproductive rights, etc. Although all are important issues – they are not necessarily "what the political party stands for". I can't say for sure what the party stands for, although I have a deep understanding of the policies it supports and opposes. However, if I had to say something it'd be that "the Democratic Party stands for equal opportunity and equal access to our rights as humans."

  13. Jonny Scrum-half Says:

    I like some of the suggestions in the comments, but I think the problem is that as Republicans have gone full reactionary the Democrats have been left as the only governing party. The focus on actually governing has taken away from an ability to "brand" itself on positions, because the party has had to focus instead on the practical problems of day-to-day issues, over which there is often substantial disagreement.

  14. Dave Dell Says:

    I have never been inundated this early in the election cycle with requests for campaign contributions from Dem Senators and Congress critters. All the letters could have been written by the same consulting firm: "Be afraid." "They're after me." "Danger Will Robinson, Danger." Never a word about what they're doing in the fight for $15, or single payer healthcare, or the myriad of consumer protection issues, the fight for clean air, clean water, etc. No words about legislation they are introducing or what legislation they are supporting that might make things better for what should be their base.

    No money from me.

  15. charluckles Says:

    "When Obama first got elected, he should have let it all just drop…Just let the country flatline. Let the auto industry die. Don't bail anybody out. In sports, that's what any new GM does. They make sure that the catastrophe is on the old management and then they clean up. They don't try to save old management's mistakes…Let it all go to hell knowing good and well this is on them. That way you can implement. You hire your own coach. You get your own players. He could have got way more done.
    You know, we've all been on planes that had tremendous turbulence, but we forget all about it. Now, if you live through a plane crash, you'll never forget that. Maybe Obama should have let the plane crash. You get credit for bringing somebody back from the dead. You don't really get credit for helping a sick person by administering antibiotics."

    I have been thinking a lot about this quote from Chris Rock. The way it encapsulates something I really think I missed in 2016. For a lot of people politics and the functioning of our nation is something they spend no more time and energy on then they do a sporting event. Not only do we need simple, more than anything I think we need a black hat to jeer.

  16. ronzie Says:

    “What exactly is the strategy of the Democratic Party to take back the government from conservatives across the country?”

    Waiting for all the old white people to die, and hope that their grandchildren will somehow identify with the Democrats, despite spending their K-12 years being indoctrinated in home schools or Christian madrassas?

  17. geoff Says:

    War, austerity, and abortion rights?

  18. Big G Says:

    "Now, you and I know that they don't actually stand for small government in practice"
    I think you hit on the issue right there; its very easy to come up with simple, catchy slogans when they are all lies and you have no intention of ever implementing any of them.
    "cheaper, better health care for everyone"
    "you (old white guy) will be respected like your father in the 50's"
    "its not your fault that your life sucks; when we get rid of the (enemy of the day) you have more money, happiness, health, sex appeal."

    Government is just not that simple if you are interested in actually making it work. Especially if you are now representing everyone from the actual left to those just right of center who left the crazy party, who have actual differences of opinion on things.
    I'd rather that we had one party that wasn't based 100% on deception, but actually wants to talk to people in the real world.

    I think we are finally in a position where the Democrats can say something that is simple and memorable and true at the same time:
    "These people are nuts and they are trying to kill you!"
    That's why they are focusing on that, and it's working (in terms of getting people involved and getting money) at least for now.

  19. postcaroline Says:

    With respect to Shaun King's second question – “What exactly is the strategy of the Democratic Party to take back the government from conservatives across the country?” – I am reminded of a Buzzfeed article I read shortly before November 8, in which Dems were asked what the plan was if Trump won. The answer, of course, is that there was no plan, because the idea of a Trump win was too absurd to seriously consider. And here we are.

    Coises – your comment, and this discussion, makes me think of what Phil Ochs said more than 50 (!) years ago in the intro to "Love Me, I'm a Liberal": "In every American community there are varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals. An outspoken group on many subjects, ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally."

  20. pathman Says:

    Love me I'm a liberal by Phil Ochs:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u52Oz-54VYw

    That's where "liberals" are at.

  21. democommie Says:

    10 degrees to the right of center would be good thing, at the moment.

  22. Major Kong Says:

    "10 degrees to the right of center would be good thing, at the moment."

    Yep.

    Not only is the Overton Window moving the right, they've strapped rocket boosters to the thing and it's heading downrange at close to escape velocity.

  23. Mike Furlan Says:

    What does the Democratic Party stand for?

    Careerism.

    It is the core value of our Liberal Elite.

    Still vote for 'em. But with open eyes.

  24. robert e Says:

    Except that King is espousing the very idea you criticize in the next paragraph. He's saying the Republicans succeeded because they have better propaganda, so the Democrats need better propaganda, too, because obviously acting like Republicans is the way to succeed.

    No. The Democratic party is for people smarter than that and its problem is that it has been doing exactly what King suggests: pandering and trying to dumb down its message. That tactic only appeals to the wrong people, who rightly get pissed off when they figure out they've been pandered to, and it turns off the party's actual base of pragmatic humanists of every stripe and flavor.

    And I don't mean book smart or degree smart, I mean sensible, egalitarian, compassionate, social intelligence that you find everywhere. Speak honestly and openly to us and about us and you'll win elections. We understand compromise and priorities, so stop trying to hide those things behind plastic smiley faces as if we're children. Be the party of adults.

  25. negative 1 Says:

    @robert e:

    I was called a 'bro' for pointing out that the number 1 (and number 2 if you don't count trade as a separate issue) voter-issues in the last presidential election was jobs. If we had a better plan (I don't honestly think we did) then call it propaganda or call it over-simplification, whatever, we didn't sell it for shit. And if you can't message to the most important issue, then yes you need to improve the messaging.

    @jackofhearts, jharp, and anotherbozo:

    Please see above, I'm not trying to be argumentative. I'm pointing out that as a guy who works for organized labor, I, plenty of my members, and according to most polls last election cycle plenty of the country cared more about jobs, wages, and employment than any other one issue. Where in your listing of what the democratic party stands for was that? They used to stand for labor, and they still do to some extent, but I don't find any kind of coherent economic policy to be anywhere near their messaging. And from your answers, neither do you.

  26. rustonite Says:

    @negative 1
    What, exactly, would you like the Democrats to have said? Unemployment is at 4.7%. Labor force participation is declining, but that's been true since the late 90s and is mostly the result of the baby boomers aging out. Wages are growing faster than inflation. Things are so good the Fed is starting to apply the breaks.

    And, if we're being honest, we don't really know much about making the economy better when it's already good (this is something Paul Krugman has written about.) We've got a pretty good handle on what to do when the economy goes tits up, but when it's moving at a decent clip, making it better is difficult verging on impossible.

    There's nuance-y stuff we could do that might help on the edges or might make transitioning to a service economy less painful, which is what Hillary's many white papers said, but any politician who campaigned on bringing back jobs like in the good ol' days was straight up lying.

    So what exactly, EXACTLY, should the Democrats have said?

  27. negative 1 Says:

    @rustonite:

    "We have a plan to create jobs for you, and jobs that will pay enough for you to have a life on". And then, you know, do it.

    Also, last year was the first year in 30 that real wages for anyone but the top 10% grew faster than inflation. So let's calm down and take a breath a little before we a.) accuse voters for not understanding 'my job and economic situation sucks' (because they do and 'I'll tell you what you want' is a losing message) and b.) keep touting 'there's nothing we can do better'.

  28. negative 1 Says:

    edit to above: sorry, was the first year in 30 that the income gap closed between those groups but the point still stands.

  29. Mo Says:

    Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!

  30. Really? Says:

    I think it's time democrats took the gloves off and embraced literally anything they have done for the country.

    They should start by being the party or of "your boss is not your friend" and the "the rich have been stealing your raises". Every time a republican talks about about entitlements you shift the conversation to how rich people are stealing from the whole country.

    Also remember that Americans love socialism every time we try it. So maybe don't let the republicans control the narrative on all our social programs.

    It can't just be comedians and krugman calling republicans on their bull. The actual members need to get a little nasty.

  31. Tim H. Says:

    I would suggest optimizing the economy for the 99%, which should also work well for most of the 1%. Perhaps even Democrats could convince voters that idea had merit.

  32. Ten Bears Says:

    The strategy for the last campaign was "It's Hillary's Turn" and everyone not-republican were to meekly obey.

  33. democommie Says:

    @negative 1:

    Your argument is, correct me if I'm wrong, "The democrat should do like the republicans aND pit the 'working man' against the,…" um, who exactly?

    Democrats are a minority (approaching "Green Party" levels in a number of states. Do you know why?

  34. jcastarz Says:

    "So what exactly, EXACTLY, should the Democrats have said?"

    First – I would start with changing the public's most stubborn notion of the Democratic party with the following slogan or something like it:

    "We're not asking for FREE stuff; we're asking for FAIR stuff."

    And then, of course, the party must live up to this standard, since wealth redistribution turns a LOT of people off.

    Second – and this would have to be more nuanced – the Democrats need to propose an economic development plan that targets the depressed, post-industrial heartlands. The plan should incentivize businesses to locate in these burned-out regions… possibly via eliminating federal taxes on the corporations for a time, subsidizing local trades training programs, etc. In short, show the people in these regions that Democrats are aware that not everyone is experiencing the recovery equally. IMHO, this was rather lacking in the 2016 campaign. Maybe the old jobs aren't coming back, but something has to…

  35. Death Panel Truck Says:

    How many times does it have to be said? The Democratic nominee won the presidential popular vote. If it weren't for a useless archaic holdover from the 18th century, Hillary Clinton would be in the White House, and the nation wouldn't be teetering on the edge of full-blown fascism.

  36. Death Panel Truck Says:

    …useless archaic holdover from the 18th century called the Electoral College…"

    Got ahead of myself.

  37. negative 1 Says:

    @democommie: I'm correcting you :-). I don't recall pitting anyone against anyone, and not to be a jerk but I re-read what I said and can't find how it could be construed. However, to answer your question — the economy is the number one issue of the 2016 election cycle from almost every poll I can find. It was the issue where Trump did better than Clinton. So, it would seem as though correcting that would be the way to start winning elections. I'd argue that it's entirely messaging, but I agree with jcastarz above — we really need an economic development plan like s/he argues for above.

  38. Malcolm6033 Says:

    Conservative branding provides a pithy slogan that automatically demonizes opponents. They're "pro-life." If you disagree with them, that clearly makes you "anti-life." They're "anti-abortion." If you disagree, you're "pro-abortion." They're for "small government." If you disagree with them, you're in favor of "big government." They're for "low taxes." If you disagree, you're in favor of "high taxes." They're "pro-family." …You get the picture.
    Other than "pro-choice" there is a dearth of this kind of branding on the left.

  39. Area Man Says:

    Robert E. at 10:09:

    No. The Democratic party is for people smarter than that […] And I don't mean book smart or degree smart, I mean sensible, egalitarian, compassionate, social intelligence that you find everywhere.

    Possibly apocryphal story:

    Supporter to Adlai Stevenson: “Every thinking person in America will be voting for you.”

    Stevenson: "That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!"

    "Sensible" and "competent" don't really stir up the blood. On the other hand, fear is a hell of a motivator, and, frankly, "brown people are coming to murder you in your bed, boogity boogity boogity!" has been a reliable way to get white people angry for 2,000 years.

    So the problems are two-fold: The first problem is that Democrats — who actually believe in the process of responsible self government — keep running competent plodders, of which Hillary Clinton is practically an archetype. Al Gore would be another one.

    Meanwhile, the Republicans, who don't really believe that (poors, women, the blahs, etc.) should be allowed to govern ourselves, run exciting bad boys. You can't beat a bad boy by running a competent plodder.

    The second problem is that, until fairly recently, the Republicans used dog-whistles to appeal to racists. Trump and his operatives dropped the dog whistles and now use sirens and air horns.

    No one really expected them to go full-on 19th-century-style racist, and when they did, no one expected them to win, because we thought that we were all too sensible, compassionate and egalitarian for that approach to work.

    Well, guess what? It did. The bar hasn't just been lowered — it's been removed.

    To have anticipated that raging sociopaths with absolutely no moral compasses would get control of the executive branch really required a depth of cynicism that, in my experience, few people have — except for other sociopaths.

    The Democratic Party's inherent belief in the strength of responsible self-government put it at a severe disadvantage when it confronted people who were literally willing to do or say anything to get into power.

    It's a little like playing by Marquess of Queensberry rules when your opponent is swinging at you with a board studded with nails.

    All that being said, the Democratic Party could and should definitely have seen this coming, and if you're going to get caught in a street fight, then you'd better learn to toughen the fuck up. I'm sorry if they don't want to muss their skirts, but this is war now, not bean-bag, and the old rules no longer apply.

  40. robert e Says:

    @negative 1

    "Messaging" isn't the problem; the notion that top-down, corporate/consumerist "messaging" is both the problem and the solution is itself the problem.

    Want working class voters to support the party? Give the party back to them.

    As has been pointed out, Democrats won the popular vote by a considerable margin. The policies and positions are popular. We just don't have control of government.

    The problem then isn't likely the propaganda, but strategy and tactics. Not nearly as visible online and not nearly as sexy, but it's the dirty, grubby, sweaty truth. Any real change has to come from the ground on up. Those at the top need to let that happen at least, and better yet actively encourage and support it. That means listening, not talking.

  41. robert e Says:

    @negative 1

    You missed my point. Want working class voters to support the party? Give the party back to them.

    The notion that top-down, corporate/consumerist "messaging" is both the problem and the solution is itself the problem. It's easy to hope so, but the problems are deeper and more difficult to admit.

    As has been pointed out, Democrats won the popular vote by a considerable margin. The policies and positions are popular. The problem is that we don't have control of government, at any level.

    Is the more likely problem, then, the propaganda or the strategy and tactics behind it? The latter is not nearly as visible and not nearly as sexy, but it's the dirty, grubby, sweaty truth. Any real change has to come from the ground on up. Those at the top need to let that happen at least, and better yet actively encourage and support it. That means listening, not talking. One benefit of that is better "messaging".

  42. Coises Says:

    rustonite, negative 1:

    I don’t think it would have mattered much what they said. The problem was who was saying it. It’s not rational, and it’s not “fair,” but it is real.

    Obama and Trump had one thing in common: They inspired people who are normally pretty iffy about showing up to vote.

    Clinton inspired people, too, but they were people who would have showed up and voted Democratic no matter who was running.

    I realize this isn’t all about the presidency… but things are so polarized and cynical, the number one problem for any party is getting the people who will vote for them to show up. There aren’t many individuals who can be flipped from one party to the other, regardless of what policies either party endorses.

  43. Pete Gaughan Says:

    @Area Man: In presidential races, personality matters a lot. (Yes, "it's the economy stupid", and we tend to pendulum between parties, and other things, but still.) BOTH parties have run 'competent plodders' and lost (Gore, Romney), both parties have run 'chummy' characters and won (B.Clinton, G.W.Bush).

    It's relative: Obama would have been a plodder against Bush Jr or Trump, but was chummy compared to H.Clinton and McCain. Bush Sr was a plodder, but he ran against Dukakis (and was Reagan's third term anyway).

    Ever since Nixon, we have chosen the friendlier option for president.

  44. rustonite Says:

    @robert e
    winning the popular vote for the presidency is very nice, but what about Congress and (most important!) state legislatures? The Missouri Senate is 75% Republican, the House is 71%. In another cycle Democrats will be extinct here. Republicans ran on a message of anti-abortion, anti-black, anti-union, anti-city, and won big. It's the same message that won them Michigan and Wisconsin. What message do you have for rural and suburban Republicans that will bring them over?

  45. Ursula Says:

    It's actually pretty easy to define what Democrats stand for, as evidenced by these comments (though I didn't read all before writing this), the problem is coming together on a brand and getting it to stick. This is easy on the authoritarian right, but it doesn't have to be impossible on the left. I just don't know how we would go about it all. We have no single media platform and our leaders… who are our leaders anyway? That's the rub…

  46. robert e Says:

    @rustonite

    Are you responding to me? I don't have an answer to your question — I think it's the wrong question. I'm saying it's not about the message, it's about where the message is coming from.

  47. rustonite Says:

    @robert e
    But how does that help us win Waukesha County? You say it has to come from the ground up. Well, the ground there is very happy with Republicans. How do we swing them?

  48. Andrew Laurence Says:

    @Malcolm6033: A lawyer friend who has devoted her life to fighting for choice still refers to the other side as "pro-life." When I suggested that "anti-choice" was more accurate, she said she was talking about people who would never have an abortion themselves but support the right to choose. I call those people pro-choice. I will never use the term "pro-life" because no one is anti-life.

  49. robert e Says:

    @rutonite

    Let me put it another way: if you want to know what will bring over rural and suburban Republicans in Missouri, don't ask me, ask them.

  50. democommie Says:

    "I don't recall pitting anyone against anyone, and not to be a jerk but I re-read what I said and can't find how it could be construed."

    You and everyone that keeps saying that the democrats need to "change the message" did not see the carnage that resulted in democrats trying all of the things you're suggesting from about 1976–today?

    I have heard and seen what a campaign intended to give people the honest truth and try to convince them that unions, workplace safety, inclusivenes and diversity are NECESSARY in order to achieve the goals of the average U.S. citizen.

    Union people vote for reactionaries for fuck sake. They hand the knives to the people who want to carve up their unions, their benefits, their pay, their healthcare and their lives.

    I honestly believe that the only way to even get their attention is to tell them that they're fucking idiots for doing what they've done since 1972 (actually 1964, but it really opened the floodgates when Nixon's "Southern Strategy" was deployed). People simply don't WANT to be told the truth–figure out a way to get them to listen to and accept the truth, the fucking GOP would become the laughingstock that it should be.

    People hate people, it's that simple. The oligarchs play the game of pitting folks against one another, so well that most don't even see them doing it.

    The DNC is comprised of a bunch of careerists, that is true. The entrenched Congresscritters work way harder at retaining their position at the trough than actually working for their constituents.

    Nobody comes to knock on my door and tell me that there's somebody I should meet who's running for election–except the lying fuckbag reptilicans who know that their promises are a con and actually enjoy lying to the rubes and seeing it is a successful strategy to win an election.

    Put together a list of the things that you think the democrats should be doing. Then compare that list with what they WERE doing before it became clear that it cost them elections. Get back to me.

  51. democommie Says:

    @ Ursula:

    There are no leaders that are palatable to many of the factions and since they have seen what happened to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama during their tenures–nothing but shit from Congress and an unmitigated floodtide of lies from the Reichwingradio and teevee, why the hell would they want the job?

  52. democommie Says:

    @ Ursula:

    I'm sorry, I meant to add that all of the shit that was visited on both Clinton and Obama was met with vast indifference their own parties and the uncommitted.

  53. Major Kong Says:

    I'd be willing to give serious consideration to straight up lying at this point.

    It seems to be working for the other side.

  54. democommie Says:

    @ Major Kong:

    It would work, and then we would be them.

  55. Joe Jonas Says:

    I have an idea, and it will be really unpopular with many on the left (myself included): we abandon gun control. How many Republicans have that as their single issue, especially in rural areas? If suddenly Democrats, especially in middle America, simply said, "You win, NRA. People are free to kill each other with impunity," would that help us win more elections? Maybe. I don't know, I'm just spitballing here. (N.B. – I hate guns.)

    Also, this post really summarizes why I took to Bernie so quickly — he was easily summed up, while Hillary was a bit more slippery. I voted for her, but really couldn't sum up what her core issue was. With Bernie, I could. Oh well, it's just our democracy.

  56. skwerlhugger Says:

    Government is an instrument for the benefit of society, including social equality (covers a lot of ground).

    The swing to the right is because 1) America is a flawed culture, never having purged the corruption of slavery and the socially-obsolete myth of the frontiersman it was founded on, and 2) the right is way better at propaganda. It's not like their base are making rational decisions.

    Conservatives don't innately act like assholes (as far as #1 allows), assholes congregate in the Republican tribe, and are obliged to adopt the labels, at least superficially. Having no ethics or morals gives you a big leg up in propaganda.

    Digby has a great post on Trump's crap as power pheromones (my word). It meshes nicely with the first rule of Republicans, never go defensive, always counterattack.

  57. lofgren Says:

    Part of the problem is that the Republicans have become so ideologically bent that the Democratic tent has swelled to include almost literally anybody who wants rational, fact-based solutions to the world. Whether climate change, the economy, tax policy, healthcare, or even the military, the core difference between Democrats and Republicans has become that only one of these at least acknowledges that facts exist. Of course Trump is the apotheosis of this but it has been heading in this direction since Reagan.

  58. Andrew Laurence Says:

    I'm okay with that. We already have laws against killing people under most circumstances.

  59. robert e Says:

    @ Area Man

    What are you suggesting, then?

    Stevenson lost, right? Maybe he should have had more faith in thinking persons.

    The best weapons against fear and desperation are hope and thought. It's certainly not more fear and more desperation, and it's not catchy slogans or better lies, either; it has to be the real thing. There's just no getting around that. As luck would have it, that's the heart of progressivism. We don't have to be dishonest about anything. But we have to learn how to be bravely and brutally honest about it.

    I'm not an expert and my sample size is small, but my takeaway from the election post-mortems is that a lot of Trump voters were simply fed up with being "messaged". They didn't necessarily believe Trump, or like him or anything he stood for; they liked that he appeared not to be interested in pre-calibrated politics (which is not to say that he wasn't), and that he appeared to be speaking off the cuff and from the heart (which is not to say that he was). Voting for Trump was an opportunity to send their own message for a change. Trump said repeatedly that he would win on a Brexit wave. He was right about the wave, but he was wrong about winning on it–it took the electoral college to put him over.

    Again: all the Trump voters put together are a minority of the American electorate. Again: they are not a monolithic political movement. Can we put our own fear aside for a minute and listen to the message, not only as it was shouted in the general, but in BOTH primaries? Can we stop worrying for a second about what to tell voters next and instead listen to them? The message isn't pro-Trump and it isn't pro-Republican and it isn't anti-elitist or anti-intellectual. It's anti corporate party structure, anti machine, anti marketing and media consultants, and anti "messaging".

    If we can't hear that extremely loud message, we don't deserve to be listened to.

  60. quixote Says:

    I'm not sure the Dems would be losing everywhere if we didn't have Crosscheck and gerrymandering.

    The first thing, before worrying about branding, is to get to a system where the voters choose the politicians. not the other way around.

    As for what the parties stand for, nobody gives a flying go at a rolling donut what the Repubs say they stand for, aka branding. What they hear is "more money for me." Small government is code for low taxes which is code for "I'll keep more money." Doesn't work out that way, of course, but hope springs eternal.

    The other part they like is the subtext of permission to kick all those people they hate.

    The Dems will have to compete with the *subtexts* if they want to make any headway. Saying "don't hate people" doesn't cut it. People want to work off their venom on somebody. They need therapy, but if you're just a politician, maybe you could try refocusing some of the hate on somebody who doesn't care? The aliens? Putin? Somebody.

    The "more money for me" part is a lot easier. Universal health care, living wages, communicated as "This means $10000 per year for *you*" should be something even Dems can manage.

    Plus plenty of attack ads showing how Repubs actually cost people money.

  61. Katydid Says:

    @Joe Jonas; the single issue I hear more than any other that the Republicans flock to is anti-choice. "SAYVE THUH BAYBEEEEEZE"…but don't help the pregnant woman get prenatal care, 'cuz that's soshulizm. Don't help the pregnant woman get adequate nutrition, 'cuz that's soshulizm, too. And once the cord is cut, the baby is on its own and it can pull itself up by its own bootstraps.

  62. The Pale Scot Says:

    I don't have time to elaborate at the moment.

    So. I would brand the Dems as the party of law, order and sustainability.

    As Opposed to” a

    Short synopsis of GOP actions over the last 50 yrs.

    • Illegally contacted the S Vietnam during peace negotiations affecting the '68 election.

    • Illegally bombed Cambodia and lied about it.

    Illegally engaged in domestic political espionage (Watergate)

    Illegally negotiated with a hostile nation (Iran) during the 1980 presidential election. (and fuck you to anyone who tries to deny it), (the hostages were released two days after Reagan was elected)

    Illegally sold sophisticated weapons to the same hostile nation so as to provide revenue for illegal (congressionally unapproved) support for narco-trafficers masquerading as "freedom fighters".

    While supporting the drug trafficking death squads, the Reagan administration turned a blind eye to the narcos ramping up cocaine distribution from airfields they allowed the CIA to operate from. Crashing the price of coke in Cali and instigating the production of crack. Creating a low priced alternative to a product that had always been marketed as a rich man’s drug.

    Everyone should see “Kill the Messenger”

    Combine this with the fact that they are still pushing “supply side economics”, a delusion that has never had the support of any acknowledged economist (not that that means much)

    You don’t have to say Now They Are Crazy and Criminal. They have been Crazy and Criminal since Eisenhower left office. And that’s being charitable. I could start with Prescott Bush being the bagman for the Nazis. And I’m sure Smedley Butler would have a lot to add.

    Full circles and all that

  63. schmitt trigger Says:

    Unfortunately…for my wife and her friends, a Democrat is pro-gay, pro-abortion, pro-drugs.
    The party of Satan.

    I barely convinced my wife NOT to vote for Trump, and therefore she voted for one of the independents.
    Not able to convince none of her friends, though.

  64. Aurora S Says:

    Honestly, the better portion of the GDP belongs to those in cities. So does the greater portion of the population. Getting rid of the Electoral College and weighted voting so the citizens of Bumblefuck, Wyoming don't have a greater representation in government than those in San Francisco would be a start. Gerrymandering needs to not be a thing. And–I *seriously* doubt that it's any coincidence that the Electoral College benefits the cracker-ass cornfield-residing motherfuckers in Iowa while conveniently disenfranchising POC in "the big cities".

    We absolutely need to stop pretending we give a shit about rural America. "Rill 'Murica" gives zero fucks about us and will never, EVER come around. We outnumber those fuckers. Just ignore them. Leave their local governments to tend to them. They want to live in 1958? Set up their goddamn colonies? They can shove that goddamn olive branch straight up their asses. Narcissistic fucks. It's always gotta be about rural (read: white) America, their wants and needs, how misunderstood they are–while they just eat up the tax money the populated areas produce and whine about having to contribute. So fuck 'em.

  65. Tim H. Says:

    So many interesting thoughts, I think the Democrats might get some mileage out of pointing out where the contemporary GOP wants little people, thralldom.

  66. Aurora S Says:

    Look, I mean this in the best possible way, but abortion is legal, birth control is legal, equal marriage is legal, and, in some states, pot is legal. This is the USA. If your wife can't handle that and wants some kind of theocracy, tell her to move to Afghanistan.

  67. Andrew Laurence Says:

    The Electoral College system has two problems, but most if its critics fixate on the less serious one: overrepresentation of low-population states relative to high population states. This is actually a problem of the Senate, and while it's grossly unfair that each Wyoming voter counts so much more than each California voter, a much bigger problem is the winner-take-all method of allocating electors. If each state allocated its electors in proportion to the popular vote, even without allowing for fractional electors, the results would be much fairer.

    I still think the EC should be eliminated, and so should the Senate, as
    both violate the sacred democratic principle of one person, one vote.

  68. democommie Says:

    Democrats need to learn how to be really, Really, REALLLLY rude. They need to stop pretending that there is a "debate" when they're dealing with shit-throwing, gibbering baboons*.

    I would love to see ONE elected representative at any level of government get up and say that the smirking piece of shit who is conning the rubes is a LYING MOTHERFUCKER. At this point what the hell do they have to lose?

    * I apologize in advance to any baboons who may feel insulted; it's an inapt comparison but it's been a long day. Your forebearance is appreciated.

  69. Bill Says:

    Holy shit, Mr. Trigger. I'm not trying to be an asshole, but how the hell do you do it? At this point, I can't handle reading the cut and pasted output of the social regressives on Facebook. I really can't imagine living with one and exclusively traveling on this journey we call life with one.

    Like, my wife doesn't much care for video games, science fiction, and war movies, and that causes friction enough. I still get good-natured shit for dragging her to see Fury Road. She'll always roll her eyes at me dropping a few dozen of my precious hours into the latest computer RPG rather than doing something creative or productive. I'll always roll mine at her extroverted desire to engage in social media argument and discussion in a way that I haven't been able to muster enthusiasm for since my undergraduate, Chomsky-thumping days.

    But really, that's all just circuses and a place to brook reasonable disagreement. I can't imagine if she didn't like, you know, thinking critically and being a compassionate human being.

  70. Andrew Laurence Says:

    @Aurora S: Love it or leave it doesn't sound any better coming from a progressive. Our politicL opponents are still Americans.

  71. Stacy Van Beek Says:

    Inclusiveness. The Democratic Party believes that the nation is bettered when it includes the political views, labor, and aspirations of all members of the polis. Since some members of the polis experience barriers to effective participation (which might include education, employment, health and welfare, discrimination on the basis of identity and birth), the Party will legislate to protect those members from the ill effects of those barriers. The Democratic Party seeks to diminish barriers to full participation in the polis, which is why it seeks to mitigate against income, gender, racial, sexual, geographic, environmental, and health barriers to full inclusion in civic life. The end.

  72. April Says:

    I LIKE big government. I want the government to regulate the hell out of everything I have no personal control of, like my food/water/medicine/air, mechanical devices from scissors made of non-toxic metal to flying and driving machines, the financial institutions, voting rights, industrial safety. I want my doctors and dentists to prove they can do the job competently and without killing me unnecessarily, probably.

    Yes, there are grey areas. I know for a fact that there are good teachers who haven't done any official teacher training who can't be licensed so there could be some sort of demo they could do before a board to receive one.

    There IS over regulation. Someone doesn't need 100 hours of education to braid hair, or become a florist (although the latter is supported by the florist industry itself to reduce competition) and the FDA/USDA doesn't need NEW FUCKING PAPERWORK if I move an incubator 6 inches to the right. (Yeah, that actually exists.)

    So sensible regulation. But regulation nonetheless.

  73. April Says:

    @Schmitt – we aren't PRO gay/drugs/abortion we just believe those decisions are personal ones that don't aversely affect society in general. Don't like drugs? Don't do any. Don't like abortion? Don't have one. etc.

    https://newrepublic.com/article/140948/bluexit-blue-states-exit-trump-red-america That would show them!

  74. April Says:

    Oh, and I want the government to provide a strong social safety net. Yes, tax the hell out of the super-rich. Everyone benefits, including the rich (the poor can't spend money they don't have) and besides, it's what a civilized country does for its citizens.

  75. NickT Says:

    What the Democrats should be:
    The party of freedom from want, fear and oppression. The party of clean air, clean water and clean government.

    What are they? A grubby rabble of mediocre, conniving, frightened fools who don't know how to sell what good policies they have, while managing to present themselves as tools of Wall St. with depressing regularity.

  76. Aurora S Says:

    @Andrew Laurence

    I'm tired of giving a dusty fuck about anyone who won't give us the same courtesy. You have to know, deep down, that assholes bank on receiving chance after chance and a reluctance to call them out in the name of "peacekeeping". We are not required to audition for the approval of people who will never give it to us.

    Separation of church and state is fundamental to American government. It's a core principle upon which the US was founded. With enough money, one can attempt to insert oneself and one's church into government and rule over others in the name of one's religion. It's obnoxious and ultimately fruitless, and in the meantime, self-serving as fuck. There are those out there that have a boner for the apocalypse and literally believe they're fighting a holy war. They believe that Satan has infected the US government and population and it's their duty to stop it; in fact, the very principle of "separation of church and state" is Satan's work in this world. The only reason they're still here is because they think they're getting first class tickets to into heaven for being on the "right" side when shit hits the fan. I'm not purely talking out of my ass–I used to have neighbors that believed just this.

    So, yes, I do think America would be better off without them. When you're so thoroughly indoctrinated, there is no "live and let live". It's literally against their religion. They can fight their holy wars elsewhere, preferably on another planet.

  77. greatlaurel Says:

    @Auroroa, @April, @democommie and @ Major Kong

    Thanks for all your posts. You are spot on.

    @Auroroa, that is one of the most incisive critics of the GOP supporters. It was clear since Nixon that the GOP was the party of traitors. They only want power and will destroy the US to get it. Reagan, Bush 1 & 2 and now the Ryan, McConnell, Trump triumvirate have all done traitorous things to get elected. The GOP backed by the Kochs who were enriched and backed by Stalin, have been playing a very long game of subverting the US constitution. The Murdoch propaganda machine has been highly efficient in destroying American's faith in the government. The wealthy have always tried to enforce the Confederacy ideals using race and class to divide the resistance.

    We must not give up, however, we must resist, always resist these Putin puppets and the Confederacy's legacy of vile brutality.

  78. Katydid Says:

    @April and Aurora S; yes, you speak for me, too!

    @Aurora S regarding holy wars–abso-fucking-lutely. My time as a reluctant homeschool mom opened my eyes to the batshit-insane fundagelicals who really, truly believe there's a war between good and evil and that they're on the side of the good, and they're being outrageously, horrifically persecuted simply because they can't stone gay people to death in the village square or beat their children to death for listening to the radio.

    As I read through the comments on this thread, it occurs to me that Democrats tend to be live-and-let-live; for example, whether or not they would get married to someone of the same gender, have an abortion or smoke pot, they believe the option should be on the table for others to do as they see fit. Authoritarians/Republicans seem to believe if they don't want something, nobody else can have it either. If they want something, everyone else must also want it.

    Remember in Louisiana when the politician wanted prayer in school….until she learned that opened the door to non-Christian prayer in school and completely lost her shit? What she wanted was to force all children to have to recite Christian (that is, HER) prayers in school. And she was quick to scream persecution when she learned about non-Christian prayer.

  79. Stacy Van Beek Says:

    Earlier I said "Inclusiveness" should be conceived of broadly as a Democratic value that would mitigate barriers to full participation in civic and political life.

    But I didn't speak to the side of the "pursuit of happiness" that is economic, which is of course a major legacy of our country. YES. People should be able to pursue their dreams. But what happens when rapacious industries chew their workers up like canon fodder or when titans of finance defraud people. That is a major impediment to the average person pursuing his or her economic dreams. Thus, to INCLUSIVENESS I would add PURSUIT OF PROSPERITY, with the understanding that all need to be protected from overly aggressive, dishonest, thieving, or otherwise exploitative economic conditions.

    So there you go: freedom of political expression and civic living (inclusiveness) combined with the pursuit of economic happiness (prosperity), but with rules of engagement written to hedge against exploitation on many levels.

  80. beejeez Says:

    There's a lot to be said for adjusting to the reality of image-based politicking. With all due respect to President Obama's many skills desirable in a chief executive, his chief asset was his ability to project authority, charm and earnestness.

    Democrats must concentrate on talent development, to the point where I think it may be even more important than having the right policies. Pols with the campaign skills of Barack Obama or Bill Clinton don't come around every day, and they need to be cultivated. This is an old-looking party; all its primary spokespeople are 70 or close to it. We can make fun of the likes of Rubio, Christie and Jindal, but at least the GOP has a bench. There are no Democratic equivalents — Al Franken may be as close as we can get now, and at this point I like Franken's chances of overcoming his comedy-doofus past to be a major player than I like the Democrats' crop of most-likelies for 2020.

    For all Trump's awfulness, to low-information voters, which is to say most of them, the dude projects a great deal of vitality and certainty. It isn't necessary to pack Democratic leadership with obnoxious shouters, but during a campaign I'll take a hard-swinging shouter who messes up once in a while over a candidate constantly erring on the side of caution (I myself am a fan of caution, but I'm not the voter Democrats need).

  81. Andrew Laurencr Says:

    @Aurora: Okay, you've persuaded me. The fundies should just get the fuck out. Both sides think they're protecting the American way, but our side is right. Unfortunately, their side is better armed and less averse to horrific violence, having een numbed to it through their bloody scriptures. I don't like our chances in a civil war. Do you?

  82. Katydid Says:

    @All; Southern Beale (https://southernbeale.wordpress.com/) has a post up titled Elites that captures what Aurora is saying.

  83. gromet Says:

    I would say the Democratic Party stands for a methodology — pragmatism. Look at a situation, address its facts, tailor a policy that accounts for them, be prepared to adjust it as real-world results come in. You might call it a policy approach akin to the scientific method. The goal isn't specific policies per se — except in the general sense of "what improves the quality of life for the most people and does the least harm to the world?" Corollary to that mission you end up looking out for the poor, the environment, diversity, stable institutions — the GOP stands in stark opposition to all this.

    Short version: The Democratic Party stands for a reality-based pursuit of social progress.

  84. Ormond Otvos Says:

    So, we've discovered that many people can't think straight, and are thus easily bamboozled by liars.

    Does anyone ever wonder WHY they can't think straight?

    I have an answer for you, which you will likely ignore.

    It's religious education. Teach a child to accept crazy myths as truth, and they'll be lifelong prisoners of their inability to reason in difficult situations, like voting.

  85. democommie Says:

    @Ormond Otvos:

    It's called religious education, it's more like tribal indoctrination. They're being taught the "right" cues and responses. The actual religious stuff, not so much.

  86. robert e Says:

    "It's religious education. Teach a child to accept crazy myths as truth, and they'll be lifelong prisoners of their inability to reason in difficult situations, like voting."

    Religious education is not an impediment to reasoning or critical thinking (see, e.g., Jesuits, and their counterparts in other religions). The quality and honesty of that education matters, however. If you want to specify evangelical schools, that's another story. But I assign more blame to decades of relentless and systematic undermining, discrediting and marginalizing of public education and reason-based learning, to the point that in many communities all the options are incompetent.

  87. democommie Says:

    @robert e.:

    You're right, but the tool that was used to get folks several generations back to start accepting that was the insularity of their position, codified by their religiosity. They're no more christian than I am.

  88. mainmata Says:

    Once again the GOP owns all three branches. The broader public doesn't have much idea what the federal government really does but they will quickly see the destruction wrought by the GOP since the GOP is all about the destruction of the federal government.Whether the voting public goes for balance or not in 2018 may decide whether we become an authoritarian oligarchy with few civil or economic rights or not.

  89. Procopius Says:

    After watching President Obama's choice of Arne Duncan and the promotion of Race to the Top and the horrible imposition of the terribly flawed Common Core, the replacement of Arne Duncan with charter school chain owner John King and the prominence of charter school promoter Corey Booker in the party, I can't say the Democrats are in favor of Education.

    After watching President Obama extend military operations into at least seven countries and create a modern version of the Star Chamber, I can't say the Democrats are anti-war.

    After watching how President Obama's Department of Homeland Security and FBI coordinated the violent assault on Occupy in seven cities I can't say the Democrats are in favor of Rule of Law or Social Justice.

    No, after watching Hillary's campaign I can't tell you what the Democratic Party stands for. They're just the Lesser Evil. Vote for Chthulhu.

  90. democommie Says:

    "They're just the Lesser Evil. Vote for Chthulhu."

    Well, I think that's pretty much what you wound up with. But make sure you enjoy the carnage.

  91. Brian M Says:

    Procopius' point is that many people experienced "Carnage" no mater which "choice" they selected.

    Given her status as a fervent War Pig, electing Hillary would have certainly spread carnage. (c.f., Libya, Syria, Yemen)

  92. democommie Says:

    @ Brian M.

    An assumption. Given SIX fucking weeks, Trumpligula has demonstrated that he will almost certainly be the worst fucking president the U.S. has seen.

    And this is after watching this preening, cowardly buffon act EXACTLY the way he's acting now for about 30 years.

    I get that people don't like Hilary Clinton. I don't like Hilary Clintion. IF Bernie Sanders or anyone else had had a chance in hell of getting elected I would have voted for them. They did not, despite the "counterfactuals" offered as evidence that he could have won.

    Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are both politicians, just like Bernie–who, btw has been a politician since Hilary Clinton was a junior partner at The Rose Law Firm–and they had pollsters working for them. They had to know just like Ralph Nader knew back in 2000 that they had NO chance of getting elected PotUS. But they went ahead and campaigned, long after they knew that. They drew voters from the democrat and independent ranks and convinced a fair number of people that the system was so broken that electing Hilary was tantamount to surrenderin their political principles. So, instead of betraying their own principles or because they just hated uppity women they voted for someone else or stayed home. Fuck those people.

    There is no comparison of any value that can be made between Hilary and Trumpligula.

    That people choose to ignore reality is the proximate reason that we are in this situation. I chose not to ignore reality–those that did (and still) choose to ignore reality got us here.

  93. jcdenton Says:

    @Brian M

    As the US stands on the cusp of renewed aggression with North Korea and already has boots on the ground in Syria under Trump, maybe you can lay that "Hillary is a warmonger" meme to rest.

    This is apart from the additional actions taken by Trump to contribute to global instability:
    – Undermine NATO (having no idea about how it actually works, it seems)
    – Cozy up to Russia and give its expansionist impulses greater latitude
    – Rile up China over Taiwan

    Questions about Hillary's warmongering seem to miss the idea that she was at least geopolitically competent and wouldn't have started out by alienating America's existing allies. Not great, but certainly significantly better than what we have now.

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